1. The Education Gradebook

Wharton 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.

Albert Grass (Essay winner)

Albert Grass
Albert Grass [ Courtesy of Albert Grass ]

School activities and accomplishments (no more than six):

1. President of Spanish Honor Society: We explore Latin culture through language, music, and food. I also tutor ESL students for the ACT/SAT and I created a program to help them apply their English skills through social interactions with English speaking students.

2. BACE Chairman of Science National Honor Society: I teach students how to pass the Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam through a curriculum of my own design.

3. Vice President of the Orchestra program: I play the viola in my school’s orchestra. I also mentor younger musicians.

4. Senator, Florida American Legion Boys’ State 2019: As a senator, myself and 39 other young men represented our communities while debating proposed legislation in the Florida State Senate.

5. BETA Club: I am a member of my school’s BETA club which provides volunteering opportunities. I typically volunteer with Metropolitan Ministries in the environmental department.

6. QuestBridge College Match Finalist, Gates Scholarship Semi-Finalist, and Bailey Family Foundation Scholarship Recipient.

College or other post-high school plans:

I have waitlist offers from Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Hamilton College. I also have an admissions offer from the University of Florida. If I attend the University of Florida, I plan on studying political science with a minor in either international development and humanitarian assistance or teaching English as a second language. I plan on following similar paths of study if I am admitted from the waitlist at any of the other institutions.

Tribune Scholars Essay

The coastlines are vital to the Floridian identity and economy; but as we face a future with a changing climate, we should armor our shores and retreat where necessary. 14% of American shores are already fortified. However, the majority are “hard” fortifications such as seawalls and bulkheads that erode the shoreline and create habitat loss.

Floridians should opt for green alternatives, “soft” fortifications, such as water absorbing salt marshes and oyster reefs that are specialized for each region and effectively fortify the coastline while providing sustainable habitats. While some persist that hard fortifications are the smarter investment, soft fortifications grow to the environment and become stronger over the years, all while being $50/linear foot cheaper to maintain. The Florida government is projected to spend $76 billion on seawalls by 2040, but if Floridians prioritize soft fortifications, the government can save money, protect its citizens, and help the environment.

With 77% of Floridians living in coastal areas, retreat may be inevitable. Section 203 of the Stafford Act authorizes the use of federal funds under the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program (PDM). PDM should be used by local governments to acquire flood-prone land before disaster strikes. This land can then be turned into space for “soft” fortifications to mitigate further retreat. Our coastlines do not have to disappear. While some loss is inevitable, I look forward to a future where my grandchildren can run down the beach because we were preemptive today.

Delaney Brooks

Delaney Brooks
Delaney Brooks [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. I have completed more than 400 community service hours while in high school. My family runs a food pantry called the New Tampa Care Center where we serve between 50 and 60 individuals a month. I also interned with Metropolitan Ministries for two summers, assisted with hurricane Michael relief efforts the summer of 2019, and fundraised for many local organizations such as Feeding Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Watch, Trinity Cafe, MacDonald Training Center, and the Spring of Tampa Bay.
  2. I was one of nine students selected from Hillsborough County to be a part of the Ryan Nece Foundation Student Service Program. I attend monthly meetings, participate in community service projects, and fundraise to help local nonprofits.
  3. I am the president of Legacy- the christian club at my school. I was a founding officer for the club Students Taking Action which promotes volunteering, equality, and political involvement. I am the Senior Class Council treasurer and was an officer for Friends Inc. which is similar to the Best Buddies program.
  4. I got a perfect score on the statewide U.S. History End of Course Exam.
  5. I am a small group leader for the middle school girls at my church. On Sundays I lead discussions and act as a mentor for the younger girls. I also occasionally speak in front of the whole youth group to deliver part of the message.

College or other post-high school plans: I will be attending the University of Florida in the fall. I plan on majoring in economics and possibly getting a minor in computer science.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Sea levels all over the world are rising at alarming rates. When discussing solutions to combat this issue it is paramount to recognize long term solutions that are both cost-effective and minimally invasive to the surrounding environment.

Armoring our shorelines proves to be beneficial in areas where there is high wave energy, as it reduces the risk of coastal waves and flooding on waterfront properties. Although this may help in some areas, this solution is costly and it negatively impacts shallow-water habitats. Living shorelines share benefits with armoring the coast, but costs less and keeps the ecosystem intact. Using plants to stabilize the shoreline absorbs wave energy, reduces erosion, and becomes more effective over time as plants grow.

Retreating from coastal areas should be seen as an option of last resort. Displacing homeowners and businesses ruins the coastal economy and is not a feasible option, but this may be necessary if measures are not taken to offset the effects of climate change. The federal government should encourage companies to mitigate fossil fuel use and look for more energy-efficient alternatives by implementing an aggressive cap and trade policy and introducing a carbon tax. This revenue could then pay for the restoration and protection of shorelines. The government should offer subsidies to companies that use cleaner energy sources and take any other measures to lower the effects of rising sea levels, that way there would be no need to offer voluntary buyouts of homes in flood-prone areas because the risk is minimized.

Faith Buckley

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Students Protecting Land And Sea Habitats (SPLASH) President (environmental club)

2. Science National Honor Society (SNHS) New Member Chair

3. Panera Bread Associate Trainer

4. National Honor Society/BETA member (basic volunteer clubs with the exact same expectations only slightly different layouts)

5. Homework Help tutor (tutor students everyday during lunch period)

6. Speech and Debate national qualifier (Original Oratory)

College or other post-high school plans: College of Journalism, University of Florida.

Tribune Scholars Essay

The balance between personal happiness and nature is a teetering challenge. The second a new mall opens close by we jump with cheer yet complain about rising pollution. At what point will society fully push aside the natural world to accommodate for our growing want for luxury?

Since 1880, sea levels have risen 8-9 inches, a third of such having been done in the last 25 years. The levels will continue to escalate at an increasing rate; from 2006-2015 acceleration was approximately .14 inches per year, a .08 increase from the early 2000s.

Part of the problem is the infrastructure along coastlines.

While living directly on the waterline fulfills a peaceful lifestyle for us, it offsets marine ecosystems. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “development can block the inland migration of wetlands in response of sea level rise and change the amount of sediment delivered to coastal areas and accelerate erosion.”

The problem will worsen to a degree of irreversibility, urging coastline properties to relocate.

The nagging issue now becomes funding.

Florida’s government should be responsible for construction fines. Doing so would ultimately prevent legal run ins with private owners that would delay the project further and would allow for a uniform approach across Florida’s coastlines, thus maximizing cooperation and productivity.

The severed needs of marine wildlife must become a priority to the 76.5% of Floridians living on the coastline. Not giving attention where attention is due will have nature falling off the teeter-totter once and for all.

Feleisha Khan

Feleisha Khan
Feleisha Khan [ handout ]

School activities:

- Colorguard team captain

- National Honor Society

- Beta Honor Society

- Science National Honor Society

- Tri-M Music Honor Society

College: University of South Florida to pursue a degree in environmental science and policy

Tribune Scholars Essay

Due to climate change, sea levels are rising. For Florida, this is bad news. Our state is below sea level, so if it keeps rising, we will soon be underwater. However, it is not too late. According to the United Nations, we still have about a decade before any damage done becomes irreversible. Therefore, if we start acting now, we can still save our home. I believe that communities should all do their part to armor shores against rising waters, and taxpayers should cover the cost. I do think that the government should buy out property owners in flood prone areas due to the safety risk. The restoration of natural defenses such as wetlands can and will help defend our shorelines. Florida had an abundance of wetlands, but many of them have been paved over in order to build things such as shopping plazas or parking lots. I believe we should also attempt to adjust our lifestyles to adjust for rising sea levels. Florida should have stronger legislation in place in order to protect natural buffer zones and slow down the rise. For example, companies should be taxed a certain amount for every few gallons of greenhouse gas pumped into the air. This would encourage them to be more resourceful and turn to more renewable options. I believe that we should be doing our part to slow down the rapidly rising sea levels while also preparing to defend our shores. With strong enough legislation, it can be done.

Kaela Albury

Kaela Albury
Kaela Albury [ handout ]

1. Co-Captain of Wharton high school’s cheer team

2. Cheer team placed 3rd at states 2018-2019 season

3. Treasurer of Key Club

4. Vice President of Fellowship of Christian Athletes

I will be attending the University of Florida in the fall, and majoring in Health Science.

Valeria Gutierrez

Social activities and accomplishments:

1. National Merit Finalist

2. President of BETA club

3. Concertmaster and President of Orchestra

4. Vice President of Mu Alpha Theta

5. Member of National Honors Society

6. Member of Science National Honors Society

College plans: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in Mechanical Engineering

Tribune Scholars Essay

As Florida being underwater approaches reality, actions need to be taken in order to ensure the safety of citizens. As a short-term solution, the government should pay for structures to be fortified. Florida is already a hotspot for hurricanes, and rising sea levels will only contribute to the amount of damage caused by these natural disasters. If the government hires people to implement hurricane shutters, and impact-resistant windows and doors, not only will houses be able to withstand stronger weather conditions, but it will also help to reduce unemployment levels. Even with these short-term precautions in place, ideally, the government should buy out those who live in flood prone areas. Residents in these areas surely had no idea that this is what their future held, nor can most of them afford to simply pick up and move to a safer location. Asking everyone to move out all at once would cause a panic but grouping communities by location would ease the process. According to Ben Strauss’ article Florida and the Rising Sea, “A recent Florida Atlantic University study estimated that just 6 more inches of sea level rise — very plausible within two decades — would cripple about half of South Florida’s flood control capacity.” Two decades is not that far away, so by implementing these precautions as soon as possible, it will save money in the long run for everyone and keep citizens safe.

Yash Patel

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. Mu Alpha Theta (math honor society) participant, calculus team captain, and president with several top 10 rankings at regional competitions
  2. Two years of STEM fair research, one 3rd place regional ranking
  3. National Merit Commended Scholar
  4. Over 150 hours of community service, ranging from hospitals to food banks
  5. 2nd tenor saxophone in high school jazz ensemble, one superior ranking at Music Performance Assessment
  6. Chess club president

Future plans: attending University of South Florida (USF) in fall 2020 to study Biomedical Science

Tribune Scholars Essay

Florida has one of the greatest economies in the world, but it faces the threat of rising waters due to global warming and requires a sophisticated solution.

It is hard to implement something that appease one group but harms another. Methods like buying out property owners in flood-prone areas require a great amount of money if they are to adequately settle costs. If the government was to pay for these expenditures, who would be taxed to cover them? It would be unfair to tax all Americans for this, and the tax burden would be too great if only members of affected communities were expected to compensate. Hence, a different solution is required.

I propose that big Florida cities like Miami and Sarasota undergo a makeover that is very similar to what Venice has done. By integrating waterways into the city, they would be able to relieve the pressure of rising waters. Hydroelectric motors could be installed in the beds of major canals to power the cities. Excess energy would be channeled to neighboring communities, and they could also act as water pumps in case of flooding. Vital agriculture like mangroves and kelp could be farmed in these waterways to provide citizens with sustenance and businesses. Of course, cost would be a big factor. However, the incredible tourism prospects, forgone insurance costs, and incentives for ecological sustainability would help to cover a big chunk of it.

This plan is not perfect, but it would secure Florida’s future for years to come.