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Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School: 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.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks is a cofounder of Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks is a cofounder of Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa. [ Tampa Bay Sports Commission ]
Published May 19, 2020
Updated May 20, 2020

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.

Alexandra Sullivan

Alexandra Sullivan
Alexandra Sullivan [ MADISUN PAIGE PHOTOGRAPHY | handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. National Honors Society

2. Freshman Mentorship Program (CLIC)

3. Science National Honor Society

4. National English Honors Society

5. Rho Kappa (National Social Studies Honor Society)

College or other post-high school plans: Attending Florida State University and majoring in Exercise Physiology.

Tribune Scholars Essay

The solution that should be implemented in Florida to protect our coastline from climate change causing rising water, is creating a system of barriers. But sadly, this may not be enough to protect communities located very close to the rising waters. So there may be areas that have to be evacuated in order to combat this. I think the areas that would need to be cleared out would require the Florida government to have to provide people compensation for leaving. The money for both of these projects, the barrier system and moving some people away from these areas, would come from Florida taxes. Putting a very small tax on the sales tax in Florida for a few years could generate enough money to implement both a flood barrier, and hopefully have enough money to buy out people who are extremely close to the flooding coast. Also since we have a few years until the coast is at a point of extremely rising, we should be looking into inventive ways to create barriers around the coast. Some possible ways may be using plastic waste to create offshore barriers, or using wildlife such as coral to create a natural barrier while also allowing for a better ecosystem to bloom.

Madelyn Smith

Madelyn Smith
Madelyn Smith [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Student Ambassadors - President (12th), Vice President (11th), Member (10th & 9th): Student Ambassadors are responsible for leading tours and hosting open houses for perspective families. We also represent the student body at school and community events
  • National Honor Society - Sr. Vice President (12th), Jr. Vice President (11th), Member (10th): Served as the vice president of our schools’ chapter of NHS for two years and was responsible for community service opportunities. As Senior Vice President, I also approve and track hours for all members.
  • SGA - Morning Show Director (12th), Project Manager (11th & 10th), Member (9th): Hand selected by advisor to serve on SGA. Awarded many project manager roles including coordinating a county-wide SGA symposium and serving as the morning show director/editor.
  • Executive Intern at Diamond View Studios (12th): I applied for an executive internship opportunity through my school that is only available to seniors. I found my internship position at Diamond View seeking to learn more about a potential future in video communication/advertising.
  • Four Star Leadership Program (12th): Applied for and was selected to attend a nationwide leadership conference for selective high school students founded upon the principles of leadership, equality and opportunity. The program, established and led by General Tommy Franks, focuses on character, common vision, communication and caring.
  • Community Service (9th-12th): Throughout high school I have volunteered with several local organizations helping young kids, special needs children and adults as well as my local homeless community. Through St. James Church I have volunteered and grown into a station leader role where I supervise other youth and organize and lead activities for Vacation Bible School each summer. I help with the annual prom for special needs young adults at St. James as well. Through Young Life, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a buddy for one of their Capernaum camps for special needs young adults and to also help with some Capernaum monthly events. My favorite way of serving my community is through Metropolitan Ministries. Over time I have helped serve Thanksgiving meals, worked in the kitchen, served breakfast through their “Matthew 25” program, helped organize donations for the thrift store, served as a “socializer” during meal time, worked in the nursery with children, and participated in “Metro Immersion,” which is a multi-day program where high school students serve and interact with the families that live on their campus.
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College or other post-high school plans: After high school I plan to attend Florida State University to study either Digital Media Production or Public Relations.

Tribune Scholars Essay Question

With the changing climate facing Florida, I believe that armoring the shores and retreating from flood-prone parts of the coast are wise actions. This should be a time of bringing individuals together to help protect the future of this community. Tourism is one of Florida’s top industries, with our beautiful beaches being some of the most desirable destinations. Armoring the shores against rising waters and keeping structures a bit further from the shores (particularly in flood-prone areas) would reduce the number of accessible public beaches and amenities. This will unfortunately have an impact on tourism, but will have economic benefits and ensure continued tourism in the long run. The local government should target the most vulnerable areas and provide property owners with the option of selling their property so that it can be properly armored against erosion and storm surge. Instituting required sea walls for all non-flood zone coastal properties would help keep those shores intact as well. When it comes to financing these changes, these safety precautions should be paid for by the government, Florida residents and tourists. Although many residents may not be happy about the changes coming to their communities, this would be done to protect their homes and the economy. Without taking action, these citizens’ homes and businesses could be destroyed, leaving them to recover and rebuild on their own. The goal should be to unify the people and government as much as possible during this future defining time.

Phoebe Funai

Phoebe Funai
Phoebe Funai [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Valedictorian of Brooks DeBartolo Class of 2020
  • President and Founder of Rho Kappa Social Studies Honors Society
  1. 2018 - Present
  • Captain of Brooks DeBartolo Competitive Cheerleading Team
  1. Captain 2019 – 2020
  2. Co-Captain 2017 – 2019
  3. Member 2016 - 2020
  • Vice President of Student Government Association
  1. Vice President 2019 -2020
  2. Treasurer 2018 – 2019
  3. Member 2017 - 2020
  • Treasurer of Senior Council
  1. Treasurer 2019 -2020
  2. Member 2018 - 2020
  • Brooks DeBartolo Outstanding Student of the Year Award 2018

College or other post-high school plans: University of Florida Honors College

Tribune Scholars Essay

Florida is ground zero for the impact of rapid climate change. It is essential that local, state and federal governments work with their constituents to preemptively mitigate the negative consequences of natural hazards. We must take a proactive approach to protect our coasts, citizens and wildlife.

Communities should refrain from armoring the shores against rising sea levels. The structures used to armor the shores are expensive to build as well as to maintain. They can also increase flooding and erosion to nearby properties. Reactionary armoring also destroys beaches, wetlands, and harms endangered species. Rather, we should use non-structural solutions, which are more cost-effective in the long run. Soft armoring such as beach replenishment and wetland nourishment is essential to the land. With this, we need additional restrictions on the development of floodplains. One solution is to have mandate building codes that are more resilient to flood damage. We should restrict development in vulnerable areas and provide tax credits to businesses to encourage relocation. Although this solution is controversial, we could buy out some existing property owners and retreat from the coast. The state will pay less for insurance claims, rebuilding and remediation. Taxpayer money will, therefore, be used for preservation rather than clean up measures. Proactively protecting our shores will increase revenue through tourism and recreation. The community will need to adapt to new remediation measures, but we must protect our beautiful land.

We need to stop being reactionary and look to the future of our planet. Shortsightedness has created our issues. Spending government money now will provide a planet for future generations.

Shreya Mathur

Shreya Mathur
Shreya Mathur [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Earned a Provisional Patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for my invention, the StressMaster. The StressMaster won 2nd place in the 2019 Florida Invention Convention.

2. Leading Scientist at Moffitt Cancer Center. Co-published "Hypoxia in cancer chemo- and immunotherapy: foe or friend?" in Biorxiv, an online archive for papers about science.

3. Volunteer at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Dedicated over 160 hours by providing care and compassion for the animals kept at the shelter by taking them for walks or feeding them.

4. President of Mu Alpha Theta. Facilitated semimonthly meetings. Organized fundraisers and events aimed to encourage enjoyment and inspire interest in mathematics.

5. President of Mock Trial. Applied critical thinking and communication skills as a Mock Trial attorney to perform opening and closing statements and direct and cross-examination.

6. Treasurer of National Honor Society (NHS). Responsible for NHS finances. Contributed to the planning and organizing of fundraisers for various foundations and community service events.

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan on attending the University of Florida and majoring in Biology with the Pre-Med Track. I hope to go to medical school and eventually become a cancer researcher, as I have a passion for finding a cure for breast cancer.

Tribune Scholars Essay

While climate change and rising water levels may seem like a problem only for the future generation, it has become a reality for current residents of coastal communities. While seawalls and bulkheads have been the go-to defenses for coastal flooding, they do not provide long term solutions. Therefore, it is crucial for residents to retreat from parts of the coast and move into safer inland communities.

Not only is it cheaper for property owners to move than to modify a home, but it is also a more secure and permanent option. The likelihood of property damage from flooding, and all the stress associated with it, will be greatly reduced. Moreover, the government should buy out property owners in flood-prone areas but with a different approach. More often than not, it takes years for homeowners to receive the buyout, leaving them susceptible to flooding disasters. Moreover, the state and local governments should invest in the creation of affordable housing and infrastructure that maintains the cultural heritage and provides educational and employment opportunities in safer inland communities. This will not only help maintain the economy, but it will also make the transition easier.

It is no longer a question of whether property owners should retreat but when, where, and how they will retreat. We must take action soon because the water levels are on the rise, and they are not waiting for us.