Students shine at Golden Scholar awards

From left, Chase Davis of Citrus High School, nominated for Fine and Performing Arts; Rachel Ramm of Citrus High School, center, nominated for Science and Alexandra Thomasson of Lecanto High School, right, nominated for Fine and Performing Arts socialize before the 2017 Golden Citrus Scholar awards are given Tuesday at College of Central Florida in Lecanto, hosted by Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

Gwen Bittner: For the Chronicle

The most well-rounded graduating students of Citrus schools were recognized Tuesday night for their superior academic achievements and distinguished personal accomplishments.

Seniors and their supporters gathered at the College of Central Florida to celebrate outstanding high school success during the seventh annual Golden Citrus Scholar Awards.

“It’s the Academy Awards of our academic elite seniors,” Citrus County Education Foundation Director Shaunda Burdette said. “Where are the smartest kids in the world? We are honoring 26 of them right here in Citrus County.”

The students were recognized in the following categories: English Literature & Journalism, Leadership & Service, Science, Fine & Performing Arts, Mathematics & Engineering, Social Studies & Civics, World Languages & Foreign Studies, and Career/Technical.

“These people truly are the best of the best,” Rotary Area District Governor Connie Lobel said.

Members of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Clubs of Citrus County, and the Citrus County Education Foundation reviewed nominees and selected a single winner from each category as well as a Golden Heart Award and Hall of Fame winner.

 “This particular group of students is the highest group we’ve had in seven years,” Assistant Principal Mike Mullen said.

The nominees had a cumulative GPA of 4.61, average ACT score 29.7, and three of the students were nominees for the National Merit Scholarship.

“That has never happened before,” Mullen said.

Administrative Judge Patricia Thomas introduced all of the nominees and noted their impressive credentials. Former Citrus County Educator Patrick Simon announced the category winners.

“Behind the success of these tremendously talented young people are their teachers,” Simon said. “From reading the letters they wrote you can tell they were limiting the words that would have filled a couple of pages.”

Burdette and Chronicle Publisher Gerry Mulligan closed the ceremony declaring Claudia DeLeon of Crystal River High School the Golden Heart Award Winner for overcoming obstacles to succeed. Claudia moved to the district in tenth grade and in a short time became involved in LINK Crew, NHS, the calculus club, earned a UCF Top 10 Knight Award, completed 133 community service hours, participated in a veterinary internship, enrolled in dual enrollment/AP classes, and maintained a 4.1 GPA.

“There are those students who struggle when shifting to a new far away high school, not Claudia,” Burdette said.

Yumna Sami of Lecanto High School was proclaimed the Hall of Fame winner and grand champion of the evening. Yumna maintained a 4.87 weighted GPA, scored 33 on the ACT and 1510 on the SAT, enrolled in IB/AP classes, completed over 300 community service hours, was a Sunshine State Scholar nominee, AP scholar with distinction , commended National Merit Scholar, president of Medshare, Vice President of the LHS NHS chapter, and participated in numerous other clubs.

“I’m very humbled by everything,” Sami said.  “I didn’t expect to get this. My brother won the overall award a couple years ago so it has some sentimental value as well.”

“I was so honored,” Sami’s father Dr. Arif Sami said. “She’s a very down to earth person. She is focused and approaches any problem. I think that will help her in the future.

All nominees received plaques and an overall total of $10,000 in scholarships funded by local donors and the Citrus County Education Foundation.