The student news site of Oviedo High School in Oviedo, FL

Oviedo Journalism

The student news site of Oviedo High School in Oviedo, FL

Oviedo Journalism

The student news site of Oviedo High School in Oviedo, FL

Oviedo Journalism

Top 10: Caralina Denis saddles up for college

The Top Ten student plans to attend University of Florida for a degree in Zoology
Courtesy of Sandra Lines Photography
Caralina Denis leans on a wooden fence, reminiscing to their talents in “cutting”, a style of Western horseback riding. Denis has singlehandedly managed to balance both the hobby and academic worlds, while achieving tenth place in their class. It is unsurprising due to the dedication and effort they boast.

Brushing the coarse fur of a horse’s tail or bandaging a baby bird’s broken wing may seem in stark contrast with book reading, test-taking, and essay writing; but for Caralina Denis, the lines blend seamlessly together.

It is not that difficult for them to connect these varying subjects, since their intellectual abilities range so far. Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher Jessica Jenkins has nothing but great things to say about Denis, a student who earned an extraordinary grade point average of 4.6 and ranked tenth in a class of 577 students.

“Caralina also has outstanding character and endeavors to meet the highest of ethical standards. She demonstrates an intellectual and personal maturity beyond her years,” Jenkins said. “She exhibits daily in her demeanor and choices the highest qualities of civility, honesty, compassion, and integrity.”

Once placing first in the regional science fair and winning a Merit Award at the Florida State Science Fair their freshman year, Denis now plans to use their extensive knowledge to study zoology at the University of Florida. Combining Denis’ passion for strenuous academics along with love for animals has enabled Denis to hope to become a wildlife veterinarian. 

“No matter what I end up doing, I want to work with animals in the future,” Denis said. “Most often I volunteer at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, where I help rehab and treat injured birds of prey.”

However, zoology is not Denis’ only area of interest. There are many achievements tacked on to their name, including Suma Cum Laude, receiving the National Hispanic Recognition Award, and gaining a Biliteracy Seal on their diploma. However, Denis has always proven their gift in the scientific field.

According to their father, Roberto Denis, they have thrived in school. By frequently talking about Denis’ education and what they’re learning in classes, their family has developed pride in their academic and personal growth.

“Caralina is very independent and a quick learner,” R. Denis said. “That has helped her meet academic, sport, and other challenges. Some of Caralina’s hard work ethic comes from her desire to succeed.”

Jenkins expressed the initial shock of Denis’ receiving Top 10, which was not due to her belief of Denis’ incapibility in the academic achievement; rather, that her character never verbalized it.

“Oftentimes, for people in the Top 10, you know that they are striving for that. But for her, it’s more as a result of her hard work and dedication, and just the person that she is. She is very humble,” Jenkins said.

Although, Denis’ dabbling in more than academics can prove to be a time constraint. Throughout their full high school career, Denis has been incredibly involved with animals and spent their free time to know the complexity of caring for horses.

Denis quickly discovered the time and energy such creatures require. Academics mixed with personal interests and career goals makes for difficulty in time management, but Denis’ adoration for animals makes it worth it.

“I love horseback riding and horse showing — I’ve competitively shown horses for four years,” Denis said.

Denis shows horses typically once or twice a month. However, this takes time out of their weekends, hours at a time, sometimes even cutting into Fridays. Some days they may even get home by one o’clock in the morning. Although this causes Denis to miss school somewhat often, it has taught them a valuable lesson.

“Through this, however, I have learned how to overcome my fears, established a strong work ethic, and improved my leadership and sportsmanship skills,” Denis said.

Their AP U.S. History teacher even noted Denis’ steadfast dedication to both these time-consuming activities, while still remaining devoted to their studies. In reality, it did not occur to Jenkins how strenuous this careful equilibrium was to maintain.

“I did not quite realize the extent to which she had outside activities, especially with horse cutting and her job, because even though she would miss school, she never made an excuse. Her homework was always in on time,” Jenkins said.

Denis has greatly benefited from Jenkin’s aid, combining their pronounced skill and their teacher’s experience. Jenkins has given her dividend the space to grow and prosper, guiding Denis in their career path and future.  

“I got to understand her love for horse cutting, and her outside influences and her veterinary decisions. I was able to help her in class as my dividend with any of her current work or applications, and I wrote her a recommendation,” Jenkins said.

Despite the struggle of finding a balance between Denis’ academics and career goals, to pursue their passion for animal care, Denis can regularly be found volunteering and caring for injured wildlife. The devotion and time spent exercising Denis’ love for animals will translate to their zoologist career in the future.

Not to mention, Denis’ academic life is another great contributor towards their knowledge and understanding, which is directly intertwined with their personal interests.

According to Denis, this allows for one to benefit the other; their school clubs, like Beta Club and the National Honor Society, “give me the opportunity to give back to and help the community, and allows me to explore different fields by volunteering.”

Denis considers their numerous extracurriculars to have shaped them into a well-rounded individual. Having knowledge in several different fields allows Denis to apply it to new situations. 

“Caralina has thrived in [animal] care since she was a little girl,” R. Denis said. “Her interest is a big part of her, and her compassion and empathy for animals will help make her an amazing zoologist.”

Jenkins perfectly summarizes this phenomenon. Denis’ balance between a considerate personality and pursuit of knowledge will allow them to earnestly pursue the highest standard.

“She shows on a regular basis that something that she is passionate about is not just a passing interest. It is something that she has worked toward and has certainly proven herself academically more than capable of meeting that,” Jenkins said.

Applying Denis’ expertise in their academics toward their interest in pursuing zoology has transformed their future career opportunities. With awards won in science, time volunteered caring for animals, achieving a biliteracy diploma,  and ability to conquer whatever comes their way, it’s fitting for Denis’ success to continue to excel in their future occupation.

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