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FPC & Matanzas Students Collect the Most Awards in World Competition’s 36 Years

| June 15, 2010

The faces of victory: Flagler Palm Coast High School's Community Problem Solvers swept awards in all major categories at the 2010 international competition, including the top award. (Photo: Diane Tomko)

It really wasn’t a matter of whether they would win, but how much.

Flagler Palm Coast High School’s Future Problem Solvers had already made history before heading to the 2010 international competition at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, held through Sunday: three teams had qualified, the most of any school in the 36-year history of the competition, in addition to Taylor Tofal, a qualifier in the individual writing competition as well as in one of the teams. (Tofal was also FlaglerLive’s correspondent at the competition.)

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By the time they were done, the teams and Tofal had collected more awards — including three top awards — than any school (or state) had managed in the history of the competition. Among those was the competition’s highest honor: the E. Paul Torrance Beyonder Award, which is not necessarily awarded every year. A team or an individual must be beyond exceptional to earn it (hence the “Beyonder” in the award’s name).

FPC’s “The Faces of Autism” team was just that: beyond exceptional. The team included Brandon Smith, Ryan McDermott, Cullen Cino, Cameron Jacobs (Matanzas High), Vincent Scerbo and Michael Scerbo. They received a standing ovation from students worldwide for their passionate work with autism awareness. The project included a documentary and pragmatic ways for students and businesses to better understand autism and enable people with autism to function normally within their means. “The big part for me was being able to empower people with autism,” Vincent Scerbo had said before going to Wisconsin. Two of his cousins, who live in New Jersey, have autism.

Tofal won first place in the individual category for her “Cookbook Project,” designed to bring awareness to hunger in the world. Tofal was also part of the team that won third place in the global issues team-writing competition, which wrote on living green. That team consisted of Tofal, Vincent Scerbo, Clay Hausen and Emerick Larkin.

First place in the alternate writing competition went to Brandon Smith.

Second place for Community Problem Solving went to the “Cents and Sensibility” team, which had written and illustrated a book for children, among other educational tools, to explain the basics of personal finance to elementary age students. That team consisted of Wesley Adams, Brittany Eggum and Juan Flores.

And fourth place went to Project Boost, which consisted of Parin Majewski, Kayla Groth, Mia Pagliaricci and Taylor Tofal.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” That’s a quote from Margaret Mead, the great anthropologist–and the quote Tomko chose to sum up her feelings about her group of Problem Solvers.

“Community Problem Solving teams showed the world what service learning through the creative problem solving process is all about as they gleaned more honors than any other school, state or country,” Tomko said. “The cultural exchange for all the participants was amazing… breath-taking. Our world class students honored our school district. As their coach and mentor, I was humbled and filled with pride for them.”

The Community Problem Solvers program was founded by E. Paul Torrance, a psychologist and creativity guru, in 1974. He died in 2003. He initiated the “Beyonder Award” (before it bore his name) to describe projects that “outdistance the others so far that they are not even on the same scale.” In the organization’s wording, the award, is bestowed on a team or individual Community Problem Solvers “who have demonstrated an exceptional depth, passion, and commitment in the project that goes above and beyond what would normally be expected of student(s) in the grade level division are considered for the Beyonder Award. ALL CmPS evaluators in all divisions will utilize the Beyonder rubric to determine the one Beyonder Award to be given to one Beyonder overall divisions; a Beyonder does not have to be awarded each year.”

In 2010, it belongs to Florida and Flagler Palm Coast High School’s A-team. The A, in this case, stands for autism.

6 Responses for “FPC & Matanzas Students Collect the Most Awards in World Competition’s 36 Years”

  1. Jim Guines says:

    Awards like these are far better than FCAT scores which are very late this year to assess the quality of education that young people are receiving in Flagler County schools. Thanks also must be given to Mrs. Diane Tomko. If the system had merit pay it would not be enough to reward her for her excellent and hard work with the students.

  2. jean scerbo says:

    OH YEAH!!!!!!! CONGRATS TO ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Linda Bellapianta says:

    Your accomplishments far exceed many! Flagler county and the State of Florida are very proud of each and every one of you! Congrats and Thank you.

  4. Kathy McDermott says:

    I was fortunate enough to have been a chaperone on this trip These kids are a absolutly outstanding well mannered group of young adults and I witnessed first hand all the hard work, thought and passion they put into their Projects as well as in their writing team booklets. I am so proud and excited for all these students and appreciate all the time and effort Diane Tomko takes to help make dreams like this a reality for many.
    Congratulations!!! I’m so happy that I was there to share in your joy!

  5. Ana says:

    Many congrats to all! I was privileged enough to be involved in Future and Community Problem Solving under Mrs. Tomko’s passionate lead. She is truly an inspiration. Best teacher I have ever had. I hope to be like her when I become an educator.

  6. AWESOME! It was a pleasure to be on stage at IC 2010 with so many deserving students – and especially to shake the hands of the Flagler Palm Coast students who work so hard to make a difference. Congrats! Keep on problem solving!

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