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2021 WOW Sylvester Scholars Reflect Intelligence, Hard Work and Compassion

Completing high school careers greatly impacted by an historic pandemic, the 2021 WOW Sylvester Scholars still managed to compile resumes filled with jaw-dropping accomplishments and successes.

Thanking all who applied, WOW President Mary Griffin stated of the seven chosen Westchase scholars, “On behalf of the Board of Directors of the WOW, we’d like to offer our congratulations to a well-deserving group of Westchase seniors who have not only excelled academically but who went above and beyond their school’s required community service hours. As you will read in their bios, their service hours were creative and meaningful, especially in this past year with Covid restrictions in mind. They represent some of the best of Westchase!”

Selected in late March to receive $1,000 scholarships honoring their dedication to academics and community service were Lila Patterson, the daughter of Mignon and Don Patterson of Radcliffe; Shota Konno, the son of Urara and Shinji Konno of Stamford; Rachel Steinfeld, the daughter of Debbie and Steve Steinfeld of Stamford; Sarah Frank, the daughter of Gail and Gary Frank of Greendale; Sabrina Takagishi, daughter of Jennifer and Curtis Takagishi of The Bridges; Shrisha Saravana, the daughter of Chitra Kanagaraj and Saravana Pat Bhava of West Park Village; and Sara Matulis, daughter of Stacy and James Matulis of The Greens.

Lila Patterson

A talented musician, Lila Patterson graduated from Berkeley Prep with a 4.0 unweighted GPA. (Berkeley does not weight their GPAs).

Patterson was named first violinist for Berkeley’s Orchestra, and served as a member of the Spanish and Math Clubs, where she held leadership positions. She also served as a Student Library Proctor, Berkeley Academy Teacher and tutored Science and Math.

Patterson completed 225 community service hours over her high school career. In addition to volunteering in a Mexican orphanage, Patterson volunteered for Berkeley’s Summer Program, Academy Teacher program, Fall Fair and as a Westchase Elementary Classroom Assistant. She also volunteered with Girls Outside, which organizes outdoor events for children of migrant families. Wrote Linda Miles-Adams, a board member of Redlands Christian Migrant Association, “Lila models the character traits that we most aspire for our RCMA girls: confidence, leadership, empathy and desire to succeed.”

Recognizing her service, Berkeley awarded Patterson with their 50th Anniversary Service Scholar Award, given to students who have demonstrated leadership in academics and public service. Repeatedly named to the Berkeley Prep Headmaster’s List, she was a member of multiple honor societies and won multiple class subject awards from Berkeley. Also awarded the Tulane Book Award for excellence in academics, leadership and public service, Patterson was a National Merit Finalist.

Patterson’s college counselor, Allyson Diljohn, wrote, “When it comes to her academic work, her extracurricular pursuits or activities she does just for fun, Lila puts forth maximum effort, redoubling her energy or even redoing work if it means producing a better result.”

Patterson will study mathematics at University of Florida.

Shota Konno

An athlete and musician, Shota Konno graduated from Robinson High School’s IB program with a 7.72 weighted GPA and 4.0 unweighted GPA.

An accomplished pianist and violinist, Konno was named a member of the Florida All-State Concert Orchestra and was recognized at multiple levels and by several organizations for his musical accomplishments. He was named concertmaster and assistant concertmaster for the Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and held similar leadership positions in the Intermezzo Orchestra. A member of Mu Alpha Theta, Konno also notched impressive finishes in multiple math competitions. A member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, he also served as vice president of Robinson’s Multicultural Club and played Varsity Lacrosse for Robinson.

Konno completed 227 community service hours at a Costa Rican school and across Tampa organizations like Metropolitan Ministries, Feeding Tampa Bay, Moffit Cancer Society, and When We All Vote. Fifty of those hours were spent sewing face masks for Moffit at the beginning of the pandemic when local hospitals faced a critical shortage of face-coverings. Wrote his senior English teacher Jennell Wiest Peteranecz, “Shota Konno is an extraordinary young man in a group of extraordinary International Baccalaureate students.” Documenting his generous spirit, she added, “However, Shota sets himself apart from this group through his consistent contributions to the community.”

Repeatedly named to the Principal’s Honor Roll, Konno was a National AP Scholar, an AP Scholar with Distinction and National Merit Finalist. A member of multiple honor societies, he won recognition as his class’ top student in multiple subjects in different years. Touting Konno’s arduous work ethic, focus and extraordinary maturity, his Chemistry teacher, Thomas Atkins, wrote, “[Shota] is an excellent student with gifted intelligence. He has an easy temperament, quick wit and is a pleasure to have in class.”

Konno will study environmental engineering at University of Florida in the fall.

Rachel Steinfeld

Rachel Steinfeld graduated with a weighted GPA of 6.95 and an unweighted GPA of 3.87 from Robinson High School’s IB program.

A dedicated cheerleader, Steinfeld competed on a nationally ranked cheer team from 2017-2020 and served as a Robinson cheerleader, named captain both her junior and senior years. An IB Ambassador at Robinson who gave tours to prospective students, she also worked part-time as a teaching assistant at Congregation Schaarai Zedek’s Hebrew School and for Bricks 4 Kids. Wrote Kimberly Dickenson, her cheer coach, “I find her to possess the highest degree of integrity and on numerous occasions have been amazed at her willingness to take responsibility for her own actions. She demonstrates a rare combination of both humility and confidence.”

Steinfeld completed 591 community service hours with such places as Shining Stars Cheer-Abilities Team, Westchase Rec Center, Robinson’s Best Buddies, Wesley Memorial Church’s Homeless Outreach and Dance 4 a Chance. Inspired by her grandmother whom she initially couldn’t visit in a nursing home during the pandemic, Steinfeld earned 200 of those hours sewing facemasks for nursing homes early in the crisis.

Repeatedly named to the High Honor Roll or Principal’s Honor Roll, Steinfeld was an AP Scholar and a member of multiple honor societies. Describing Steinfeld as an exceptional volunteer with a special smile and great intelligence, Dona Smith, her supervisor at Hillsborough Parks and Recreation, wrote, Rachel Steinfeld has always been a shining star in my eyes and is one of the most well-rounded students I have known. She is bright, talented, kind, and is extremely dependable.”

Steinfeld will attend University of Florida where she will study Applied Physiology and Kinesiology.

Sarah Frank

A published author, Sarah Frank graduated from Blake High School for the Arts with a weighted GPA of 6.4 and an unweighted 4.0.

Frank completed 612 community service hours for such places as Camp Jenny, a summer camp for disadvantaged kids in Atlanta, State of Mind, a non-profit she cofounded that offers mental health resources, and Camp IDS. She earned the bulk of her hours with Simple Studies, which she started to provide free study guides and tutoring to almost 200,000 disadvantaged high schoolers.

Frank published her first book, One Chance, at age 14 and published her second, Two Secrets, in October 2020. She has also published a book of poetry and Cloudy Days, a picture book for kids with anxiety. Named the Irwin Awards’ Best Teen Author of the Year 2020, she is the recipient of many other awards and recognition for her fiction and poetry.

Luana Mitten, her editor and publisher at Bealu Books, wrote, “Sarah has impressed me with her ability to take on any task she is given, whether it be school-related or outside of school, with focus and determination. Sarah is a doer and a leader.”

Frank also was involved in student government, leading her 2021 Class Council and was elected Student Government Association President her senior year. She also founded and led Blake’s Debate Club, was a member of the school’s writing club, Writers Ink, and regularly organizes poetry readers where she also reads her work. On Sundays she teaches Hebrew to sixth graders.

Describing Frank as immensely intelligent, tenacious and generous individual, Alexander Gonzalez of Blake High School stated, “She is determined in her thirst for knowledge. Sarah always goes beyond in her effort to delve into even the most complex ideas and topics.” He added, “Sarah has never shied away from helping others.”

Frank will attend Brown University, where she will study literary arts and psychology.

Sabrina Takagishi

Sabrina Takagishi graduated from Robinson High School’s IB program with a 7.36 weighted GPA and 4.0 unweighted one.

Takagishi spent Friday nights on both the Robinson cheerleading squad, which she captained her junior and senior years, and played baritone in the marching band. She also served in Student Government, founded and led Robinson’s Women in STEM group and worked as an event planner for the school’s UNICEF club. She also was a four-year member and served as Communications Vice President of the Beth Am in Tampa Temple Youth Group. (BiTTY).

She was named an UCA All American Cheerleader. “Sabrina is, quite literally, involved in almost every aspect of student life at Robinson High School,” wrote her AP US History teacher Thomas DuSold. “Words aren’t adequate to describe just what a phenomenal young person Sabrina truly is. You actually need to meet her and see what she does on a daily basis to really get an appreciation for her.”

Takagishi completed 496 community service hours at such places as Camp Jenny, where she mentored underprivileged children in Atlanta, and Tampa General Hospital, where she crocheted baby blankets and hats for patients. She also volunteered with Tampa General Hospital, Westchase Rec Center and the Ryan Nece Student Service Program, where she worked with other select teens in area non-profit organizations. Wrote Angelique McCormick of Tampa General Hospital, “Ms. Takagishi is one of our top five teen volunteers of all time. Her leadership and hard work were evident in every service hour she provided to the hospital. Some students volunteer to complete a requirement. For Ms. Takagishi, she embraced the real joy of helping others and was an extremely dedicated and reliable teen volunteer.”

An AP Scholar with Honor, she was a member of the National Honors Society, Mu Alpha Theta and multiple other honors societies.

Takagishi will attend the University of Notre Dame, where she will study biochemistry on a pre-med track.

Shrisha Saravana

Shrisha Saravana graduated from Berkeley Prep with a 3.95 unweighted GPA.

A dedicated member of Berkeley’s Debate Team, Saravana’s speech and debate skills resulted in multiple awards and top ten finishes in speech and debate competitions across the country. She also participated in organizing and attending protests with the school’s Youth Progressive Policy Group and served as Berkeley’s organizer and recruiter for March for Our Lives. A gifted writer, Saravana participated throughout high school in producing the Berkeley Fanfare literary magazine, serving as its Fiction and Arts Director. Participating in TiE Youth Entrepreneurs her Junior year, she created a co-parenting app and advanced to global competition, where she won Best Pitch in her division.

Describing Saravana as a caring and compassionate person with a contagious attitude, Dr. Kevin Kuswa, Berkeley’s Director of Debate, added, “Now, as a nationally-ranked policy debater (she in her partner are currently in the top 40 two-person policy teams in the country), the types of questions pursued in her research and the commitment she has to issues of social justice and policy reform, combine to make Shrisha Saravana an emerging scholar and critical intellectual who is bound to succeed.”

A participant in a two-month foreign exchange program with James Allen Girls School in London, Saravana also worked as an assistant to National Geographic Explorer, mentoring girls to increase female participation in STEM fields.

Saravana completed her 364 hours of community service at such places as Grace Girls Home, Girl Reports, Berkeley Academy tutoring and Roland Park School. For Grace Girls Home, Saravana served as National Curriculum Director to train tutors to teach English and technology skills to girls in the Sri Lankan home. Similarly, during her internship with Girl Reports, she developed digital curriculum modules for nomadic, underprivileged girls in Nepal and produced a digital magazine with their stories.

A National Merit Commended Scholar, Saravana won the Hollins University Creative Writing Award and a Berkeley Scholastic Gold Key in Writing. Describing her as intellectually precocious, inquisitive, independent and principled, her Honors English teacher, Carlo T. DiNota wrote, “Her oral commentary during class is very advanced (She can easily summarize a major thesis of a philosopher that most of the class has not yet heard of), and her delivery is mellifluous. She works hard at formulating original ideas and she is never afraid to respectfully challenge an assumption and take a stand.”

Saravana will attend University of Florida in the fall.

Sara Matulis

A talented athlete and dedicated scientist, Sarah Matulis graduated Berkeley Prep with a 4.0 unweighted GPA.

Matulis ran track and field and played soccer her two years (she was named soccer captain her senior year and named to the state’s all-star team). She also played JV volleyball her junior year. Her athletic career, however, was dramatically affected by a terrible ACL tear early in her high school career. Combined with her sister’s suffering a similar injury, the experiences greatly shaped the scientist she became.

Matulis also served as a school prefect, writing center tutor and Berkeley Guide.

Motivated by her love of athletics and science, Matulis was a member of the Berkeley Health Sciences Institute, which prepares students for medical school and medical internships. She served as leaders of an ACL Research project, interviewing young athletes to produce a scientific review paper and informational video aimed at reducing ACL tears.

Describing her as conscientious, dedicated student always willing to embrace a challenge, her college counselor Allyson Diljohn wrote, “Sara is always actively immersing herself in everything she does.” She added, “She exudes joy in the educational process.”

Matulis completed 260 community service hours at such places as the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Berkeley Academy, The Dancing Goat and local camps and daycare centers.

Named an AP Scholar, Matulis was a member of multiple honor societies and was repeatedly named to Berkeley’s Headmaster’s List. She received the school’s Exemplary Community Service Recognition as a freshman and Outstanding Community Service Recognition as a senior. She also won Berkeley’s American Government and Economics Book Award junior year.

Describing Matulis as tough-minded and determined young woman who turned disappointment into a desire to help others, her AP Biology teacher Martha S. DeWeese, wrote, “Sara Matulis is a positive role model. She has a strong moral compass [and] her work ethic is exemplary.”

In the fall, Matulis will be studying biomedical engineering at University of Florida.

Congratulations to all our 2021 WOW Sylvester Scholars!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher; Cover Photo by James Broome Photography

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