BRADENTON -- Two dual-enrolled State College of Florida Collegiate School students were among four SCF students -- and 128 total -- honored by the Florida Department of Education last week for academic achievement, leadership and service to the Manatee County community.
The 2016 All-Florida Academic Team members were honored Thursday in Tampa. The team competition is sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and USA Today, as well as the Florida College System Foundation, Coca-Cola, RBC and Capital City Trust Co.
SCF was represented by Katherine Brown, Karla Reyes, Jacob Johnston and Sofia Sirocchi. Johnston and Sirocchi are high school students dually enrolled in SCF's charter school. This spring, both will earn their high school diploma and an associate's degree before going onto another university.
Johnston has his eye on the
sky, literally. The 18-year-old Bradenton resident plans to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach in the fall and hopes to be a commercial pilot one day. He recently finished his first solo flight out of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
"There's a certain degree of freedom that comes along with flying," he said.
In addition to completing the necessary training and testing to receive his private pilot's license, Johnston has maintained a 3.9 grade-point average while dual enrolled at the Collegiate School and SCF. He is the fundraising officer for the Phi Theta Kappa -- an academic fraternity -- and also founded the Key Club at the collegiate school after he transferred to the charter school from Manatee High School his junior year.
Two free years of college
"With the collegiate school, you get two free years of college. I saw that opportunity and I took it," Johnston said. "It's a really accelerated program and I love it. Who turns down free college?"
Johnston was nominated for the All-Academic Team by the faculty and staff at SCF. During the ceremony, Johnston said he was in awe of those in the room with him.
"It was just a really gratifying experience sitting in there with everyone who is going to do great things in their future," he said.
Sirocchi, the other dual-enrolled collegiate school and SCF student, agreed.
"It was very astonishing. Of the 28 community colleges. 128 students were selected to receive this award," she said.
Sirocchi, a 17-year-old Sarasota resident, will graduate with a 3.9 grade-point average from SCF and plans to attend University of Florida in the fall to study biomedical engineering and eventually go on to medical school.
As part of a Phi Theta Kappa project, Sirocchi helped create "A Successful You" workshop series to educate current and potential SCF student about different resources the college offers to help student succeed.
Personally, the academic resource center has been a savior for Sirocchi, she said, and she wanted other students to know about it, too.
"SCF has a plethora of resources they offer to students," she said. "We wanted to show how the students could use them to become better students."
Sirocchi said she'll be able to translate a lot of what she's learned at SCF when she goes onto University of Florida, a much larger university than she's used to attending.
"You have to advocate for yourself," she said. "SCF has done an amazing job of teaching me that."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.