Whether its focusing on rigorous academics or taking part in extracurriculars and church activities, Sunlake High’s Alexis Paredes enjoys being busy.
Actually, “having so much to do” is how the 17-year-old senior thrives best.
“I like to keep moving. I know if I don’t, I’ll get bored,” she said.
It’s that self-starter mindset that earned Paredes the Pasco County School District’s 2019-2020 Outstanding Senior Award.
The annual honor is bestowed based on academic record, service, leadership, citizenship, and commitment to school and community.
Students considered for the award are nominated by the student body, principals, faculty and staff. Nominees from each of the 16 Pasco County high schools then are interviewed by a panel of Pasco County Schools district employees and community members who ultimately narrow the selection to one student to represent the school system.
Paredes marks the second Sunlake student to win the honor in as many years, joining Jillian Gordy who won the district’s 2018-2019 Outstanding Senior Award.
Paredes was humbled to win the prestigious countywide honor.
“I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t even expected to get outstanding senior for my school, much less district,” she said. “I still can’t believe that I beat the ‘best of the best.’”
Her resume, though, indicates she’s deserving.
She maintains a 4.4 weighted grade point average while taking multiple Advanced Placement classes.
She is a representative in the school’s student council, secretary of the school’s National Honor Society Chapter, and a member of a youth leadership at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, in Land O’ Lakes.
Yet, her involvement in the school’s Junior State of America (JSA) chapter is what she considers her “biggest accomplishment” and the one that makes her most proud.
The nationwide organization labels itself as a nonpartisan debate and activism club.
Paredes serves as the school’s JSA club president and also holds the title of the organization’s chapter internal affairs agent for the Southeast region, where she keeps tabs on other JSA chapter presidents throughout Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia. She summed up the role like this: “Basically, I get to contact different chapter presidents and make sure their chapters are running efficiently and giving them advice on how to run their chapter, how to structure a meeting, how to build fundraisers.”
Paredes, a JSA member since her freshman year, said the club is “something I’m really passionate about, because I’m very much for activism and fighting political apathy.”
She also noted that JSA is “a great avenue to talk about politics, to talk to kids my age that may not agree with me, but may agree with me as well, and try to see a compromise or unity.”
Along with that, Paredes is spearheading a daylong convention in January that will bring together up to 300 students from other JSA clubs throughout the Tampa Bay area, to debate such issues like gun control, capital punishment, reparations for slavery, mandatory vaccinations in public schools, merits of the Electoral College, and more.
The event’s keynote speaker is former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell.
Paredes has dreamed of organizing such a convention “since probably my sophomore year. “We’re going to have a bunch of kids come and debate…and just share in the spirit of democracy,” she said.
The Sunlake senior has other big plans ahead, too.
In the fall, she will be attending the University of Chicago on a full-ride academic scholarship. She plans to major in political science, then attend law school with hopes of someday going into politics and becoming a policymaker.
Paredes chose the out-of-state university “because it’s obviously a prestigious school, but at the same time, it’s a little more modern than Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale.”
The school’s bevy of music concerts and location in the heart of the Windy City were some other major selling points, she said.
Besides her own drive and motivation to be successful, Paredes credited her mother and grandmother as being big influences, as well as some “amazing” teachers at Sunlake.
She said the classes she’s gotten the most out of are social studies classes at Sunlake, such as AP Human Geography and U.S. History. Those types of subjects, she said, taught her “a lot of life lessons.”
She quipped: “You wouldn’t think the Compromise of 1850 would be relevant to a 17-year-old in 2019, but I found learning about history teaches me about the present as well…”
As the senior gears up for her final semester at Sunlake, she’s already looking back fondly on her many memories on campus.
The amount of school spirit that radiates among the student body and faculty stands out, in particular, she said.
“Something I’ll definitely miss is the community, like the sense of unity our school has,” Paredes said. “If you go to our football games, we’re always riled up. We’re screaming cheers. We have a great sense of community spirit.”
She added: “I feel like our clubs are pretty solid, too, so if you’re joining a club, you don’t feel like it’s useless. You feel like the kids want to be there, the sponsors want to be there.”
Published December 11, 2019