Riverview 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.
Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Road, was named for its community at the request of people who attended a school board meeting before the school opened in 1998.
Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Road, was named for its community at the request of people who attended a school board meeting before the school opened in 1998. [ Times files ]
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.

Andrea Portillo-Sorto

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Salutatorian
  • Recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award (2018)—Awarded Bronze for completing 50-74 community service hours within a 12-month period at the age of 15.
  • Key Club Secretary (10th-12th); Recipient of the Key Club Distinguished Member, DCON Governor’s Project Member, and Key Club Distinguished Club Secretary Award.
  • Recipient of the Riverview High School Poseidon Award for Outstanding AVID I Student
  • Social Media & Marketing Intern at Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon
  • Earned over 590 community service hours

College or other post-high school plans:

Health Science Major, University of Florida


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how to interact with one another and has showed the importance of being aware of our health. From the different tiers of authorities—federal, state, and local levels, people take in a variation of rules and guidelines that we get from the media to help prevent the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 spreads very easily from person to person. Infections occur when anyone is exposed to the respiratory droplets from the person who has the coronavirus. The most common way the virus spreads is during close contact and airborne transmission.

I believe that the best way to stop the COVID-19 is to be educated on how virus spreads and follow the CDC Guidelines. By wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth is very important. Not only it helps to protect yourself, it helps to protect others around you. Also, social distancing (6-feet apart) with those who you do not live with and if possible, it is best to avoid crowds or small indoor spaces. Additionally, getting vaccinated is a safe way to build protection against COVID-19 and bring us closer to the end of the pandemic.

Overall, “Wear a mask. Save lives.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Cambree Sargable

School activities and accomplishments: 1. Unweighted 4.0 GPA

2. President of my school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter

3. Heart of a Champion award recipient

4. HCC Presidential Scholarship recipient

5. 100+ hours of Bright Futures accredited community service hours

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6. National Honor Society member

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to attend Hillsborough Community College to pursue an Associates in the Science of Nursing through the nursing college.


COVID- 19 has affected the world in many ways that I believe we will never realize or be able to reverse. The spread of the virus has been ferocious and has crept into every corner of the world as we know it. When the pandemic first started, many thought that it would die out quickly and it wouldn’t ever really impact the daily lives of Americans, let alone those from all nations.

But, as we all know, that was not the case and it quickly turned into something beyond what we could have ever imagined- impacting lives in ways never seen before at this level, whether that be because of deaths, canceled graduations, or travel restrictions. The spread that the world has seen is nothing short of terrifying. Thankfully, there is some ray of light peeking through this virus-shaped cloud that has covered the world in a shadow of isolation, fear, and uncertainty. That ray of light is the methods that officials have put in place to try to control this deadly virus and put an end to this pandemic-centered lifestyle that we have had to endure for far too long.

Although we tried just social distancing, quarantines, and wearing masks before a vaccine was available, I believe the most pertinent method that will effectively eradicate the spread of COVID-19 is getting the population vaccinated. Becoming vaccinated is the only way that our country and our world will achieve herd immunity and wipe out this pandemic for good.

Emily Campbell

School Activities:

1) I am number 12 in my class which is top 2%.

2) I’ve had Principal’s Honor Roll all 4 years.

3) I am the President of Science Honors Society.

4) I have received over 200 community service hours through multiple clubs, including NHS, Key Club and Environmental club, by volunteering in the Ronald McDonald House and by helping out with foster kids.

5) I have received my school’s Poseidon award in both Biology in 2018 and Physics in 2020

6) I have lettered in varsity swim team

College/Post High School:

I am most likely going to be attending FSU this fall. As of right now I’m planning on majoring in either Biology or Environmental Engineering.


As we go into the second year of living in a global pandemic, some things are coming to the surface. The things that I continuously notice is the reluctance of people to wear a mask properly or even at all, and the disbelief in not only the scientist trying to solve the issue, but the actual virus itself. Due to this, the Coronavirus has continued to spread to new extremes.

In order to combat this disease, I believe the number one focus would be on educating the public more. If there was more information on how the movement and activity of people really affect the spread of this disease, people would be more willing to listen to the guidelines. Other steps that I would implement include a mandatory mask mandate and a temporary lockdown to quell the spread. If the nation was on full lockdown for at least a couple of weeks, and a mask mandate was fully enforced, the virus wouldn’t spread as much as we see it spreading today. If people continue to get vaccinated as well, these combined measures would stop the spread.

The thing is, is that these steps need to be implemented soon. If there is a continued stagnancy in action, then the virus will continue to infect people. Opening states back up without cautionary measures would cause a second wave that brings us back to where we started. The most important thing would be to make sure our efforts are unified and properly enforced.

Emma DeAbreu

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Top 1% of class.
  • Member of National Honor Society (2019-Present) and Environmental Club (2017-2020).
  • Academic Letter Recipient (2020) and on Principal’s Honor Roll (2013-present).
  • AP Scholar and Honor student as well as a Dual Enrollment student w/ 4.0 GPA.
  • Adobe Certified Associate.
  • Volunteer with Feeding America, Keeping Tampa Bay Beautiful, and American Cancer Society with 100+ hours.

College or other post-high school plans:

I will be completing my Bachelor of Science in Environment Science and Policy at the University of South Florida and then pursuing my Master of Science degree.


The past year has been nothing short of unpredictable and with lives at stake, it is pertinent that regulations be put in place to thwart the proliferating number of lives lost to the COVID-19 disease.

With the surge of recommended guidelines, rules, and information from authorities and researchers, it is imperative that as a first step, communities work together to certify that the regulations being implemented ensure the utmost safety of citizens with minimal conflicts. Researchers should work together to exchange data amongst each other and in turn, publicly release it to governments and the public to flood media with credible research. The contagious spread of misinformation is nearly as bad as the spread of the virus itself, leading to confusion and ultimately rising case numbers. Researchers state that the most efficient method of slowing the spread is by knowing accurate information about the disease.

Going off that, citizens need to be properly educated of the regulations, the reasoning for putting them in place and be left with a thorough understanding of the virus itself from credible sources. By better understanding the reality of the virus, citizens will be more motivated to work together to keep each other safe by following regulations.

With nearly 3 million lives lost worldwide, this is an issue that can no longer be neglected. Remiss government officials must reevaluate their commitment to keeping their communities safe by implementing regulations produced­­ by official researchers, and by setting a proper example of how to follow regulations.

Kierstin Doll

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. Valedictorian.

2. Completed 123 hours of community service with multiple amazing organizations such as the Humane Society, Pet Pals, Feeding Tampa Bay, Gasparilla Arts Festival, and the Metropolitan Ministries.

3. Varsity Track and Field player since sophomore year.

4. Received my Associate’s degree.

5. Member and historian of NHS, Vice President of communications for Science Honor Society, and participated in freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior steering.

6. Began working at Publix in August of 2020.

College Plans:

Study biology with a focus on genetics and behavior, University of Florida.


There has been much disagreement on how this pandemic should have been handled, but I think time has proven that there is no right or wrong way. In situations like these there often isn’t a clear decision. I have seen different countries all over the world vary in regard to the control of the virus which obviously led to varying results.

I have family in Scotland that have experienced multiple complete shutdowns which have lowered numbers while here in the U.S. we haven’t experienced any shutdowns which in turn resulted in fluctuations of our results. Based on my experiences the best way to stem the spread of the coronavirus is to initially assess the virus in order to understand what we are dealing with. Censoring the information that the public obtains to ensure only proven facts, rather than hypotheses, are being spread is also very important. After the virus has been assessed the best step to take next would be to turn all of the focus and resources to constructing a vaccine as well as guaranteeing the safety of the people which can be done through lockdowns and/or mask mandates.

I am not a healthcare professional so I am unable to speak to what the best possible way to handle this scenario is but something I know is how it has impacted our society. This is a time where, as a community, we came together to get through this hard time and that is something I would continue to embrace.

Lauren Cooke

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. Number three position in my high school graduating class.

2. Vice President of Science Honor Society, two years.

3. Lettered in Swim on varsity high school team, three years (Captain girls swim team, senior year).

4. National Honor Society, two years.

5. Dual-enrollment student, received enough college credits to earn Associates Degree.

6. 100 hours of community service through beach clean-up events, neighborhood functions, thrift store attending, and local school festivals.

College or Other Post-High School Plans:

Mechanical Engineering, University of Florida


Based on the CDC data, droplets from a sneeze or cough can travel as far as six feet from an infected person to any bystander. Therefore, I believe, to stem the spread of the coronavirus the entire world would need to shut down. Close the borders, stop the flow of trade, and self-isolate for at least two consecutive weeks.

There would be exceptions in place for people with chronic illnesses that need around the house care. However, precautions would be taken by having the medical staff reside at the hospital with the patients that need their help. Since no one would be able to attend grocery stores, the resources in those locations would be allocated to support the citizens for the two-week period. For circumstances that require the breach of isolation (emergency services or fire rescue), a CDC-certified mask must be worn by all parties in question, circumstances willing. Once the world had ended the two-week isolation, there would be strict curfews and restrictions on the openings of certain venues.

Only emergency, first-responder operations, and grocery chains (at a limited capacity) would open to slowly expose the public to the presence of others. There would a mandatory mask implementation in place, no matter the opposition, or else a police citation would fine the arguing citizen. To stem the spread of the coronavirus, we must be united in the steps we take and understand that more than just ourselves are at stake in these pressing times.

McKenna C. Hartigan

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. National Honor Society President

2. Four year varsity cross country and track athlete- Captain senior year.

3.Vern Buchanan US Air Force Academy Principle Nominee

4. National AP Scholar

5. 2020 Cross Country Scholar Athlete

6. Key Club Distinguished Member

Scholarship Information:

Community Service: 190 Hours

Leadership: NHS President/ Junior Secretary , Science Honor Society Social Media Director, Track and Cross Country Captain.


Nothing is scarier than knowing your favorite people in the world are one sneeze, cough, or particle away from contracting a virus that could easily take their life. That is what is was like for my family in the spring of 2020. Like many others, my brother and mom are immunocompromised and extremely susceptible to COVID-19.

In the months between the close of schools and businesses and the implementation of a mask mandate, my family watched hundreds crowd the beaches of Clearwater and St.Pete while thousands were dying. COVID-19 is not a fair illness, it attacks the weakest of us and does it brutally and quickly. No amount of PPE and social distancing will protect those most at risk if those who have the gift of youth and strong immune systems do not do their part as well. Mask mandates, vaccine distribution, and social distancing measures taken and enforced by all is the only way to ensure this pandemic is resolved. Personal freedoms are always of the utmost importance but the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens’ health and safety first.

The efforts to enforce mask-wearing, social distancing, and vaccinations have had an impact on cases of the virus without these efforts I cannot imagine different my life would look. The pandemic is not yet over and I hope our community and government can continue to make sacrifices so families like mine don’t have to live in fear.

Sebastian Castro

School activities and accomplishments:

1. School band four years, first chair clarinet for three years, lead alto saxophone in jazz band senior year, marching season saxophone section leader senior year.

2. Environmental Club junior and senior years, vice president, 20 hours of service.

3. Key Club for two years, over 75 hours of community service.

4. Brandon Regional Hospital 2019 Summer Youth Volunteer, 45 hours.

5. AP Scholar with Distinction Award from Collegeboard

6. School Recognition awards: Outstanding Social Studies Student, Outstanding Math Student, and Outstanding Physical Science Student.

College or other post-high school plans:

Pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering at University of Florida.


Stemming the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the perfect scenario, the entire population stays and works inside their homes for only a few weeks, supported by the government, and the virus dies down. However, humans are complex, independent creatures. We couldn’t just do that. We need social interaction. We need to get out of our homes to complete essential tasks. The more realistic approach to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 comprises isolation, sanitation, and vaccination.

Isolation is the most important factor to consider since viruses thrive on dense populations. Nonetheless, a full mandatory lockdown would wreck the economy and make many people unhappy. Instead, the government should restrict gatherings heavily, require masks and safety accommodations in public areas, and incentivize businesses to work from home. If everyone followed these, cases would inevitably drop.

Furthermore, we should work towards sanitation. People should consistently wash their hands and cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing. Influential figures should help by preaching the importance of these to the public.

The last step is vaccination, and while controversial, there is undeniable evidence of how inoculation has nearly wiped-out terrible diseases such as polio. Government officials should demonstrate proof of their vaccinations to build trust with the public. Now that vaccines are available, people should take this opportunity as a final effort to return to normal.

These steps require people to be mindful of others instead of themselves, which is difficult due to human nature. Hopefully, we can learn from this experience to be better prepared for possible future catastrophes.

Shelby L. Conner

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Principal’s Honor Roll all four years of high school.

2. Most Outstanding Freshman Math Student.

3. Key Club member with 200 hours in community service for sophomore, junior and senior year, Distinguished member for junior year.

4. National Honor Society member for junior and senior year, Treasurer of NHS senior year.

5. Science Honor Society member for senior year.

6. 150 hours of volunteering at a veterinary clinic. I have also taken on the responsibility to help train the new volunteers.

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to major in Biology with a pre-vet concentration at the University of Tampa. I also plan to take part in their honors program.


Everyone is hearing different ideas right now in relation to handling the spread of the pandemic. If it were up to me, my main goal would be for everyone to use common sense. It seems simple enough, but there are a few small steps that would make a big difference. If people are feeling ill, they should stay home from work. I worry the people who just got their jobs back want to make up for that lost income so they’re working even if they don’t feel well. I know it’s hard and the money is tempting, but right now, it’s not worth the risk. Also, people should not be spending time with those who are sick. Again, it seems like such an obvious thing to do but there are still people who may not realize the long-term effects. If we all use common sense, wash our hands, and sanitize our belongings, we can get through this.

Now, I wouldn’t encourage a shut down or anything of the sort because, above all, we must prioritize quality of life. Senior citizens are not allowed to see their own children right now and the mentally ill are struggling more than ever. Humans are social creatures. Spending time with each other is good for our health. Cooping ourselves up is only going to hurt us in the long run. As long as people are aware of their surroundings, I believe we can get back to some form of normalcy very soon.