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Camille McAvoy, 2008 Barnes Scholar, class of 2012 MIT

Camille and friend.pngI graduated from MIT June 8, 2012 with a double major Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering with a minor in biology and a concentration in biomedicine. I will be pursuing a PhD in biochemistry at Caltech. I had an amazing experience at MIT. Never in my life had I been so challenged and yet so proud of myself. The intensity of the work could sometimes be a bit overwhelming and the caliber of peers intimidating, but what kept me going through my undergraduate career was not only a genuine excitement for learning, but also the collaborative, supportive environment of MIT.

I'm truly lucky to have had all of the opportunities that the Barnes Scholarship has provided me -- an undergraduate education without debt, the chance to study abroad, and the opportunity to learn the skills and experience to succeed for a lifetime. MIT has led me to many research opportunities: building a soccer-playing robot as a freshman, studying an agesuit in the AgeLab, building a vacuum chamber in a physical chemistry lab, studying organic methodology for 2 years in the Buchwald Lab to create my undergraduate thesis, interning at Pfizer, Merck, BASF, and Biogen Idec. I have no doubt that all of my academic and research experiences will serve me well for my graduate school career. And as for the future beyond? I am not sure of that future. I am torn between academia and industry, and my future path will likely depend on my graduate school experience and what serendipitous opportunities happen to arise down the line.



 Abbey Surrena, 2010 graduate, University of Tampa 

abbey-surrena.jpg“I'll be applying (to graduate school) for Fall 2012, allowing me plenty of time to have a flawless entry and to experience a few adventures before focusing solely on my Ph.D. I want to pursue Art History and Culture of the Italian Renaissance; I have a thorough background of this period, and, as you know, I have always been fond of all things Italian. I am also searching for an internship, ideally in Florence or Rome, which would allow me to perfect my Italian.

 “If it were not for the Barnes Scholarship, and the sincere support I received – and and still do – from the entire scholarship staff, perhaps I would have never seen Italy or understood where my passions and talents lay. To this end, I will try my absolute best to do for the Barnes Scholarship all that it has done for me. A reciprocal relationship, is it not?”


 Adrienne Holland, 2004 Florida A&M University, US Air Force, law degree, Pepperdine University

adrienne-holland.jpg “In February (2009), I started prepping for my first deployment.  I left
for Iraq in April and spent about 100 days in theater. In the new year, I'm planning to apply to law school.”



 Adrian Diaz, 2009 graduate, The Ohio State University.

  adrian-diaz.jpg“I am currently working at Cummins Inc. as a senior engineer, mechanical development / design engineer, in Columbus, Indiana. …I have been given the opportunity to work in various roles in the last year and am now settling in as a full-time designer for the company. In addition, I have also been able to return to The Ohio State University to begin recruiting for the company as well, and that has been a great experience for me. (Promoted to senior engineer in June 2012)

“For me the Barnes scholarship was …my way of pursuing my ultimate goal of becoming an engineer and living a life full of things I could only dream about as a kid. What I came to learn quickly was that the Barnes Scholarship meant so much more to me than just a check to pay my tuition. I was given the opportunity to meet such amazing people …They have paved the roadway for where I am today and where I am headed in the future and for this they have, in my mind, become a part of my extended family.  

“There really are no words to accurately summarize all of the things that the Barnes Scholarship has meant to me, but I can say for a fact that without it I would have not been able to experience so many priceless events that I do not believe would have been possible without it.”

 Canaan McCaslin, Carnegie Mellon University, School of Public Policy and Management 2011
Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, 2009

canaan-mccaslin.jpg"I am currently obtaining a Master's degree in Public Policy and Management at CarnegieMellonUniversity. (He interned in the offices of Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa while completing his degree at CMU's satellite campus in Washington, DC.)

 “The Barnes Scholarship and St. Petersburg Times truly mean the world to me. Once I was chosen as a Barnes Scholar, the staff immediately took an interest in my well-being and future. They provided valuable mentorship and guidance throughout my undergraduate years at Georgetown. Their support and strong commitment played a major role in my success as a student and young adult. They were present with great advice as I made key decisions about studying abroad, graduate school options and career paths.

“They have also been very supportive beyond my time at Georgetown. I was able to secure an internship opportunity with the City of Tampa this summer because of the efforts of a St. Petersburg Times staff member. The internship that I completed with the City of Tampa's Office of Economic and Urban Development opened doors and opportunities that were unimaginable before. I strongly believe that the Barnes Scholarship is not just funding for college, but it is a life-long commitment and relationship."

Carla Baricz, 2009 Columbia University
carla_baricz.jpg“I graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Columbia University last spring (2009), with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature and the memory of some of the most challenging and rewarding years that I have had the pleasure of living.

“Studying in New York City gave me the opportunity to do things I never dreamed possible: I worked in the fiction department of The New Yorker, I translated and edited an anthology of Romanian literature that will be released by Trinity University Press this winter, I interned for a wonderful non-profit (Words Without Borders) that introduces American audiences to foreign literature, I published personal verse and scholarly work, I studied priceless manuscripts in the rare book collections of the Pierpont Morgan Library and Columbia University, I learned from world-class professors and writers, and I read more and thought more and did more than ever before. This fall (2010), I will be moving to New Haven, CT, where I will be pursuing a dual doctoral degree in English Literature and in Renaissance Studies at Yale University.  

 “The Barnes Scholarship Program made all of this possible. It taught me to look beyond the immediate future and to think about what I wanted to accomplish in life. It taught me to look at the limitations of personal circumstance and to instead see possibility. Most importantly, it taught me to believe in the importance and in the power of education. It is partly to affirm this belief in the life of the mind that I hope to one day to have the opportunity to teach and to mentor undergraduates.

 “The Barnes Program and the people who work for the St. Petersburg Times have given me the chance to do something quite extraordinary with my life, and the successes that I have had in these past few years are as much theirs as mine.”

Dyane Jean François, 2003 graduate, American University
dyane-francios.jpg“The Barnes Scholarship was a boon to my educational and professional careers. The Times not only provides financial assistance but it gives hard-working students much needed encouragement to keep looking forward and carving a path consonant with professional goals and personal values. The staff is also supportive during the university years, giving advice and recommending professionals who may guide students in their search for the right career.
“Thanks to the Barnes program, I earned two university degrees, studied abroad for a semester and a summer and became fluent in my fourth language, Spanish. I am currently working a news producer for the European Broadcasting Union (known for its annual Eurovision song contest). For my last assignment, I co-produced and coordinated coverage of the events that occurred in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince.
 “I was stationed in Havana, Cuba for a month (August 2010) to cover various events including the bi-annual meeting of Cuban lawmakers called Asamblea Nacional for our European tv clients.
 “I am currently working on a collection of short stories about the Haitian diaspora in the United States.”


Michelle Hurtado, 2004 graduate, Duke University; 2010 graduate, master's degree, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania

Hurtado pic.jpg"The Barnes Scholarship changed my life, serving as an incredible launching pad.  The application process itself was like a catharsis, helping me understand that the adversity in my life actually made me stronger to go forward and have a better life.  And with that perspective, plus the relationships, opportunities and financial support from St. Petersburg Times, I made a change in my life and attended Duke University. This foundation has since led to a fantastic career, graduate school and, most importantly, personal confidence. 

I am part of a world of business that I had never expected and leading change.  College was an amazing experience and prepared me to succeed in life, starting with my first role pricing flights for American Airlines.  Meanwhile, I took advantage of the opportunity to travel to over 70 countries and see the world.  I leveraged my success of overcoming adversity to help turn around a struggling business unit at American and develop a team of people who have grown it even further. 

This led me to go to a great business school, The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania, where I've befriended people of all types with astounding backgrounds while we learned how to be leaders in the business community.  I explored several career options and opportunities and grew in so many ways.  I was recruited to Citigroup, the world's largest bank and am now helping companies manage their money across 140 countries.  My life, surely with great things that still lie ahead, is a testament to how an opportunity can make all the difference.  My opportunity started with the St. Petersburg Times' Barnes Scholarship.  I am a strong person, but even stronger as a Barnes Scholar.  Thank you, St. Petersburg Times."


Jian Zheng, 2007 graduate, Duke University

zheng-jian.jpgAfter finishing her undergraduate education at Duke University, Jian Zheng is attending medical school at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine. When she was challenged by obstacles in life, the Barnes Scholarship helped her by investing in her pursuit of higher education. Inspired by Barnes Scholarship’s gift, Jian wants to give back to her community.

Outside of her medical studies, she has been a student leader for Health Disparities Scholarly Concentration at USF, the president of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association at USF, the co-founder and co-chair of Team HBV Collegiate Chapters at 16 U.S. universities. She has volunteered at Bridge Healthcare Free Clinic, Suncoast Hospice, and the Hillsborough County Health Department Epidemiology Program. Through Florida AHEC, she also helped treat patients at the I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless.

During medical school, Jian was awarded the Sanford A. Mullen, M.D. Award for Outstanding Community Service by the Florida Medical Association, the Mark Orr Foreign Affairs Fellowship by the Tampa Bay Area Committee on Foreign Relations, a Commendation for Clinical Excellence by USF clinical preceptors, and nomination into Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society by the chapter faculty.  As a fourth-year medical student, Jian is preparing for a residency in general surgery. She looks forward to an exciting career in general surgery and an opportunity to care for patients during their times of considerable fears and hopes.

Joshua Reed, 2008 graduate, University of Rochester

 “I'm living the dream at the core of the grassroots art scene here in Rochester. I've been taking my degree experience in sociology and music into New York City, traveling all over the East Coast here and New Zealand and talking to people, learning every aspect of web programming, design, social media, event planning, etc.. and am about to launch a fundraiser to support special projects for the original music scene here, growing out of the Rochester Independent Music Festival that I helped build and now run.

 “There's certainly no way I would have gotten where I am without the support from all of you and the Barnes Scholarship!!”

Zorana Kojic, 2011 graduate, University of Florida

zorana-kojic.jpg After graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering and working for nine months at UF's Center for NeuroGenetics as a research assistant/lab technician, Zorana took graduate level classes in Environmental Engineering to pursue a career in that field. She is working to get her Florida license as an environmental engineer. 

 “Arriving in Pinellas County ...  as a 9-year-old, I had already faced a great deal of adversity due to effects of a civil war. Throughout my education here, I always felt I had to work harder than many students due to various issues, whether they be economics or language. The Barnes Scholarship program recognized my extra effort and … renewed and strengthened my will to pursue the subjects I was interested in without the interference of being constantly worried about what was financially feasible. It provided me with a type of security that few college freshmen have. Part of this security was the caring and understanding support of its people.

 “Being the first in my family to attend college, it was wonderful having a place to turn to for advice. Additionally, the camaraderie among scholarship recipients was wonderful. It has truly been one of the greatest experiences of my life.” 

Kuon Lo, 2004 graduate, Cornell University
2008 graduate, medicine, University of Florida

lo-kuon.jpgKuon was one of the very first Barnes Scholars in 2000. After getting his degree in Spanish and French language at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY he decided it was time to come home to sunny Florida. He got accepted into the University of Florida College of Medicine (go Gators!) where he also volunteered in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Peru.

He found his calling in primary care, and decided to specialize in Family Medicine and women's health. He is currently serving as Chief Resident at the Boston University Family Medicine Residency where he will graduate in June 2011. He is applying for fellowship in Obstetrics as the next step in his career. He would like to thank the St. Petersburg Times for being instrumental in his success, and he encourages young people to apply for this wonderful opportunity.

Magdalena Stolarczyk Stoenescu, 2005 graduate, University of Michigan
2010 graduate, master’s in architecture, UCLA

 maggie-stolarczyk.jpg“I really can't believe that about ten years ago I was sitting in your offices at the St. Petersburg Times, not yet having the faintest idea about my future! It really amazes me, the amount that has changed since that period of my life.

 “The scholarship really did change my life and opened up my horizon, as I was not even considering schools out of state due to financial reasons. Now I can not even imagine what I would be doing had I not gone to University of Michigan, and then to UCLA. The scholarship opened a huge vault of opportunities and experiences to me that were previously inaccessible, and I will be forever grateful for the changes this made in my life, providing me with the tools that enabled me to fulfill my potential.

 “I just finished my Masters of Architecture at UCLA two months ago, and have moved to New York with my husband ... I will soon begin the (very long) process of becoming a licensed architect. And then, who knows!”

Ronda Zalezny Green, 2005 graduate, Salem College
2011 graduate, master’s degree, University of Massachusetts

ronda-zelezny-green.jpg "Winning the Barnes Scholarship in 2001 literally changed the direction of my life.  I went to college in North Carolina and since then have been to nearly 25 countries around the world.  I currently work as a multicultural and youth educator in a higher education setting and previously worked as an ESL and EFL teacher in four countries on three continents.  I am in a Masters program related to the field of education and aspire to work for an international organization in the near future.

“The Barnes Scholarship opened doors and provided opportunities for me that would not have been possible otherwise.  Having the ability to attend an excellent college of my choice was the chance I needed to develop the leadership skills that have enabled me to make an impact in the lives of others!"


Sarah Plikunas, 2005 graduate, Northwestern University
2011 graduate, master's degree, Duke University

sarah-plikunas.jpg “I recently completed the my master's degree in environmental economics and policy at Duke University. I spent a summer in Chicago as an Energy Policy Intern at Natural Resources Defense Council, where I have had the opportunity to spearhead NRDC's advocacy efforts on electricity transmission development to support wind energy in the Midwest.  My master's project (is) a continuation of my efforts with NRDC on transmission policy to support renewable energy.  Post-graduation, I am considering careers in either the government or non-profit sectors.

 “I still remember the day I saw the advertisement for the Barnes Scholarship in the St. Pete Times.  I was sitting at the kitchen table with my dad and I joked that I wished someone would give me $60,000 to go to college.  My dad told me to apply.  ‘You're going to get it,’ he said with surprising confidence.  I told him that he was nuts, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try.  I also remember the night (I learned) I was a recipient.  I was thrilled and in shock and my dad said, ‘I told you so.’

 “I feel incredibly honored and lucky to have received the support – both financial and moral – of the Times Fund. Graduate school was a big investment and wouldn't have been possible if I had substantial debt as an undergraduate.  I am keenly aware every day of how many people have helped me to get where I am today, and I look forward to the day when I can give back and help someone pursue their dreams.”

Wanyda Jean-Baptiste, 2006 graduate, University of Florida

wanyda-baptiste.jpg “I am working at a small MEP/FP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection) firm in Tallahassee called Pinnacle Engineering Group, PA. This is the company that I've been with since I graduated college. I started working here January 2007. Without the schooling I received at UF, I would not have a job in this field.

 “The work that I did in thermodynamics, heat transfer, and the HVAC classes that I took prepared me for the work that I do now. I have also been able to do some volunteer work at the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn, NY as a result of the education and experience I received at UF (and experience that I've acquired in my job since graduating). I hope to do more volunteer work in the future. The volunteer work I did was similar to what I do in my job.

 “I am always grateful for the opportunity you all gave me. That is a big reason why I was able to go and do volunteer work in NY in July. I worked in heating, ventilating, and AC while I was there, and that would not have been possible if I had not been able to go to school. Thank you so much for all of your help and encouragement.”

Zachary Taylor, 2010 graduate, University of California-Berkeley
2011 graduate, London School of Economics

 zac-photo-oct-2010.jpg“I write on a chilly and rainy evening from London, my new residence, to let you know that I've taken up a place at the London School of Economics for graduate school, furthering my studies in City Planning. I finished up at UC Berkeley … a testament in no small part to the unbelievable gift that you and the St. Petersburg Times have offered me. The exceptionally high levels of financial and personal support you offered, particularly at the end when things got quite tight for me, have touched me in more ways than I find possible to commit to email.

 “With the help of the Times, I was able to graduate a year early … with a BA (Highest Honors) in Urban Studies and a minor in Global Poverty & Practice …This summer I was able to get a job at a policy think tank doing work for the Obama Administration and, for the same employer, teaching a course on climate change and city design to a cohort of youth from six different countries…

 “None of this – really – would have been possible had I not been entrusted with an enormous amount of goodwill, faith and well wishes from you and the team at the Times as a much more timid 17 year old some four years ago. I hope that as I ‘grow up’ and take my ranks in the working world in the future, I can offer something to the Times in return … Please keep inspiring the youth of Tampa Bay to dream bigger!”