Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Meet Marco Island’s Sunshine State Scholar

Robau holds his award with Florida Public Schools Chancellor, Pam Stewart and Vice Chairman of the State Board of Education, Roberto Martinez. PHOTOS BY NATALIE STROM/COASTAL BREEZE NEWS

Robau holds his award with Florida Public Schools Chancellor, Pam Stewart and Vice Chairman of the State Board of Education, Roberto Martinez. PHOTOS BY NATALIE STROM/COASTAL BREEZE NEWS

By Natalie Strom 


Lely High School is honored to announce one of their own as a recipient of the Florida Education Foundation’s Sunshine State Scholar program. The Foundation, which recognizes “Florida’s top 11th grade students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), chooses one to two students from each school district. Alexander Robau, of Marco Island, was chosen to represent the entire county of Collier for this prestigious award.

“Alexander is part of an elite group of 80 eleventh graders, selected by their school districts as being Florida’s top students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” explains Mary Lee Kiracofe, Executive Director of the Florida Education Foundation. “The aim of the Sunshine State Scholars program is to treat Florida’s top academic talent like blue chip athletes and provide them with statewide recognition and postsecondary opportunities.”

First developed in 1997, for senior students to present their own STEM related projects, the Sunshine State Scholars award has changed over time. Today, it is junior students who receive the award based on grade performance and other criteria within the STEM related courses. Each school within a district nominates one student for the award.

In Alexander’s case, his AP Calculus teacher, Mrs. Mulder, submitted his name as an applicant. Robau, who is currently ranked number one in his class, has been taking AP courses since his freshman year. He is in the Honor Society and Top 100 Club at Lely. He also currently participates in the A-Team Challenge, a game-show like atmosphere featuring students answering questions regarding myriad subjects. With the help of five other teammates, Lely High is currently competing in the semi-finals. For the above reasons, and more, Robau was unanimously chosen among the Lely educational staff.

“All the teachers got together and agreed upon it and finally the school selected me to be the applicant,” explains Robau. “Among the Collier County schools, they selected one person to attend the awards conference in Orlando.” Obviously, it was Robau who attended the event, along with his mom, Michelle, dad, Emilio, and younger brother, Cameron.

Each student was also allowed to invite a teacher from their high school to the event. Alexander chose Don Alden, his AP Chemistry teacher. Mr. Alden was chosen because, according to Alexander, he is able to explain an extremely difficult subject, such as chemistry, in an easy, understandable format.

The Sunshine State Scholars Conference was held February 16 and 17 in Orlando. The two-day event featured guest speakers, workshops for students on financial aid and the college application process as well as an awards ceremony. Students also had a chance to learn more about further education within the state. “We introduced them to over 40 of Florida’s colleges and universities, in addition to STEM-related internship and career opportunities,” adds Kiracofe. “It is important for these students to see how much we value their accomplishments and that amazing possibilities await them right here in their home

All 80 Sunshine State Scholars pose at the awards ceremony.

All 80 Sunshine State Scholars pose at the awards ceremony.


Still in his junior year, Alexander is already looking ahead toward his future college career. He has his eye on The University of Florida, as his father graduated with an engineering degree from the school. He’s also looking at Stanford, M.I.T. and a number of other schools that specialize in subjects such as nuclear engineering, a special interest of Alexander’s.

While Robau certainly has his eyes set towards postsecondary education, he has a lot on his plate before attending college. Currently, Alexander is working towards finishing his Laureate paper and presentation to earn his Advanced Placement Laureate Diploma, taking his S.A.T.’s, competing in the A-Team, participating in jazz band, working toward his Eagle Scout status and finishing his junior year courses, many of which are AP level.

The diversified student also finds time to dabble in electronic music. With a musical background in piano and saxophone, Robau easily reads music and is now creating it. Mixing and mastering original beats and tracks, Robau has posted a number of his techno creations on YouTube under his DJ name, “Gorillaphase.”

Alexander’s mom, a teacher at Tommie Barfield Elementary, explains the method behind her son’s many accomplishments, “he’s always been a gifted student, and not in just one area but really in all areas. In music, language arts and reading with math and science probably being his strongest points, but he’s always been very well-rounded. Honestly, Alexander is very bright and capable, but he has to work for what he gets. He has to study for his tests, he has to write his papers, there’s a lot of work that he does. It’s not like it just gets handed to him.”

Echoing this statement, Alexander explains how education has played an integral role in his life. “School has always been important to me because I realize the connection between education and being successful in the future. I’ve always been pretty independent as well, even since elementary school (at Tommie Barfield) I always did my homework on my own. (Having my mom as a teacher) helps me to look at education in an important way but I think that’s also me just recognizing the importance of education.”

Regarding his award, Alexander is grateful, yet humble. “It’s a nice thing to be honored for something that you’ve worked hard for. Working hard in school and getting everything done that needs to be done, making sure you have good grades and things like that. It feels good to be honored. It feels like all my hard work has paid off.”

His achievements are certainly worthy of praise from his peers, but again, Robau is simply doing what comes natural to him. “I guess if people want to look up to me, I understand it, but I never asked for it. I just try to work hard and do what needs to be done.”

Congratulations to Marco Island’s own and Collier County’s Sunshine State Scholar, Alexander Robau.

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