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The best

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 26, 2002



PLANS: to major in journalism at the University of Florida.

HONORS AND AWARDS: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Award for mathematics and science, Rotary Club of St. Petersburg 2002 Rotary Youth Award, third place in Suncoast Tiger Bay Youth Tigers writing scholarship contest, voted "Most Intellectual" by classmates, University of Chicago Club of Tampa Bay Book Award for Student Excellence, Who's Who Among American High School Students, National Honor Roll, principal's dean's list, Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, student excellence awards in language, Spanish and math.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Rojans service club, varsity track.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Ronald McDonald House, Christmas Toy Shop, Christmas in the Park, Jump Rope for Heart, Vacation Bible School leader, SPCA Pet Walk, beach cleanup.


FAVORITE SUBJECT: AP American history.

HERO OR ROLE MODEL: "My three older brothers, because they each possess different qualities that I admire."


DIFFICULTIES I'VE OVERCOME: "I had surgery to correct my scoliosis. My life for the first two years of high school revolved around athletics. The majority of my days were consumed by physical activities. After having two 10-inch rods fuse my spinal cord, I was forced to deal with the physical and emotional scars my surgery had left behind."

PARENTS: Kathryn and Jose DeVicente of St. Petersburg.

* * *

Marla DeVicente debated about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life until she had an "epiphany" in her senior year. Now she knows she wants to be an investigative journalist.

"I had narrowed it down to business or law or journalism," she said. "Then it just kind of hit me. I love watching the news. I find politics and current events really interesting. There's a little voice inside my head telling me I have to do it."

The "little voice" propelled her in athletics as well as academics. She began swimming competitively at age 5 and started playing soccer in middle school. By high school, she was "consumed by sports," so the diagnosis of curvature of the spine at age 15 devastated her.

She endured the surgery and the pain and the physical limitations, which included not being able to play sports in her junior year. When she returned to the track and soccer fields, she was overflowing with gratitude for her restored health.

She hopes to participate in intramural swimming at UF, but plans to concentrate on schoolwork, especially in her first year.

"I think that's where the most temptation lies to get off track," she said. "The first and second years of college people have a lot of fun, and then the third and fourth years they realize, 'I've got to get a job some day.' I think they regret they weren't more on task."


PLANS: to major in life sciences at the University of Toronto.

HONORS AND AWARDS: honor roll, dean's list.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: National Honor Society, swimming, running.


FAVORITE ACTIVITIES: reading, sports.


HERO OR ROLE MODEL: "my parents, because of their diligence, support and encouragement."

THE REASON FOR MY SUCCESS: "An encouraging and stable environment at home accentuated my desire to excel and . . . an incentive to achieve the best in life."

DIFFICULTIES I'VE OVERCOME: "persevering through distracting temptations and upholding sound values to achieve the best in life."

PARENTS: Sabin and Farnaz Wali of St. Petersburg


PLANS: to major in business at the University of Florida.

HONORS AND AWARDS: Wellesley College Book Award, Who's Who Among American High School Students sophomore, junior and senior years.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Rojans service club.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Christmas Toy Shop.

FAVORITE SUBJECT: American history.

THE REASON FOR MY SUCCESS: "the support and motivation I have received from my family and friends.

PARENT: Anthony Palmerino of St. Petersburg



PLANS: to major in biomedical engineering at Duke University.

HONORS AND AWARDS: NAVY ROTC four-year scholarship to Duke, National Honor Society Most Typical Initiate, voted Most Likely to Succeed by classmates, Wellesley Book Award, academic letters every semester, varsity swimming letters.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: National Honor Society vice president, Spanish Honor Society vice president, Spanish Club president, Rojans service club, varsity swim team captain.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: VA Medical Center at Bay Pines, Girl Scout community projects.

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: having fun with my friends.


HERO OR ROLE MODEL: "My mom is definitely my role model because she has influenced every step of my life. Toni Morrison is my role model because she followed her bliss and did what she was good at, not really caring what others thought."

THE REASON FOR MY SUCCESS: "My parents have always told me to do my best. So that's what I do. I just do my best."

PARENTS: Mary Ann Leonard of Largo and Joseph Angermeier of Seminole

At 18, Mary Frances Angermeier knows what it's like to push herself to the limit. During swimming season, she arrived at school before daybreak and often didn't leave until after dark. On swim meet nights, she didn't get home until after 10 p.m. She says it's the price she had to pay for success in both academics and athletics.

She laughs at the notion of natural athletic ability.

"There's no natural athletic talent in me," she said, explaining that she took her first swimming lesson in her neighbor's pool when she was 4. "I just work really hard. I dedicate myself to it and get it done."

She also dismisses the notion that students need to choose between sports and schoolwork. She thinks they go hand in hand.

"Most people who do athletics have so much more of a drive, and they stay more focused and organized," she said. "They're much harder workers and they're more disciplined."

Eager to embark on her ROTC career at Duke, she says she is following a family tradition of military service. Her grandparents and her father were in the Army and her mother was in the Air Force. But she isn't looking too far down the road.

"I don't think about the future. I just never have," she said. "I guess I don't want to jinx it or anything."


PLANS: to major in digital media at the University of Central Florida.

HONORS AND AWARDS: Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, dean's list.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: SPCA of Pinellas County, academic tutoring.

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: playing video games.


HERO OR ROLE MODEL: "My boyfriend and longtime friend Andy is my hero because he's helped me get through thick and thin times."

THE REASON FOR MY SUCCESS: "My mom didn't go to college. My stepdad received his GED while serving time in jail. Both of them have very small incomes. They're my constant motivation to do well so that I won't be in their situation in 15 years. Plus, throughout all of school, I've earned good grades to make myself happy, not simply to appease my parents. Self-motivation is the easiest way to success."

DIFFICULTIES I'VE OVERCOME: "The biggest difficulty I've overcome in life is learning to live on my own at an early age. In ninth grade, I found out that the man I thought was my dad was not actually my biological father. My mom remarried, becoming somewhat distant, and my brother moved to California a couple of years later."

PARENTS: Chris Dykstra (mother) of Largo.


PLANS: to major in computer engineering at the University of Florida.

HONORS AND AWARDS: University of Pennsylvania Book Award, principal's list.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: Junior Exchange Club, Spanish Honor Society cultural assembly, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Habitat for Humanity, Junior Exchange and other volunteer projects.

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: "working with my friends to accomplish a positive task."


HERO OR ROLE MODEL: "my parents, because they gave up so much to leave Cuba and allow me to be born in freedom."

THE REASON FOR MY SUCCESS: "my motivation and ambition to be the best I could be."

DIFFICULTIES I'VE OVERCOME: "the loss of two dear family members who were like grandparents to me."

PARENTS: Olga and Jose Noriega of St. Petersburg



PLANS: to major in biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

HONORS AND AWARDS: National Merit Finalist, 2000 and 2001 cross country district champion, 2002 conference and district champion at 1,600 meters, Student of the Month, 2001 American Mathematics Contest, Princeton Book Award.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: National Honor Society president, Spanish National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, cross country team captain, track captain.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Largo Medical Center.



HERO OR ROLE MODEL: "my mom, because she is genuinely kind, supported me in everything I do, and loves her job."

THE REASON FOR MY SUCCESS: "I have studied hard, set high expectations for myself and had the support of my family and teachers."

PARENTS: Lori and Daryl Stargel of Largo

Scholastic success is something Sarah Stargel has come to expect. She's never experienced anything else, but is quick to credit her teachers for her accomplishments.

"I think it's always been an innate part of me to try and do my best," she said. "But all my teachers have been wonderful. I couldn't have done any of these things without them. They just constantly motivated me and inspired me."

The community service hours she logged at Largo Medical Center this past year also inspired her, and directed her to a possible career.

"I went around with the phlebotomist, the person who draws the blood," getting a first-hand look at what happens in a hospital laboratory, she said. "I hope in college I'll be able to have the chance to try research and see if I like it."

She thinks combining her love for science with helping people would be the ideal career. Genetic research is on her list of possibilities, but she also is thinking about being a pharmacist or a teacher.

"I wouldn't want to be totally isolated from human contact. I want to deal with people," she said. "I don't want to be stuck looking down a microscope all day."

Although making money would "definitely be nice," she thinks there are more important considerations in choosing her life's work.

"I'd rather have a job that I look forward to going to every day, where I wake up and I'm excited," she said.


PLANS: to major in nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.

HONORS AND AWARDS: National Merit Commended Scholar, Academic Team captain, Rotary Student of the Month, PRIDE Award for world languages, Academic All American for swimming,Who's Who Among American High School Students in 2000, 2001 and 2002, countywide swimming honor roll for four years, track honor roll in 2000, Alex Hillman Family Scholarship, Trustees' Scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, eight-time varsity athletic letter recipient.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: French Honor Society president, Close Up president, Mu Alpha Theta vice president, National Honor Society treasurer, varsity swim team captain, varsity track team captain, Academic Team captain.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: 200 lifeguard hours, 50 hours helping city of Clearwater firefighters throw a Christmas party for children in foster care, tutoring students and mentoring younger children.

FAVORITE ACTIVITIES: things involving my friends such as going to dinner or playing board games.

FAVORITE SUBJECTS: math and French.

HERO OR ROLE MODEL: "my parents, for teaching and showing me how to be a good person, for always encouraging me to do my best and for just generally being such amazing parents; and Coach (Tom) Haight for always supporting me and for helping teach me to respect myself in addition to respecting others."

THE REASON FOR MY SUCCESS: "I don't like to fail. I am a bit of a perfectionist. Since education has always been very important to me, it seemed only logical to apply my desire to do well in that area."

PARENTS: Sue and Larry Farkash of Seminole

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