Newsome 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.
Students have the answer in a class at Newsome Hgh School, 16550 Fishhawk Blvd. in Lithia.
Students have the answer in a class at Newsome Hgh School, 16550 Fishhawk Blvd. in Lithia. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]
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.

Bailee Porter

School activities and accomplishments:

· 4-year member of student government and student council

· Member of National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society

· Graduating 11th in my class

· Lettered in softball and academics at my high school

· Volunteered as a softball coach from a recreational league team

College or other post-high school plans:

· I will be attending the University of Florida to study Information Systems


There have been many measures taken to stem the spread of coronavirus, from shutdowns to mask mandates to free vaccinations for everyone eighteen and older. I believe that as more and more people get vaccinated the number of cases will decrease, but in the meantime, there are steps to follow to ensure one will remain healthy.

All people should continue to avoid large gatherings and wear a mask when they are in a setting in which they must be around other people, such as at school or at work. When in a public place, stay six feet apart from other people and wash your hands or sanitize after leaving that place, especially before you begin to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Although it is important to keep yourself healthy, it is just as important to keep other healthy so when you are feeling sick, stay home and get tested if you show any symptoms to prevent spreading.

Lastly, with the vaccine available, it is important that you get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. I feel as though all of these preventative measures are so well known by now, as we have been in this pandemic for a year, but it is still important to take these actions in order to prevent further spread of the virus and eventually wipe out coronavirus for good.

Camryn Rios

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School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. I am graduating number seven in my class.

2. I have over 100 services hours volunteering as a cheer coach and helping little kids.

3. I lettered in Varsity Cheerleading and was the cheer captain my senior year.

4. I am graduating high school with my Associates of Arts degree.

5. I was the first of my family to be in National Honors Society.

6. I graduated with the highest GPA in my family.

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to attend the University of Mississippi and double major in Integrated Marketing Communications and Public Policy Leadership with a minor in Business.


There are a number of rules and guidelines arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I believe different guidelines should be put into place. I travel around the country a lot due to cheerleading and family. One thing that has come to my concern when going through airports and traveling on airplanes is that no one is six feet apart.

When going through the airports everyone is in a big hurry to get to their flight that they neglect a lot of the guidelines that are put in place to keep us safe. For example, when waiting in line at security everyone is shoved together because of the way that the ropes are laid out. They are laid out side by side instead of one long line where each person can successfully stand six feet apart. I understand that this is hard to do in crowded airports, but we should make certain accommodations so we can avoid the spread of the virus. We could extend the lines throughout the airport or move certain lines outside.

Another concern of mine is seating on airplanes. All of the seats on the airplanes are taken and no one is six feet apart. If we are going to travel safely, we should implement the rule of every other seat. If someone by any chance caught the virus and touches the area around their seat, the person next to them is in such close proximity that they are at high risk of catching the virus.

Caroline M. Feldkirchner

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Lettered in cheerleading on high school team, 2 years

2. 60 hours volunteering as a camp counselor

3. 52 hours volunteering for meals on wheels

4. Violin player in high school orchestra, 4 years, and performed at Carnegie Hall

5. Member of Future Business Leaders of America, 3 years, and was Vice President in 8th grade

6. Vice President and member of National Honor Society, 2 years

7. Member of National Honor Society, 3 years

8. Member of student government and student council, 2 years, Head of Project Linus

9. AP Scholar with Distinction

College or other post-high school plans:

STEM or accounting course of study at the University of Florida


2020- The year of face masks, personal hygiene, quarantining, and worldwide shutdowns. Everyone has had different ways of coping with the pandemic, as seen through political leaders arguing over what the correct regulations should be that will keep everyone safe and satisfied. I believe there is no one way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unprecedented for our generation.

The most an individual can do is put the needs of others before themselves. We have already seen the impacts a single individual can have on those around them, from the origin of the virus even to school policies regarding a positive case. Another essential step of stopping the spread is spreading the cure. Several vaccines have been approved by the FDA and have proven to be effective at combating the coronavirus.

The widespread distribution of these vaccines to people of all ages will allow the world to return to normal. I also believe that different factions within the government need to work together to form regulations. This way there will be less confusion and anxiety regarding what is socially acceptable. We need a cohesive unit guiding us to make the best decisions for ourselves and those around us.

Emily T. Valenza

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Salutatorian of my graduating class.

2. Over 400 hours volunteering at meals on wheels, project Linus, Relay for Life, and Cedarkirk (a children’s camp).

3. Head chair of Relay for Life for council (freshman-senior year)

4. Varsity cheerleading captain (senior year), lettered in cheerleading (freshman-senior year)

5. Senior Senator for Student Government.

6. Member of National Honors Society, Latin Honors Society, Rho Kappa, and Mu Alpha Theta.

College plans:

After high school I plan to attend the University of Florida. I will major in the STEM field with the hopes of attending dental school in the future.


The local government and health officials are on the frontlines of responding in the community, so it is important that they are given the power to make decisions that will benefit the area they govern. The COVID-19 virus does not respect boundaries; therefore, it is essential that safety precautions remain in place.

To the extent that it is possible, citizens should get vaccinated, maintain social distancing, wash hands, and remain home if sick. We cannot live in fear. We cannot continue to shut down the economy nor education because the detrimental effects far outweigh the benefit of draconian lockdowns. When our local communities achieve herd immunity through infection or vaccination, we should see the amount of contagion vectors diminished. There will be fewer places and people to spread the virus. Meanwhile, consideration and patience with one another can help lighten the tensions and uncertainties. I do believe that wearing masks is one of the biggest controversies.

I think it is a good idea to continue wearing masks until our nation reaches herd immunity. Rules are meant to protect us, and I feel that these steps are necessary to move our nation towards brighter days of normalcy.

Hannah S. Hanson

School Activities and accomplishments.

-Volunteering at Rescue Cats of Florida

-In the National Honor Society

-Co-created an animal volunteering club Paws With a Cause


In the wake of the covid-19, many people ask themselves what steps need to be taken to stem the spread of the virus. There is no one right answer to this. Everyone is different and sees the virus differently, some fear it greatly while others don’t believe it exists.

I believe that the best way to try to stop the virus is to educate people about the effects of covid through the use of public outreach and commercials. We can then ask people to take the necessary steps when out in public such as wearing masks. I think that people are more likely to comply with these guidelines when asked to nicely because it helps others. It is not reasonable to expect everyone to be okay with these rules, but it is my hope that the majority of humanity would do what is necessary to help keep others healthy.

Some people choose not to wear masks because they think they would be fine if they got covid, but I believe that if they understood that wearing the mask would be saving somebody else’s grandparents they would be more likely to do so.

Jacob M. Tracy

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Valedictorian

2. Enrolled in four honor society groups.

3. In Key Club, I earned the positions of junior class director and editor.

4. Earned Honor Roll status throughout high school.


Political science, University of Florida.


To stop the spread of COVID-19, individuals should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and the government should invest in more mobile transportation to distribute vaccinations.

The most important guideline from the CDC website is to wear masks inside public buildings. Wearing a mask prevents air droplets that could carry the deadly virus from spreading to people in close proximity. Masks are an effective way to hinder the spread of the disease because the fabric absorbs the droplets, and they are relatively inexpensive. This enables more people to buy the product which helps slow the spread of the disease even further; although, vaccinations are necessary to stop COVID.

A year after the disease hit America, vaccinations for COVID-19 are finally being mass-distributed. While the government optimistically encouraged the public to get vaccinated, citizens are frustrated because of the inaccessibility of appointments. These people include those who do not have the internet to schedule appointments or available transportation to drive to the sites.

This problem can be easily solved by establishing mobile units to dispense the vaccinations to citizens in rural or low-income areas. By increasing the accessibility of vaccines, the government can decrease the probability of COVID cases spreading. Through the combination of wearing masks and receiving vaccinations, the world can significantly minimize the number of cases. With fewer cases, the world has a better chance of stopping COVID-19, so people can finally meet their loved ones again without the possibility of infecting them.

Jared Dimsdale

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. Senior Senator, Student Government Association

2. Class of 2021 Student Executive Council

3. Latin Honor Society member

4. Forty hours volunteering with Ministry of Hope; Project Leader for food and school supply collection/distribution for area migrant families.

5. Twenty hours volunteering with Project Linus making blankets for children in need.

6. Forty hours volunteering with Class of 2021 Relay for Life; participated in fundraising to aid in Cancer research.

College or other post-high school plans:

Business Finance course of study, University of Florida


As of March 2020, the world has seemed to be living in a state of confusion. The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a large toll on the United States in many ways; while we all want to prevent the spread, it is difficult to discern which rules to follow with each level of our government giving contradicting opinions, guidelines, and expectations.

Since the beginning, the expectations have hardly been clear. My conclusion to staying the most prepared in stemming the spread of the coronavirus is to follow the evolving knowledge and guidance given by the CDC and the recommendations of the federal government. In this time, I acknowledge the importance of mental health, job security, and other daily tasks that require us to be in public, but public safety and health is still an utmost priority.

Until the majority is vaccinated, it is extremely important to stay home if you have any symptoms or have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive, to wear a mask in all public places, to keep your distance from other people, even your friends, and to sanitize your hands and area as often and thoroughly as possible. It is clear to me that as the pandemic has gone on, more and more people have gotten ‘bored’ of taking precautions or have let it slip their mind since we’ve hit the one-year mark; it is unacceptable to let ourselves loosen the restrictions until it is completely safe to do so.

Kassandra Pelaez

School Activities and accomplishments:

1. Leader at Girls With Confidence Camp

2. Lettered in Varsity Soccer, Varsity Flag Football, and Choir

3. Secretary in Highschool Choir, participated for 4 years

4. Member of National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, One Voice Foundation, and Surfriders Foundation

5. Head of Advertisement In Student Class Council, Assisted in hosting Project Linus.

6. Team Lead of AWANAS Youth Group and at Vacation Bible School summer camp at Fishhawk Fellowship Church for 4 years

College or other post-high school plans: I will pursue my studies at the University of South Florida and will be studying Nursing.


Wear a mask, stay 6ft apart, avoid large crowds, … these phrases have been repeated numerously for over a year; yet precautions are still being mandated/announced. What is the solution? How does Covid become a virus that Americans feel comfortable living with? It begins with the 2021 Graduating Seniors. Today, Covid has become a social/political debate rather than a health issue.

When did thinking about the lives of others lead to the assumption of whether one is republican or democrat? This political mentality, that sparks in high school, is preventing America from conquering covid. When multiple rules/regulations are announced, many of my peers place more energy into the social/political aspect of Covid, rather than energy into the health/regulation aspect. When the ’21 seniors adopt a mindset that focuses on finding a way to regulate Covid, rather than a mindset that focuses on winning a political debate, Covid will be a virus that all will feel safe living with. Many high schoolers do not realize that whether republican or democrat, we are all human beings who want to make an impact.

The seniors have the potential to begin the end of the political divide within America. The graduating class of ’21 has first-hand experience on the impact of Covid and the damage it has caused. When my peers choose to step away from the trap of false media, parental brainwashing, and biased politics, and choose to focus on bringing the nation together, Covid will be a disease that can be overcome.

Marissa N. Johnson

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. I will be graduating in the spring with my high school diploma and my Associates degree.

2. I have over 120 hours volunteering as a grade school mentor, food bank, nursing homes, and rescue volunteer.

3. I played my violin at Carnegie Hall my sophomore year.

4. I have been a member in FFA and 4H for seven years and have been the Vice President of my 4H my freshman and sophomore year.

5. I have been a member in the National Honor Society my Junior and Senior Year.

6. I am member of the Student Leadership Team for church my Junior and Senior year.

College or Other Post-High School Plan:

After high school I am attending Southeastern University, with my intended major being Pre-Veterinarian Medicine (Biology Track). With this I plan to pursue my doctorate in Veterinarian Medicine, ideally, I will become a Livestock Veterinarian.


The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many of us in different ways, maybe it was a job, an event, or even a life. There are steps that have been put in place to help slow the spread and try to get the virus under control, but are we doing all that we can?

I believe we should make appointments for the vaccinations more readily available to those who may not have the resources or those who don’t understand how to make the required reservations. My Great Aunt has been trying to get an appointment to get her vaccination, but she doesn’t have a computer. She went to her local grocery store to try and sign up but they told her she would need to make an appointment online, which she couldn’t.

There are many people who are in the same situation as her, who do not have access to a computer to book an appointment. I feel like we might be missing the point and excluding people who are more at risk like those in poverty or the elderly population. We should be able to make accommodations for everyone so that they are able to be protected as well.

This could be solved by allowing people to go to their local grocery stores and pharmacies to make in-person reservations. If similar measures like this are put into place than that would allow for more of the population that is at risk to be protected.

Samantha E. Dolski

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Program leader/director of a Martian global dust storm research group collaborating with leading experts from the Jet Propulsion Lab and under the supervision of Michael Mischna, Ph.D.

2. Radio Telescope Operator and Quasar Data Analyst for the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) Program

3. Founder and president of animal volunteering student organization “Paws with A Cause” (service ~ 110 hrs.)

4. Advanced Pianist, Composer, and Independent Piano Teacher (service ~ 10 hrs. )

5. Math and SAT Curriculum Tutor at the Tutoring Club in Valrico (first high school tutor ever hired within the business’s operation)

6. Quantum Mechanics Student at Harvard Summer School (2019)

College and other post-high school plans:

Mechanical Engineering Degree with Aerospace Concentration at Boston University. I plan to earn a Postgraduate Degree in Atmospheric Sciences to complement my engineering degree.


Within 13 months, the world has been engulfed by a pandemic that cost 3 million lives and 3.94 trillion dollars in global GDP. As people walk by without wearing masks and breaking social-distancing rules, I fear how vulnerable populations, like my grandparents, will survive in a community so divided on COVID-19 response.

To stem COVID-19, scientific information must be made as open and accessible to eliminate distrust within our communities. Politicizing the coronavirus triggered pushback of essential health guidelines; mask-wearing has become a question of personal politics rather than personal safety. Thus, future COVID decisions should be taken out of the hands of politicians and left to researchers, doctors, and economists dedicated to education and impartiality rather than campaigns. A state-level committee should be constructed to add informed opinions on future reopening plans. State or local representation is optimal for tailoring sanitation plans and economic restructuring for Florida’s infrastructure. If we have scientific leaders that come from our communities and directly engage with locals, there will be a personal sense of obligation to be involved in the solution. Furthermore, this will prompt collaboration needed to sprout new businesses that provide COVID relief and consequently economic growth. In partnership with public leadership, private investment within this up-and-coming economic activity should be incentivized through tax breaks and grants.

This pandemic is the perfect opportunity to hold one another accountable and place the right people in power to direct relief efforts. Through this struggle, we will make a much stronger America.

Saylor Webster

School Activities and Accomplishments: 1. Lettered in varsity soccer 4 years

2. Captain of the soccer team junior and senior year

3. Principal’s Honor Roll every quarter since 9th grade (4.0 unweighted)

4. Yearbook Head of Design

5. 191.5 Service hours coaching soccer, relay for life, and running Project Linus at school

6. Class Council (3 years), class secretary sophomore year

College or other post-high school plans:[DJ1]

I plan to double major in finance and accounting at the University of Florida.


The COVID-19 pandemic has hit all of us very hard. It was something we never expected and forced us, as a society, to navigate through uncharted waters. This whole process led to many guidelines that often contradict.

We all want the perfect solution to bring the spread to a halt. This perfect solution is to completely shut down the entire country and not let anyone leave their house, but this is completely unrealistic. The economy would crash, mental health issues would skyrocket, and people wouldn’t be able to get to needed resources.

My “perfect” solution to stem the spread of the virus would be to mandate weekly Covid tests and require vaccination to leave one’s household. By requiring a weekly test, people would be held accountable and made aware of their current heath circumstance. The weekly tests would notify people that are positive and have them self-isolate for 7 days. Also, by having the whole country vaccinated, the people would have a lower chance of contracting and spreading the virus. I know that we live in a free country and technically the government can’t force someone to get a shot or a test that they don’t want but the government can add these restrictions if lives are at risk.

There should be consequences, such as fines or house confinement rules for those that do not want to listen and protect the lives of people around them. COVID-19 will continue to spread until greater government force is used.

• • •

Eden H. Rickmers

School Activities and Accomplishments:

  • Freshmen and Sophomore Class Council President
  • Member of National Honor Society
  • Ranked number 3 of 744 seniors
  • Member of Student Government Affiliation for 3 years
  • Unweighted GPA of 3.9718 and weighted GPA of 7.5318
  • Balanced two jobs and school while maintaining a rigorous schedule

College/ Post-high school plans:

  • Will be attending University of Florida in the summer for Chemistry, on a Pre-Med track, with intentions of becoming a dermatologist

Jacob A. Borukhin

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. Ranked number 5 in class of 744 seniors.

2. Over 140 service hours devoted to Meals on Wheels, Metropolitan Ministries and Relay for Life.

3. Senior Secretary of Student Council and member for all four years.

4. Executive Board Member of Student Government from Junior-Senior year.

5. Varsity Hockey team captain and lettered all four years.

6. 4.0 GPA unweighted throughout high-school.

College or other post-high school plans:

Will attend the University of Florida to study and major in Chemistry with a potential Biology minor on the Pre-Med track. Intends to move onto medical school in the future to become a surgeon.

Vasu Sorathia

School Activities and Accomplishments:

3rd place in Introduction to FBLA, member of National Honor Society, officer of Latin Honor Society, member of FBLA, member of American Red Cross, 108.5 hours volunteered at South Florida Baptist Hospital, PetSmart, Kumon, and American Red Cross.

College or other post-high school plans:

Biology major at University of Florida where I aspire to become a physician.