1. The Education Gradebook

Plant 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.

Alixandra Rubin

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. Athena Society’s Dr. Sylvia Richardson Young Woman of Promise Honoree

2. Race Manager and Executive Board Member of student-run non-profit, Cross Out Cancer Inc.

3. National Merit Finalist

4. Mayor’s Youth Corps Member

5. Captain of the Cross-Country and Track team for my junior and senior seasons

6. Volunteer Coordinator for U Go Girl, a youth running club at a local elementary school

College or other post high-school plans: major in biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology with intentions to co-op or intern in my field of study

Tribune Scholars Essay

Besides the potential for danger on Florida’s coast from climate change and rising sea levels, the globe is facing a catastrophic issue that threatens the stability of hundreds of species and encourages the implementation of costly solutions. With Florida’s economy relying heavily on its beaches and the tourism that results, citizens need to take action to protect coastal communities from rising waters, even if this means halting the continuous use of the shoreline.

While armoring the shores with barricades would prevent flooding, it would mitigate the appeal of the wide expanses of ocean that stretch into the horizon. Because of this, it now comes to the communities, who must make the conscious decision to limit new developments which only expedite erosion of the ground and increase the chances of flooding. Though this limits the number of visitors and threatens to slow the economy, stopping any further advances and retreating from parts of the coast could help protect the environment from any more damage.

While this seems simple enough to implement, the question of who should pay comes into question. Though the state government has the ability to gather resources to buy out property owners in flood-prone areas, this would require large sums of money that could be better invested in new policies that addresses climate change on a broader scale. Instead, policy should be implemented on a local scale, with local governments addressing individual communities in individual ways to minimize displacement and maximize efficiency.

Audrey Taylor

Audrey Taylor
Audrey Taylor [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. National honor Society Treasurer, National English Honor Society event coordinator, and Social Studies Honor Society event coordinator

2. Girl Scout Ambassador (13 years)

3. Actress performing in school and community theatre

4. Tutored middle and high school students

5. Book club president

6. Ambassador for Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful

College or other post-high school plans: Attending Muhlenberg College double majoring with a BA in Acting and a BS in Computer Science

Chloe-Amelie Aikman

Chloe-Amelie Aikman
Chloe-Amelie Aikman [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. As a volunteer with Life’s Treasures, I worked in a thrift store operated for the purpose of supporting Chapters Health and hospice care for the community. Through them, I have also had the opportunity to contribute to events like the Greek Festival – where I have been a face painter for two of the three years I’ve volunteered there.

2. In the Summer of 2018, I wrote for the “Miami Montage” through the Peace Sullivan/James Ansin Workshop, which accepts 20 students in Florida each year in an all expenses paid program. We spent a month living on the University of Miami campus to investigate and report relevant stories affecting South Florida; for my article, I focused on alternative treatments for autism and what local centers offering them were doing to help the community (relevant in wake of recent medical fraud and an imposed moratorium on ABA therapist hiring).

3. I am Co-President (serving my second term), and a founding member, of Plant High School’s National Art Honor Society Chapter, and have assisted in planning and putting together art exhibitions on and off campus. Our goal, since the beginning, has been to offer and share the gallery experience with as many students as possible.

4. I am the President of Plant’s chapter of the National English Honor Society, which we have used to promote scholarship opportunities, writing competitions, and appreciation of language through events like “Literacy Week” with the student body. We also hold an annual book drive, and we had planned to dedicate this year’s drive to the Teaching Tools Resource Center through the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

5. Received 12 All-Florida awards for journalistic writing and illustrations, most notably for same-day coverage of the chalk protest that occurred on our campus after the Parkland shooting.

6. Awarded “Artist of the Year” by the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) for editorial cartoons I drew for our student-run newspaper.

College or other post-high school plans:

I will be attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, as one of the 100 students accepted each year into their International Economics program (BIE).

Tribune Scholars Essay

As sea levels are rising at an increasingly accelerated rate, Florida is undoubtedly one of the states most vulnerable to coastal flooding – but static solutions will not fix dynamic problems.

Hardening, or armoring, the shorelines with seawalls is one such static solution. Preventing erosion in this way fundamentally obstructs the moveable nature of coastal ecosystems and disrupts inter-tidal wildlife. Increased reports of “false crawls,” or when a female sea turtle leaves a beach without laying her eggs, have been correlated to the presence of sea walls. If the solution is aversive to wildlife, truly, what are we preserving?

Environmentally, and economically, it is in Florida’s best interest to protect its coast proactively and with its ecosystem in mind. Already, over 14,000 miles of seawall fence the State. Protecting wetlands, decreasing carbon emissions, and approaching a sustainable climate plan – rather than continuing to artificially adjust our environment to compensate – are alternatives that may slow sea level rise as well as increase the quality of human and animal life in the process.

In the meantime, it rests not with the government, but with the individual, when deciding to invest in high risk areas. The decision to purchase coastal land comes with high flood insurance and low disaster relief – and the buyer accepts risk when they accept the deed. It’s unrealistic for the State to buy out the coast; at best, they can financially disincentive its development.

Because ultimately, how far the waves touch the Land of Flowers is in all our hands.

Ehinoma Imudia

Ehinoma Imudia
Ehinoma Imudia [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. Drum Major of HB Plant Marching Band
  2. Lead role in Plant Theatre Company
  3. President of Key Club
  4. President of Student Advisory Committee

College or other post-high school plans: I plan to study Electrical Engineering at Yale University on the Pre-med track.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As a science major, I still wonder how to deal with climate change. I ponder and wonder about the facts, myths or science related to climate change. My understanding is that climate change is the rise in global average temperature. As the debates rage on, most scientists have agreed on its occurrence. The main cause being the burning of fossil fuels which creates a greenhouse effect with the Earth. With climate change comes a plethora of problems. The expanding oceans, which leads to rising water levels that puts global coasts (including Florida) in danger.

I believe that Florida should armor its shores. Getting people away from the coasts could be too drastic a measure. Business owners, homeowners, and tourists have spent a great deal of their money investing in coastal areas. Many people’s lives could be destroyed and changed with the movement. Thus, I suggest protecting the shores with sea walls. This seems like a better option to me for the short term. Even though sea walls are a temporary solution, they will allow for a more permanent fix to come. The permanent fix could address the root causes of climate change, including but not limited to reducing or moving away from fossil fuels and activities that create greenhouse effects. Ultimately, if it does not work, we must then move away from the shores.

The government should help pay for work involved in the various phases. Perhaps new legislation or taxes may be required to address the challenging matter.

Ellery Willard

Ellery Willard
Ellery Willard [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Member of the Order of the Gold and Black

2. Member of Beta Honor Society

3. Member of National Honor Society

4. Member of Key service club

College or other post-high school plans: Attending the University of Florida, enrolled in the Honors Program

Eric Zhao

Eric Zhao
Eric Zhao [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Technology and Robotics

2. President of Beta Honor Society

3. Literary Club Vice President

4. Conference Coordinator for Model United Nations

5. Leader of Beta Tutoring

6. Tutored classmates after school for three school years in all subjects as community service

College or other post-high school plans:

Attending medical school in the U.S., learning about Eastern medicine in Asia, and research oriental medicine through a Western medical perspective.

Tribune Scholars Essay

In the face of a changing climate, the government should react flexibly with clearly defined policies. As sea levels rise, there will be residences facing an increased risk. The government needs to outline and label which areas are at risk and discourage the construction of new properties in these areas. In contrast, improved seawalls should be constructed in the regions that are not severely at risk, salvageable, and high in tax revenue. All companies and citizens that choose to reside in an area at risk need to be fully informed on the possible consequences of their decision, and specific insurance policies, such as flood insurance, will need to be purchased and verified by the government. The government should incentivize property owners to move away from the risky areas with incentives such as tax breaks and give households the option of selling their property to the government. Incentives should be adjusted for income level, with those on the lower brackets having a portion of their rent or down payment paid by the government with a low-interest loan.

Graham Hill

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper after previously serving as Opinions Editor
  2. Latin Club co-president
  3. Co-president of Social Studies Honor Society
  4. Founding member of the book club
  5. Member of the National English Honor Society Board
  6. In the 2019-2020 Hall of Fame, as voted on by teachers

College or other post-high school plans:

Yet to decide on a college, but intend to major in history, with hopes to eventually become a professor in that field.

Tribune Scholars Essay

The most reasonable solution is to both institute programs to protect coastline communities while making housing further inland a more attractive option. A major reason the coast is so vulnerable is due to reckless projects by development companies looking to profit off of waterfront properties. Fines and taxes should be placed on these corporations as a punitive measure to discourage further projects, and this money put towards restoring natural coastal protection: revitalize wetlands, bring back mangroves, and rebuild barrier islands. These are simple steps that bring back a semblance of natural balance. Such solutions should be preferred to more heavy-handed ones that, while they may be easier and get results quicker, are ultimately unsustainable. The aforementioned techniques are how Florida has always preserved her coasts from prehistory to the present. There is no reason to change that.

However, it must be recognized that we may have passed a tipping point in terms of climate change, and damage to Florida’s coast may be inevitable. For this reason, inland housing must be made a more attractive option.

The government shouldn’t necessarily buy out flood-prone property from the owners, only if there is cause, such as the owner being a danger to the ecosystem’s health. Endangered areas should be placed under government control to be restored to health. This program should also have an option for owners of at-risk property to sell land to the government. To encourage participation, a tax incentive could be offered.

Hayden Watson

Hayden Watson
Hayden Watson [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. National Merit Scholar Finalist

2. Astronomy Club Board

3. Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society

4. BETA Honor Society

5. National Honor Society

6. Young Men’s Service League Member

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

Hope Hotchkiss

Hope Hotchkiss
Hope Hotchkiss [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. Varsity Captain, Plant High Rowing Association; President, Plant High Rowing Club
  2. Rowing—six state, one regional, and three national competitions (in high school career/ so far), along with one state and one regional medal
  3. Dedicated my first period (of senior year schedule) to tutoring peers in varied subjects
  4. Beta Honor Society board member
  5. (A) Vice President of Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  6. Vice President of Science Honor Society

College or other post-high school plans: United States Naval Academy, major in engineering

Junhao Zhang

Junhao Zhang
Junhao Zhang [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Mu Alpha Theta – Vice President of Competitions, represented Plant High School in the district math bowl at USF 7 times over the four years of high school, and placing in the top 15 in 6 of those competitions.

2. Beta Honor Society – Vice President of Administration, actively coordinating members of the board for record-keeping as well as the organization of club events such as inductions, organizing an online tutoring environment during the COVID-19 e-learning.

3. Orchestra – Vice President, a viola player in the Plant Chamber Orchestra, 3-time all-county performer, performance at the ASTA national conference in Atlanta, GA in 2018.

4. National Arts Honor Society – Operations Manager/Treasurer, works with the board members to plan events and coordinate setting up those events.

5. National Merit Scholarship Finalist & National Beta Scholarship Recipient.

6. Fine Arts – 2D artist, mostly paintings inspired by and created in renaissance and baroque styles, been involved with 2 AP studio art exhibits, 3 Honorable Mention pieces in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

College or other post-high school plans: Planning to enroll at the University of Florida in the Class of 2024

Tribune Scholars Essay:

Changing coastline is nothing new in the grand timeline of the Earth. Every day, some piece of land becomes forever submerged in the blue abyss, and another becomes exposed dryland to set foot on. The dynamic nature of the environment is something that humans have long experienced and should revere with the utmost respect. The fact that at any instant the changing force of the earth can wipe out manmade structure should not be a thing to be scared of, but to be accepted as a byproduct of passage of time. In this nation we have many programs and systems that are already set up for relief during natural disasters, recently exemplified by the relief package sent out amid the COVID-19 crisis, but these aids should not be relied upon to cover one-hundred percent of the losses for an event such as rising coastal waters. When someone purchases a property this close to the coast, the risk of natural disasters should have already been considered and factored into the cost of owning a property such as this, and the duty to make complete reparations in a case of disasters should not fall onto the shoulders of the government. Man prides himself in sculpting and architecting the face of the Earth, but this power, as we all should keep alert in our minds, is but minuscule compared to the force of nature.

Olivia Jean Manno

Olivia Jean Manno
Olivia Jean Manno [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. 2018- 2020 Varsity Cross Country and Track Team Captain. (11th and 12th).

2. 2017 Flag Football and 2018 Cross Country State Team champion.

3. AP Capstone Diploma recipient, National AP Scholar, and AP Scholar with

Distinction . (Passed all AP exams and a 4.0 unweighted).

4. High School Representative for the Women of Future Medicine Conference

5. BETA Board of Philanthropy member, Social studies Honor Society Vice

President, and KIWI Service Club Spirit Vice President.

6. Gold and Black Plant High Club Member (Top 20 excelling PHS students that

have the greatest involvement in volunteer service, clubs, and academics in the

school. Acknowledges rigor/hard work.)

College or other post-high school plans:

I am attending the University of Florida majoring in Biochemistry. :)

Riley Schofner

Riley Schofner
Riley Schofner [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. The Spring of Tampa Bay Intern - Lantern of Peace Award

2. Scouting of America - Eagle Scout Rank

3. HB Plant High School Speech and Debate Club - President

4. HB Plant High School Pep O Plant Newspaper - Expressions Editor & Webmaster

5. HB Plant High School Marching Band Drum Core

6. Florida Boys State Representative

College or other post-high school plans: Dartmouth College

Tribune Scholars Essay

As climate change forces more complex impacts to Florida, gestures like buying electric cars, installing solar panels and living more sustainably is not enough. The Tampa Bay region is likely to face between 1.9 and 8.5 feet of sea level rise by the year 2100 according to the Tampa Bay Times (Wilson, 2019). As U.S. Representative Kathy Castor urges Governor Ron DeSantis to be bold, “For our planet, for our children and future generations,” the Sunshine State needs to take decisive action and coalesce voices from regional business, government, and neighborhood leaders.

Florida must adapt by marshaling authorization for its Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to regulate greater environmental creativity and innovation. The goal would be to enforce shoring up sea walls, protect sea grass beds, restoring oyster beds, adding drainage upgrades, and ensuring regional drinking water. To help fund, leaders should impose a statewide sustainability and resiliency tax on all new construction over 7,000 square feet or ground floor additions to existing structures that encompass over 10,000 square feet of additional floor area within coastline areas. A high-tech simulation model will also be developed so officials can test sea rise scenarios against solutions (like mangroves or higher buildings) to help provide flood insurance transparency or potential relocation if needed.

The State of Florida must take responsibility for human action, helping front line communities solve a complicated challenge, and doing what we can to help the survival of our most precious asset- our peninsula coastline.

Ryan Hobson

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. Jefferson Book Award Recipient
  2. Varsity Letter in Cross Country
  3. National Merit Finalist
  4. Mu Alpha Theta member
  5. NHS member
  6. Vice President of Young Men’s Service League South Tampa

College plans: Attending UF Honors college and participating in Research Scholars Program. Hope to major in computer science.

Tribune Scholars Essay

When most people think of Florida, they think of year-round summers and picturesque beaches. They don’t realize that with the rise of global temperatures, Florida may one day be lost to the sea like the mythological city of Atlantis. This begs the question: what can we do to keep our home above the water? The options we’re given both have severe downsides: if we retreat from the coast, we lose the income from tourists in those regions, which will devastate local and state-wide economies. However, to armor our shores is a short-term fix, as the water will eventually rise above whatever protection we build, forcing us to build ever-rising walls and delay the inevitable. Stuck with two poor options, our safest bet is to build these walls to protect our shores, as it’s less economically harmful and thus is easier to implement. To retreat from the shores is not an option, as it would require the building of new infrastructure while we lose money from leaving our beaches. We live in the state with the fourth-lowest tax rate in the country. Therefore, it’s unlikely the state government can even afford to pay for these walls. The only options left are to either have the citizens pay for it, or raise taxes, which would have the same outcome. Considering the uproar that would come from taxing the entire state more, the best choice is to have shoreline counties tax at their discretion to fund walls for the protection of the shoreline.

Tien Nguyen

Tien Nguyen
Tien Nguyen [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Vice President of High Schools Against Cancer club

2. Vice President of Events for Kiwanettes Girls’ Service club (for volunteer events)

3. Board member of Beta Honor club for tutoring

4. Plant high school Academic Tutor

5. National Merit Finalist

6. Member of Gold and Black Honor Society at Plant High- exclusive to 40 well-rounded seniors in academics, school involvement, athletics, and leadership.

College or other post-high school plans: Majoring in Philosophy at the University of Florida

Tribune Scholars Essay

The dire situation of Florida’s changing climate cannot be stressed enough, with the rising sea levels putting millions of people at risk, highlighting the environmental ruination brought upon by human actions driven by individual needs of gratification.

For too long, greed and other “more time-essential” issues have led to climate change being put on hold, but with Florida’s rising waters, action needs to be taken before the damage becomes irreversible. Retreating from the coast is a sacrifice that will need to be made. Limiting more human damage to coastal areas is essential to an efficient recovery.

The waters and the coast are everything, connecting to the drinking water, the climate, and the economy. It is not an issue that can wait, because waiting will only mean more damage, time, money, and work needed later. The government needs to buy out the flooding properties, especially those in low-income areas where people cannot afford to leave, put a stop to the irresponsible actions that have led to the crisis, and implement further policies to fix the damage, taking responsibility for the human-caused natural disaster.

With the virus and impending recession, it is easy to predict how the environment may once again be put on the back burner, but it is imperative to act once it is safe. The government should deficit spend on the environment, providing people with environmental jobs, stimulating the economy during recessionary times, while bonding people together in the mutual effort and realization to save Florida’s coast.