1. The Education Gradebook

Gaither 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.

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 Berrios

Alexandra Berrios [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Harvard University Medical Summer Program

2. Beta Honor Society (President and community service organizer)

3. Gaither Varsity Girls Swim Team (Co-Captain & competed at Districts)

4. NJROTC (Liason, volunteered at Battle of the Bay, & multiple Food Drives in the Tampa Bay Area)

5. Mu Alpha Theta (Secretary and tutored students) and Math Bowl Competition

6. 200 + hours of humanitarian work in Arequipa, Perú (Gave out food, water, clothes, and built homes for over two weeks)

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to attend the University of South Florida and major in Biomedical Sciences. I aspire to become a cardiovascular surgeon or neurosurgeon. Thus, I will be going to medical school. Meanwhile, I would like to be a part of the USF Medicine International Program in order to cultivate learning experiences and improve the healthcare industry worldwide.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Due to global warming, tides among Florida’s seashores have exponentially increased. The Sunshine State is well known for the hot summer days and endless beaches. However, many tourists and residents fail to see that sea levels are starting to expand towards land. What once used to be an area for sunbathing has now become just another part of the ocean. In response, Florida officials have debated on possible solutions that could either mitigate or help adjust to the new changes. Communities should both armor their shores and retreat from parts of the coast. By building sustainable concrete walls, residential and commercial infrastructure along the beach will be protected from future flooding. Government officials should pay for the workload because it is an issue that is naturally affecting the state. They could use tax money to provide for any necessary supplies. Additionally, neighborhoods near shores should begin to leave those areas because global warming is not something that can be resolved overnight. Thus, residents must begin to move to other parts of Florida to avoid any detrimental harm to their property and themselves. To encourage citizens to abide by this rule, governments should buy out property owners in flood-prone areas. Overall, the key component of stabilizing shoreline overload is to use methods that will balance both the needs of the public and the needs of the ecosystem.

Alisa Rodriguez

Alisa Rodriguez [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. President of Chemistry Club

2. Front ensemble section leader

3. Volunteer helping younger band students read and perform music since junior year (outside of band classes)

4. Active member of marching and concert band for all four years (leadership for the last two years: equipment manager and section leader)

5. Active club member for all four years (Best Buddies, 4 years; Tri-M, 3 years; Chemistry Club, 3 years; Beta, 2 years; Class Clubs, 2 years; and Optimix, 1 year)

6. Volunteer at nearby elementary schools and middle schools by packing up classrooms at the end of the school year and then unpacking them during the summer

College or other post-high school plans:

I am going to attend USF to major in Health Sciences and then be a part of their School of Physical Therapy to become a physical therapist.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As the changing climate continues to affect Florida, I believe that communities should begin to armor their shores against rising waters and larger waves during hurricane season (which seems to get worse and worse every year). I believe that the people living right offshore should be able to stay in their homes while also participating in activities that will preserve the coast. These activities may include cleaning up litter, picking up after your pet, controlling their share of pollution on land and offshore, and educating themselves and others about the ecosystems found on the beach. The armor needed to really protect these community shorelines should be paid for by the taxpayers of that region and the homeowners. They should have to keep their house up to a certain standard that would make their home safe and reduce the amount of damage that could happen from the rising waters. I think the government should give the property owners in flood-prone areas a choice of whether or not they want to be bought out. I say this because some owners may not want to deal with the stress of owning property in that area while others would want to take that challenge and face the problems head on. In short, the taxpayers and homeowners should pay for their communities to armor up against rising waters while the government gives property owners the choice of being bought out.

Analiese Rubero

Analiese Rubero [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. NHS Officer (2 years)

2. FCA Vice President (1 year)

3. Varsity Cheerleading (4 years) and team captain (1 year)

4. BETA (3 years)

5. Concert Chorus (2 years)

6. Honor Circle (ranked 6th in graduating class)

College or other post-high school plans: Florida State University

Tribune Scholars Essay

Climate change is a global dilemma, and the state of Florida could take a huge toll as this crisis persists. As Florida faces rising waters, the peninsula needs to take action to protect its residents. These communities should retreat from parts of the coast in order to shelter themselves from the dangers of rising sea levels like potential flooding, hurricanes, and sinkholes.

In Florida, the bedrock of the state is a porous limestone, which acts like a hard sponge full of holes. Limestone is unique to Florida, and a mass number of communities do not have to perturb over their bedrock like Floridians do. The holes in the limestone allow groundwater to rise at the same rate as the ocean, implying that a rise in the sea level would subsequently lead to a rise in the groundwater. This limits many possible solutions to preserve Florida. Armoring shores against rising waters would be ineffective, considering the saltwater can seep under the seawall and reach the limestone. When water encounters limestone, the bedrock begins to slowly dissolve and inaugurates cavities and voids within itself. This is not a strong foundation for citizens to settle on, in which case the citizens must resort to retreating from the coasts. The state government of Florida could help fund the mass migration by attaining revenue from buying out property owners in flood-prone areas.

This would be the most effective course of action to protect Florida residents. As climate change prevails it is important to consider ways to protect ourselves, but it is equally as important to consider ways to reduce climate change and its dangerous effects.

Caitlin Singer

Caitlin Singer [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Three years ago I was accepted into the Youth Council at the Tampa Museum of Art, an organization that organizes student-focused events which deliver platforms that would be otherwise nonexistent in our community, and have served as the aboriginal student for Gaither High School. For the past two years, I have been elected as the Council’s Secretary. As a Council member, we dedicate our summers and Saturday mornings to execute our events and engagement activities, arguing for the existence of events which have garnered an increased teen presence in the arts.

2. For my entire high school career, I have been an integral part of Gaither’s Mu Alpha Theta and was appointed the president position in my senior year. As a club, we coordinate weekly meetings either after-school or on weekends where we can delve further into our respective math topics (calculus, geometry, etc.). These meetings serve as practice for our district math competitions.

3. As the vice president for Gaither BETA, I actively helped in reinvigorating the club. BETA now encourages community involvement through coordinating volunteering opportunities and tutoring sessions.

4. Because of my prior experience as the Youth Council’s secretary, I was elected as the secretary for Gaither’s National Honor Society (NHS). As an officer of the club, I record monthly meeting topics and organize tutoring sessions for the club. Overall, NHS connects with the community through volunteer opportunities.

5. As the end of my junior year, I was elected as sergeant of arms for Spanish National Honor Society. This officer position requires that I maintain order at club meetings. The club directly interacts with the surrounding Hispanic community and Latin American countries through services. Ae example would be our volunteer work done for the Pulsera Project which aids local artisans in Lating American countries, such as Nicaragua.

6. I was employed at the Carrollwood location for Mr. Empanada, where I worked from May to September 2019. All the money earned from this job served to fund my college applications and national testing (ACT and SAT subject tests). I did not have a specific job title; I took orders, handled money, bagged food, restocked items, and cleaned dishes.

College or other post-high school plans: Because I have been waitlisted by my top three universities (Harvard University, Dartmouth College, and Georgia Tech) I have accepted my position in the Honors College at the University of South Florida. I plan on achieving an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering and pursuing a master’s degree prior to my doctorate degree.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Florida will not survive. The rising problem resulting from climate change cannot be resolved in a binary question: defend the community or retreat inland. The threat of climate change has been treated as an intangible, transparent mass looming over Florida. However, climate change has continuously been tangible and evident. Florida will be underwater, an irrefutable fact directly stemming from the effects of global warming. Consequently, Florida cannot afford to plan for future settlement but how to relieve millions of displaced individuals. The complete evacuation of Florida will not be immediate, rather it will be progressive. Mandating the removal of individuals from their homes on the coast will propel the gradual process of removing all persons from the state. The outcome will be the dissolution of Florida’s economy and bureaucracy. Subsidies must be funded by the state and federal governments, the amount of financial aid awarded being based upon the household’s tax bracket. These subsidies will not extend to the government buying out houses in flood-prone areas. Private businesses within Florida and across the nation must acknowledge their civil obligation and aid in relief programs for the displaced individuals. The initial situations after Florida’s discharge will be arduous but can be temporary. The difference between short-lived and everlasting will be defined in the steps we take as individuals, communities, and nations. We cannot continue to omit the consequences of climate change in our communities, rather we must take strides in securing the future, our future.

Cynthia Hinderscheid

Cynthia Hinderscheid [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Chamber Orchestra: Orchestra President (2019-2020), Concertmaster (2019-2020), Violin Section Leader (2018-2019, 2019-2020)

2. National Honor Society (Academic and Service Club): Vice President (2018-2019, 2019-2020)

3. Spanish Honor Society (Academic and Service Club): Vice President (2019-2020), Secretary (2017-2018, 2018-2019)

4. Artistic Roller Skating (USARS athlete): 2 time National Champion; I am most proud of the Learn-2-Skate beginner classes that I voluntarily teach every Saturday morning (2016-2020)

5. Crosswind Youth's Worship Team (Religious Service): Leading instrumentalist on piano (2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020)

6. Observing Student at Tampa General Hospital, under Lucas Wiegand (Urology), Michael Smith (Neurosurgery), David Ciesla (General surgery/Trauma) and Frank Green (Cardiac surgery)

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to attend the University of Florida in Fall 2020.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As Florida will inevitably encounter a future with a changing climate, communities should seek to armor their shores against rising waters in the interest of preserving Florida’s economic welfare, as well as valuable coastal ecosystems. Individuals retreating from parts of the coast will not stop the impending movement of warmer waters due to the increase in global temperatures; thus the foremost priority is to meet the issue where it is at and contain it. Ideally, the individuals who should pay for the work to combat these environmental costs are the companies responsible for the documented pollution in the first place. Many may consider such a proposition a radical view; however, the truth is that fossil fuel corporations have amplified the climate crisis despite knowing the risks at stake. Therefore, they should be held accountable and required to financially contribute since climate change is in fact a global issue. Concerning government intervention, buying out property owners in flood-prone areas would not make up for the loss of coastal plants and wildlife as a result of displacement. Furthermore, the natural sensitivity of plants to their environments would surely be impacted by the change in soil salinity and repeated flooding from seawater. In addition, Florida’s economic dependence on beach revenue is a significant, determining factor in why the government would do more harm than good buying out property owners. Ultimately, the tourism industry is vital to not only the stabilization of the state’s economy, but the rapidly growing population that calls Florida home.

Gabrielle Marshall

Gabrielle Marshall [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Varsity Cross Country, Captain

2. Varsity Track and Field, Captain

3. Varsity Soccer

4. Chamber Orchestra, Section Leader

5. Concert Chorus

6. President of Fellowship of Christain Athletes and YoungLife, Treasurer of Beta Honor Society

College or other post-high school plans:

Attend Pasco Hernando State College on an athletic scholarship to run cross country, after two years I plan on transferring to Clemson University. I will pursue a degree in Nursing with a goal of obtaining my masters to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty in Oncology.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As Florida faces a future with a changing climate, adapting our shores would cause economic and ecological problems. We should not armor our shores against rising waters.

One example to learn from is Broad Beach in Malibu, California. The beach was troubled with similar climate change predicaments and chose to armor their shores by putting sandbags in front of sea walls. This removed the gap and caused the ocean to come in direct contact with the sea wall. Biodiversity was massively reduced as the sandbags took the place of habitats.

In addition, while armored parts of the shoreline may be protected from further retreat, armoring structures actually increase erosion on the beach themselves.

I also believe that we should not retreat from the coast because this would decrease tourism and subsequent revenue.

While there are businesses in these flood prone areas, the protection of establishments is more beneficial for business owners. Buying them out takes away their source of income and squanders their dedication to their passion.

The funds to pay for new advancements should be found in taxes and investors.

Climate change is a dominant conundrum and protecting our shores is at the forefront of our minds. There are alternate steps we can take in maintaining the coast that makes Florida the beautiful home that it is.

Jonah Perry

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Second chair alto sax for the 2018 Florida All-State Band

2. Volunteered at the annual Renaissance Festival

3. Alto sax Section Leader for the 2018-2019

4. Gaither Leadership Conservatory Marching Band

5. Club officer of the 2019-2020 Gaither Chem club

6. 2019 Summer Internship at the University of South Florida under chemistry Professor James Leahy

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan on going to the University of Florida and majoring in biochem and eventually study the gene-editing tool CRISPR and its ability to combat cancer.

Tribune Scholars Essay

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average annual sea level rise is about one-eighth of an inch, but sooner rather than later us Floridians will see the culmination of that slow rise. And, with the UN Atlas of Oceans stating that 8 out of the 10 largest cities in the world are coastal, the effects extend much further than just Florida. To protect our coastal infrastructure, we should immediately begin construction on buildings such as seawalls. But more importantly, we should provide citizens with incentives to move away from the coast gradually. If we procrastinate then a sudden evacuation from the coast may prove too little too late and would most likely overwhelm our emergency resources. When it comes to accumulating funds for these ideas, I think payment should come from companies that produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions as well as a “carbon tax” on consumer goods that create a large carbon footprint. Although companies produce an inordinate amount of carbon emissions, it is us--the consumers--who indirectly allow those corporations to exist; there is no scapegoat when it comes to climate change. And while I think the government should buy properties in flood-prone areas, they should do this on a case by case basis to truly ensure those who truly need the repayment receive it. Climate change may seem like a monumental task, but we can get through this and every action, no matter how small, helps.

Kateri Espinosa

Kateri Espinosa [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Chorus/Show-choir (Vice-President, 4 years)

2. Student Government (Vice-President, 3 years)

3. Varsity Swim (Team Captain, 4 years)

4. Thirteenth Circuit Teen Court (Juror, 2 years)

5. Orchestra (Section Leader, 3 years)

6. National Honor Society (President, 3 years)

College or other post-high school plans:

Princeton University

Tribune Scholars Essay

In the midst of an uncertain future for Florida, communities should retreat from parts of the coast. Coastal armoring will forever be a temporary solution, stemming from the selfish human desire to adjust the world around us in order to meet our needs. And given the pressures that high population densities in coastal areas place on complex ecosystems that are organically dynamic and ever-changing, it is wrong to attempt to intervene. Attempting to arm the coast will merely serve as a band-aid upon the gaping wound that is coastal erosion. So instead of pouring money into these efforts, we should make the difficult, effective decision to move further inland across the board. Such a transition should be funded by Florida residents, through tax revenues, since we will all be affected by such a paradigm shift in our way of life. In the same manner that recent legislation has set aside a .5% tax for public education and a 1% tax for transportation, a percentage could be set aside for a coastal retreat project. As part of such a package, the government should buy-out property owners in flood-prone areas, in accordance with the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, requiring just compensation for property seizure. Making this a compulsory transition would be more effective than an optional one, therefore owners must be bought out. Without a doubt, such a project would prove controversial, and time-consuming but ultimately worthwhile in securing the future of the state and its inhabitants- human, animal, and plant alike.

Keo Chhun

Keo Chhun [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Class rank: 10 (honor circle)

2. Received Academic letter, 2 years in a row (junior and senior)

3. Perfect score on U.S history final exam

4. Volunteered to help out at Special Olympics (3 years, sophomore year onwards)

5. Member of Gaither National Honor Society

6. Maintained Straight A’s throughout high school (4th quarter grades not available/in progress at time of typing)

College or other post-high school plans: Attend University of South Florida for a pre-med major and become a radiologist.

Tribune Scholars Essay

I believe that communities should retreat from parts of the coast and armor the shores of other parts of the coast based on likelihood of flooding due to climate change. This is because I do not believe it to be efficient to armor the entire coast as some lower lying areas of the coast would be harder and more expensive to protect than others. Thus, it would be more efficient and cost-effective to retreat from the more dangerous areas of the coast and protect the remaining less-dangerous parts of the coast. In order to do this, the government should buy out property of flood-prone areas and provide compensation for the people that live in such areas. This is so those people can find housing in safer, inland areas. With this in mind, cities on the coast would not be easy to evacuate and relocate their population, so armoring them up and providing some sort of bridge or airline to and from the city would help them should it be left isolated after flooding.

Shane O’Connor

Shane O’Connor [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

Treasurer of Class of 2020- My junior year, I joined SGA which really broke me out of my shell. It has taught me valuable leadership skills that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. Also, I formed a close bond with my fellow SGA members, and other students at the school as I tried to boost student involvement. It also taught me project management, as I had to run big events such as Special Olympics, Homecoming, Prom, and pep rallies.

Founder and President of Jewish Cultural Club- At Gaither High school, I started the first ever Jewish interest club. In here, we accepted people of all backgrounds, Jewish or not, and discussed the history, culture, and traditions of the Jewish people. We also discussed solutions to the Israel/Palestine conflict, helping bring us closer together and participate in meaningful, civilized debate.

Gaither Stampede/Special Olympics- Every year at Gaither, we host dozens of schools in the Tampa Bay area for a day of fun and competition for our beloved ESE students. As a volunteer for multiple years, I helped with the administrative aspects of the event due to my involvement in SGA. Also, after we were done with the planning, we got to spend a day with an ESE student from one of our more than 20 schools that attend annually. As someone who has family members with autism/Asperger’s, it was a truly enlightening experience. I will never forget the friends I made at Gaither Stampede.

Finding my passion- Probably the most valuable thing I’ll take away from high school is knowing what I want to do with my life and why. Prior to entering Gaither, I had no clue what I wanted to do. But with the help of Gaither’s amazing teachers (especially Mr. Johnston and Mr. Geanconteri), I discovered my passion for history. Doing homework for my multiple history classes I take annually isn’t a nuisance for me whatsoever. I’ve discovered my love for history and learning in general. I’m very excited to wake up every day and learn something new, which had changed who and what I am.

Community Service- Throughout high school, I got very involved at my local library and Forest Hills Youth Baseball. As an avid reader, I can spend hours on end at the library, whether I’m shelving, at Teen Advisory Board, or just reading. At Forest Hills Youth Baseball, I volunteered at the concession stand, helping a small little league bring in more revenue. As someone who played baseball as a young boy, it brings joy to my face seeing so many children making valuable memories.

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan on attending Florida State University and getting a bachelor’s in History. When at FSU, I want to get involved in SGA and continue my record of community service. I also want to join multiple interest clubs, like environmental/ecological clubs, something I hold close to my heart.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As Florida faces an uncertain future with climate change, we need to start discussing what the next 50 years will look like for our state. Climate change, at this point, is nearly irreversible. As the lowest elevated state in the nation, Florida will be the first state to feel the effects. To help with coastal communities, we should come up with innovative water management solutions, as seen in the Netherlands with their Delta Works.

Although the optimal situation is that we fix climate change, becoming a carbon neutral or a carbon negative world. However, this isn’t looking like a reality for us. As sea levels rise, Florida’s many coastal communities face an uncertain future. However, we need not abandon our homes just yet. The Dutch have one of the world’s modern marvels of engineering—the Delta Works. This system of levees, dams, locks, and dykes prevents one of the lowest counties in the world from being entirely engulfed by the North Sea. The Dutch have even reclaimed hundreds of square miles from their inland sea, creating a new province. If we put the same emphasis on water management infrastructure that the Dutch have, we could save most of Florida from the inevitable rising sea level.

Although climate change will change Florida forever, we mustn’t lose hope. In the fight against climate change, we much find innovative solutions for the incredibly complex problems to come. As a Floridian, we need to work to save our beautiful