1. The Education Gradebook

Berkeley Preparatory School: 2020 Tribune scholars profiles and essays

An invitation was extended to the top 3 percent of Hillsborough’s graduating seniors to take part in the annual competition.

More than 200 of Hillsborough County’s top high school seniors from 35 public and private schools accepted an invitation to share their accomplishments and take part in an essay contest through the 2020 R.F. “Red” Pittman Tribune Scholars program. Their profiles and essays are published here, just as the students submitted them. To search all schools, click here.

Claire Armstrong

School activities and accomplishments:

Chair - Girls Outside Program: organize monthly mentoring program for under-resourced middle school girls; inspire leadership, self-advocacy, and love of outdoor physical activity

  • Teacher - Berkeley Academy Outdoor Leadership Class: teach monthly rock climbing class for under-resourced 7-9th graders; encourage S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting, positive mindset, and self-confidence
  • Varsity Athlete - Cross Country and Track: daily training/weekly meets; coordinate team stretches and exercises; encourage goal-setting and injury prevention; personal record at State Champs 2019
  • Global Scholars Participant (supplemental academic program): develop global awareness and cultural appreciation; capstone senior thesis examines effects of Indian menstrual taboo and ways to promote female education/health care
  • School Prefect - Faculty Selected Leader: assist deans with daily tasks and school events (ex. Trustee Visiting Day, Parent Night); guide six freshmen through high school transition; mentor five 5th graders
  • Cum Laude Society

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan on attending undergrad at either Dartmouth College or the University of Georgia and then medical school or some form of graduate school.

Dylan Sunjic

Dylan Sunjic
Dylan Sunjic [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Chess Player- Competed internationally since the age of five; 4X Florida Junior State Champion (K-3, 5, 8, 12); 2X National Runner-Up (K-6, 10); Invited to the prestigious Denker Tournament of Champions in 10th grade; 2130 USCF Rating

2. Berkeley Chess Club- Co-founded 1st school chess club in Berkeley’s history; Plan/Organize weekly practices and tournaments with sponsor; Mentor the over 55 members; Spread the love of the game across BPS community

3. Honor Council Member- Elected by peers in 9th & 11th grade; Hear cases of honor code violations; Recommend consequences to administration; Create/Present honor education program to peers

4. Coaching Chess at the Academy Prep Center of Tampa in Ybor City (Community Service)- Coach chess club for charter school for 4 hours/week; Help set up fundraisers such as Jazz on the Lawn to fund traveling costs for chess tournaments; The 7th and 8th grade teams, which were previously unranked in the region, are now both ranked 5th in the nation; School’s chess club now attends 7 tournaments/year; Teamed up with the KidsRKing initiative to support chess education in schools

5. Writing Center Tutor- Selected by the faculty; Intensive training; Volunteer study halls to tutor peer writing; Community Service in the community- Work with lower school students & local schools (such as the Redlands Christian Migrant Association) to educate students on writing techniques and help them edit their essays

6. Soccer Player- Part of the soccer team for four years—three years on JV and one year on Varsity (In 11th grade, time restraints led me to request a move from Varsity to JV); Co-Captain of JV in 11th grade; Starting striker on Varsity in 12th grade

College or other post-high school plans: In the fall of 2020, I plan on studying both mathematics and economics at the University of Chicago.

Tribune Scholars Essay

It doesn’t take a hurricane to expose the issue of rising sea levels in Florida; whether in South Tampa or South Beach, one can experience “sunny-day flooding” at any time of the year. However, even amidst reports supporting the accelerating rate of climate change, action can be taken to minimize the severity of this problem.

Although Florida’s porous limestone base renders common solutions, such as seawalls, somewhat ineffective, its cities’ potential to “build themselves away” from the problem is key to working towards a solution. This idea works off the premise that, instead of focusing on coastal properties, cities should construct elevated buildings as well as pump stations further inland to be better prepared for the inevitable flooding of coasts. To pay for this roughly $76 billion plan, cities can utilize various techniques. For example, Miami leaders have established the “Miami Forever Bond” program, a $400 million bond that works towards mitigating the impact of climate change in the area. In addition, cities can request block grants from the federal government or ask for funds from FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program, which has set 6% of its funding to specifically help deal with this issue. Lastly, in order to push individuals away from flood-prone areas, the federal government can exercise eminent domain to claim private, coastal properties in return for just compensation to the owners. So, as Florida works towards a solution to deal with rising sea levels, cities should consider “building themselves away” from the problem itself.

Edward Kuperman (Essay winner)

Edward Kuperman
Edward Kuperman [ Courtesy of Edward Kuperman ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Student Forum, President: worked with campus organizations to put on service, social, and fundraising events (e.g., Students Helping Students Scholarship); ran morning convocation; and designed/implemented environmentally friendly Cafeteria protocol (reduced use of individually wrapped plastic utensils & Styrofoam to-go boxes).

2. Policy Debate Team, Captain: led research and preparation for policy debate tournaments; directed outreach to new members; competed in tournaments with novice debaters unable to find or unexpectedly losing a partner before a tournament; competed competitively, “bidding” to the TOC last season at quarterfinals of the Harvard Invitational; logged 100+ hours in service at the Berkeley summer debate camp and teaching debate for Berkeley Academy.

3. “Donna Haraway,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication Studies, Coauthor: My debate coach invited me to join him in research for the introduction he was invited to write for Donna Haraway’s theory of cyberfeminism. The experience was incredibly valuable for me: I poured through chapter after chapter of Haraway’s original works and criticisms, researching the “C^3” surveillance complex and society’s “code” of heteropatriarchy; the transgressive “scrambling” inherent in the identity category of the gender-transitioning male; and the "destructive potency” of AI development. Ultimately, I opened my eyes to a new world both in terms of academic research and fourth wave feminist philosophy.

4. Berkeley Tutoring, Head Physics Coordinator/Writing Center/Math Tutor: I direct science tutor scheduling, tutor at the writing center during study-halls and our online service evenings, & tutor during lunch for math club. I have also been part of Berkeley tutoring coordination with other economically disadvantaged schools in the Tampa Bay Area such as yearly writing workshops with the RCMA and Character GPS mentoring.

5. JV Tennis, Captain: As captain, I cultivated the spirit and hard work ethic of our group, and was recognized by the coaches' award for helping lead daily practices. Athletics have always been important for me in staying active and healthy, and I have been thankful for the opportunity to promote and engage in tennis with my fantastic team.

6. Chinese Honors Society: While I am in many honors societies at Berkeley, none of my other involvements compare to the way my passion for Chinese has translated into action on and off the Berkeley campus. I attend the USF-based Tampa Bay Chinese School each Sunday (now online), and as the only student in my school’s seminar-level Chinese class, I use class time to prepare presentations and lectures for other Chinese students based on my own research and experience in China. As a member of the honors society, I am currently working on creating online tutoring and Chinese “Netflix parties” for our organization during distance learning.

College or other post-high school plans: Yale University Class of 2024 (potentially deferring to 2025 to take a gap year)

Tribune Scholars Essay

According to the 2020 RFF analysis reported in the Time Bay Times, sea levels along the Florida coast will likely rise twelve inches by 2040. By the time I have children, the ocean will have crept up an entire foot—or half the height of a toddler learning to walk. Growing up with my grandparents on Davis Island, I remember joyfully dancing in the rain as streets flooded, filling our driveway with small crabs and the occasional minnow. Yet now these memories are blemished; future generations may live in constant fear of seeing their livelihoods wiped away by the next super-flood.

We know inconclusively that climate change will exact a toll on every Floridian—a price for the denial of our collective profligacy. Unfortunately, these changes are locked in and the conversation must shift to mitigation to shield the next generation from the prior’s mistakes. Global warming isn’t localized—it will require a federal response that starts with changing the structure of FEMA and flood insurance to minimize loss of life and “sunk” infrastructure costs.

Because our understanding is constantly evolving with further research, it is only responsible to overreact now. The government must offer property buy-outs up to the median home price, paid for by a revenue-neutral climate tax—while the wealthy should continue paying their fair share, we must also incentivize the development of green technology and industry. Climate change shouldn’t destroy our homes, economy, or freedoms—but it will unless we act quickly and aggressively against it.

Esha Bhatia

Esha Bhatia
Esha Bhatia [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. Math Club, President. Organize club events/practices. Teach students geometry and precalculus before school daily. Individually placed 1st regionally, tied for 3rd statewide, and placed 15th nationally at Mu Alpha Theta math competitions. Mu Alpha Theta summer grant recipient for attending Williams College Math Camp. Competed in AIME in 11th and 12th grade, placed first on AMC12 from my school with scores of 105 and 103.5 respectively. This year I competed in Math Prize for Girls at MIT.
  2. Student Library Proctors, Head. Read to elementary students, plan Bahamas book drive and movie nights. Learned from authors about writing process at National Book Festival in DC. I volunteer at the local library, where I help plan and run library events, such as LEGO engineering tournament, and shelve books.
  3. History Bowl, Vice President. Organize club meetings, practice trivia sessions, and intraschool tournament. Our team won 1st regionally and competed nationally.
  4. Running Track & Field and Cross Country. I run 5ks in cross country, and I run the 800m and 1600m in track. I enjoy the camaraderie of the team, and running has also taught me to mentally challenge myself.
  5. Peer Tutor. Faculty-selected tutor for writing, science (physics, chemistry), and math (precalculus, calculus) during lunch and study hall. Tutor independently after school and have worked a part-time job tutoring math at Mathnasium.
  6. Played chess since pre-K. Extensively volunteer at chess summer camps and coach younger students. Tied 1st in state tournament U1200 division, won $400.

College or other post-high school plans: Planning to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology beginning in the fall of 2020 and major in mathematics

Tribune Scholars Essay

Various scientific studies have warned of the disastrous effects of climate change on rising sea levels, even predicting that more than half of livable land will be underwater in certain Floridian cities by 2060. Florida must take drastic action now to proactively combat climate change.

Communities should armor their shores against the rising waters and also start the process of retreating from the coast over ten-year periods. These initiatives could be paid for by an increase in Florida’s sale tax rate, as this tax is paid by both residents and tourists. In addition, property owners in flood-prone areas should have the option of whether the government should buy them out, and the government should offer to buy out any owners whose properties would be affected by rising sea levels within the next five years.

Moreover, the state government should also provide financial incentives to businesses to combat climate change, such as by providing tax deductions for the implementation of sustainable practices. These deductions could be provided for moving towards renewable energy sources such as solar panels, or for reducing carbon emissions and non-decomposable waste.

Fighting the effects of climate change will require intensive preemptive action by governments and businesses, but if society takes all possible measures to increase sustainability and safeguard against flood damage, then Florida can truly remain the Sunshine State.

Anuksha Wickramasinghe

Anuksha Wickramasinghe
Anuksha Wickramasinghe [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Grace English Empowerment Program

· Director and Founder, Grace English Empowerment Program for under-resourced girls, 11th and 12th Grade: designed and implemented ongoing program connecting student mentors and tutors with under-resourced girls in Sri Lanka

· 50th Anniversary Service Scholar, $3500 Grant (applied towards international English Empowerment Program for under-resourced girls in Sri Lanka), 2018

· English Education Coordinator, Grace Girls’ Home (Prior to the launch of the English Empowerment Program, I tutored the girls weekly; I continue to assist with development and fundraising projects), 10th Grade-12th Grade

· Every summer since 2016, visited Grace in Trincomalee and assisted in a Diabetes study and worked with the community to develop English programs

· Anne Frank Humanitarian Award– “honors outstanding humanitarian efforts by high school juniors who have made a conscious decision to better the lives of others” (Florida Holocaust Museum Website), 2019

2. National Merit Finalist

3. Writing

· Author and Photographer, Sri Lanka: Through My Eyes (all proceeds donated to English Empowerment Program for under-resourced girls in Sri Lanka)

· Gold Key, Scholastic Writing Award for Personal Essay & Memoir “The Melody is Why,” 2020

· Gold Key, Scholastic Writing Award for Humor “Growing Up Florida,”2020

· Gold Key, Scholastic Writing Award for Poem “She Is The Ocean,” 2019

· Silver Key, Scholastic Writing Award for Writing Portfolio “Renaissance,” 2020

· Silver Key, Scholastic Writing Award for Poem “The Tears I Never Cried,” 2019

· Silver Key, Scholastic Writing Award for Critical Essay “What We Believe: How the Combahee River Collective Revolutionized Feminism,” 2019

· Silver Key, Scholastic Writing Award for Reflective Essay “Baa Baa Bye Sheep,” 2019

· Silver Key, Scholastic Writing Award for Poem “Lost,” 2018

· Honorable Mention, Scholastic Writing Award for Personal Essay & Memoir “Empathy in the Labyrinth of Invisibility,” 2020

· Honorable Mention, Scholastic Writing Award for Short Story “Vivían (Eng: They Lived),” 2019

· Honorable Mention, Scholastic Writing Award for Flash Fiction Story “A Look Into My Eyes,” 2018

· Co-Editor in Chief, Submissions Director, Phoenix (Berkeley Preparatory School’s Feature Literary Magazine), 12th Grade

· Submissions Director/ Editor, Phoenix (Berkeley Preparatory School’s Feature Literary Magazine), 11th Grade

· Writing Center Tutor (selected by faculty), 12th Grade

· Writing Center, Community Outreach Team, 12th Grade

· National English Honor Society, 2019

· Quill and Scroll Honor Society, 2019

4. Spanish

· President, National Spanish Honor Society (Self-study; tutor Spanish to Berkeley students; support Berkeley Academy community events as translator for staff and Spanish-speaking parents), 11th and 12th Grade

· Highest Ranking Scholar in Honors Spanish Seminar, 11th Grade

· Highest Ranking Scholar in AP Spanish Language and Culture, 10th Grade

· Highest Ranking Scholar in Honors Spanish III, 9th Grade

· Sobresaliente (Highest Honors) with a perfect score, Florida State Spanish Competition Impromptu Category, 9th Grade, 2017

· Gold Medal, National Spanish Exam Level III, 9th Grade

5. Community Service

· Co-President of the Community Service Council of Berkeley Preparatory School (Selected by Director; organize/direct/present service projects for high school students; oversee Berkeley Preparatory School's community service documentation), 12th Grade

· Vice President of the Community Service Council, 11th Grade

· Brandeis Book Award for Social Action and Civic Engagement– recognizes an outstanding high school junior, in the top 10% of the class, who demonstrates a commitment to civic engagement, community service, political activism, social justice, and/or volunteer work, 2019

· Berkeley Academy Tutor (Served as a tutor and mentor for under-resourced students in Tampa Bay, helping with all subjects in after-school sessions), 11th Grade

· Community Service in Peru, March 2018

· Mentor, Character GPS Berkeley Preparatory School, 9th Grade

6. Policy Debate (9th and 10th Grade)

· National Debate Competition, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, June 2018 (by qualification)

· National Debate Competition, Birmingham, AL, June 2017 (by qualification)

· University of Michigan 2017, Varsity Double Octofinalist

· Lexington High School 2017, Novice Octofinalist

· Wake Forest University Fall Classic 2017, Junior Varsity, 6th Speaker

College or other post-high school plans: I will be attending Harvard College for the next four years where I plan to pursue a joint concentration in political science and neuroscience.

Tribune Scholars Essay

A born and raised Floridian, my earliest memories are of me on the beach, feet padded by the sand, hair blowing in the salty wind, as I scavenge for seashells that won’t fit in my small, pudgy hands while the waves coo and beckon me forth. The shores are a home to many, from the barnacles to the starfish, but as the planet continues to warm, without a change in action, once shallow waters will swallow the shores. The government should first turn to promoting natural, cost-effective solutions that preserve the beauty of Florida’s shorelines such as expanding beaches and restoring and preserving natural infrastructure through developing mangrove and seagrass forests, oyster and coral reefs, and barrier islands, as done in Palm Beach County. Compared to seawalls, which cost billions and destroy the landscape, restoration of natural infrastructure uses nature’s remedial power to fix itself, for the mere cost of thousands of dollars. The EPA, with a $6.1 billion budget, could fund this program, or it could incentivize investors to participate, operating as a cap and trade program. By participating in the program, investors can offset their own carbon emissions with gained credits or trade them to other businesses and governments attempting to adhere to emission caps. To further protect shores and communities, the government should encourage businesses and communities to retreat from the coasts, only buying them out if necessary, ensuring the viability of these solutions to protect the magic of our childhood memories and our home.