Academic Achievement and Community Service Define Top Seniors at Leon County High Schools

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Leon County’s most outstanding high school seniors were selected this month as the 152 finalists in 2020 for the 15th Anniversary 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 will next undergo an interview process culminating in the Best & Brightest Awards Ceremony, to be held May 13, 2020 at Ruby Diamond Concert Hall, at which countywide winners will be announced.

“Once again we are thrilled to honor 152 accomplished students who are truly the best and the brightest in their schools and in our community,” said Laura Rogers, Program Director of World Class Schools and coordinator of the project. “They follow in the legacy of so many young leaders and are establishing themselves as their generation of influential leaders in academics and service to others.”

The Best & Brightest Awards program, now in its fifteenth year, has recognized almost 2,000 exceptional public and private high school seniors and awarded more than $678,000 in scholarships 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 Group, Rogers Gunter Vaughn Insurance, NAI Talcor, Sperry & Associates and Young Fulford Funeral Home and Crematory.

“We are proud, long-time partners of the Best & Brightest program that offers scholarships to these exceptional Tallahassee students,” said Darryl Worrell, Envision’s CEO. “One of our driving forces at Envision Credit Union is community support through education. So, we are honored to be able to help this generation of talented young leaders in their future endeavors. The impact that they have made in their community is worthy of recognition and praise.”

On February 29, 2020, panels of select community leaders will interview the 2020 finalists on topics such as world language, technology and drama, to determine the winners of the countywide awards. This year, 152 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.

“All of these wonderful ‘Best & Brightest’ high school seniors have distinguished themselves through their significant academic achievements and dedicated, selfless service,” said Ron Sachs, Founder of the Best & Brightest Awards. “Their good works, individually and collectively, reflect a generation that is cultivating a culture and an ethic of service as a meaningful part of their lives. That upbeat reality should comfort all of us about the future in which they will lead in every key sphere of influence.”

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 eight years ago, is the Spirit of the Best & Brightest Award, presented to the Best & Brightest winner 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 15th Anniversary of The Best & Brightest Awards are:

Art: Rachel Abbott (Maclay), Ethan Bonham-Reed (SAIL), Caroline Hamon (FSUS), Essence Nobles (Godby), Marquelle Ogletree (Rickards), Julia Pagan (Chiles), Manna Robertson (Leon), Madison Wolfe (Lincoln)

Athletics: Shania Cromartie (Leon), Taylor Hall (CCS), David Keen (NFC), Mary Kelley (Lincoln), Saige Kemeny (Home School), Martin Methellus (Rickards), Talia Miller (Chiles), Keyon Norton (SAIL), A’Kyrah O’Banner (Godby), Janae Scott (FSUS), Avery Smith (Maclay)

Business: Jeremy Bayiha (Godby), Enrie Gan (Chiles), Gabriela Garcia (SAIL), Taryn Henry (Lincoln), Jake Moore (Leon), William Pfeiffer (FSUS), Conqualla Scott (Rickards), Rachael Stockel (Maclay)

Career/Technical: Dakota Davis-Jenkins (SAIL), Hannah Diehl (Leon), Victoria Garcia (FSUS), William Grant (Maclay), Kamiya Kendrick (Godby), Sarah Owen (Chiles), Colin Papania (NCF), Kenyadric Smith (FAMU DRS), Aarushi Walia (Rickards), Ariana White (SJPII), Sarah Wnuk (Lincoln)

Drama & Performing Arts: Chokwe Bennett (Godby), Mary Casteel (Maclay), Ria Chadha (Rickards), Ethan Dhanarajan (SAIL), Haven Fauble (Lincoln), John Malley (Leon), Bentley Mercer (Chiles), Katie Mulrooney (CCS)

English & Language Arts: Hailey Bauer (FSUS), Mara Chasar (SAIL), D’Aundra Coley (Lincoln), Emily Gaines (CCS), Angel Hailemariam (Leon), Julia Hernandez (Chiles), Tessa Jones (Rickards), Timothy O’Connor (SJPII), Nicole Schneggenburger (Godby), Lilly Simons (Maclay)

Journalism & Media Production: Cassidy Bonn (FSUS), Sarah Crandall (Lincoln), Jacqueline Cruz (Leon), Jaleya Henderson (Godby), Corren Mahone (Chiles), Anagha Mundrathi (Rickards), Madelyn Stout (Maclay), Alexsis Thomas (NCF), Kaylen Vincent (CCS), Cooper Wright (SAIL)

Leadership: Victor Andrew (Godby), Samia Batchelor (Leon), Sarah Bowman (NCF), Elizabeth Coats (FSUS), Jude Countryman (SAIL), Katherine Evans (SJPII), Jason Gao (Rickards), Ha-eun Kim (Lincoln), Timothy Mayfield (CCS), Kennedi Mercer (FAMU DRS), Gracie Miller (Chiles), Michelena O’Rourke (Maclay)

Mathematics: Asim Baral (Lincoln), Simon Corpuz (Maclay), Dario D’Errico (SAIL), Rayyan Darji (Rickards), Matthew Jones (Godby), Jacob Maas (NCF), Axel Maysonet (FSUS), Antonio Nunez (Leon), Abby Thompson (Chiles)

Music: Hali Alex (FSUS), Frank Carson (Maclay), Mikayla Drose (NCF), Taylor Haworth (Leon), Jacob Jackson (SAIL), Torin Keeney (Godby), Isaiah Lee (Rickards), India McCary (FAMU DRS), Carter Nelson (Lincoln), Bella Stoddart (CCS), James Wi (Chiles)

Public Speaking: Victor Clark (NCF), Madeline Feiock (Leon), Shaw Horton (CCS), Ayonna Johnson (FAMU DRS), Joey Jung (Lincoln), Madison King (Godby), Maxance Ngnepieba (Rickards), Moriah Oliff (SAIL), Jack Scott (Home School), Ansley Topchik (Chiles), Iyshwary Vigneswaran Warren (FSUS), Austin Wilbourn (Maclay)

Science & Health: Tanvi Haldiya (Rickards), Nicholas Homann (SAIL), Hannah Hosay (Maclay), Neha Iyer (Chiles), Scott Lindsey (CCS), Amaya Maxwell (FAMU DRS), Mateah McIntosh (NCF), Marisa McNulty (Lincoln), Pamela Nance (Godby), Wen-Chi Pierson (FSUS), Lily Rogers (Leon)

Social Science: Kylin Byles (Godby), Max Cannard (SJPII), Connor Couch (Chiles), Gavin Dunsby (SAIL), Bryson Gonzalez (Leon), Adelyn Hanlon (Home School), Courtney Maxwell (FSUS), Madeleine Roberts (Maclay), Apurva Srivastava (Rickards), Janecia Thomas (FAMU DRS), Rylee Vaughan (Lincoln)

Technology: Logan Chenicek (Leon), Sanjita Choudhary (Rickards), Andy Jiang (Chiles), Ayden Larson (FSUS), Katherine Lyons (Maclay), Chase Merrick (Lincoln), Georgia Piper (SAIL), Rhonda Smith (Godby), Trent Walker (SJPII)

World Languages: Keagan Barrett (Lincoln), Adriana Dorn (NCF), Emily Dudley (Maclay), Niccolo Gaviola (Godby), Emma Hanley (Rickards), Morgan Hardenburg (Leon), Kathryn Mann (Chiles), Nicholas Petty (SAIL), Ashley Sawyer (FSUS), Emma Smith (SJPII), Ashleigh Witherington (Home School)