Brevard’s Class of 2023 Top Scholars: Meet these graduating seniors

Each year, FLORIDA TODAY asks the administrators of Brevard County high schools to choose one student from each school as the “Top Scholar” from their graduating classes. We don’t set any particular criteria for the administrators to use: We ask them to simply pick the person they believe is the best all around student among their seniors.

Graduation season:About 5,000 students to graduate in Brevard with ‘Class of COVID’

Meet this year’s Top Scholars:

Astronaut High: Kalyn Rubio

Age: 17

Hometown: Titusville

GPA: 4.6 (weighted)

Top award: Jason Colloquium speaker for State of Florida Science and Engineering Fair

Up next: Florida State University, majoring in communication science and disorders

Career goal: Speech-Language Pathologist

Favorite school memory: Playing cheer, soccer and softball for Astronaut High School

Favorite item in backpack: My lunchbox

Best study tip: Study like you would be presenting the subject in class the next day so you can remember the key details

Biggest study distraction: My phone

On my “bucket list”: Travel all around the world

Bayside High: Kiley Williams

Age:  18

Hometown: Palm Bay

GPA: 4.33 (weighted)

Top award: 2nd place in the Balda Family Foundation Junior Achievement Innovation Challenge

Up next: University of South Florida to major in health science.

Career goal: I would like to be able to help individuals by teaching them about their health and I would like to do this without the use of medication which is why I am looking into chiropractic care. 

Favorite school memory: At the Alumni/Homecoming game, I was able to cheer with my best friends in my homecoming dress and my boyfriend was the mascot for that game! 

Favorite item in backpack: My colorful pens and markers

Best study tip: Staying organized and prioritizing time wisely. 

Biggest study distraction: My dogs, they are quite the attention seekers!

On my “bucket list”:   Going skydiving! 

Brevard Virtual School: Kathryn Bree

Age: 17

Hometown: Merritt Island

GPA: 4.45 weighted

Top award: Brevard Humane Society’s Richard H. Stottler, Jr. Future Leader Award

Up next: University of Central Florida with a degree in plant biology.

Career goal: Plant pathologist.

Favorite school memory: Getting coffee with my best friend after every biology class.

Favorite item in backpack: A purple pencil that says, “Stand Tall!”

Best study tip: Pick a good place to study where distractions won’t be in your way.

Biggest study distraction: My dog, Westley.

On my “bucket list”: Traveling to Cambodia.

Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High: Archi Mehta

Age: 17 years

Hometown: Rockledge

GPA: 4.6719 (weighted)

Top award: National Merit Finalist

Up next: I will be attending University of Central Florida in the fall to major in computer science.

Career goal: I hope to work in cybersecurity or AI development after earning my bachelor’s degree. 

Favorite school memory: I will never forget the pure satisfaction and ecstasy of my final marching band competition of high school when we not only won first place, but scored the highest score in our marching band’s history.

Favorite item in backpack: As a pen and stationary enthusiast, I simply cannot live without my Pentel Energel 0.5 mm black gel pen. Since 9th grade, I have relied on this trusty pen to write my notes, take tests, and maintain some uniformity throughout the chaos of high school. 

Best study tip: Write it out. No matter how much you read and reread that page in the textbook, chances are you probably won’t remember it or be able to apply it.

Biggest study distraction: “What could I be doing instead?” It’s so easy to ponder about all the fun, exciting things you could be doing instead of studying. However, the results of your focus and dedication will likely prove to be more fruitful than the sacrifice of fun you made at that moment. 

On my “bucket list”: Exploring as many natural wonders as possible, immersing myself in producing paintings and crafts, and rescuing all the animals I can.

Cocoa High’s Jaden Edgecombe

Age: 17

Hometown: (City or neighborhood where they live now, not where they were born) Merritt Island

GPA: 4.65 Weighted

Top award: Quest Bridge College Match Finalist

Up next: University of Florida; Computer Engineering

Career goal: Software Engineer

Favorite school memory: Throwback Thursday during Spirit Week

Favorite item in backpack: Laptop

Best study tip: Utilize the Pomodoro Technique to avoid burnout

Biggest study distraction: Social media

On my “bucket list”: Go skydiving

Eau Gallie High: Briana Birstok

Age: 17

Hometown: Melbourne, FL

GPA: 4.7 weighted

Top Award: Florida P.E.O. scholarship

Where are you heading next: University of Central Florida for a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering program

Career Goal: To become an aerospace (specifically astronautical engineering) engineer for SpaceX, Northrup Grumman, Blue Origin or NASA

Favorite school memory: My favorite school memory is probably from sophomore year when we had just finished AICE exams and everyone went back to the classroom and just had like a little party. I remember there was all this food people had brought in, my teacher had made us her specialty brownies, there was a movie playing, everyone was with their friends just talking and play board games. That was the first time we kind of felt normal since the whole COVID shutdown happened. It was honestly so freeing and helped us reconnect with society and enjoy socializing again.

Favorite item in backpack: My gel pens because I love color coordinating my notes and that’s probably the biggest thing that I’m proud of because I put so much effort and energy into making them beautiful, like works of art.

Best study tip: Ask questions. Lots of them. I think people are too scared to sound dumb and just stay quiet even though they can be completely lost with a topic. Never be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to regardless of how they may sound so that you can understand what you are learning and be able to apply it. Always be willing to work hard.

Biggest study distraction: To be honest, I don’t really have a distraction, it’s more when I mentally tap out and decide “Let me watch Netflix,” or “Let me FaceTime someone.”

On my “bucket list”: I want to do two international trips, the first being a tour of Europe and the second, a tour of Latin America. I really want to go to Greece, Rome, Spain, Costa Rica and Argentina to give a few examples of places I would visit in those tours. I also want to go cliff diving in a squirrel suit somewhere because I love the idea of just gliding through the air freely and it looks like a huge thrill.

Edgewood Jr./Sr. High: Abigail Shepard

Age: 17

Hometown: Indian Harbour Beach

GPA: 4.73 weighted  

Top award: National Merit Scholar

Up next: Florida Atlantic University, accepted into Schmidt College of Medicine’s BS/MD Program. Double majoring in neuroscience and mathematics with a minor in psychology

Career Goal: Neurologist

Favorite school memory: Our whole bus singing “Wheels on the Bus” on our final bus ride at the 2022 National Junior Classical League Convention

Favorite item in backpack: My TI N-spire calculator

Best study tip: Remove phone from area of study

Biggest study distraction: My phone

On my “bucket list”: See narwhals off the coast of Baffin Island (Nunavut, Canada)

Florida Prep: Shane Anthony Jainarine

Age: 18

Hometown: Providenciales, The Turks and Caicos Islands

GPA: 4.50 (weighted)

Top award: Principal’s Award

Up next: I plan to attend either the University of Miami or the University of Florida to complete a business management degree.

Career goal: To take over the family business and add to the successfulness of the already flourishing firm.

Favorite school memory: Playing four years of varsity basketball, being the captain for three of those years, and leading my teams to successful seasons.

Favorite item in backpack: My computer


Biggest study distraction: My phone or sports

On my “bucket list”: To go skydiving

Heritage High: Saira Calderon-Encarnacion

Age: 18

Hometown: Palm Bay

GPA: 4.68 weighted 

Top award: Valedictorian

Up next: Florida State University, psychology with a pre-med intent

Career goal: Dermatologist

Favorite school memory: Grad Bash!

Favorite item in backpack: iPad

Best study tip: Have a set time for when you start working, and have a cut off time as well. You don’t want to have your school life interfere with your personal life. You need time for yourself and sleep. Make sure you take breaks in between your studying. If you’re having difficulties with anything, make sure you are communicating with your teachers as early as possible.

Biggest study distraction: My phone. TikTok specifically.

On my “bucket list”: I really want to watch the Nutcracker in New York during Christmas time, and travel the world.

Holy Trinity: Kiran Shay

Age: 18

Hometown: Melbourne

GPA: 4.76 (weighted)

Top award: National Merit Finalist

Up next: Johns Hopkins University

Career goal: Medicine/Engineering 

Favorite school memory: Senior Day

Favorite item in backpack: Laptop

Best study tip: Let your phone charge in another room so you are not tempted to use it while you study (and when you are done, you have a fully charged phone).

On my “bucket list”: Skydiving out of a hot air balloon

Melbourne High: Ana Codognotto 

Age: 18

Hometown: West Melbourne

GPA: 4.2 (weighted)

Top award: Nominated Female Athlete of the Year of 2019 (In Boca Raton)

Up next: Theological Seminary in California and also get my PPL (Private Pilot License)

Career goal: Lead, empower, and encourage people to do their best at whatever they do.

Favorite school memory: Lunch time with all my friends.

Favorite item in backpack: My headphones

Best study tip: Best study tip that I have are to be intentional with everything you do at school, try and do all assignments, be organized, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Biggest study distraction: Cellphone and also my dog.

On my“bucket list”: Travel the world with my future family.

Melbourne Central Catholic: Megan Tierney

Age: 18

Hometown: Viera

GPA: 4.46 weighted

Up next: I will attend college and major in mathematics. I plan to participate in a study abroad program and research on campus.

Career goal: Lawyer or mathematician

Favorite school memory: School trip to Austria, Switzerland, France and Germany

Favorite item in backpack: Washer from my Calculus teacher, Mr. Ziarno, to help remember the Washer Method

Best study tip: Start reviewing material early and don’t be afraid to ask questions

Biggest Study Distraction: Music

On my “bucket list:” Visit every national park in the United States

Merritt Island High: Nolan Christopher Aycock 

Age: 18

Hometown: Merritt Island

GPA: 4.66 Weighted

Top Award: Valedictorian

Up next: I will be attending the Burnett Honors College at the University of Central Florida. I will major in political science and then attend law school. 

Career goal: I hope to become an attorney.

Favorite school memory: My favorite school memory was from eighth grade. Near the end of the school year, we had a party at the nearby park and did a skit reenactment of WWI. In my group, I acted as Wilhelm II. We had food, and then we played soccer, and one of the teachers even joined in! 

Favorite backpack item: I only use my backpack occasionally, as I mostly do school work from home online. Still, I always liked having my earbuds when I needed good tunes throughout the day.

Best study tip: Find something you like to do that is not too mentally taxing. Then, you can find videos that review the material you are studying and listen to them while doing the activity. Specifically, I played a truck driving simulator a few days before my AP exams while listening to review videos, and I earned fives on those exams!

Biggest study distraction: The internet is for sure my biggest distraction. I like browsing random stories, getting lost on Wikipedia, watching YouTube, and shopping. Those are great ways to waste time and not get work done.

On my “bucket list”: I have never been a thrill seeker, but I would love to travel across Europe. My biggest desire is to see the fjords in Scandinavia. I would also like to drive a NASCAR Cup Car one day, among other things.  

Odyssey Charter Jr./Sr. High: Carlos Michael Santiago

Age: 18

GPA: 4.46

Top award: President’s List (Eastern Florida State College) 3 times

Up next: Florida Institute of Technology, Associates in Air Traffic Control

Career goal: I am pursuing my dream of becoming an Air Traffic Controller.

Favorite school memory: Have the opportunity to join in on a small group discussion with a real princess from a country in West Africa about the issues in education, specifically book lights for children to read due to a lack of electricity.

Favorite item in backpack: My calculator. It’s literally the most used item and without it I’d have to do math the hard way.

Best study tip: Rosemary essential oil has properties that can help one focus while studying, helped me study for major exams.

Biggest study distraction: My golden retriever, Heidi.

Palm Bay Magnet High: Emma Risch

Age: 18

Hometown: West Melbourne

GPA: 4.3 weighted

Top award::  2023 McDonald’s All American Women’s Basketball Team

Up next:  I will be attending Notre Dame to study business/marketing and to play women’s basketball for the Fighting Irish.

Career goal:  Make it to the WNBA!

Favorite school memory: Going to Sea World on a school field trip!

Favorite item in backpack:  My iPad

Best study tip: Space out your study time and don’t cram the night before.

Biggest study distraction: My cell phone!!!

On my“bucket list”: To go on vacation to Jamaica!

Rockledge High: Brielle Perini

Age: 18 years old

Hometown: Cocoa

GPA: 4.64 weighted

Top award: Class of 2023 valedictorian

Up next: I will be attending the University of Florida, majoring in applied physiology and kinesiology.

Career goal: My dream job is to be an injury and rehabilitation specialist for a collegiate or professional sports team.

Favorite school memory: My favorite memory is when over a hundred students crammed into one classroom for a last minute study session that took place literally forty minutes before the AICE exam.

Favorite item in backpack: my mechanical pencils

Best study tip: People will always try to share their study tips with you, usually in a benevolent way.  They offer advice that they find effective, but the perfect studying method doesn’t exist, because every student is different.  As long as it’s accomplished, studying should be done in whatever way works best for you.

Biggest study distraction: THE PHONE.  If it’s time to do some real work, then it’s time for my phone to charge in the other room.

On my “bucket list:” I want to travel to Europe, specifically to England, with my mom to watch Carlos Alcaraz Garfia play tennis at the Wimbledon championships.

Satellite High: Jennifer Miller

Age: 18

Hometown: Satellite Beach

GPA: 4.6 weighted

Top Award: 2nd place in the local science fair 2 years in a row.

Up next: I will be attending the University of Florida in the fall as a physics major

Career goal: I love science, math, and helping people. I’d be interested in a career that combines these factors.

Favorite school memory: Hiding little plastic ducks all around the classrooms and watching people wonder who the “ducker” was.

Favorite item in backpack: My bag full of tiny ducks.

Best study tip: 30 minutes of focus then 5 minute break, then repeat

Biggest study distraction:  My cats always want to nap on my work.

On my bucket list: I want to travel a lot and learn a couple languages.

Space Coast Jr./Sr. High: Miya “Carly” Burton

Age: 18

Hometown: Port Saint John

GPA: 4.6 weighted

Top award: Highest GPA in my graduating class

Up next: Jacksonville University; pre-law; political science major and economics minor; then law school

Career goal: Lawyer, and then eventually, a judge.

Favorite school memory: In AP Literature when I told one of my group members that I would publicly apologize to my group if my answer was wrong, and I was right haha. Everyone had said that he should’ve known the second I offered to apologize that I was right (because I wouldn’t have offered unless I was absolutely sure.)

Favorite item in backpack: Sketchbook

Best study tip: Make flashcards, review them often, and put your phone on “Do not disturb.”

Biggest study distraction: The overwhelming urge to procrastinate.

On my “bucket list”: I would like to visit Italy and France at some point.

Titusville High: Alyssa Traina

Age: 17

Hometown: Titusville

GPA: 4.61 weighted

Top Award: Elks Most Valuable Student Award

Up next: Florida State University for information technology 

Career goal: Software development for Apple or another large tech company and eventually an executive at said company

Favorite school memory: High School volleyball my senior year because I was able to play my favorite sport for the last time with my best friends 

Favorite Item in backpack: My planner because I use it every day to keep track of all my activities and homework. An added bonus is that I get to use colored pens to make entries.

Best study tip: Set mini goals for yourself to accomplish each day and make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to rest in between to keep yourself focused and mentally healthy.

Biggest study distraction: Phones! It’s best to turn them off and keep them far away, otherwise you might catch yourself scrolling unintentionally after the first buzz you hear.

On my “bucket list”: I would like to travel the world in its entirety and see all kinds of countries, cultures, and people.

Viera High: Emma Carpenter

Age: 17

Hometown: Melbourne

GPA: 4.52 weighted

Top Award: National Merit Finalist

Up next: Still not sure which college I will be attending, but I plan onmajoring in some type of engineering

Career goal: I plan to go into engineering or science research in physics

Favorite school memory: Watching Polar Express right before winter break

Favorite item in backpack: My blue Muji pen

Best study tip: Find your weakest areas and spend the most time studying those

Biggest study distraction: Food

On my “bucket list”: Skydiving, see the northern lights, study abroad

West Shore Jr./Sr. High: Max Aronson

Age: 18

Hometown: Melbourne Beach

GPA: 4.0 (unweighted)

Top Award: Being a 4-time recipient of the 100+ Community Service Hours award

Up next: University of Virginia for environmental science

Career goal: Find a sustainable way to produce enough food to feed a growing population that saves water and reduces emissions.

Favorite school memory: Closing out my senior lacrosse season as the winningest season in West Shore Lacrosse history.

Favorite item in backpack: Pack of polar ice gum

Best study tip: Put your head down and work for an hour, then take a 10 minute break and repeat

Biggest study distraction: Listening to music

On my “bucket list”: Visit Yellowstone National Park Brevard’s Class of 2023 Top Scholars: Meet these graduating seniors

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