By B.C. Manion
She just graduated from high school, but Rachel Wise already has racked up an impressive list of achievements.
Recently, she traveled to Mexico as part of a group of Lombardi Stamps Scholars from the University of Florida (UF).
Being selected as a Lombardi Scholar was a huge deal for Wise, said Julie Moore, guidance counselor at Zephyrhills High, where Wise graduated at the top of her class.
“She’s a pretty spectacular kid,” Moore said.
As a Lombardi Scholar, she will travel with professors and the other scholars each summer as an undergraduate student, funded by UF, during her four years at the university. She is one of just 11 students selected for the program this year.
During this past summer, Wise has been living with a host family in Mexico while taking classes in ecology and Spanish. She’s had the chance to visit Mayan ruins and see local crafts and masonries, while learning about Mexican culture.
Steve Van Gorden, Zephyrhills principal, said Wise has accomplished much at an early age.
“Rachel is the whole package,” Van Gorden said, who has seen the young woman excel academically while being engaged in myriad activities on the high school campus, in the community and beyond.
“I am excited to see what great things she does in the coming years,” Van Gorden said.
In an email interview from Mexico, Wise was unable to single out her most meaningful achievement to date but said she’s been changed by the opportunities she experienced while serving as the Florida 4-H Council, an organization with nearly 240,000 members.
“This role taught me so much about how to do what is right for the vast majority of people, and not just myself,” Wise wrote. “I learned about responsibility, leadership, citizenship and my own self in my role. I would never give those lessons up.”
Wise has a knack for creating consensus, said Michael Wickersheim, a volunteer 4-H advisor.
At the same time, Wickersheim said, she is “very good at speaking up for youth that might not always have a voice. She has no problems with sticking to her guns.”
Wise understands the value of getting involved in the political process, Wickersheim added.
Along those lines, she chaired the Florida 4-H Mock Legislature and co-chaired 4-H Day at the Capitol.
She also co-chaired the University of Florida Youth Development Advisory Council, which is sponsored by the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension (IFAS) at UF.
“She knows how to lead,” said Wendi Armstrong, a 4-H advisor who works for IFAS. Wise is equally adept at stepping aside and letting others take the reins, Armstrong added, who describes the 18-year-old as being personable, outgoing and caring.
“She’s a bright, articulate young lady,” Wickersheim said, adding that she wants to make a difference.
During her high school years, Wise amassed nearly 2,000 hours of community service.
Her contributions did not go unnoticed.
She received many awards and scholarships, including $1,000 from Kohl’s for her anti-bullying efforts. She co-wrote a book on the topic and made presentations to about 3,000 students to help prevent bullying.
During the course of her high school years, she was involved in numerous organizations and activities. Wise was a member of show choir, lettered in high school tennis, served on the school advisory council, served on student council and was also the editor and chief of her school newspaper, The Paw Print.
While she’s already started her college experiences, Wise credits her second-grade teacher, Cindy Fettig, for having an enormous influence on her academic success.
“She taught me how to read and never let me slack,” Wise said. “That may seem like a miniscule lesson to some people, but it always stuck with me.”
Fettig has become Wise’s friend. She was there when Wise graduated from high school and helped her celebrate by attending her party.
Wise said her parents and her siblings are her role models.
“Both of my parents have multiple master’s degrees, and yet they were both the first members of their families to graduate from college, period,” Wise noted.
She also admires the accomplishments of her brother and sister, who are now both lawyers.
Wise hasn’t settled on her career path. Trying to make that decision as an 18-year-old is daunting, she said.
“I have narrowed it down to certain areas of study,” Wise noted. “I am currently a public relations/psychology major who hopes to attend law school after undergraduate study. I know I somehow want to be involved with politics, law and writing.”
Armstrong said no matter what Wise chooses to do, it will have an element of service.
“I think she will end up helping her community,” Armstrong said. “She wants to help the public.”
Some of the awards and scholarships Rachel Wise has amassed
—University of Florida Lombardi Scholar
—Owen Gall Pasco County Educational Foundation
—Lowe’s National Scholarship
—Cargill National Community Scholarship via FFA
—AXA Life Insurance “AXA Achiever” National Scholarship
—Cumberland Farms Foundation Scholarship
—San Antonio Citizens Credit Union Scholarship
—Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Youth Mentor’s Scholarship
—Pasco County Farm Bureau Scholarship
—American Legion State Scholarship, second place
—A Faye Goodwin Scholarship-Pasco County Educational Foundation Scholarship
—Sons of the American Revolution Essay Scholarship, second place
—Florida Scholastic Press Association High School Journalist, Finalist of the Year, third place
—Bright House Youth Service
—The Law Firm for Family Law Scholarship
—Florida 4-H Foundation for State 4-H President Scholarship
—Stanley Kendrick Memorial Scholarship
—Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce Youth Scholarship
—Zephyrhills News Scholarship
—Masters & Warden’s of Florida Mason Scholarship
—VFW Essay Speech Scholarship
—Kohl’s Store & Regional Scholarship