District Recognizes Sunshine State Scholars

District Recognizes Sunshine State Scholars

Each of Florida’s school districts selects their top 11th grade students in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) to represent their district as the Sunshine State Scholar. Each scholar, along with their parents, will travel to Orlando for an extraordinary two-day program designed to bring together scholars from around the state, connect them with employers that specialize in the STEM fields, and create a networking opportunity between the scholars and schools from Florida’s College and State University System. This year’s program will bring 103 high school STEM scholars together to conduct a “think tank” on tough Florida challenges.

The School Sunshine State Scholar School winners were recognized at the January 13th School Board meeting:

Baker School’s Sunshine State Scholars winner is Katherine Strom.

Katherine is enrolled in the STEM club and BETA club. She currently is a member of the Baker Band Color guard and the weightlifting team. During her life, she hopes to become an aerospace engineer and work with NASA and help design satellites and other space crafts for the exploration of space. Strom has maintained a 4.0 or higher GPA throughout her school years and has considered attending Georgia Institute of Technology.

Choctawhatchee High School’s Sunshine State Scholar winner is Leah Price.

Leah participates in the IB Program. She is first chair clarinetist of the Choctawhatchee High School symphonic band, a section leader of the Choctawhatchee Style Marchers, a piano player in the jazz band, and is currently president of the Spanish Honor and Music Honor clubs. In the past, she has also been president of the Freshman Class, Vice President of the Beta Club, and Spirit Coordinator of the Spanish Honor club. On clarinet, she has been selected to the Florida All-State band four times, to the Okaloosa All-County band five times and has also received several superiors at Solo & Ensemble over the past five years. Currently, she is a member of the National Honor Society and is involved in the Inter-Club Council. She has had guidance from her teachers, band directors, music teachers, and family members, and although she is still exploring her opportunities, she is currently planning on attending Florida State University for an engineering and music double-major.

Crestview High School’s Sunshine State Scholar winner is Hayden Seymour.

Hayden is a member of the National Honor society. He also is a member of SSTRIDE and is the principal trombonist in the wind ensemble band. He spends most of his time either preparing for band-related auditions or spending time with friends. He is ecstatic to be chosen for this honor and hopes to bring a positive view upon his school. He would also like to take this time to thank his school principal, Dexter Day, his guidance counselor, Alicia Humphrey, and all his teachers that have nominated him to be a Sunshine Scholar.

Fort Walton Beach High School's Sunshine State Scholar winner is Makenzie Marez.

Makenzie has been an active yearly science fair participant since the 6th grade; winning first place every year at the Regional Science Fair since the 7 grade. She has represented Okaloosa County at the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair each year and has won various prizes including multiple top four placements. Makenzie's research focused on the development of an extremely cost­ efficient, custom orthotic that has the potential to be used as an alternative to surgery in canines with ACL tears and the effectiveness of alternative treatments on bacteria commonly found in the ear canals of canines.

Makenzie is the Vice-President/President Elect of the Fort Walton Beach High School (FWBHS) Science National Honor Society and has represented the school as a Class President and HOBY - Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership State of Florida Ambassador. She is also a multi-sport Varsity athlete lettering in both Weightlifting and Track and Field.

At FWBHS, Makenzie takes the most rigorous STEMM courses offered. She is in the 3rd year of the Biomedical Science program and has completed courses in the Engineering program and AP Statistics - earning industry certifications/college credit. She is currently taking AP Calculus, AP Psychology, AP Chemistry, AP US History, AP Language and Composition, and AICE Sociology.

Outside of FWBHS, Makenzie furthers her love of science by studying abroad. She is currently enrolled in a college environmental science course at the University of San Diego in conjunction with her recent trip to Iceland and is scheduled to travel to the Galapagos Islands in June.

Niceville High School's Sunshine State Scholar winner is David Dye.

David is a programmer on the Niceville FIRST Robotics Team. He helped create the winning robot at the Smoky Mountains regional competition in 2019, which qualified Niceville for the FIRST World Championship in Houston, Texas, where David and his teammates competed against the best robots in the world. David has recently taken a teaching role on the robotics team by mentoring new members in creating a robot to compete in local FIRST Tech Challenge competitions. He is certified in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, languages that David has used to create artificial intelligence, a mobile app for the 2019 Congressional App Challenge, fractal visualizations, and much more. David also holds a leadership position as the Head of Analysis for the NaGISA Program at Niceville, which is an international organization dedicated to mapping biodiversity along the shorelines of the world.

Niceville represents the Gulf Coast in this project, and over the past three years David has analyzed, preserved, and DNA barcoded hundreds of organisms collected from Florida shores. David loves to sail in his free time, and he works at the Fort Walton Yacht Club as a U.S. Sailing Instructor. He led Niceville to win the Goodall County Regatta as captain of the Niceville Sailing Team, and he placed third overall in the Fort Walton Summer Series. David is also a member of the Niceville High School Academic Team and president of the Niceville Chess Club.

Okaloosa County Sunshine State Scholar

Makenzie Marez, Fort Walton Beach High School, has been selected as this year’s Okaloosa County Sunshine State Scholar. David Dye from Niceville High School was named the alternate. Should Makenzie be unable to fulfill the obligations as the District Sunshine Scholar, David will attend in her place.