tampabay.com

Top graduates from small schools are high achievers

They distinguish themselves in multiple ways.

By BETH N. GRAY
Published May 18, 2007


Four private schools in Hernando County will graduate 43 seniors this year, ranging in size from three students at West Hernando Christian School in Hernando Beach to a record 31 at Hernando Christian Academy, Brooksville.

Small schools speak of their student body as being one big family. Commencement at Spring Hill Christian Academy literally will be that.

Siblings Katelynn Ellen Marques, 17, and Scott Vincent Marques, 18, will switch their tassels in unison tonight at Spring Hill Baptist Church. They are the children of Scott and Ellen Marques of Spring Hill.

The teens were home-schooled at the same grade level until they enrolled for their ninth levels. Their parents preferred a Christian-based curriculum with high values for education and religion, said their father.

Katelynn graduates as class salutatorian with a GPA of 3.4. Scott earned a 3.2 GPA.

"They did a lot together," said the elder Scott Marques. That included Little League baseball, membership and public performances with the Unity 4-H Cloggers, bowling with the Young American Bowling Alliance, volunteering at the church preschool, picking up trash for community service. Both also worked part time at Publix on Mariner Boulevard for the past year.

Katelynn played volleyball while Scott played basketball. Their home is laden with trophies too numerous to sort.

The duo will continue in tandem as they enroll for a two-year stint at Pasco-Hernando Community College. Katelynn intends to pursue a degree in elementary education while Scott is considering a major in business or pharmacy.

In another family participation at Spring Hill, Charles Andrew Gotshall will graduate as valedictorian. The school's principal is his father, Charles Gotshall.

Gotshall earned a 3.6 GPA and will receive a Bright Futures scholarship to study aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama.

"I've been interested in airplanes since I was a little kid," he said. He chose Alabama for its reputation in engineering.

Gotshall lent his hand to the Teen Department at the church, played on the school's basketball team and was a member of the yearbook staff. For three years he's worked part time at the Silverthorn Country Club.

Wider Horizons School

When Rebecca Hamilton receives her diploma May 25 at Wider Horizons in Spring Hill it won't be her first time on stage and, likely, not her last.

The 17-year-old valedictorian with a 3.6 GPA will enroll at the Florida School for the Arts at St. Johns River Community College in Palatka to study acting and filmmaking on a Bright Futures scholarship.

She already has acted at Stage West Theater in Spring Hill. She had to audition for a spot in the arts school freshman class, which accepts only 75 students.

A student at Wider Horizons since 10th grade, Rebecca already has finished a semester at Pasco-Hernando Community College.

School co-founder and co-principal Julie Maglio said of its top graduate, "She's a really nice person, a good worker and she's very cooperative and helpful and enthusiastic about life. She will do well."

Hamilton is the daughter of David and Elizabeth Hamilton of Brooksville.

Hernando Christian Academy

In the years ahead, his peers may hear of their longtime class leader Benjamin James Welch. The valedictorian will lead a record high class of 31 students graduating at 7 tonight at the school in Brooksville.

Carrying a 4.13 GPA, Welch will enroll in engineering studies at the University of Alabama "and maybe get into politics."

The 17-year-old said, "Just watching it on TV, it's always interested me, and I've had leadership things in school. It's one of those dreams you have."

Welch was president of the National Honor Society, senior class vice president, center and defensive end on the football team, center on the basketball team, and a member of the Spanish and drama clubs.

As for community service, the teen has served as a teacher's aide at the school and taught Vacation Bible School at Crossroads Community Methodist Church in New Tampa.

He is the son of John and Robbie Welch, Brooksville.

West Hernando Christian School

"It is so hard to honor just one of the graduates but if any one had to stand out it has to be Jonathan Lamb for his selflessness and contribution to the community," said school administrator Marti Covert.

He will graduate in a class of three June 5 at First Baptist Church of Hernando Beach. "All of them are stellar students," Covert said.

Lamb, the class salutatorian, will graduate with a 3.55 GPA. "All his life has been wanting to help others," Covert said.

The 17-year-old son of Rick and Patricia Lamb of Spring Hill is on call when a disaster strikes. "He is the first to go when there's a hurricane," said Covert.

"He works with the Christian Contractors Association. When disaster strikes, I know he's going and I'm wondering how I'm going to get him to make up his work," she said.

Lamb was on volunteer duty for two weeks during the 2005 hurricanes, pulling blue plastic over roofs along with his father, an employee of Christian Contractors.

Already having completed two classes at Pasco-Hernando Community College, Lamb will enroll there and intends to study engineering "or something again where he's serving," said his adviser.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net