Jefferson 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.
Jefferson High School, established in 1939, has occupied its current campus at 4401 W Cypress St. in Tampa since the 1970s.
Jefferson High School, established in 1939, has occupied its current campus at 4401 W Cypress St. in Tampa since the 1970s. [ Hillsborough County School District ]
Published May 19, 2021|Updated May 20, 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.

Amare Harris

School activities and accomplishments:

1. CEO of Succeeding Steps Inc. within the Virtual Enterprises International Program (Business Plan State Champion and National Qualifier) – Appeared on ABC News

2. DECA – Executive VP, VP of Hospitality, and VP of Leadership from 2017-2021. 4-time state qualifier and qualified for internationals in 2021.

3. Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay – Sales Director in a start-up Business called Never Alone that served the elderly in the community.

4. Suncoast Credit Union Internship – Developed a community service plan to increase the efficiency of magnet school buses in the summer of 2020 and presented it to Suncoast Management.

5. Captain of Boys Varsity Tennis – No.1 Seed within the team and advanced to district semifinals in 2021.

6. Ranked 2nd in the class of 2021 with an AP Scholar with Distinction Award

College or other post-high school plans:

-I will be attending Vanderbilt University studying Financial Economics with a minor in Business


March 13th, 2020 is a date that will forever symbolize change in our generation. The COVID-19 pandemic ultimately changed our daily normal for a lot longer than we would’ve ever imagined. While confusion at the federal, state, and local levels seemed temporary, the lasting effects of disagreement between authority figures have resulted in consequences felt to this day. COVID-19 is a global health emergency, however, the instance that made this pandemic political has resulted in the death of far too many innocent individuals.

From travel restrictions, mask requirements, and the implementation of virtual school, disagreement and confrontation have become the new normal in a time where unity is needed. As individuals, we have a responsibility and duty to do our part in this global fight against COVID. Following CDC regulations, wearing masks, and staying away from large crowds are all obvious ways to stop the spread of the virus. However, we must more than the bare minimum. In order to provide sustainable and effective change, we must hold our elected officials responsible for their handling of the pandemic. Voicing our concerns and reaching out to congressional representatives can ensure that all of our local needs are met.

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Bipartisanship within the national government will allow for the passage of accurate information, effective funding, and proper distribution of vaccines to the public as soon as possible. Together, we can make this ominous chapter in future history textbooks as short as possible by uniting as one.

Stay Strong. Stay Healthy. Stay Masked up.

Johnny Nguyen

School activities and accomplishments:

1. National Technical Honor Society

2. Tri-M Music Honor Society

3. Band/Marching band 3 years in high school (plus 3 years from middle school)

4. Volunteered at A grade Ahead and community food pantry

5. Top 3 percent of graduating class (Traditional)

College or other post-high school plans:

Where you will pursue your studies and what they will be, if you know.

My plan is to study 2 years at Hillsborough community college and then transfer to the University of Central Florida in hopes of pursuing a bachelors degree in computer science to become a software engineer.


With the massive spread of COVID-19, there are still many people who choose not to take it seriously. Millions of people have lost their lives due to the pandemic which has affected our daily life. People should take this pandemic more seriously and stop treating it as a joke to reduce the spread. The steps that should be taken in order to stem the spread of coronavirus is to use hand sanitizer frequently and to avoid rubbing your eyes or face.

Every company should ensure rules to make it mandatory to wear a face mask and provide any necessary consequence for not doing so to eliminate the spread. We should spread the word to ensure that we truly want this invading pandemic to be destroyed and restore the world to how it used to be. If everyone follows guideline protocols, this pandemic will be over more quickly than we know it.

Lizt Pena Castillo

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Valedictorian of the Traditional graduating class of 2021

2. Vice-President of the Senior Class Council

3. Member of the National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society

4. Member of the Human Rights Club

5. Flight Sergeant for Flight F of the Jefferson High School JROTC

6. More than 100 hours volunteering at local homeless shelter

College or other post-high school plans:

After graduating high school, I plan to attain a bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of South Florida, as well as take courses in their Pre-Law Track catalog. After graduating, I plan on taking the LSAT and going to a law school and graduating with a law degree specializing in International Law and Human Rights


The United States in one of the countries most affected by COVID-19, which as of April 2021 has more than 30 million infected Americans and has resulted the in the passing of more than five hundredth thousand. The pandemic has negatively affected the country’s economy and citizens’ lives. The country’s efforts against the propagation of the virus warrant criticism and reform. Stronger preventative action and effective COVID-19 treatment is essential for the country to move forward.

As a vast country, the U.S should implement a unified plan of country-wide restrictions and guidelines on government action against the virus. This plan should be flexible to allow the response to adjust to up-to-date virus statistics and the newest scientific information. It is imperative to create a robust infrastructure for the transportation of equipment for patient treatment and preventative COVID-19 materials. An extensive COVID-19 testing plan allows governments to correctly identify high-level infected areas and reappropriate efforts to slow the spread, as well as to appropriately restrict travel. Masks and hand sanitizers should be made widely available, and vaccine distribution should prioritize essential and front-line workers, and high-risk communities and citizens. Online services are preferred, and transition to brick-and-mortar spaces should follow hefty sanitation measures.

A fast and effective COVID-19 response plan is crucial for the prevention of further deaths, and for the country to recover economically and in its quality of life. Personal responsibility and coordinated government action will lessen the pandemic’s impact on the country, our lives, and the planet.

Madison Melwani

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1.Secretary of Senior Class Council

2.Officer of Human Right’s Club

3. National Honor’s Society Member, two years

4. National English Honor’s Society Member, two years

5. Mu Alpha Theta Member, two years

6. 115 Community Service Hours

College or Other Post- High School Plans:

Major in Biology, with a Pre-Medicine Track, University of Central Florida

Possible Minor in Health Science


This issue of federal versus state disagreements can be dated back to the Articles of Confederation. Our founding fathers faced such discrepancies through enforcing Constitutional amendments. Regardless of the opinions of the state government, all had to follow the amendments.

Building off this notion of federal authority, I believe that the most appropriate step to stem the spread of the coronavirus is through issuing a federal ordinance that requires the use of face masks in all public spaces. Because states have different social and cultural standings and have seen different severities of Covid-19, there are differing opinions regarding face masks. States like Florida and Texas have shown spikes in cases after residents have stopped wearing masks, with Florida’s infamous “Spring Break” and Texas’s lifting of the mask mandate. If the federal government were to enforce the use of face masks through a federal ordinance, such residents have to set aside their arguments and do what’s best for public health. This simple action will immensely stop the spread of cases as tourism and political figures primarily influence covid decisions.

A key factor that comes into play with residents not wearing masks is merely a lack of empathy. Individuals who have not personally been affected by Covid19 lack the emotional intelligence to act for the public’s interest, instead of focusing on themselves. By legally enforcing face masks, these individuals will face physical consequences of monetary fines, suspensions, jail time, etc... Now that they can see a physical impact, they will act accordingly.

Marcos Gonzalez

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Salutatorian of class of 2021 for Jefferson high school.

2. GPA of 5.7

3. Received honor roll multiple times

4. SAT score of 1210 in 2020

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to go to HCC for an associates degree at first. I am interested in the science field, I find science really fascinating. I also plan to get a part time job to go along with my college studies so I can pay for any expenses such as text books or car insurance. We really don’t have the money for college but I am hoping that the FASFA along with other scholarships I can find will be enough to pay for it.


The situation regarding COVID-19 has changed drastically since it first came to the United States. Now, we know more about COVID than near the start of the pandemic. There are multiple vaccines being worked on and more and more people are being vaccinated.

However, this is not the time to lower our guard. According to the new York times there have been 31.3 million cases in the United states and 562,000 deaths as of April 13, 2021. To lover the number of infected and stop the spread, the public should continue to wear facemasks in public even if they are vaccinated to avoid causing disruption. Although it can be a challenge sometimes to wear a face mask all day, it is the responsible thing to do. People should continue to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water when entering their homes, and use hand sanitizers when out in public.

Maintaining social distancing is also an important step in preventing the spread of COVID. An alternative that people have is talking with friends and families though social media, specially with older family members. As someone who has seen friends lose family members due to COVID I can say that it is a sad experience and you should take every step possible to make sure the elderly don’t come in contact with it, even if it means not seeing them face to face for a while.

Rafael Oliva

School Activities and Accomplishments:

  • Congresswoman Kathy Castor Internship- During the summer of 2020, I helped with constituents and records.
  • National Art Honors Society- from 2017-2021 I have participated in this organization, doing fundraisers and other activities.
  • Ranked 4th in my class of 2021, and an AP Scholar with Honor.
  • Jefferson’s Student Government Association- from 2017-2021 I participated in Jefferson’s SGA, where we would set up various school functions.
  • Volunteer Work- I have volunteered with low-income children at childcare from 2018-2020, but because of COVID-19 I have not been able to return.

College or other post-high school plans:

I intend on pursuing Political Science as my major, because I am passionate about politics, with my ultimate goal being to go to Law school.


Based on what we have seen here in the United States, the only reason the issue of COVID-19 has been so controversial is because of how our politicians have weaponized it in order to spread their agenda. Being allowed to hijack the narrative and make it into a “freedom” or “individual rights” issue when it is simply a public health issue. Ultimately, the best way to prevent the spread of this virus is for the central government to take the reins and implement federally mandated restrictions because part of the problem is having legislation pertaining to COVID-19 varying to such a high degree from state to state.

This has created a bubble of misinformation, which has caused about 3 million people to die needlessly. This would also allow our government to have a clear message and goal. It is important for me to clarify that when I say federally mandated restrictions I am not speaking about a complete shutdown, partly because that would be unnecessary since we are currently in a stage where there are effective vaccines, but because a shutdown would have been the most effective once the pandemic first began, back in summer of 2020. Of course, then this would lead many people to criticize the “totalitarian” approach the federal government was taking, but I view the COVID-19 crisis no differently than the Great Depression.

Where the United States needed a strong central government to get through the hardship, and thanks to F.D.R’s administration able to re-stabilize ourselves.

• • •

Alejandro Lopez

School activities and accomplishments:

1. A member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

2. A member of National Honor Society.

3. Ranked 3rd in my magnet class.

4. Perfect attendance since 3 years old.

5. Taken multiple dual enrollment classes.

College or other post-high school plans:

I will be attending the University of South Florida for my bachelor’s degree in criminology.

• • •

Arely Martinez

School Accomplishments:

NEHS Member

NHS Member

NAPS Member

5.0 GPA

College or other post-high school plans:

After High School, I plan to take a gap year and travel. I would then like to pursue a career in entertainment as a Creative Director.

Valeria A. Yepez

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Magnet Valedictorian class of 2021

2. DECA President for two years (2019-2021)

3.Chief Financial Officer for Virtual Enterprise firm (Succeeding steps Inc.)

4. Senior Class Treasurer

5. Mu Alpha Theta Competitor for three years

6. NEHS and NFHS President

College plans:

Attending Florida International University. Studying International Business with a focus on Finance. Planning to obtain a Master’s Degree.