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Taylor’s Journal: Day Three
The Envelope, Please

| June 16, 2010

Taylor Tofal

Taylor Tofal, Flagler Palm Coast High School’s salutatorian, is part of Teacher Diane Tomko’s squad representing the school and the county at the annual international competition of the Future Problem Solvers, held this year at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse from June 9-13. Taylor is contributing a journal of the competition as it unfolds. Read her first installment here, and her second here.

Saturday-Sunday, June 12-13

After days of competition and hard work, our group had mixed feelings as we tried to drag ourselves out of bed early Sunday morning for the Future Problem Solving Program International Award Ceremony.  Saturday had been a day to relax; Community Problem Solving displays were taken down, and many of us walked around the town of Lacrosse until Saturday night, when a dance was held for all Future Problem Solving participants.

The awards ceremony began at 9 a.m. with a slideshow of music and pictures from the competition.  Directly afterward, the presentation of awards began, and many of us settled in to wait impatiently until our categories were called.  Flagler Palm Coast High did not have any participants in the adult writing or scenario categories, which were the first to receive awards, and our presentation of our action plan, another early award, had not moved on to final rounds.  The first student awarded from FPC was Brandon Smith; as one of two alternate writers assigned to the Future Problem Solving booklet writing team that had advanced to Internationals, he wrote an alternate booklet with three people from different areas of the world.  His alternate writing team placed first in the Senior Alternate Booklet Competition.

Next, Community Problem Solving teams waited anxiously as the announcers moved from Junior to Middle to, finally, Senior division awards, where all the FPC teams were participating.  The Cookbook Project, my individual project, received first place in the Senior Individual category.  The project Cents and Sensibility, made up of Juan Flores, Brittany Eggum, and Wesley Adams, received second place in their category of Education; Project BOOST (Battling Obesity One Student at a Time), of Kayla Groth, Parin Majewski, Mia Pagliaricci, Taylor Tofal, and Angel Selvey (who did not attend International Conference), received fourth in the same category.

In the Social and Political category, Brandon Smith, Cullen Cino, Cameron Jacobs, Vincent Scerbo, Michael Scerbo, and Ryan McDermott received second place for their project, The Faces of Autism.  The Faces of Autism also received the E. Paul Torrance Beyonder Award, an honor awarded to only one Community Problem Solving team at Internationals each year.  E. Paul Torrance was the founder of Future Problem Solving; his award is given for a project that goes “above and beyond” what is expected of their dedication and passion, so much so that it cannot be judged by score alone.

Finally, it came time to announce the winners of the Future Problem Solving booklet writing competition, the largest component at Internationals.  Our writing team, made up of Vincent Scerbo, Clay Hausen, Emerick Larkin, and myself, watched with apprehension as ten teams were called up to the stage in both Junior and Middle divisions and then given their ranking and consequent awards.

Then it was our turn; the team was just hoping to make it up to the stage, to score within the top ten of the 57 competing teams, but we were unsure we would do even that.  However, we were called up, and we stood nervously on the stage as tenth place was called, and then ninth.  After fifth placed was named and our team still stood on the stage without having been called, we began to think there had been some mistake.  Each time a place had been called that wasn’t our team, we would turn to each other and stare in utter amazement.  At last, fourth place was called and we still remained, with the growing realization we had made it into the top three.

As we heard our team called as the third place winners, our giddiness erupted and we accepted our trophy with matching huge smiles, the first team in FPC history to have placed in booklet writing at Internationals.  The top two teams are from Singapore and New Zealand, making us, as Emerick proclaims, “the best writing team in the Western Hemisphere”.  Our pictures are taken and our coaches hug us happily, and all the while our group of FPC competitors stands and grins, gleeful and victorious, repeating over and over a single phrase: we did it.

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