Each year, the Tampa Tribune honors the top 3 percent of graduating seniors in public and private schools based on their grade point averages.
Those who submit an essay vie for annual college scholarships honoring former Tribune publisher R.F. "Red" Pittman.
This year, the Tribune is recognizing 331 students from 41 public and private schools, most of whom also submitted essays in hopes of winning one of four $1,000 scholarships.
The essay question: "Your Millenial generation is the biggest, most diverse generation in American history, making you an increasingly powerful political force. In fact, one in four voters in the November presidential election will be a Millennial. If you are or would be eligible to vote in this presidential election, what would inspire you to do so?"
The scholarship winners: Kendall MacDonald, East Bay High, and Addison Killebrew, Jeremy Minaya and Parthik Patel, all of Plant City High.
The winners were chosen by retired Hillsborough educators Earl Whitlock, Joyce Haines, Marilyn Blackmer, John Owens and Janice Velez.
The criteria for selection included the essay, community service, leadership and need.
Here are profiles of the four winners.
High school: Plant City High
College plans: University of Florida, electrical engineering
Parents: James Killebrew, co-owner of wholesale produce market; Shawn Killebrew, middle school science teacher on leave to care for her parents.
Hobbies: Playing keyboard, composing music on the computer, playing soccer
Favorite book: All the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling
Watches television: An hour a week
Social networking: Five hours a week
Advice to other students: "Keep up the hard work throughout high school, not just the beginning. At the end you ask, 'Is it worth it?' It really is."
Most influential teacher: Robert Padgett, AP U.S. history, AP European history, AP Human geography, philosophy. "None of us liked him at first – he was very hard on us. As the year progressed, he made us respect him. When you're in his class, you're caring about the thoughts, his point of view. Every day's important. Everything you learn is important."
Excerpts from winning essay: "I am inspired to vote by people who have voted during great times of prejudice, economic depression or war. I am inspired by people like my Aunt Christine who brings to all her nieces and nephews at their 18th birthday a voter's registration form and then spends time telling us how important it is that we vote. As a diverse generation, we need to seek out areas of unity and respect through voting, while employing our differences to make us a great country."
Presidential choice: Leaning more toward Romney. "I'll have to see a few more debates."
High school: East Bay
College plans: University of Pennsylvania, nursing
Parents: Paula MacDonald, public relations for a hotel management company; Troy MacDonald, administrator, Hillsborough County Water Department
Hobbies: Soccer, golf, boating, fishing
Favorite book: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Watches television: 10 hours a week
Social networking: Two hours a week
Advice to other students: "Get involved with one thing you really enjoy doing and stick with it. Don't spread yourself too thin."
Most influential teacher: 11th grade AP U.S. history teacher Denise Shawber. "She really grabbed everyone's attention. It was so easy to understand that it made you really want to learn history." Example: Studying the 1920s, the class researched, then dressed and acted as favorite 20s characters at a party.
Excerpts from winning essay: "In this upcoming presidential election, a leader who understands and who is willing to be the voice of my generation will inspire my vote. I have grown up in a world that is highly connected through social media outlets, internet and television, and my vote will be inspired by someone who knows how to communicate their values and ideals through every channel."
Presidential choice: Leaning toward Mitt Romney
High school: Plant City High
College plans: University of Florida for humanities and biology, then medical school.
Parents: Nancy Vargas, bank teller
Hobbies: Reading, movies
Favorite book: "The Stranger" by Albert Camus
Watches television: Four hours a week
Social networking: One hour a week
Advice to other students: "Work hard, be consistent. Find something you're passionate about and stick with it in high school."
Most influential teacher: Robert Padgett, Freshman AP human geography. "He was the first teacher who taught you as a person, he had respect for the student. There was balance in the classroom – a professional learning environment and a comfortable place to enjoy yourself."
Excerpts from winning essay: "I believe that voting and being able to control my surroundings is an aspect of the coming of age that all generations have looked forward to….Being able to have our outspoken voices heard is driving this generation to go out and vote. Raging questions over controversies such as Generalized Health Care, abortion policies and gay marriages are the primarily main social issues that are nudging me towards the voting center."
Presidential choice: Obama right now. "He is a well spoken politician and I agree with many of his views right now. I'm excited to see him debate the Republican candidate on the issues."
High school: Plant City High
College plans: University of Miami for biochemistry, then medical school
Parents: Dipak Patel and Bhavana Patel, own convenience store in Plant City
Hobbies: Playing basketball with friends
Favorite book: "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad
Watches television: 20 hours a week
Social networking: six hours a week
Advice to other students: "It's best to have a goal, both long term and short term. Have a vision of what you're going to do."
Most influential teacher: Leslie Rice, 11th grade AP language arts and composition teacher and mother of a close friend since fifth grade. "She has given me advice, helped me with my scheduling, told me I'm able to do this, that medical school is within my reach. Even today, battling cancer, she comes in with a positive attitude, she pushes me. "
Excerpts from winning essay: "The reason that I will vote is the impact that will be carried on to future generations. …Consider the current problem of healthcare, for instance, that will carry on into our later years. Medicare and Medicaid are important for our future and to know that we are safe will really make us vote. Furthermore, the decisions he makes towards education and college will make an immediate impact."
Presidential choice: Has not decided.