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Blake 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.
Blake High School, 1701 N Boulevard along the Hillsborough River in Tampa, offers an arts magnet program.
Blake High School, 1701 N Boulevard along the Hillsborough River in Tampa, offers an arts magnet program. [ MONICA HERNDON | TIMES ]
Published May 19, 2021|Updated May 19, 2021

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 2021 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.

Adell Davis

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. Drum Major of MYJ

2. On track to graduate with Associate’s Degree from Hillsborough Community College

3. Member and Board Member of Key Club

4. Section Leader of Trombone (11th and 12th)\

College or other post high school plans:

As I am on track with my Associate’s Degree this year, I plan to finish my bachelor’s in Music Therapy at Florida Gulf Coast University and go into an internship in order to further pursue my career. I will

Essay:

As we have reached, what we could call, the anniversary of COVID-19 many things have changed and occurred since March 2020. Being a high school student during all of this has really changed my perspective of the way COVID-19 and the spread of it was handled. I started off this year as almost everyone did in the country, as an online learner. But soon after doing the online track I realized for my musicianship and mental health (as I only took music classes my senior year), it would be better for me to attend in person school.

This is where I think the downfall began, the strictness on the guidelines of COVID-19 have decreased tremendously since the beginning and I finally got to witness this firsthand. Now with vaccines just becoming available (to our age groups) I believe that we should have waited and prevented some of the deaths and sicknesses that happened around us by keeping kids safer. Mask mandates should still be in effect along with two-week quarantines after big holidays and breaks as well as being tested beforehand. For example, the stricter guidelines could’ve applied to sports because many of them require close and physical contact making it completely unsafe but yet it was still allowed to happen.

But as a music student, many of my concerts and performances were cancelled due to COVID-19. I think that the rules could’ve been stricter and fairer among all activities and schools in order to further stop the spread of COVID-19 and get back to a new “normal” quicker.

Ashanti Cox

School Activities and Accomplishments:

  • Valedictorian
  • Blake High School Orchestra President
  • Graduating with my Associate’s degree from Hillsborough Community College
  • Member of Blake Orchestra Council, Key Club, National Honors Society
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College or other post high school plans:

Since I am graduating with my associate’s degree this year, I plan to finish my bachelor’s at the University of Central Florida with a major in Music Education and a minor in Astronomy. I will continue on to get my Masters after graduating from UCF.

Essay:

The COVID-19 pandemic has already been around for one year, and so many things have happened since the beginning. I feel that certain problems could have been handled differently to stop the spread of the virus. What could have been fixed in schools is requiring all students to stay home after breaks and do e learning for two weeks to quarantine themselves.

Over winter and spring break many students were traveling and they came back to school without getting tested beforehand. As a result, many schools lost most of their students because they had to get quarantined. I just think that many covid cases in schools could have been avoided if they kept us home two weeks after the school breaks. Another big rule that health officials have advised since the beginning of the pandemic is to stay 6 feet apart. The problem though is that people pick and choose when to follow CDC guidelines.

Cities remind people to stay 6 feet apart when they’re out in public, but then also say that it’s okay to have sporting events with thousands of fans. Every sport that happened this past year required physical contact and it’s crazy how that was allowed to happen, but some business were still forced to stay close. If the country focused more on people’s safety instead of money, life would be very different as to where we are right now.

Jack Stockard

School Activities and Accomplishments:

Youth In Government Bowen Outstanding Statesmen Award, Most Improved Cross Country Member/Most Valuable Cross Country Member, Set to get my Associates Degree w/HCC by graduation, National Honor Society Member, Salutatorian, Member of TV/Film Program

College/Post-high school plans:

I plan on attending University of South Florida to study biomedical engineering and cellular/molecular biology.

Essay:

For the last year, COVID-19 has ravaged our country with more deaths than we experienced during World War II. While some contagion is inevitable, both the American government and people are still struggling to overcome the pandemic. In order to change our situation, we must first change ourselves.

On the individual level, we can continue to wear masks and socially distance as they’ve proven to prevent spread. Thanks to scientists’ efforts for the last year, we also have effective vaccines available for use. By taking the vaccines, we can build immunity to coronavirus; thus, cases and deaths drop as less people are threatened by the illness. In Florida, eligibility for the vaccine is now age 16, which means a larger demographic can prevent sickness. After we combat COVID-19 individually, we can advocate for action on larger scales; we can convince friends and family to take similar measures and even encourage further government action. In my opinion, if the federal government took charge earlier, the pandemic would already be over.

We need federal mask mandates that couldn’t be overturned by local governments. We also need a national vaccination campaign to encourage administration amongst especially skeptical peoples concerned about past events as in Tuskegee, Alabama. Officials must actively seek to heal this wound in American trust while they campaign. They could recruit influential people like celebrities to promote vaccinations. Government could also financially incentivize businesses and institutions to require vaccinations. If we follow these protocols, we can overcome this pandemic together.

Johan Gales

School Activities & Accomplishments:

- Symphony, Philharmonic, Chamber, and String Orchestra

- Orchestra Vice President & Treasurer

- All-County Orchestra for 3 Years

- Key Club Board Member (Webmaster)

College/Post-High School Plans:

I plan to attend UCF in the Fall 2021 Semester for Engineering.

Essay:

Above all, I believe that people should trust the scientists, doctors, and epidemiologists in regards to how to act accordingly in the face of this ongoing pandemic. There is understandably much concern, anxiety, and fear among citizens; not only about COVID-19 itself but also the advised precautions such as wearing masks, social distancing, and - most importantly - getting vaccinated.

There is a degree of mistrust between citizens and health officials that needs to be overcome in order to stem the spread of the virus. It can be hard to trust the influx of news and advice going around right now, but I believe that we need to adhere to the instructions of the same medical researchers and scientists that have guided us through other pandemics/epidemics such as the Spanish Flu, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and more to guide us through COVID-19. Applicable to wearing masks and social distancing, this trust is especially important in getting vaccinated.

Many people seem to fear the vaccines more than they fear the actual virus due to the speed in which they were created and the use of mRNA. Again, the best we can do is to trust that the professionals, who have devoted years of studying and research to protect the world’s citizens, know what’s best for us and have our best interests in mind. At the end of the day, it is trust that will get us through this pandemic; trust in the science, and trust in each other to do our parts.

Kathryn Bell

School Activities and Accomplishments:

  1. AP Scholar with Distinction
  2. Artwork featured in Tampa Museum of Art and the Dalí Museum
  3. Illustrator of children’s book Cloudy Days
  4. Scholastics Arts & Writing Honorable Mentions for drawing, painting, and art portfolio
  5. Member of National Honors Society and National Art Honors Society

College Plans:

I have been accepted into the University of South Florida and its honors program, the Judy Genshaft Honors College. I have also been accepted into the University of Florida and the Ohio State University.

Essay:

To stem the spread of coronavirus, guidelines should be given in a clear and concise manner that are consistent through the federal, state, and local levels to diffuse any confusion about conflicting rules from different sources regarding the pandemic. These shared guidelines should be transparent and easily accessible via government websites as well as regularly updated so citizens remain educated about the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As demonstrated by inconsistency in basic guidelines (such as social distancing and wearing a mask correctly) as well as misinformation regarding the virus itself and available vaccines, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and millions negatively affected needlessly. In order to combat this, vaccine registration should be simplified and places offering the vaccine should be listed on government websites alongside other coronavirus updates in order to make information as accessible as possible and to avoid confusion and the spread of misinformation.

To save as many lives as possible, guidelines must be clear and concise so Americans can best follow them and reduce the harmful impact of misinformation and conspiracy theories. Furthermore, to better protect each other, as many people as possible should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In order to accomplish this, vaccine information should be located alongside guidelines in one place. Being as transparent as possible will enable Americans to take the necessary steps to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Miranda Williams

School activities and accomplishments:

I have been in AVID for my four high school years, I participated in a program called YMCA Achievers, and I did community service for metropolitan ministries. AVID gave me the opportunity to speak as a representative of my school at the Annual School Board High School Student Forum my junior and senior years.

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to attend Florida Gulf Coast University and major in Elementary education.

Essay

The CDC guidelines on mitigating the spread of the coronavirus is vast and confusing. In my household, we have chosen a specific set of procedures. We wipe down the most touched surfaces at home, such as doorknobs, light switches, tables, countertops, and others. We also wash our hands regularly, especially if we were outside.

At school, I follow procedures like wearing a mask, washing my hands, wiping down desks, and social distancing in the classroom. Recently, my family and I went to Puerto Rico and had a different experience with the regulations. In Puerto Rico, no one could enter the store without a temperature check, mask, and hand sanitizer. Some restaurants and stores had machines that were both sanitizer dispensers and temperature checks. If Florida alone had stricter enforcement of the basic procedures, there would be less cases. A proper lockdown could also have a significant effect on the amount of coronavirus cases.

If everyone properly quarantines for two consecutive weeks, the virus would have less chance of spreading. During school or work, if people went home when they felt sick, other students or employees could avoid catching what the carrier has, just in case it is the coronavirus. Some areas in the United States are too relaxed with the regulations; if the virus is not taken seriously, it will continue to be a problem in the United States.

Sarah Frank

School Activities and Accomplishments:

· Creative writing major— I attend a magnet fine arts school where I major in creative writing. I take creative writing for two hours a day. We run projects such as poetry readings and literary magazines on top of assignments and publishing collections of our best work.

· 2021 Class Council— After being elected freshman class president, I founded a council for our class. I was re-elected sophomore and junior year and continued running it. The council did several community service projects and fundraised over $500.

· Student Government Association— I was elected as student body president for my senior year after my first 3 years of membership and committee positions. Our student government serves roughly 1800 students. My five favorite events/programs have been our spirit weeks, a mentoring program, a racial justice action night, a schoolwide game night, and a fundraising talent show!

· Poetry— I’ve been performing poetry since my freshman year of high school. I won the school Poetry Jam competition as a freshman, won 2nd place as a junior, and 1st as a senior. I then went on to place 2nd in my district (which has 28 high schools). Moreover, my poems were selected to every reading I submitted to and I performed in all 6 poetry readings. I ran the most recent reading and had an audience of roughly 100 people. I’ve had my poetry published in 5 literary magazines (Synapse: Pulse, Synapse: The Human Condition, Synapse: Nostalgia, The Youth Outlook Magazine, and Time Capsule). My poetry has also won several awards from Scholastic Arts & Writing, including 2 American Voices Nominations.

· Debate club— I founded debate club at my school sophomore year to give an environment for exploring and sharing perspectives. I recruited over 40 members and debated countless ethical, political, and social topics. I served/am serving 3 years as debate club president.

· Best Buddies Club— I co-founded the Best Buddies program and served as Vice President this past year. We recruited 50 members and matched up all the special needs students at our school with a buddy.

College/Future plans:

· I will most likely be attending Vanderbilt University but I’ve yet to hear back from 5 more schools I applied to.

· Double-majoring in creative writing and psychology in college is a stepping stone to my two dream career paths: being a novelist and/or a clinical psychologist.

Essay

As I write this, I’ve been in lockdown for a year because my family is high-risk. I know staying home is the right thing to do but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. For a long time, I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

This all could have been avoided but it’s not too late to curtail the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health issue that demands harm reduction strategies. Namely, lockdowns. Lockdowns minimize the spread of COVID-19 most effectively because they limit interactions, thus limiting the spread and mutation. If people participate correctly, COVID-19 could not spread and would thus be eradicated.

A common counterargument is that lockdowns hurt the economy. Short-term, that might be true, but long-term, not having lockdowns just exacerbates the pandemic and ultimately hurts the economy more in the long run. The longer the pandemic lasts, there is less tourism, more layoffs, and drastic market changes.

Outside of the economic perspective, it serves everyone best health-wise to be in lockdown, as it minimizes the risk and severity of the disease.

Another avenue of minimizing the pandemic’s chokehold on the country is the vaccines we’re now lucky to have. Maximizing vaccine distribution, especially in low-income communities, will stop people from getting sick and, in doing that, stops them from spreading it to other people.

These two things (lockdowns and mass vaccinations) create light at the end of the tunnel and finally, we can all look forward to basking in that light.

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