King 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.
King High School in Tampa, established in 1960, offers one of four International Baccalaureate programs in Hillsborough County.
King High School in Tampa, established in 1960, offers one of four International Baccalaureate programs in Hillsborough County. [ Times (1997) ]
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.

Aniruth Narayanan

Aniruth Narayanan
Aniruth Narayanan [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Speech and Debate: Debate Captain, Top 8 in state (from Florida Varsity States, undefeated in preliminary rounds), Top 135 in nation (earned bid to the Tournament of Champions), Qualifier for NCFL National Finals

2. Toastmasters: Youth Leadership Ambassador (only one in the world, from 2018-2019), President/Founder of King's Toastmasters Gavel Club, Recognized on TV for speaking to elementary school students (, Conducted a wide variety of programs for the youth in the county

3. Mu Alpha Theta: Two-time qualifier for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME, 5% of students taking AMC qualify), First Place Hillsborough County Spring Math Bowl (Geometry, Perfect Score), First Place Statewide (Vero Beach Algebra 1, Perfect Score)

4. Future Business Leaders of America: Treasurer and Historian, Sixth Place Business Math (Districts)

5. Hillsborough County Youth Leadership Council: Alderman, helped coordinate Teen Summits for over 100 students while presenting on leadership/communication skills, organized Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program with Hillsborough County

6. National Student Speakers Association, 501(c)(3) nonprofit ( President/Founder, Constructed Organization (appointed leadership team, built website, edited recordings, promoted nonprofit), participated in panel discussions and spoke to underprivileged youth, coordinated 5 workshops on topics from public speaking to history and student athletes with recordings available for free and more resources on website

College or other post-high school plans: University of California, Berkeley, Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology Program

Tribune Scholars Essay:

God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands. The saying references the Dutch history of carving out land that was originally underwater by using a variety of structures – from early dams to the modern-day technology-driven dikes. Through thousands of years and adapting to various circumstances as they arise, the Dutch have prevailed against rising waters. Now, Florida faces the same question the Dutch faced centuries ago. Many inland areas of Florida, excluding Orlando, are not very densely populated currently. Considering that many people cannot buy flood insurance for homes near the coast, the government has a duty to protect those people – by buying them out and moving them inland. However, there is a reason why people and businesses choose to settle along the coastline. It provides ease of transport, tourism, more attractions like beaches, and more. More importantly, it simply isn’t feasible for everyone to simply resettle inside Florida, for the terrain of Florida is mostly flat anyway – without any mountains or high areas. The solution is to use dikes. Instead of having large physical structures, the goal is to use methods of absorptions – such as marshes and diversions of water into rivers. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans began to plan out dikes out of necessity. The only question that remains is whether Florida will begin rethinking its plan against rising waters before or after another hurricane. Florida must recreate itself, while providing the option for people to relocate if they wish.

Jenifer Mejia

Jenifer Mejia
Jenifer Mejia [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. National Hispanic Recognition Program 2019-20 Scholar

2. College Prep Scholar

3. Student Ambassador

4. National Art Honor Society member

5. BETA club member

6. Interact club member

College or other post-high school plans: I plan to attend the University of Florida and double major in Italian and Portuguese. After four years of undergraduate studies, I plan to go to law school.

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Tribune Scholars Essay

Nowadays, the effects of climate change are becoming more noticeable. One such effect is the increase of the sea levels which brings many challenges to various regions in the world and Florida is one of them. By being surrounded by water, Florida needs to begin to act against rising sea levels.

One of the measures that Florida can take is to begin to retreat from parts of the coasts. This approach would make sure that no one lives in a risky area. At the same time, it would allow marine organisms to take back part of their natural habitat. Once these areas are populated with wildlife, the government should take action and declare them protected marine areas.

The local government should work with the federal government to find ways to pay for all the work that would be necessary to convert the flood-prone area into wildlife protection programs. The government should be able to buy out the properties that are in these areas as long as the government buys them at a reasonable price. Additionally, the communities around the flood-prone areas should volunteer to make sure they overcome any adversity that might come along with the problem of climate change.

Along the way, it would be a great idea to look at the positive side and try to make the best out of a bad situation. Converting flood-prone areas into wildlife sanctuaries would be a beneficial alternative, so everyone has something to look forward to in times of anguish.

Nafisa Uddin

Nafisa Uddin
Nafisa Uddin [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  • King High School Speech and Debate Captain, Blue Key Semifinalist 2018, Novice State 2018 Quarterfinalist, NCFL National Tournament Qualifier, NSDA National Tournament Qualifier
  • King High School HOSA Secretary, 2018, 2019 HOSA Regional Conference Champion, 2019 HOSA State Conference Champion, 2019 HOSA National Qualifier
  • Distressed Children and Infants International (DCI) Tampa Chapter Founder and President, DCI Youth Volunteer and Intern—As a part of DCI’s team, I traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh and volunteered at the Sunshine Orphanage, where I tutored orphaned girls and gave them English speaking and writing lessons. In addition, I volunteered at the Kallyanpur Slum Free Health Clinic, have held information seminar about crises such as the lack of access to clean drinking water, healthcare, education, and women’s rights, and was invited to speak at the International Conference for Child Rights and Sight at Yale University in 2019.
  • New Tampa Juniorettes General Federation of Women’s Clubs member, volunteer, and International Outreach Chair—As part of the New Tampa Juniorettes, I have participated and organized community service projects around Tampa. Our 2019-2020 theme was “There is No Planet B” and we focused on raising awareness about climate change and ocean preservation. As the International Outreach Chair, I worked with other non-profit organizations to connect climate change projects as well as organized a human trafficking awareness project for Ahsania Mission’s Human Trafficking Relief Center.
  • Dr. John Adams USF Malaria Research Lab Volunteer—As a volunteer in Dr. Adams’ lab, I worked under researchers on Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte projects and compiling a genomic database to learn more about the spread of the malaria disease and find potential treatments.
  • Imaginize Club Founder and President—My goal for creating this club was to inspire students to use their talents, primarily in the arts, to help better their communities. Within this club, I arranged community service opportunities such as playing music at hospitals, making origami and art pieces for patients, and supporting the United Nations’ “Blue Heart Campaign” during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month by making bracelets for human trafficking victims at Bridging Freedom.

College or other post-high school plans: My college plan is to pursue majors in Biomedical Sciences and International Relations. I would like to attend medical school and become a physician. I hope to continue to help people as much as I can in my career, and I feel that being a physician will best allow me that opportunity. I would also like to study abroad for a semester to both learn about a different culture and linguistics and serve in an underprivileged area.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Unfortunately, the issue of climate change is one that is exponentially becoming more threatening while we exponentially become more defenseless against it. Florida’s geography makes the state one of the front-line victims of this future and communities will have to take action now. The harsh reality is that inevitably, communities may have to completely retreat from parts of the coast. However, this is easier said than done. A dual-action plan should be instigated to armor communities that are both less vulnerable to natural disaster damages and unable to retreat immediately. At the same time, the government should buy-out homeowners who are ready to relocate and have either already had their property damaged and seeking a buy-out. By doing so, not only are people given a choice in the matter of their properties and therefore lives, but the transition in coastal living is smoother. Likewise, the economic plan for these changes should take into account several factors. The expenses, should the government buy-out all properties, would be huge and arguably, unfair to taxpayers. To minimize government expenditure whilst maximizing saved communities, property owners’ financial information should be used to determine who will pay for the costs of either armoring or relocation. Such information should include if the property is a homeowner’s primary location of residence and household income. Thus, those who are at a financial disadvantage can receive the resources that they need and extraneous government spending is limited or eradicated.

Reagan Overton

Reagan Overton
Reagan Overton [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Valedictorian- 8.6430 GPA
  • Graduating with my AA degree from HCC- 4.0 GPA
  • Traditional Vice President of Senior Class
  • NJROTC- Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Recruiting Officer
  • Volunteer hours over 250- including Junior Coach for 2 teams at Brandon Allstars, summer camp volunteer at MMA camp, Relay for Life, and other activities
  • Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership- HOBY Academic Allstar, HOBY World Leadership Conference, HOBY conference for North Florida

College or other post-high school plans:

I will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, class of 2024. I intend on majoring in Organizational Psychology and Leadership. After completion, I plan to serve my country as an Army Officer and eventually work for the FBI or CIA.

Tribune Scholars Essay

The reality is Florida is a peninsula, and people are attracted to Florida because of the beautiful coastlines. Although retreating from the coast may seem like a good idea, it is not realistic. If we moved our communities away from the water in fear of natural events, years in the future, our economy would suffer. Floridians have not left the coast due to hurricanes; instead, they have found ways to improve building structures and build natural barriers. As a state, if we must protect ourselves from rising sea levels while continuing life along the beaches.

As we are experiencing a pandemic, it becomes apparent the significance of the coastline to the people of Florida. It was one of the last public areas to close and the first to reopen. We as Floridians cling to the coast like a safety blanket. Therefore, we need to look for solutions. The government can strengthen the building codes, and those costs would be passed on to the builder then the buyer. The government can also look at dredging, building dunes, and improving drainage. Taxes paid by the people would support the cost to the government. The truth is the expense will always fall on the people because the government cannot fund the change without tax support. Taxes must also be levied on the tourists through hotels, rental cars, and gas since our beaches equal tourism. Allowing everyone who enjoys the beaches shoulders the burden of the rising sea levels.

William Li

William Li
William Li [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Science Olympiads—USA Physics Olympiad camper (national top 20, 2019); USA Mathematical Olympiad qualifier (national top 280, 2019); USA Guest Team member for the 2020 International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (national top 10, to be held this September in Bogota, Colombia).

2. Williams Middle School Mathcounts team co-coach—prepared problems sets and gave lectures on counting, power of a point, and number theory. 2019 team ranked 1st in Tampa, 12th in Florida.

3. USF Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute volunteer—assisted in laboratory research projects; learned to operate scanning technologies and perform biochemical experiments under Professor Laura Blair.

4. Florida Student Association of Mathematics co-president (2019-2020)—coordinated selection process for the Florida state math team and managed an $8,000 team budget across three national competitions held at Harvard-MIT, Princeton, and Carnegie Mellon.

5. King High School Mu Alpha Theta president (2018-2019)—coordinated yearly contests at King, led our school team to 5th place at the 2019 State Convention.

6. King High School Science National Honor Society president (2019-2020)—led our Science Bowl team to North Florida 3rd place in 2019 and 2020.

College or other post-high school plans: I have committed to the MIT class of 2024.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Communities should engage in whatever combination of the two approaches that has the least economic and environmental cost. For example, a community built around a prosperous manufacturing industry dependent on the local environment would likely do better to armor the shores, while a community focused on the software industry would likely find it far cheaper to move inland. Everything should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with emphasis on flexibility and transparent communication.

Work costs and property damage costs should, for the most part, fall to the property owners. The government does not have a responsibility to buy out property owners. The risk of owning property in flood-prone areas is a risk they took on by choice.

City and state-level governments do have a responsibility to work with affected local communities, recruiting help and allocating funds as necessary. Unless the situation has nation-wide economical or environmental consequences, it would be best if the federal government plays a minimal role. Floridian politicians know Florida better than federal ones.

Local governments should have a focus on environmental costs as well economic ones. As people and companies leave flood-prone areas, regulations will be needed to keep the environment clean. Without external motivation, companies have little reason to move pollutants away from the coast. This is where local governments should step in by organizing clean-up efforts, enforcing environmental regulations, and keeping the public informed.

Riya Patel

Riya Patel
Riya Patel [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Speech and Debate Club President & Co-Captain of Congressional Debate

8/2016 - Present

Lead the club members by managing budget, fundraising, tournaments, and registrations. Engage and empower participants to use their voice.

Compete actively in the Congressional Debate event in both national and regional tournaments. Embodying a legislator, I draft legislation pertinent to society and debate with fellow competitors.

Promoted from Assistant President in sophomore year to President in junior year.

Fourth in Congressional Debate at National Catholic Forensics League national tournament (May 2019).

Ninth among 450 competitors (the largest number in history) in Congressional Debate House at the National Speech and Debate Association national tournament (June 2019).

Placed seventh at the Yale Invitational in September 2019.

Placed twelfth at the Harvard Debate Invitational in February of 2020 out of over 500 Congressional Debaters.

Qualified for three consecutive years to the Tournament of Champions, the most prestigious high school debate competition in the nation.

2. Tampa Bay Girl Up Club Founder

5/2018 - Present

Lead our community association of Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation. Girl Up is committed to achieving gender equality by empowering girls to help other girls.

Organize the annual 5K Run/Walk called POWERUN 5K to fundraise for Girl Up. Directed the fundraising of $7,000 total at the first two annual 5K events (2018 and 2019 events).

Conducted a book drive (around 600 books) and taught debating skills, STEM projects, and international cultural differences, as part of helping the girls become future leaders.

Conducted a sanitary napkin drive for the PACE Center for Girls, another community organization dedicated to providing girls with better educational opportunities.

3. US Representative Kathy Castor Intern at Tampa District Office

6/2019 - 8/2019

Assisted Representative Castor and her staff in activities such as local media reviews. Compiled pertinent Tampa Bay Times news and sent it to the entire team.

Answered calls and assisted constituents who had come to the office for help.

4. Ryan Nece Student Service Program Member

5/2018 - Present

Participate in community outreach with 17 other students in part of Ryan Nece Foundation. (Mr. Nece is a former NFL player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.)

Engaged with Metropolitan Ministries, helped with neighborhood cleanup, and helped serve dinner and donate books to 500 children and families in two Power of Thanksgiving events.

Helped rebuild a demolished home during a 5-day service trip for Hurricane Michael relief efforts in the Florida Panhandle.

5. Relay for Life Team Ambassador Committee Chair in Junior Year

8/2016 - 4/2019

Helped raise around $70,000 to $80,000 a year for the American Cancer Society.

Promoted from Team Captain in freshman year to Team Ambassador committee member in sophomore year, overseeing seven teams in their preparation for the event day.

Promoted from Team Ambassador committee member in sophomore year to Team Ambassador committee chair in junior year, in charge of all 45 teams leading to a successful Relay for Life event.

6. Veterans’ Affairs Hospital Youth Volunteer

6/2017 - 8/2017& 6/2018 - 8/2018

Assisted staff and helped organize volunteer events and efforts, such as donations, at the hospital’s Voluntary Service Department.

Interacted with patients at the Spinal Cord Injury unit and heard their stories. Assisted nurse managers, restocked equipment daily, and served food and water to patients.

Recognized by the Polish Legion of American Veterans for my volunteerism efforts at the hospital.

College or other post-high school plans: I have not decided what college I will be attending yet, but I aim to study public policy with a focus on health care policy.

Tribune Scholars Essay

In a world that can sometimes appear to be filled with discrimination and injustice, there is one thing that does not discriminate, yet has the potential to decimate - climate change. For the many Florida communities along shores and residents along the coast, a guiding principle to decide what actions to undertake is safety.

Fundamentally, shores should be armored with the guidance of local environmental experts, regardless of whether or not communities retreat or governments buy out property. Local environmental experts will be key in safeguarding ecosystems, but armoring can help prohibit the problem from perpetuating.

In regard to communities retreating and governments buying out vulnerable property, it should be evaluated on a case by case basis. The government can work with researchers to establish guidelines on determining what mileage away from the shore is safe and unsafe. If property is in an unsafe zone, it is best if the government buys out the property and allows residents to relocate. But if it is safe to stay, it allows homeowners to make their own decision.

In order to fund such projects, the government would provide a good mechanism, whether that be achieved through legislation or other initiatives. Supporting locally led climate volunteer groups is a great way to not only get funds, but also allow for more collaboration between residents and the government and increase awareness.

Undoubtedly, there are a variety of factors that must be considered. Nevertheless, we need to enact change well before we reach a climax.