In April, a panel of three judges working remotely with Google Drive and Zoom reviewed 155 essays from Hillsborough high school seniors to select four winners.
The annual R.F. “Red” Pittman Tribune Scholars contest, named for a former publisher of the Tampa Tribune, is open to the top 3 percent by grade point average of seniors from the county’s public and private high schools. Students from more than 30 high schools took part.
The winners each receive a scholarship of $1,300. They are Alisha Bhatia; Freedom High School, Ellen Jannereth, Carrollwood Day School; Emara Saez, Academy of the Holy Names; and Valerie Muzyka, Sickles High School, all in Tampa.
The judges this year were Stephen Lambert, English professor and quality enhancement plan director at Hillsborough Community College; Emily Griffiths Jones, assistant professor of English at the University of South Florida; and Yuly Restrepo, assistant professor of English at the University of Tampa.
Alisha Bhatia, Freedom High School
Alisha plans to attend the University of Florida to major in psychology and chemistry.
With its wealth of resources and resources of wealth, the U.S. has every advantage necessary to fully combat the coronavirus pandemic.
We should approach the issue of hyper-individualism that leads to protocol non-compliance with economic incentives: bonus payments can be released after conducting daily COVID-19 symptoms surveys and temperature checks to improve contact tracing. This will transform hyperbolic discounting, when people favor immediate rewards over deferred ones, from an issue into an advantage. Additionally, easily digestible daily CDC briefings to update, guide, and combat common myths will inform people and combat the anti-science movement. This centralized information center of scientists will combat confusing and sometimes contradictory policy with science-based action.
However, this is not just a domestic problem. Variants arise like a Whac-A-Mole game, and open border policy combined with the fact that many nations won’t begin vaccinations until 2023 due to scarcity means that we can only beat this virus when the globe beats it.
We can follow the model of the Montreal Protocol, which succeeded after hundreds of unsuccessful anti-climate change efforts due to unprecedented global coordination and encouragement of the private sector.
Similarly, we need to cooperate better on travel protocol in the global sphere and share research in the private sector. Greater funding and sharing of predictive AI and data models will allow officials to improve policies, improve the work of other researchers, and better inform the public. If we have more concrete information about the proven risks, we can convince more people to be safe.
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Ellen Jannereth, Carrollwood Day School
Ellen plans to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., to major in physics with a possible minor in business.
Science. We rely on it in the development of technologies, in unraveling the mysteries of the universe, and in protecting public health. Science is what holds society together.
At least it was.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed an ugly sight: a nation so divided that we cannot even seem to agree on science.
With the deterioration of society’s trust in science comes the collapse of unity and ethics. In kindergarten, I learned to treat others how I want to be treated. Yet as I look around me, I see a society that has strayed so far from this fundamental concept of morality. In our Coronavirus relief efforts, we have forgotten about the migrant workers who cannot seek treatment and those in third-world countries who have little to no access to healthcare. Protective equipment and healthcare services must be extended to these individuals. Do we not have an ethical obligation to care for the human condition?
To effectively address the pandemic, an acute focus on supply chain management is also essential. Leaders of nations must collaborate to create global interdependence and cooperation. We must coordinate scientific information, supplies, and the mobilization of human and economic resources.
In a society where even the public perception of science has become muddled by polarized ideals, we are unfortunately a long way from treating others how we want to be treated. A long way from being able to effectively handle a global pandemic.
But we can and need to do better.
Emara Saez, Academy of the Holy Names
Emara plans to major in political science at Tufts University in Middlesex County, Mass.
When it comes to stemming the spread of COVID-19, the best approach is the one being taken by countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland; at the beginning of the pandemic, countries tried a plethora of approaches to minimize the spread of COVID-19 with a variety of success.
The methods of the aforementioned countries proved to be the most successful, as they all took a strong, compassionate federal approach towards preserving human life in the face of the large threats posed by COVID-19. First, the countries that successfully mitigated the spread of COVID-19 had public acceptance of basic COVID-19 guidelines like social distancing, mask wearing, and frequent handwashing.
That public acceptance was aided by consistent, clear messaging from federal government officials about public health. Next, successful countries also implemented international border closures and quarantines when cases were spiking, along with enforcing those measures with hefty fines. These countries also facilitated these shifts by providing subsidies for small businesses, low income families, and unemployed individuals.
Of course, once the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available, these countries invested in rapid rollout to all of their populations. All of these measures allowed people to prioritize their health, and over a year later, return back to normal life. While some measures may be unpopular or controversial, the data shows that the previously mentioned methods are effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19, and thus should be implemented to save lives from this wretched disease and end the pandemic as soon as possible.
Valerie Muzyka, Sickles High School
Valerie plans to pursue a double major in neuroscience and public policy at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
A team is only as strong as their weakest link. Over the past year, I have seen firsthand how this saying not only applies to team in the traditional sense, but also to our world in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the rollout of vaccines providing hope for curbing the spread of coronavirus, our current “weakest link” is the lack of vaccine distribution to less-developed countries. As of February 2021, approximately 130 low to middle-income countries had not begun vaccinating. Furthermore, those vaccines that are available to these countries has significantly lower efficacy than vaccines including Pfizer and Moderna with which more developed countries have more readily available.
I believe that on top of social distancing and mask wearing protocols currently in place, equal opportunity for countries to receive vaccines of comparable efficacy in an appropriate amount given their population is necessary. While waiting for vaccination efforts to become more equitable, the lack of discipline regarding international travel must be addressed. Realistically, until herd immunity is reached with 70 percent of people being vaccinated, travel between countries must be limited to extenuating circumstances. This will diminish global spread of coronavirus and contain new strains that develop to that respective country.
As it is currently, a new strain that developed in the UK is now the most prominent strain of COVID-19 within the United States. By limiting international travel, situations like these will not occur and each country may instead focus on what coronavirus relief looks like to them.