Leon County’s most outstanding high school seniors were selected for the 17th year as the 150 finalists in 2022 of the Best & Brightest Awards, which recognize and honor public and private school students who excel both academically and in service to school and community. The finalists from each school underwent an interview process culminating in the Best & Brightest Awards Ceremony, to be held Wednesday, May 11th, in which countywide winners will be announced.
“These 150 students exemplify what it takes to be the best and brightest in Leon County. Their dedication to service, academics, and their schools is remarkable,” said Laura Rogers, program director of World Class Schools and Coordinator of the Best & Brightest Program. “Their commitment to succeed speaks volume and they will have the opportunity to connect with other high-achieving students across Leon County in May.”
The Best & Brightest Awards program, now in its seventeenth year, has awarded more than $784,000 in scholarships to almost 2283 private and public high school seniors since its inception. The Best & Brightest Awards program is sponsored by Envision Credit Union in partnership with Leon County Schools, World Class Schools of Leon County, The Tallahassee Democrat, Sachs Media, HUB International, Leon County Government, The City of Tallahassee, Comcast, The Florida League of Cities, Sperry & Associates and Nabors Giblin & Dickerson.
“As a title sponsor of the Best & Brightest Awards program for all 17 years, it’s astounding to see year after year the accomplishments of these talented young leaders,” said Darryl Worrell, CEO of Envision Credit Union. “Envision is grateful, yet again, to have the opportunity to assist Leon County Seniors fund their dreams post high school. Their continued service to the Tallahassee area and their respective schools makes every donation to the Best & Brightest Program worth it.”
On February 26th, panels of select community leaders interviewed the finalists on topics such as public speaking, technology, and drama to determine the winners of the countywide awards. This year, the 150 finalists will be evaluated on their academic achievement, leadership, and community service. A winner, runner-up, and honorable mention recipient will be named from each category.
“Our entire community has reason for hope for the future because of the fine example of these wonderful and accomplished students,” said Ron Sachs, founder of the Best & Brightest Awards. “Their commitment to selfless service is inspiring and their academic excellence promises to vault them to leadership positions in diverse fields as they ascend to positively take over our community, state, nation, and world.”
To reach this point, finalists have demonstrated a solid record of academic achievement and expertise in one of 15 competitive categories in addition to school and community service. First-place winners in each category will receive scholarships of $1,500; runners-up will be awarded $750; and honorable mention recipients will receive $500. All other finalists will receive a $100 scholarship in recognition of their superlative accomplishments.
In addition to celebrating high school students, the Best & Brightest Awards program reaches out to younger Leon County students. The program conducts an Eighth Grade Essay Contest, and three students from across the county will win awards ranging from $100 to $500. The contest provides middle school students with much-needed positive reinforcement and helps encourage them to reflect on the importance of community involvement and academic achievement as they enter their high school careers.
Another feature of the program, first introduced ten years ago, is the Spirit of the Best & Brightest Award, presented to one of the top Best & Brightest winners who best exhibits a deep commitment to civic duty and service. That student will receive a $2,500 scholarship commemorating the late Brooks Rogers, in addition to his or her Best & Brightest scholarship award winnings.
This year’s finalists for the 2022 Best & Brightest Awards are:
Art: Sarah Caulley Soto (Maclay), Ann Nguyen (FSUS), Carmen Powell (Chiles), Darell Williams (FAMU DRS), Grace Kerwin (Leon), Maria Zhang (Lincoln), Sarah Mason (Godby), Sofia McClarnon (Rickards), Talia Buxbaum (SAIL)
Athletics: Boone Hosey (FSUS), Astred Ngnepieba (Rickards), Ayliah Chukes (Godby), Brody Miller (Lincoln), Cailin Demps (Leon), Caitlin O’Connor (SJPII), Eli Paddack (Maclay), Emma Brice (NFC), Lydia Hanlon (Home School), Maddy Kopka (SAIL), Rahul Iyer (Chiles), Suraya Wash (FAMU DRS)
Business: Anna Harrington (Home School), Avin Master (Chiles), Gracee Tyler (Godby), Kanene Nwokeji (Maclay), Kiyle Gardner (Leon), Pranav Kondapalli (Rickards), Sean Jackson (SAIL), Kira Adderley (FAMU DRS), Uzo Otuonye (Lincoln), Zikora Aliche (FSUS)
Career/Technical: Mercy Crapps (Maclay), Amayia Henry (FSUS), Breyonne Smith (Rickards), George Nessim (Lincoln), James Hollar (SAIL), Melissa Martinez-Barbosa (Godby), Naomi Somerset (Leon), Rohan Chadha (Chiles), Joshua Israel (FAMU DRS)
Drama & Performing Arts: Jarrett Johnson (FAMU DRS), Annaliese Trammel (Godby), Emma Morgan (Chiles), Alani Beauchamp (Lincoln), Lauren Vickery (SAIL), Sibley Shippen (Leon), Shelby Watson (Maclay), Sydney Sherry (FSUS), Vedant Patel (Rickards)
English & Language Arts: Alex Gandy (Godby), Amelia Kraemer (FSUS), Arria Haigler (Lincoln), Emma Merkhofer (Rickards), Katerina Krizner (Maclay), Lorelei Selman (SAIL), Piper Griesl (Leon), Shanice Strong (FAMU DRS), Yoonmi Hwang (Chiles)
Journalism & Media Production: Abby Hugill (Maclay), Ananda Chatterjee (Rickards), Ari Dorsey (FAMU DRS), Gabby Giles (Lincoln), JaMalachi Willis (Godby), Lily Heller (SAIL), Madelyn Aittama (FSUS), Omar Attari (Chiles), Peyton Gallant (Leon)
Leadership: Alyssa Pumariega (FSUS), Katherine Bouck (Community Christian School), Aubrianna Jackson (NFC), Britton Miller (Chiles), Colette Bell (Lincoln), Deja Haire (FAMU DRS), Ethan Leeman (Home School), Evan Marty (SAIL), Grace Dennig (Leon), Ian McFarlin (SJPII), Lehana Hairston (Godby), Prabhas Kurapati (Rickards), Ryan Daunt (Maclay)
Mathematics: Amanda Lopez (SAIL), Amyya Paden (Godby), Ben Sturgess-Watts (Leon), Dylan Epstein-Gross (Rickards), Kristen Ross (FSUS), Maddy La Pine (Maclay), Nicholas Voss (Lincoln), Sandhya Kumar (Chiles), Simon Lopez-Trujillo (SJPII)
Music: Jane Cohen (Leon), McKenzie Jackson (Maclay), Chloe Caldwell (Chiles), Casey Caulkins (Lincoln), Alyssa Witherington (Home School), Isabella Guerrero (FSUS), Ishan Vepa (Rickards), Makaylah Jackson (FAMU DRS), Alexis Howard (NFC), Iris Spoerl (SAIL), Taurique Clark (Godby)
Public Speaking: Alantus Austin (Godby), Amani Hankins (FAMU DRS), Arianna Jones (Rickards), Ariel Coleman (Lincoln), Collin Roberts (Maclay), Jacob Garrett (SAIL), Madison McNealy (Leon), Rachel Schmidtchen (Home School), Liam Hawkes (FSUS), Destiny Stewart (Chiles)
Science & Health: Nirmay Bhanderi (Maclay), Anna Becker (NFC), Connor McCord (Lincoln), Giselle Rodriguez (Godby), Jeffrey George (Rickards), Jenn Garcia (FSUS), Jordan Rackley (SAIL), Aaliyah Davis (Leon), Surabhi Kumar (Chiles)
Social Science: Kate Smith (Maclay), Alyssa Cooper (Chiles), John Miller David (Leon), Desmond Nelson (Godby), Gracye Wood (Home School), Daniel Frank (Virtual School), Jon Anzalone (Lincoln), Ramsey Shiver (NFC), Lanaija McMillan (FAMU DRS), Mackenzie Broome (FSUS), Christopher Salvador (Rickards), Rashaad Epps (SAIL)
Technology: Trevor Gross (Maclay), Janiya Richardson (Godby),: Catharine Tew (Leon), Charles Price (Chiles), Brian McNulty (Lincoln), Ashlynn Stennett (NFC), Nikko Davis (SAIL), Shreyas Kodela (Rickards), Sri Sankuratri (FSUS)
World Languages: Eli Mears (Maclay), Eric Bizimana (Godby), Nia Davis (FAMU DRS), Ishrit Gupta (Rickards), Jordan Jackson (SAIL), Katherine Cox (Home School), Mari Lopez-Marrero (FSUS), Molly Novin (Leon), Srinitha Srikanth (Chiles), Valentina Gonzalez (Lincoln)