The 2002 St. Petersburg Times Scholarship gives the teens up to $60,000 for college over four years. Six others win $1,000 each.
By NANCY WACLAWEK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2002
They are still in high school, but each of them has had to shoulder adult responsibilities.
Through their determination and strength of character, they've overcome the challenges to succeed in their high school academics.
Now, they will be headed to college as winners of the 2002 St. Petersburg Times Scholarship.
The four students are Wanyda Jean-Baptiste of Pinellas Park High School in Pinellas Park, Chad Jones of Hernando High School in Brooksville, Monica Ospina of Tampa Bay Technical High School in Tampa and Jaremy Shelton of Armwood High School in Seffner.
Each will receive up to $60,000 toward college expenses over the next four years. Established in 1999, the St. Petersburg Times Scholarships are funded through the St. Petersburg Times Scholarship Fund, which has assisted students since 1953.
These awards target high school seniors with academic promise who have overcome significant obstacles in their lives and who demonstrate financial need.
The six other finalists will receive one-time scholarships of $1,000.
The winners were selected from a field of 324 applicants from the Times' five-county circulation area.
"In a world where success is more and more dependent on the very best education, it gives us great pride to be able to assist such talented young people," said Andrew Barnes, chairman and CEO of Times Publishing Co.
The person who most inspires Wanyda Jean-Baptiste is her mother. Wanyda's parents divorced when she was 11. Her mother has often worked multiple jobs to support her and her five siblings, Wanyda wrote.
"At one time, my mother held three jobs in order to pay the rent on time. When I turned 16, she told me not to get a job during the school year because she did not want my grades to drop. I know that I will never be able to repay my mother for all that she has done, but I can try."
Wanyda is enrolled in the Criminal Justice Academy at Pinellas Park High, which is a magnet school with an emphasis on law education. She has maintained a 4.1 grade point average and is expected to graduate as salutatorian of her class of 319.
She is a member of the National Honor Society, the Florida Law Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society, and has received an Ebony Scholar Award every year since the eighth grade. She is the top girls player on the high school tennis team, and she is participating in this year's Poynter Institute High School Journalism Program.
Wanyda has been accepted to the University of Florida. She is considering a career in engineering.
For the past 11 years, Chad Jones and his five younger sisters have been reared by their paternal great-grandmother in Brooksville. He and his siblings had been split up and placed in foster homes before that. As a child, Chad had problems with asthma and with his vision. One asthma attack when he was 7 nearly took his life, and the illness made it difficult for him to concentrate on school work. But, he wrote, "I let neither problem hinder my academic progress. I have outgrown asthma and obtained glasses."
Chad ranks fourth out of 259 in his class at Hernando High School and has a 4.1 weighted GPA. He has been in the Thurgood Marshall Achiever Society all through high school and has participated in the Black History and Cultural Brain Bowl. He is a member of the National Honor Society, the College Reach Out Program, DECA and the HHS Academic Team. This year, he has been dual-enrolled at Pasco-Hernando Community College, has worked part time and has been involved in a variety of volunteer activities.
Chad said he has wanted to be an architect since the eighth grade, because he has always liked to draw and has been fascinated with skyscrapers. He has been accepted at Washington University in St. Louis and at the University of Miami. His attitude about life, he said, is "It's yours. You have to do it ... God wanted me to be here, so there has to be a reason."
Monica Ospina was born in Colombia but moved to Tampa with her family when she was 11. Three years later, she discovered she was pregnant.
"I was faced with what was the toughest decision I had ever had to make: To keep my daughter and face all the hardships that come with being a young mother, or to take the easy route and give my daughter up for adoption or have an abortion. I have never been one to take the easy route or especially one to run away from her problems and her mistakes, so I decided to face reality with a big smile and continue to work with the same effort and dedication that I had my entire life."
Her daughter Natalie is almost 2, and Monica ranks in the top 1 percent of her class of 202 at Tampa Bay Technical High School with a 4.986 GPA. She is dual-enrolled at Hillsborough Community College and works 35 hours a week at a law firm in Tampa. She is interested in international business as a career and is exploring her options at the University of Tampa and Eckerd College.
"I just hope one day to achieve all of my goals and become a successful businesswoman, in addition to being a successful mother."
Jaremy Shelton's life has been filled with obstacles. His father died violently when he was 6, which resulted in his mother's moving him and his siblings to a variety of cities in the South and Midwest. For the past two years, he has been on his own. His mother left "to find her own future."
But the adversity in his life helped him set his goals: "With a clear view of what I did not want to become, I fought long and hard through childhood and adolescence to become a respectable person."
He ranks sixth in his class of 284 at Armwood High School and has a 5.55 weighted GPA. He is an accomplished artist and won the Master Medallion for Art this year. He is president of the Philosophy Club and won the Master Medallion for Philosophy in 2001, is president of the Social Studies Club and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Jaremy has been accepted to Tulane University, where he plans to major in political science.
This year's winners and finalists will be honored at a luncheon May 7 at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa. Guest speaker will be the Honorable Mary S. Scriven, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Federal District Court in Tampa.
The six $1,000 scholarship recipients are Emin Hadziosmanovic of Ridgewood High School in New Port Richey; Jeremiah Jones of Hudson High School in Hudson; Andrea Kirch of Lecanto High School in Lecanto; Icela Loza-Agreda of Pasco High School in Dade City; Benjamin Overstreet of Hudson High School in Hudson; and David Williams of Tampa Bay Technical High School in Tampa.
Each year, four students from the Tampa Bay area will be chosen as scholarship winners. Applications will be available in September in high school guidance offices, some community centers, by mail from the Times' Director of Corporate Giving and on the Times' Web site (www.sptimes.com/scholarships). So far, seven students are receiving financial assistance through the St. Petersburg Times Scholarship. They are enrolled at Cornell, Duke, the University of Michigan, St. John's College, Rice, Tulane and Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C.