1. The Education Gradebook

Lennard 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.

Araceli Gonzalez-Rocha

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Salutatorian

2. Director for Key Club

3. National Honor Society

4. Collegiate Ambassador

5. AP Scholar

6. Student Government

College or other post-high school plans:

I will be attending New York University to study mechanical engineering.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Many people hear the words climate change or global warming and internally groan, as I use to. The reason for my past lack of enthusiasm is because when I would hear about problems concerning the Earth, I always placed them second to immediate problems that plague people right now. Things like poverty, racism, mass incarceration, etc., are all pressing issues that need to be solved now. While those topics are important, people only think of them as priority because we can quickly and directly see the impact it has on individuals. This way of thinking is flawed though because when it comes to climate change and rising waters, even though we cannot see its effects right away, we will over time.

Florida is a peninsula and as a result has a lot of shores that are all susceptible to receding. Rising waters are always a looming threat, especially for people living near the ocean or in areas where floods are common. In response to this, local government should take it upon themselves to fund projects that can help make this problem less of a threat. Shore erosion can be caused by sea level rise or heavy boat traffic. Increasing vegetation or making things like sand fences are all ways to help combat this problem. To make things safer for residents who do not want to deal with this, offering to buy out land where floods are common would also be a good idea.

Ashaunti Harvin

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Valedictorian
  • National Honor Society and Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (Treasurer for Phi Theta Kappa)
  • Senior Class Council- Treasurer
  • Track and Field- 9th grade/ Cross Country- 10th grade
  • Volunteered at PCAT and Hillsborough County Southshore Regional Library

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

Tribune Scholars Essay Question

As Florida faces a future with a changing climate, I believe the communities in Florida should retreat from parts of the coast, and the rest of the states and/or the rest of Florida being affected should armor their shores to prevent damage. Although the coast of Florida tend to be retired and tourist areas that bring in most of the revenue for the Florida economy, things need to change. With the sea level continuously rising at a faster rate, the economy will hurt regardless. Communities should start relocating away from the shore as possible with help from the state and federal government, starting with the most vulnerable communities and onward. This project is huge and doesn’t just affect Florida and states are estimating costs to prevent floods and there will be billions of dollars spent. Therefore, the federal government should help pay because this is a countrywide issue due to not only natural causes, but also influenced and made direr because of climate change and global warming. We cannot afford to continue trying to push it off because the coastal infrastructure will eventually not be effective, and freshwater will be contaminated with seawater. Therefore, the government should but out property owners allowing them money to relocate far away from any cities that will be directly affected by rising waters. The other areas and states that will or possibly be affected should begin to armor their shores to begin to prepare for possible damage to their communities.

Augusta Simmons

Augusta Simmons
Augusta Simmons [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. Future Farmers of America (FFA) member for three years. Showed two rabbits at Florida State Fair, finished in the top three places for both rabbits.
  2. Community service hours at East Bay youth football in Riverview, FL.
  3. Lennard varsity swim team for three years.
  4. Participated in Relay for Life for FFA for two years.
  5. Will graduate 22nd in my class at Lennard High School in May.
  6. Community service hours at C.A.R.E. Animal Shelter in Ruskin, FL.

College or other post-high school plans:

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College majoring in Animal Science with a plan to move on to veterinary school.

Tribune Scholars Essay

The thought that Florida residents who live on the water are going to move due to rising water levels is ridiculous. People move to Florida specifically to live on the water. Water levels are rising worldwide, but they not going to rise quick enough to cause an exodus of waterfront property owners.

There are solutions that can help address this issue for the future. There needs to be more environmentally friendly ways that homeowners and home builders can reinforce the waterfront properties around Florida. This would also help to curb water quality issues around Florida that traditional waterfront construction practices can cause. Water quality issues have been a hot button topic around the state of Florida for years and people are striving to improve Florida’s waterways. The government could subsidize the development of eco-friendly seawalls, breakwaters, and jetties that could border waterfront properties. Homeowners and builders could also work in conjunction with local environmental groups to plant oyster beds and mangrove trees to help reinforce waterfronts. Homeowners would be responsible for reinforcing their waterfronts and would do so readily to save their property investments. In exchange for installing the eco-friendly waterfront borders, the government could offer breaks on various taxes or homeowners insurance programs.

People are not going to move away from million-dollar waterfront homes. They are going to do what is necessary to preserve their investments. It is up to the powers that be to develop more eco-friendly methods to improve the waterfront boundaries.

Beri Gill

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Salutatorian
  • Principle Honor Roles
  • Daughters of the Revolution Award JROTC
  • Astronomy Club Vice-President
  • Raiders Team JROTC
  • I am 2nd Lieutenant and 1st Platoon leader in Lennard’s JROTC program

College or other post-high school plans:

My plans are to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Cyber-Security and go on to obtain a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering. I have also taught myself to speak Korean and I have had the opportunity to spend a summer going to a high school in South Korea; moreover, my plans are to continue learning how to speak more proficient Korean during the summer while I am in college. I would also like to study abroad in Croatia and learn the Croatian language. I have already won my first internship opportunity with Amazon during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college. I would also like to intern for the CIA or the NSA during one of the following years of college.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As sea levels continue to rise here in Florida, I believe that communities should armor our shores and move further inland and higher in elevation. Armoring our shores will help prevent erosion and will stall coastal flooding, giving communities enough time to shift inland and to higher in elevation; however, these are far from permanent solutions. Because of the fact that much of Florida is built atop porous limestone with a layer of sand and soil only a few feet deep on average, building sea walls will not do much. Over time our aquifers would be infiltrated by salty seawater rendering them useless, and the seawater would simply seep up from the ground causing flooding anyways. This is already visible in many communities that flood during high tide. Because of this, armoring the coast should only be used to protect us from worsening storm surges, and communities should quickly and efficiently focus on shifting to higher elevations. The question as to whether the government should buy out flood-prone properties should vary from situation to situation. As for areas now entering flood zones, I’d say yes, the government should buy out property owners if the home or property owner is looking to do so; however, the government should only pay for the properties if the insurance company is not covering the damages. The government should be liable as well due to the fact that they issued building permits in locales where there is already an imminent flooding danger.

Chanel Campbell

Chanel Campbell
Chanel Campbell [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Member of Distinction in the Key Club Organization
  • Member of the National Honor Society
  • Attended the annual school board forum of Hillsborough County Schools with my Principal
  • I have accumulated over 350 hours of community service
  • Through the Dual enrollment program with Hillsborough Community College, I have earned 33 college credits
  • President of Student Council

College or other post-high school plans: I plan on attending Howard University in the fall, to study Pediatric Nursing

Tribune Scholars Essay

As the world continues to experience fluctuating and devastating climate changes. Florida has proven to be no different. Florida’s geographical location allows for a major impact on the global economy. It allows for an abundance of goods and services to be traded as a function of our relatively open borders. It has become increasingly necessary for multi-pronged effort to be implemented mitigating the effects of the rising sea levels and the impact on our shoreline. Too much time is allocated to debating cause and effect versus solution-based conversations. While we continue to have such debates, the undeniable fact is, ice caps have melted resulting in warmer waters and an increase in sea levels that impacts coastal communities. There needs to be an educational component for consumers, investors, and homeowners alike who choose to build in coastal cities. By educating consumers, laws can be enacted to protect both citizens, federal and local governments from future poor decisions by consumers. These laws would require consumers to take a class explaining the dangers of building on such home sites. If they choose to move forward, they are forced to accept financial responsibility for such actions. It is not the government’s responsibility to buy out property owners that knowingly build in flood areas. Doing so would open Pandora’s box to allow other consumers to demand buyouts for their particular level of risk based on where they reside. Consumers should make educated decisions while choosing insurance to protect investments and not depend on the government.

Cyan Rodriguez

Cyan Rodriguez
Cyan Rodriguez [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Captain of the girl’s cross-country team.

2. Commander of the JROTC’s Drill and Ceremony team.

3. Participated on the track team running the 4x800 and 1600 (junior and senior year).

4. Participated in National Honor society.

5. Community service with my high school's JROTC at various places.

6. Participated in my high school’s virtual quiz bowl.

College or other post-high school plans: I joined the Florida National Guard in October 2019 and plan to go to basic training in June of 2020. When I return from basic training and Advanced Individual training, I will attend college starting in the spring semester of 2021. So far, I have been accepted to USF and UNF.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Bright sun, perfect beaches, and beautiful weather. Florida appears to be a great place to settle down and call home; unfortunately, sea-level rises may soon prevent people from doing that. As the coastline changes communities should and will likely have to move further inland. While the idea of armoring the coastline to rising sea water may sound like a great idea; ultimately, because of the limestone underneath parts of Florida this is a costly and ineffective means of going about this. We cannot effectively block the water to build our way out of this, but one day we may come to appreciate the places newly reclaimed by the environment and make an honest effort to protect it. Instead, as Floridians move further inland and create more homes, we should keep in mind the possibility of flooding and rising waters and construct buildings that can adapt to it. There are many places around the world where people build homes above the water, and it is definitely something to consider as the rising water level becomes a reality. Moving further into Florida for some families and businesses will be difficult. The government should not buy out property. Private businesses and homeowners can pay for the costs. If people need assistance, then they could get loans to help them transition and move. Although there has been damage that cannot be fixed, a good thing we can try harder to do is to cut greenhouse gases to lessen the future effects.

Jocelyn Shourds

School activities and accomplishments:

  • FFA- Future Farmers of American
  • Relay For Life Booth
  • Beach Clean ups
  • Rebuilding local nature preserves
  • Exhibiting Animals and Plants at Fairs and Festivals
  • FFA Officer for two years- Chaplain then Treasurer

College or other post-high school plans: I plan to attend Santa Fe Community College for the first two years, earn my AA there. After I gain experience underneath the zoology program there, I will transfer to the University of Florida to complete my schooling for my bachelor’s degree. Once, I have all of these done, I plan on finding a vet school that fits my needs in becoming a livestock veterinarian.

Tribune Scholars Essay

In my judgement, both armoring shores and retreating the coast is the best benefit with Florida’s climate changing so drastically. By taking these precautions, we would limit the amount of disasters such as; human deaths or severe injuries, caused by natural phenomenons due to climate change. As for the cost, I think it should be split evenly between the government and the people concerned with the issue at hand. The individuals who worry about the effects could host fundraisers while the government reaches out to pitch in at least half of the costs, in order to protect their people. Everyone should work together to resolve the conflict because not just one person is affected, it is a multitude. If the government was to purchase flood-prone properties, I would advise them to support the original owners. What I mean by this is that the government should make sure people have another place to stay. Once everyone is situated, the government needs to go back and take care of the flood-prone areas, not just abandon them. Either they build a support system that could withstand a flood or they should turn those areas into ecosystems for the sea life that will eventually end up there.

Reylina Suarez

Reylina Suarez
Reylina Suarez [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Lennard Booster Club Community Service

2. Tutor, both as a job and just to help

3. Dual Enrollment/ AP college credits

4. 2 Academic letters

5. AVID College and Career Night Volunteer

6. Collage Acceptance to USF and HCC

College or other post-high school plans: HCC FUSE Biomedical Sciences Track with part/ full time job

Tribune Scholars Essay

With climate change adding more water volume to our oceans, Floridian coasts face the inevitable threat of rising shores. Communities in Florida should both retreat from parts of the coast and prepare their shores for rising water. Properties closest to the coast at highest risk should be bought out and only used as beaches and seasonal small businesses. Residents should relocate further inland with help from the government, who would provide aid such as supplying options of new places to reside, grants, loans at low interest rates, and manageable long-term payment plans if needed. Those at lower risk should still prepare for the uncertainties ahead and put in both short- and long-term preventive measures for the future. These can include sea walls, sand dunes, building homes and businesses at a higher elevation or even a tidal gate like the one proposed for the San Francisco Bay in 2011. As for funding this defense, a small portion of property tax from the counties along the coast will be used. Counties such as Miami-Dade already pay a greater percentage of property tax than those inland, like Highlands county ( When looking at it in the perspective of a buyer paying for a location closer to shore, using this portion of property tax to shield their communities in the future would be the payoff of the rate being so high. With these measures put in place, Florida’s coast and residents would be protected now and in the future.

Sarah Hofman

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Key Club

2. Key Club Member Representative

3. Cross Country (JV and V)

4. Collegiate Academy valedictorian

College or other post-high school plans: I plan to attend college (currently undecided) and will then pursue my medical degree. I plan to become a psychiatrist in the future with my own private practice.

Tribune Scholars Essay

The Florida coastline is constantly changing, and with that change, brings constant danger. To accommodate the everchanging climate, the state should take a variety of steps, including armoring the shores and retreating from the coastline. The coastline of this state is gorgeous; as someone who has lived here almost there whole entire life, I can attest that I would love to live there. However, these picturesque spots also bring with them a barrage of issues, namely the hazard of flooding. As hurricane season approaches, the tides can become especially unpredictable. Climate change has shown a rise in ocean levels, which could be disastrous for these Florida residents. To combat this issue, the government should begin protecting the shores. While many might argue that it is a problem for the owners to fix, it is the government’s priority to maintain the safety of their citizens. The government could also incentivize people to sell their coastal property to encourage retreating from the coastline. While I don’t believe that the government should buy out property owners in flood-prone areas using the power of eminent domain, the government should heavily subsidize owners that are willing to sell their properties.