Robinson 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.
Robinson High School was built to relieve enrollment pressure at Plant High School. Robinson opened in 1960.
Robinson High School was built to relieve enrollment pressure at Plant High School. Robinson opened in 1960. [ Hillsborough County School District ]
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.

Angelina Krinos

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

  • Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society (Calculus Team Captain & Secretary, Math & Science Tutor)
  • Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Festival of Winds Honor Band, Tri-M Music Honor Society (Sousaphone Section Leader & Oboe Principle Player)
  • St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church (Maids of Athena President, Greek Dancing Troupe Captain)
  • Florida Envirothon [High School] Chapter & National Conservation Foundation (NCF) (Club Founder & Team Captain, Coastal Clean-up Volunteer)
  • Vinh’s Martial Arts Studio & [High School] Varsity Wrestling (Varsity Athlete, 1st Dan Black Belt in TKD, Junior Instructor/Volunteer)
  • Academic Honors: [High School] IB Valedictorian Class of 2025, Junior/Senior Class Representative (SGA), Top 3 In FL Science Bowl (Brain Bowl), Athena Society Corp: Young Women of Promise Award, 1st Place at Districts, States & Nationals in FBLA agribusiness event, Hillsborough Science Fair Computer Science Finalist, American Meteorological Society Award, NASA Earth Systems Science Award, 10/12 AMC School Winner, AIME Qualifier, Bausch & Lomb Science Award, National AP Scholar, National Merit Finalist

College or other post-high school plans:

  • Study Materials Science & Engineering (or Chemical Engineering) at a 4-year university (undecided)


COVID-19 robbed us of many things: our families and friends, concerts and graduations, birthday parties and weddings. Yet, even amidst the chaos and grief of the pandemic, there are still small victories. The advent of the coronavirus has, in my opinion, led to beautiful interdisciplinary collaboration; talented professionals–epidemiologists and editors, statisticians and senators, chemists and congresspeople–who otherwise never would’ve crossed paths have converged for the greater good.

For this reason, I view the frustratingly contradictory rules and guidelines of the pandemic as a natural outcome of what is, in the greater scheme of things, a societal triumph. The science and politics of the pandemic, amazingly, evolves more rapidly than the virus itself.

Thus, given that I’ve long come to terms with the volatility of 2020 and now 2021, I can only warn against excessive skepticism. Continue taking common sense preventive measures–single and double masking, social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and vaccination–and continue listening to the ever-changing recommendations of experts worldwide. Personally, I eagerly anticipate the upcoming changes to COVID-19 rules and guidelines. Those adjustments indicate not weakness or indecision, but rather, scientific and social progress! Adaptation is one of the most beautiful things about academia and humanity: the capacity to rectify past errors through cooperation and open-mindedness.

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So, in the last stretch of this exhausting pandemic (fingers crossed), I believe we should not only heed the recommendations of local authorities, but also use preventative common sense and, above all, marvel at the mechanics behind erratic policy change.

Annika Joy Cruz

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

1. National Merit Finalist

2. 54 hours volunteering at Feeding Tampa Bay

3. School Orchestra Vice President, 1st Chair Cello & Cello Section Leader, 4 years

4. Mu Alpha Theta Vice President, 2nd place in Math Bowl/consistently top 15, 4 years

5. 1st place in regionals at FBLA 3 years in a row

6. New College Book Award

College or other post-high school plans:

Mathematics major, University of Florida


Though COVID-19 has led to the implementation of strict rules and guidelines that are meant to preserve the health of society, the new information that researchers obtain often introduces new and changing ideas on how to prevent the spread of the virus. In an era where misinformation runs rampant on the internet, plenty of the public is often distrusting of the CDC and health officials, which hinders society in stopping the spread of the virus and eventually reaching herd immunity.

Enforcing rules and regulations evidently falls short with the people who challenge them, so we must consider other actions, starting with educating the public. Beginning in the schools works to ingrain long-term understanding of how viruses and vaccines work to prevent future public speculation with pandemics. Furthermore, although reasoning behind the CDC guidelines is readily available to the public online, many citizens fail to inform themselves, so sharing information via mail, voicemail, or text message may help spread awareness.

The public is also quick to compare COVID-19′s mortality rates to the flu to undermine the severity of the virus; therefore, comparisons with how we have dealt with past pandemics like the swine flu and how health guidelines triumphed over speculation may aid in bringing society back to normalcy. Allowing the public to understand its situation scientifically can change their perspective on the confusion over the COVID-19 pandemic and propel us to a happier and healthier future.

Gabrielle Gilles

School activities and accomplishments

1. Valedictorian

2. Wrestling State Qualifier

3. 131 hours community service

4. Eagle Scout

5. Selected to attend Boys State

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to attend Georgetown University to study International Political economy.


While the amount of vaccinations have increased substantially in the past couple weeks, steps still need to be taken to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent outbreaks from happening as regulations and guidelines start to loosen.

The federal government should have strict oversight over the states handling of the pandemic. They need to make sure vaccines aren’t being wasted and are being distributed effectively. When issues arise such as vaccines aren’t being handled effectively or guidelines are becoming too lax that is when the federal government should step in to tell the states what to do. The Guidelines from the federal government should take precedence, then the states , and then the local authorities. The states should be given most of the authority on handling the pandemic in their own respective states and should continue to distribute vaccines effectively. The local level needs to work on preventing outbreaks from happening by making sure COVID guidelines are being followed and possible quarantine of sections of a town/city if they start to notice a sudden uptick in cases above what is normal.

If these steps are taken and the Federal government, states , and local authorities work together cohesively most of America will continue to be vaccinated rather quickly and the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic will start to wane as the vaccine will lower the number of infections substantially and help mitigate the severe effects of COVID-19 once someone catches it.

Jonnee M. Ward

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Top 3% student, Aeronautical Program graduating senior

2. National Honor Society, 3 years

3. Student Government Class Representative and Morning Show Chair, 3 years

4. Varsity Cheerleader, 2 year Varsity Letterman and Junior Varsity Captain 2 years

5. Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award

6. Founder & Editor-in-Chief: SouthEastern Teen Newsletter

College or other post graduate plans:

Biology PreDental Track at Xavier University of Louisiana


It has been one year and a month since the life altering announcement was made by the World Health Organization. On March 11, 2020 COVID-19 was officially announced as a pandemic and since then we have been taking extra precautions to stop the spread. I believe in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus we should first insure that masks are properly worn at all times, including while visiting a close friend.

I constantly see masks worn incorrectly and it is one of the easiest ways we can prevent increasing the number of COVID cases. Although masks are extremely effective they won’t completely stop the spread of COVID, social distancing, temperature checks and effective cleaning measures are also key components to stemming the spread. A lot has happened within a year but recently we have seen that amusement parks and recreational facilities have begun to reopen. Although these activities are fun, we need to ensure that social distancing and effective sanitizing is put into play.

The best option would be to stay home but we are all aware that this isn’t always the best one’s mental health. Of course, it is the establishments responsibility to keep the facility clean but an extra wipe down would ensure your area is clean. There isn’t one solution to stopping the spread of COVID, we must work together and combine techniques to find what’s most effective in our communities.

Katharine E. Kemp

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

1. 130 hours volunteering for annual “Get Loud! Break the Silence” domestic violence awareness event, current President

2. Three-year IB Ambassador (mentor program for prospective 8th graders to the IB program), current President (about 130 hours per year)

3. Member of Florida Junior Classical League Executive Board during senior year (about 6 hours per week)

4. Four-year member of Latin Honor Society, current President; Two-year member of National Honor Society, current Vice President

5. High school Volleyball team four-year player, current Captain; Flag Football team four-year player, current Head Captain (captain since Sophomore year)

6. 2021 National Merit Finalist

College or other post-high school plans:

Biology major on possible business track, University of Chicago


Amidst the panic of the COVID-19 pandemic, virus and vaccine-related messaging has been inconsistent. Herd immunity is the most effective solution to preventing the spread of the coronavirus and its variants, but the confidence in vaccines has significantly diminished especially with the recent worries about the Johnson & Johnson shot.

In order to reestablish the credibility of inoculation, so as to assuage anti-vaccine fervor, American officials must first define the esoteric terms with which they describe vaccines – an unfortunate practice that has jeopardized vaccination efforts in many states. ‘Efficacy,’ for example, is a term that is often applied to the vaccines, but is incomparable between them, since trials were conducted across different countries and time periods. Every vaccine has an equal success rate in preventing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations, which is the most important fact for officials to present in order to achieve herd immunity.

Furthermore, statements on the inferiority of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine must be addressed as misleading ones. With numerous other countries around the world looking at the United States’ response to coronavirus, our nation cannot afford improper communication about vital solutions. Only through persistence and trust in our authorities can we as a nation end the coronavirus pandemic.

Keerthi Mula

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

· Participated in the Lenox Hill Neurosurgery Department’s BRAINtern program

· Player on the Varsity Tennis Team

· Member of Mu Alpha Theta and recipient of three awards in district competitions

· Simple Studies Content Creator - Helped create free AP, IB, and honors study resources to ensure that students with any financial background be successful and not worry about money and expensive tutoring

· Member of National Honor Society and participated in various fundraisers and volunteering opportunities.

· President of Future in Med – Organized an executive team of over 50 people and planned interviews, takeovers, and collaborations with healthcare professionals for members to learn more about the medical field.

College or post-high school plans:

University of Florida – Majoring in Biology on the pre-med track.

I hope to pursue a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology.

Tribune Scholars Essay Question:

From authorities at the federal state and local levels, people are hearing a variety of rules and guidelines arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them even contradict one another. What steps do you believe should be taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare professionals and government authorities were given the challenge of helping stem the spread of the coronavirus. I personally believe that one of the most important things that the government should have done is ensure that there were strict rules and regulations as to when people were allowed to go out the first few months of the pandemic.

To limit their visits to grocery stores and other public places where there is a higher chance of transmission of the virus among people, government officials should organize a program that allows everyone to get basic necessities once a week. Another effective way of ensuring that the spread of the coronavirus is under control is to implement work from home and e-learning options. According to my experience at school, some students wear masks below their nose or not at all which contributes to the high risk of spreading the virus.

There should be strict guidelines set for students to follow regarding masks. Most teachers and students also don’t follow the 6-feet distance rule as more and more students come back to in-person learning. Limiting access to Brick and Mortar to only seniors and those with AP exams should help reduce the risk of the transmission of COVID-19. The implementation of these ideas is important for stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

Khoury Youness-Collier

Tampa Bay Times

School Activities and Accomplishments:

• National Honor Society Member since 2019.

• Joined Boy Scouts in 2014, and have served as Scribe, Troop Guide, Assistant Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and am currently serving as a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster while planning and confirming my Eagle Scout Project and will become an Eagle Scout before my 18th birthday on the 20th of May.

• Completed 129 hours of Community Service through the Boy Scouts of America, Paint Your Heart Out, Metropolitan Ministries, American Legion, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and other local organizations.

• 1st chair Oboe in Wind Ensemble for 3 years, Drill Sergeant in Marching Band Senior Year, 1st Chair Oboe in TRI-M Sophomore and Junior year, Secondary Conductor of TRI-M Junior Year, and Principal Conductor of TRI-M Senior year. Selected to play in All County (a Band comprised of the best High School Musicians in the County), Junior and Senior year.

• I am an AP Scholar, having passed 3 of my 4 AP Exams in 2020, and am looking forward to the chance to pass all 4 of my AP Exams this year.

• All-in-all I am a hard-working and dedicated student who rises to the top of everything I participate in, due to my intellect, leadership, outstanding work-ethic, and fun personality.

College or Other post-high school plans:

Fall of 2021, I will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of South Florida


In my opinion, the pandemic should’ve been handled differently from the beginning. As with any germ, we should’ve followed common sense protocol, worn masks, washed our hands and used disinfectant on everything to halt the spread of the virus.

I believe initially we should have “locked down” in order to fully trace who had the virus, and to see how and where it was spreading; all this should’ve been mandated from the beginning along with isolating elderly people and those with compromised immune systems to help prevent them from getting sick. Beyond those initial and ongoing tracing measures, I think we should’ve been allowed to resume life as normal, letting us contract the virus and build antibodies naturally, thereby acquiring herd immunity organically. I think that because nothing was ever truly consistent here in the U.S., we fell far short of “handling” the spread of the virus and it thus spread exponentially, whereas in other countries (New Zealand for example) they were quite strict initially but have since resumed normal life by continuing to trace and isolate cases.

Now, with the onset of the virus variants and mutations, vaccines are going to have to play a catch-up scenario. I doubt we will ever be able to fully vaccinate from this virus and that maybe herd immunity will never occur because we didn’t allow it in the first place. I’m no virologist, but it just seems that we did things a bit backwards here in the United States.

Leilani Smyth

School Activities and Accomplishments

  • Cheerleading Squad captain, one year
  • Principle Honor Roll, 4 Years
  • Florida English Bulldog Rescue volunteer
  • Meals on Wheels volunteer
  • Feeding Tampa bay volunteer
  • Lead roles in musical theatre

College or other post-high school plans

Double major in Forensic Psychology and Computer Information Systems at John Jay College of Criminal Justice


There are many steps that I believe should be taken to stem the spread of coronavirus. First thing is masks should be mandated everywhere in public. People should not be allowed in public and public establishments without a kind of facial covering.

There are many people who may not be able to wear a mask and there have been accommodations made to aid these people, so they do not need to come in contact with others without having some kind of protection. Another step I believe should be taken is that we should also completely shut down the country just like Australia and New Zealand. Making only truly essential services the ones open. As seen with these two countries they were able to beat the virus more than once through these quarantines. I believe this is the most important step to stop the spread.

One of the last steps that I believe should be taken to stop the spread would be to also mandate the Covid-19 vaccine for the people who are safely able to take it. This can build the immunity needed so if virus does spread it will not have nearly as much effect and will no longer be a threat.

Molly N. Tyler

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Color guard member, 4 years (Leadership, 2 years)

2. Second-chair flute in concert band, 1 year

3. 20 hours volunteering as a counselor

4. 6 hours painting a local community center

College or other post-high school plans:

English Literature degree at University of South Florida


COVID-19 is a serious issue that demands a solution achieved via an aggressive approach. It is crucial that everyone work together in order to eliminate the threat of the virus. If even a small group of people do not treat the situation with the abundance of caution it deserves, it becomes nearly impossible to contain it. Daily life must be disrupted in order to ensure that people have a life to return to. Not only is COVID-19 fatal in some cases, the long-term effects that it has on one’s health can be debilitating.

A mandatory lockdown is one of the most fundamental steps in containing the virus. It is the best and most all-encompassing way to limit exposure and spread. Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, can still operate, albeit with new procedures that hold social distancing and sanitization above all. Going out with friends to malls and restaurants poses a risk that no one can afford. Many people are high-risk, or they may live with high-risk people. Resuming regular activities can wait until after COVID-19 is under control.

Furthermore, masks must be worn at all times when out in public. Social distancing guidelines must be obeyed, too. It is an obligation-- a duty-- to do all you can to protect both yourself and others from getting sick.

The importance of distributing vaccines at an efficient rate cannot be underestimated. A vaccine is necessary to ensure safety.

In conclusion, multiple measures must be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Nicole Tjahjono

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Top-3% student in my class of 2021 (Salutatorian)

2. Straight-A student for 7 years

3. Volunteered for nearly 100 hours in school clubs, Keep Our School Beautiful and Junior Civitan

4. Club president for Keep Our School Beautiful (KOSB) school club

5. Was awarded the John Shepherd Environmental Award and the Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award for being hardworking and volunteering toward environmental causes

6. Part of the KOSB, Junior Civitan, Multicultural, and Gay-Straight Alliance school clubs

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to major in Computer Science at the University of South Florida.


Some steps that should be taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 should include more incentives to stay at home, to wear masks in more places, and to get the vaccine when available. Examples of those incentives could be promoting delivery and take-out services, making events more available online through services like Zoom or Team Meetings, requiring establishments to require masks to be worn, and establishing more vaccine locations so those interested are not discriminated against based on their location.

There have been too many cases of people not wearing their masks in public, necessary locations, such as grocery stores, so there should be more incentives to better persuade those that refuse to wear masks. Multiple sanitizer stations within, and at entrances and exits, seem to be a helpful reminder to be mindful of others and the items they touch, however, that is still not enough.

On a small scale, one plan could involve randomly awarding public goers who have their masks properly worn in establishments with small treats or trinkets, depending on the establishments’ theme. This could work towards being a positive incentive for those properly wearing their masks and being a negative incentive for those without masks or improperly wearing masks. If this idea is instilled, this might incentivize more to wear their masks.

By getting a plethora of establishments to work with this plan, this may help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by reaching public-goers on a direct yet public level.

Shea B. Greenberg

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

1. National Merit Finalist, high school 2021 Salutatorian.

2. Co-founder and President of Keys for Kids, Inc. a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting music education to title 1 schools in Hillsborough County. Through fundraising, was able to purchase and donate 16 keyboards to a local elementary school. 50 volunteer hours developing, organizing and marketing the non-profit; as well as fundraising to purchase and donate the keyboards.

3. First Chair Percussionist in Wind Ensemble and Marching Band Percussionist - four years, Percussion Section Leader - two years, Member of Fl All-State Band/Orchestra - three years, Member of Hillsborough All-County Band - four years. Member of the school Jazz Band - four years.

4. Mu Alpha Theta (Honors Math Club and Society) - four years. Earned several first and second place awards. Served as the Precalculus and Algebra II Captain - two years; currently the President of the Club - 1 year.

5. Served in Student Government as Class Vice President - three years.

6. Hebrew Sunday School Teacher’s Assistant & Camp Jenny Counselor - two years, 100 volunteer hours as a Camp Counselor; MOSI Teacher’s Assistant - ten days - summer 2020, 80 volunteer hours.

College plans:

Mathematics major with a minor in business at Vanderbilt University.


With the death toll nearing three million and cases still on the rise, it’s easy to look back and reflect on the precautions we should have enforced. If America had adopted New Zealand’s elimination strategy and implemented a full-force lockdown immediately, perhaps less families would be afflicted by the wave of economic collapse. Had the CDC worked in conjunction with Taiwan to develop effective tests to contact trace early on, there may be less children and grandchildren in mourning. But it’s too late to look back; loved ones cannot be recovered. The virus is still spreading, mutating into different strands around the world, and we cannot feasibly reattempt a lockdown.

Although not ideal, the solution is urgent: 1) Get the vaccine as soon as possible. 2) Social distance and wear face coverings until then. It does not matter which vaccine is available; if you are an adult, you need to get vaccinated. Each vaccine has 100% protection against death and hospitalization, which is immensely more significant than their respective efficacy rates.

The problem is not governmental. It’s personal. Stemming the propagation of COVID requires a global commitment to limiting interaction with others; due to the nature of the virus, just one instance of disobedience can exponentially increase cases. Thankfully, the way out has arrived in the form of little plastic syringes. It’s a choice to accept it, just as it’s been a choice to wear masks and self-quarantine. Opposition is our enemy. This is a choice we need to make.

Shota Konno

Tampa Bay Times

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Vice President of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society for two years

2. Intermezzo Orchestra President (2020-2021), Vice President (2019-2020), and Concertmaster (2017-2019)

3. Varsity Lacrosse (2017-2021)

4. Florida American Legion Boys State Representative (2020)

5. Metropolitan Ministries volunteering for 57 hours

6. Moffitt Cancer Center Mask Making, awarded 50 hours for sewing 100 masks during the summer of 2020

College or other post-high school plans:

Earn a bachelor’s and a master’s in environmental engineering and considering a major in civil engineering. I am currently undecided about college.


Finding the solution to a problem requires a thorough understanding of it. The COVID-19 pandemic propagated from the persistence of ignorance and staunch opposition to the advice of medical professionals. Some political leaders disregard the science behind the virus and have exacerbated the outbreak because of their resistance to implement restrictions that would decrease infection rates. To prevent the death of thousands of more individuals, world health experts have recommended the implementation of mask-wearing in public. With the distribution of vaccines well underway in many nations, leaders around the world have promoted vaccination to combat the new variants of the coronavirus.

Having received my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, I understand the compulsion to relax in public because of the efficacy of the vaccines; however, the virus continues to threaten people’s livelihood. With regional outbreaks increasingly overwhelming hospitals, it is the public’s responsibility to continue practicing CDC guidelines, such as staying six feet apart, wearing a mask, avoiding indoor congregations, and getting fully vaccinated. I would also encourage people to avoid large gatherings, but small group meetings outside would limit the spread of the virus and promote social interaction for the isolated.

The pandemic has taken a large toll on everyone, regardless of age, social class, race, and other denominations. Confronting the challenges of the virus requires the cooperation of every member of society to overcome the pandemic. People must trust the science and rely on credible sources of scientific information to guide their decisions.

• • •

Quinn Cornett

Tampa Bay Times

School Activities and Accomplishments

  • Three years of Culinary & Culinary Management
  • Nominated for Silver Knight Culinary Award
  • Completed three-year Customer Service Program
  • Dual Enrollment, Hillsborough Community College
  • Non-Profit work for Healing Dawgs

College or other post-high school plans

Complete my AA Degree Summer 21, Hillsborough Community College

Secondary Education - Social Sciences, University of South Florida