WESTSHORE – While 10 high school juniors were receiving awards for their service to others, a single theme ran through the afternoon – each said she received more than she gave.
The young women from Hillsborough County public and private schools were named by The Athena Society as Dr. Sylvia Richardson Young Women of Promise. They were honored at a luncheon April 3 at the Centre Club, where each spoke about her work helping children, the homeless, animals, the environment and the education system.
Niritta Patel of Hillsborough High School told about 100 gathered for the lunch: “Altruism is the best way to give back to yourself.”
Patel, who is ranked fifth amongst Hillsborough International Baccalaureate students, spent summer 2013 fundraising and made a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, to deliver school supplies and meals to a school.
“I got to see their smiles,” she said. “I know just how significant education is.”
Another recipient, Rachel Weinbren of Berkeley Prep, also focused her altruistic energies internationally by forming a nonprofit, Warming the World, where 1,300 hand-knitted caps were given to premature babies nationally and in Haiti, Cuba, Russia and Germany, where her grandmother had escaped from the Nazis during World War II.
Julia Jansen of Freedom High School tackled what she saw a statewide issue, “the lack of the ability to place education in the forefront.”
She spearheaded a petition drive, Florida Students for Equal Funding of Education, and delivered the petition to the Florida Senate and House. She also helped write a nonpartisan bill with two University of South Florida professors and founded two social conscious student groups. Each honoree received a $500 scholarship and other gifts.
Other honorees were
Konnor Brewer, Academy of the Holy Names, who maintains a rigorous life as an athlete and scholar, despite being diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at age 11. She travels the country to talk to youth about managing the disease.
Ashley Halstead, of Bloomingdale High School, who has volunteered more than 1,500 hours – much of it at A Kid's Place. She also raised $4,000 for the American Cancer Society and recently returned from the Congress for Future Physicians in Washington, D.C.
Abby Rinaldi, Chamberlain High School, who is managing editor of her school paper and earned a perfect score on the World History AP exam. She is has volunteered more than 600 hours at Lowry Park Zoo and is creating a project to increase awareness of endangered species.
Savannah Walker, H.B. Plant High School, who was captain of the girls basketball team and mentors young girls at Christ the King school. She also assists with children's arts classes and day camp, and is passionate about art.
Sydney Fee, Joe E. Newsome High School, who dances with the Brandon Ballet Company and served on the class council since her freshman year. She was selected to participate in the Youth Leadership Program at the University of Florida.
Julia Lewis, T.R. Robinson High School, is in the top 1 percent of all students countywide in the International Baccalaureate program. She co-founded the Ophelia Club, which is devoted to mentoring middle school girls on issues such as self-respect.
Caneel Dixon, Tampa Preparatory School, is the only student at the school who will complete the STEM and a Global Studies tracks by graduation. She earned her Girl Scout Gold Award by making and delivering pants to Nicaraguan children.
The recognition, which began in 1981, is named for a physician educator and Athena member, who was the longtime chairman of the awards.