Top Senior Sriya Patel

Meet 13 Tallahassee Magazine scholars on a mission to make a difference

Photo by Saige Roberts

They’re eager to explore the world. Most of all, they’re determined to change it.

Tallahassee Magazine’s Top Seniors for 2020 aspire to careers in law, writing, teaching, science, health care, pharmacy, therapy, diplomacy, urban planning, military service, environmentalism and veterinary medicine.

Florida High’s Nicholas Kraemer says he wants to start by learning more about the world. “I want to find solutions to complex problems and expand the extent of human scientific knowledge,” he said.

Some plan to champion women’s issues or to use an advanced degree, including in law, to help protect the most vulnerable. In response to a question about the person who inspires them the most, two named Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.

All became our Top Seniors based on nominations from 13 high schools in Tallahassee and Thomasville, Georgia. We asked a guidance counselor from each of those high schools to send us the name of a graduating senior of good character who was well rounded in academics and extracurricular activities — and who was going places, as we put it.

We then asked each Top Senior to complete a questionnaire that asked general questions including: post-graduation plans, serious questions including a local, national or global problem they’d like to solve; and light-hearted questions, including what they considered their spirit animal.

“Sometimes I’m like a bottlenose dolphin, analytical and caring, but other days I’m like a black tip shark, a little bit feisty and willing to fight till the end,” wrote Leon High’s Lily Rogers.

You’ll find some of the Top Seniors’ responses, edited for length and clarity, on the following pages, and you’ll find their full responses at

Some of our favorite responses came from our question about whether the students saw the world as a glass half empty or half full. Our group of thinkers and scientists taught us a thing or two. Wrote Madeleine Roberts of Maclay School, who listed professor as her dream job: “Technically, the glass is completely full; let’s not forget the nitrogen, oxygen and other miscellaneous gas molecules bouncing around.”

Sriya Patel – Lawton Chiles High School

Post-graduation plans: To earn a bachelor’s degree in political science with a certificate in international relations or public affairs 

Dream job: To work as a United Nations diplomat. I strive to be the one who negotiates treaties and international agreements while collecting information that could help protect millions of innocent people.

Favorite high school memory: As a member of Chiles’ Black History Board, I helped host a Culture Festival that showcased the diversity we embody and allowed students to experience cultures they’ve never encountered. 

One problem she’d like to solve: Our lack of empathy for each other. By continuing to highlight and appreciate the uniqueness of those around me, I hope to shift the perspective of those with bounded mindsets. 

Favorite person to follow on social media: Humans of New York on Instagram, which highlights the stories of thousands of random people on the streets of New York City. 

Who inspires her the most? Malala Yousafzai, from surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban at age 15 for her efforts to improve women’s education in Pakistan to becoming the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize at 17.

Categories: Top Seniors 2020