Strawberry Crest 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.
Strawberry Crest High School, 4691 Gallagher Road in Dover, sits on over 50 acres of property once used for strawberry farming.
Strawberry Crest High School, 4691 Gallagher Road in Dover, sits on over 50 acres of property once used for strawberry farming. [ Times (2014) ]
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.

Dua Bangash

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Second place in districts for FBLA Public Speaking.

2. President and Founder of Students Speak Up (SSU).

3. 100+ hours from Hispanic Service Council (HSC).

4. Recognition and dedication award for my commitment in HSC.

5. Treasurer for AVID, one year.

6. Member of Leo Club, four years.

7. Member of NHS, two years

College or other post-high school plans:

Accounting with a psychology minor, University of South Florida.


To stem the spread of COVID-19, the general population needs a consensus. Many, who refuse to comply to Covid precautions, fear their freedom being stripped away. As a community, it’s important to address their concerns with an open mind. Fighting fear with hate only divides the public more. Education is the number one way to fight this ignorance and broadcasting through the radio or teaching in school the benefits of wearing a mask can make a difference. Additionally, taking online classes instead of in person is necessary for minimizing the spread. It’s a struggle for some to learn virtually, such as myself, but the health of others is far more important than my discomfort. Making appointments to meet up with professors or zoom meetings can allow the transition to be easier.

The final but most important step is to take the vaccine. There are currently three popular vaccines; however, the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has raised suspicion of being dangerous. Due to this, the CDC has stopped the distribution of J&J. Still, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are available and approved. I have actually taken my first dose of Pfizer and plan on taking the second dosage in May.

It’s our responsibility to protect our country from threats. If an outside force were attacking our land, we would not think twice to solve the issue, and dealing with Covid should be no different.

Ismara Flores-Hernandez

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Top 3% of students in my class.

2. 100 volunteer hours at my local hospital(South Florida Baptist Hospital), a local thrift store for the homeless, and my school.

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3. A dual enrollment student for three years.

4. A part of the girl’s varsity soccer team for four years.

5. Completion of a ServeSafe certificate through the culinary program.

6. An NHS member for two years.

College or other post-high school plans:

I am going to complete my AA in Liberal Arts over the summer(2021) at HCC. Once I complete my AA I will be transferring to USF for biomedical sciences.


Many people have different opinions on the pandemic but I think all just want it to be over as soon as possible. I think that there are certain steps that should be taken in order to create some progress. I think the first step is to mandate masks, I know that it is mandated to wear a mask in most stores but I think if they made everyone wear a mask in all public places no matter if it’s indoors or outdoors that would be the best, and the way of mandating it would be by fining people who don’t comply.

Secondly, I think people shouldn’t be all up and about with friends and partying because it just takes one person having the virus to cause a huge spread. Lastly, everyone should have to get vaccinated because vaccination is the cure, many people are too scared of the vaccine or turn it into a political statement which is ridiculous because there is a lot of science and research backing it up and it is all for the well being of the whole world.

Lizbeth Arriaga

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Top-Three student

2. 104 service hours (Teen volunteer at local hospital, Migrant Ministries, Community held trail)

3. National Honor Society Member

4. Spanish Honor Society Member since freshman year of High School

5. Top 10% student in attending University.

6. AP Scholar with Honor

College or other post-high school plans:

Attending the University of Central Florida for a psychology major.


To stem the spread of the coronavirus we need to promote following set guidelines. I understand simply promoting the use of masks will not lead to many following the advice. It is important to understand that many times individuals who refuse to wear their masks do so because they do not believe they are any help or claim it stops them from breathing properly.

That is why I propose educational segments and using social media to reach a younger audience. Having a credible scientist break down how masks work and how they have their proven benefits. Now with this in place we need to reach all sorts of audiences, provide the information in various languages, and go to different areas. It is important to target all demographics and age groups. It would take us all to come together as a group to bring a stop to the widespread virus. Now with the vaccine being put out we once again need to tackle all the misinformation that is spread, I know people who are refusing to get the vaccine because they have heard it is dangerous.

Through education we can put an end to false information that discourages individuals from getting such a beneficial vaccine. Misinformation has such a powerful effect and simply providing the correct information could potentially have such a large impact in ending the spreads of coronavirus.

Rebecca Pereira

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. Veterinary Assistant Program, four years and will graduate as a Certified Veterinary Assistant.

2. Band Secretary Junior year, Band Captain, Section Leader, First-chair French horn, Senior year.

3. NHS member

4. Over 200 hours of community service

5. Member of the winning team for Veterinary Science FFA State CDE 2019-2020.

6. Cashier at Publix and will be working at a Veterinary clinic right out of high school.

College or other post-high school plans:

Biology major, Florida State University


I believe that the steps needed to stem the spread of the coronavirus are people washing their hands, staying home if they feel sick, and being mindful. When people wash their hands after going out it prevents people from spreading germs to their mucous membranes when touching their faces.

Many stores have implemented hand sanitizer stations for people to use which has been very helpful. Washing one’s hands is a health precaution in general but has been taken much more seriously since the pandemic has started. Furthermore, staying home when a person feels sick or has a fever should be common sense but apparently it is not. This has been brought to people’s attention since the pandemic started and people are more self-aware of how they are feeling before leaving the house. Finally, being more mindful about one’s overall lifestyle will help prevent people from getting sick.

Adopting a more active lifestyle, taking the necessary vitamins, and eating healthier will lead to creating a healthier immune system. Building up people’s immune systems will help prevent people from getting sick and spreading the coronavirus. All in all, these are all easy ways to help stop the spread.

Sagnik Yarlagadda

School Activities and Accomplishments:

1. Co-President (12th), Vice President (11th) of Future Health Professionals Club (HOSA):

• 5th Place International Leadership Conference (2019)

• 1st Place State Leadership Conference (2019)

• 1st Place State Leadership Conference (2021)

• State Qualifier (2020, canceled due to COVID-19)

• 1st Place Regional Leadership Conference (2019)

• 1st Place Regional Leadership Conference (2020)

• 1st Place Regional Leadership Conference (2021)

2. Founder and President (11th-12th) of Reading Club, SLAM Quiz Bowl Team Captain (9th-12th):

• 1st Place SLAM Quiz Bowl (2018)

• 2nd Place SLAM Quiz Bowl (2019)

• 1st Place SLAM Quiz Bowl (2021)

3. President (12th), Vice President (11th) of Mu Alpha Theta Math Club, Event Team Captain (9-12th):

• 2nd Place Individual Round Fall Math Bowl (2017)

• 2nd Place Individual Round Spring Math Bowl (2018)

• 7th Place Individual Round Fall Math Bowl (2018)

• 6th Place Individual Round Spring Math Bowl (2019)

• 8th Place January MAO Regional (2018)

• 4th Place January MAO Regional (2021)

• 6th Place March MAO Regional (2021)

• Top 8 in MAO Regional Competitions (2015-2021)

4. Vice President of Community Service (11th), Executive Board (10th) of Future Business Leaders of America Club (FBLA):

• 1st Place National Leadership Conference (2019)

• 3rd Place National Leadership Conference (2020)

• 1st Place State Leadership Conference (2019)

• 2nd Place State Leadership Conference (2018)

• 3rd Place State Leadership Conference (2021)

• 1st Place Regional Leadership Conference (2018)

• 1st Place Regional Leadership Conference (2019)

• 1st Place Regional Leadership Conference (2021)

• 2nd Place Regional Leadership Conference (2020)

5. Historian of Speech and Debate Club (10th-12th):

• National Qualifier (2020-canceled due to COVID-19)

• 4th Place Public Forum Debate Grand Finals (2020)

6. 200+ High School Community Service Hours:

• Founder and President of nonprofit Hopepedia, Inc

• Organized and Taught ACT Prep Sessions

• Volunteered at various music events such as District & State Solo and Ensemble, Music Performance Assessment, and Christmas Lane

• Performed violin concerts at multiple nursing homes

• Volunteered as a camp counselor at Shriners Hospitals for Children’s Camp Care-A-Lot

• Volunteered at Metropolitan Ministries

• Participated in service events with ASSIST & United Relief Clubs.

• Completed various chapter projects each semester through National Honor Society

College or other post-high school plans:

I will be attending Vanderbilt University on the pre-med track.


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to people being inundated with safety information and regulations from numerous authorities. Yet these recommendations have often differed between US local, state, and federal entities, leading to immense confusion, lost time, and subsequently, lost progress. One research study analyzed this phenomenon, concluding that these inconsistencies included recommendations regarding masks, coronavirus risk assessments, stay-at-home orders, and disinfectant policies. Without these inconsistencies, the spread of coronavirus would have slowed significantly, adverse health outcomes would have been reduced, and early-stage COVID-19 mortalities could have been reduced by 17-65%1. Therefore, the most important step to stem the spread of coronavirus is applying an action plan that is consistent across all levels of authority.

Numerous studies have indicated the benefits of such a consistent crisis management plan. Researchers have determined that consistency in transmitted messages improves understanding and recall among recipients, with accurate, transparent, and timely dissemination of these messages increasing public trust and confidence. However, the opposite results in recipients ignoring recommendations, leading to avoidable burdens on the healthcare system2-4. Thus, all health authorities must deliver consistent information regarding mandatory mask use in public spaces, social distancing protocols, proper disinfecting technique, uniform and strict stay-at-home policies when necessary, and the most recent development, vaccination importance.

Although these crucial steps for reducing the diffusion of COVID-19 have been neglected or publicized poorly in the past, it is paramount to our nation’s health and the resolution of this pandemic that they are communicated uniformly across federal, state, and local authorities.

Studies Referenced in Essay:

1. Wang, Yan et al. “Examining risk and crisis communications of government agencies and stakeholders during early-stages of COVID-19 on Twitter.” Computers in human behavior vol. 114 (2021): 106568. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2020.106568

2. Lochbuehler K., Mercincavage M., Tang K.Z., Tomlin C.D., Cappella J.N., Strasser A.A. Effect of message congruency on attention and recall in pictorial health warning labels. Tobacco Control. 2018;27(3):266–271

3. Reynolds B, Galdo JH, Sokler L. Crisis and emergency risk communication. Cent. Dis. Control Prev. 2002

4. Kalaichandran A. Uncertainty in a time of coronavirus.

Srikar Parsi

School Activities and Accomplishments:


1. 2-time Science and Engineering Fair International Finalist.

2. FTC Robotics 1st Place State/World Finalist, 4x Code Award & 5x Design Award

3. Future Business Leaders of America Nationals Second Place

4. Speech and Debate Public Forum Debate 2nd place State & National Finalist

5. MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Selectee ($1,000) for the creation of Solvus

6. Named Salutatorian of Graduating Class


1. Business and Programming VP, FTC Robotics - Team 6433 Neutrinos

2. Founder and Editor in Chief, Crest Critique, School News Publication

3. Co-Founder and Head of Development, PikFarm (

4. Head of Entrepreneurship and Technology, CompanyRoots

5. Senior, Varsity Tennis

6. Web Designer, Chamber Orchestra

7. Mobile Application Intern, iEdit - Startup Company

8. Policy Writer, Solomon for Congress, Congressional Campaign


1. Finance Executive Board, Chargerthon (Raised $100,000 over past four years for hospitalized children) - 60 hours

2. Organizer and Teacher, Java Bootcamp – 41students - 36 hours

3. Mentor, FLL and FTC Robotics – 13 local students and 15 students in South Africa - 40 hours

4. Relay for Life Team Captain - 20 hours

5. Mentor for Math and Science - 70 hours

College Plans:

I am still undecided but planning on majoring in Computer Science and Business at Rice University.


The world’s most powerful country is leading COVID-19′s death toll list. Embarrassingly, our problem isn’t a lack of money, facilities, or research. It’s misinformation and poor management. In order to stop losing lives, we desperately need to rethink our approach.

Foremost, scientists, not politicians, should have authority over COVID-19 legislation. Scientists have dedicated their lives to studying viruses and are therefore the most knowledgeable to make such impactful decisions. While this single change would be immensely effective as demonstrated in New Zealand, another solution would be educating the masses.

When contradicting viewpoints about COVID-19 are omnipresent, it becomes increasingly important to understand the intricacies of this virus ourselves. How many of us could explain why N95 masks are more effective than their cotton counterparts? How many people know how viruses work and why vaccines combat them?

Making informed decisions requires understanding the answers to such questions. Since scientific papers are generally too complicated to understand, a solution would be developing a course where researchers answer questions and debunk misconceptions about COVID-19 in layman’s terms. This course would be mandated in schools and companies.

Finally, the media should be informative, not catchy. Recently, news outlets swarmed the web regarding 6 women who developed blood clots after being vaccinated. This led to a wave of Anti-Vaxxers vociferously justifying their beliefs because they weren’t aware of the 66 million successful vaccinations.

By transferring power from politicians to scientists, educating the masses, and ensuring unbiased reporting, we can successfully stymie the spread of COVID-19.

• • •

Braden Raburn

School activities and Accomplishments:

-Active member of the service clubs NHS and Beta and has logged over 119 hours of community service.

- Graduating in top 10 of class

-7.127 Grade Point Average

- Captain of the varsity swim team

-FCA President

Post Graduate Plans:

Pre-Medical/Biochemistry at the University of Tampa