Barnes Scholarship winners announced

If there is one overarching characteristic of this year's Barnes Scholarships winners it is, as one student put it, "self-reliance and confidence, leading to academic and social success."

By Nancy Waclawek
Published March 9, 2007

If there is one overarching characteristic of this year's Barnes Scholarships winners it is, as one student put it, "self-reliance and confidence, leading to academic and social success."

The winners of the 2007 Barnes Scholarships, announced today by the St. Petersburg Times Fund Inc., are Mark Adams of Armwood High School in Hillsborough County; JenniferLynn Griffith-Delgado of Lecanto High School in Citrus County; Zachary Taylor of Tampa Bay Technical High School in Hillsborough County and Han Zhu of St. Petersburg High School in Pinellas County.

The two girls and two boys were selected from among 10 finalists. A total of 265 students applied from public and private high schools in the St. Petersburg Times' circulation area - Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

The scholarships were established in 1999 to help college-bound teens who overcame significant obstacles in their lives while achieving academic honors and participating in volunteer community activities. They were renamed in 2004 to honor former Times chairman and CEO Andrew Barnes upon his retirement.

Each scholarship is worth up to $15,000 a year for four years at an accredited U.S. college or university. This year, the Barnes Scholarship program will provide more than $230,000 in financial aid to college students. The fund has been providing college scholarships since 1953.

"All of our scholarship winners have demonstrated a commitment to excellence and great resilience in the face of adversity," said Paul C. Tash, chairman, CEO and editor of the Times and president of the St. Petersburg Times Fund. "We know that they can take a punch and keep going. With our scholarship money, we want to enlarge their options to match their great promise."

The life stories of this year's winners are lessons in vanquishing grief. Two of them had lost their mothers to cancer before they started high school. The father of another died from lung cancer in August, at the start of his senior year. The fourth knows what it's like to be one step away from homelessness.

While they struggled to hold their lives together, their studies kept them focused so they could deal with the present and look to the future.

Mark Adams

Three years ago, the family of Mark Adams faced hard times when his father, Larry, lost his job. A few months later, Larry Adams was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

Mark's mother has chronic illnesses and does not have a job. Mark, 19, became the primary caregiver for his father and the rock of the family.

Mark remembered the night before his father died: "I held his hand and for the first time in my life I was speechless. All I could do was kiss him on the forehead. ... They say you are not a man or a grown-up until you are a parent or until you bury one. I guess ... I was finally a man."

His senior class at Armwood High voted him "most likely to succeed," and Mark hopes he can begin to make that come true at the University of Florida, where he hopes to study computer engineering.

Mark ranks 19th in his class and has a weighted GPA of 5.2. He has taken AP and Honors courses and is a member of the National Honor Society and the Senior Class Steering Committee. Mark is interested in studying computer engineering at UF.

Jennifer Lynn Griffith-Delgado

When she was 10, Jennifer Lynn Griffith-Delgado's mother died of colon cancer. She and her mother moved to Florida from Pennsylvania to be closer to maternal grandparents in Citrus County. After her mother died, Jennifer moved in with friends of her mother's on their Lecanto farm.

Her mother influences her choices even today, Jennifer wrote in her essay: "My mother's death is an obstacle I'm still trying to overcome ... I didn't say goodbye that night because she didn't leave; she's here in everything I do, and she's made me stronger... I dive into everything with a perfectionist's effort."

Jennifer, 17, has risen through myriad positions in Key Club to become the Florida District Governor in April 2006. Last year she also received the Robert F. Lucas Outstanding Lt. Governor Award and Florida District Leader of Leaders Award for Key Club International. She has volunteered with Boys and Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity, Campaign for Literacy and at the CREST School for the Handicapped. She is a member of National Honor Society and the French Club.

Jennifer ranks second in her class and has a weighted GPA of 4.5. She is a National Merit Scholarship finalist and hopes to attend Duke University.

Han Zhu

Han Zhu, 17, also watched her mother die. She was in fifth grade when her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. The medical bills from her mother's 18-month illness were so high her father had to sell their house.

Father and daughter each dealt with the emotional trauma differently: Han's father started dating and remarried; Han turned rebellious. Slowly their relationship healed. Today, Han wrote, "I would not trade any material possession in the world for the relationship I have with my dad."

Han is the salutatorian of the IB program at St. Petersburg High and a National Merit Scholarship finalist. She is a member of the Model United Nations and the National Honor Society and has participated in UF's Student Science Training Program, and FSU's Young Scholars Program. She has volunteered with Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, with the high school's cancer support group, the Women's Club Juniorettes and at the Great Explorations children's museum and the Science Center in St. Petersburg. She hopes to attend the University of Pennsylvania.

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor and his family moved to Florida from Michigan when he was 3. Zack's mother and stepfather struggled to find reliable employment and were nearly homeless execpt for the generosity of friends.

Because they moved often, Zack couldn't make lasting friendships. "Looking back, I don't remember the times of financial hardship with much vividness, but instead the feeling of being an outsider, of constantly facing change, and learning to overcome it," he wrote. So he immersed himself in schoolwork and discovered he enjoyed architecture.

He is valedictorian of the schools' Academy of Architecture, with a weighted GPA of 5.9, and was named Architecture Student of the Year in 2004. He helped establish the first SkillsUSA Architectural Drafting Chapter at the school and the Architecture Club. He wants to continue studying architecture at the University of California-Berkeley.

Zack, 17, is vice president of Key Club and a member of the Spanish Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society and the National Honor Society. He also was named an AP Designated Scholar. Zack also worked part-time during high school.

The runners-up

The six runners-up for the Barnes Scholarship each will receive a one-time award of $1,000. They are Lea Bjelland, Land O'Lakes High School, Pasco County; Hayley Germack, St. Petersburg High School, Pinellas County; Vivian Lee, Central High School, Hernando County; Sherline Marcellus, Hillsborough High School, Hillsborough County; Eugenio Torrens, Hillsborough High School, Hillsborough County; and Damir Turina, Palm Harbor University High School, Pinellas County.

The winners and finalists will be honored at a luncheon on April 26 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Pinellas Park. The guest speaker will be Francis "Bo" Godbold, vice chairman of Raymond James Financial, Inc.

Sixteen students are receiving scholarships through the Barnes program and four will graduate from college this year. Twelve already graduated.


For more information about scholarships through the St. Petersburg Times Fund, Inc., contact Nancy Waclawek, director, at 727-893-8780 or at waclawek@sptimes.com.