High school graduation is always an exciting time, and the 840 graduating seniors (combined) at New Tampa’s two high schools were celebrated as the year came to a close.

Freedom High held its annual “Red, White, and Blue” awards ceremony on April 17, where many of the school’s seniors were recognized for their academic achievements.

National Merit Scholarship Award finalists Britney Pun and Jessica Afiat were recognized, and the “Principal’s Patriot” award went to Vivian Ernst.

The Freedom PTSA also presented scholarships to Britney Pun, Lindsay Scherer, Olivia Pliska, and Kaitlyn Graulich. These scholarships are awarded to PTSA-member students who are headed to college, university, or vocational/technical school, and who are in good standing with the school’s office of Student Affairs, and have been recommended by their teacher, counselor or employer. They are chosen, in part, based on an essay they wrote as part of the application.

The PTSA also partnered with the Daisy Turner-Browne Scholarship Fund to award a scholarship to Alejandro Espinosa. This scholarship is awarded to a civic-minded graduating student who demonstrates academic excellence and a strong desire to pursue higher education despite personal and financial challenges.

The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg honors one student as the Anne Frank Humanitarian award winner, recognizing a student for efforts to better the lives of people around them, whether in school or out. At Freedom, this year’s Anne Frank Humanitarian Award winner was Ishitha Panguluri. 

Outstanding scholar-athlete awards went to Alyssa De La Sala and John Purcell. 

The Picerne Family Foundation awarded scholarships to Wen Hui Chen, Elaine Feaster, Alexandria Dominique, and Lindsey Scherer. These scholarships are awarded to graduating students who are planning to attend college full time, have demonstrated civic leadership, community service, and are true “overachievers.” They are intended for deserving students who are pursuing a dream but need this support to realize their goals.

Local orthodontist Dr. Sam Jureyda of Radiance Orthodontics (see ad on page 5) also partnered with the PTSA to provide a scholarship to a senior who demonstrated commitment to serving the community. It was the first time this scholarship was offered at Freedom.

The Radiance Orthodontics Community Service Award went to Elaine Feaster (far left in photo above), who has been featured in these pages previously, for organizing book drives that collected thousands of books for underprivileged children. Elaine logged an impressive 449 service hours during her high school career.

Meanwhile, At Wharton…

Radiance Orthodontics also presented a Community Service Award to Wharton High’s Ariana Sawyer, who is pursuing a career in nursing and spent her high school years volunteering with Metropolitan Ministries, as well as for an organization that cares for foster children, at AdventHealth Tampa hospital, and at her school. This is the fifth year the Radiance Award has been presented to a Wharton senior.

Also at Wharton, AdventHealth partnered with the school’s PTSA to present a scholarship to Aubrey Glover to support his pursuit of a career as a Physician Assistant. Aubrey’s impressive resume includes taking dual enrollment classes, serving as a volunteer and a leader in extracurricular activities, plus working as a medical assistant to prepare for a career in the healthcare field. He plans to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Wharton senior Jackson Raitt was honored for being a National Merit Scholarship Award finalist and the school’s Anne Frank Humanitarian award winner was Riley Hall.

The Wharton Athletic Boosters awarded scholarships to two students who maintained a 3.0 grade-point average while playing multiple sports. Award winners were Brett Brown, who was a varsity athlete in soccer, track and cross country, and Haleigh Self, who played basketball, softball and flag football.

The Wharton PTSA (photo of all four winners above right) awarded its top scholarship to Sunni Horton, who served on the school’s peer jury, Student Library Association, and National English Honor Society. She will attend Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, this fall to pursue a degree in public policy.  

The PTSA also awarded a scholarship to Chloe Kim, a leader in the school’s National Honor Society and student organizer with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. She will attend USF this fall.

Another PTSA scholarship went to William Hineline. William served as president of the senior class, is an Eagle Scout, and excelled in several sports at Wharton. He will attend the University of Florida in Gainesville.

The final PTSA scholarship was awarded to Andrea Boknevitz, who served as both a drum major for the Wharton Marching Band and as commanding officer of the Wharton National Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC). She is attending Jacksonville University to study psychology and prepare for a career as a U.S. Navy officer.

Many other students were recognized at both schools for outstanding achievements throughout their high school careers.

Freedom High’s graduation is being held on May 30, at 8:30 a.m., for its 390 graduating seniors. Wharton High’s graduation ceremonies for its 450 graduating seniors will be held Thursday, June 1, at 3:30 p.m.

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