Students Celebrate Limitless Opportunities at Academy at the Lakes

Spring is always a bittersweet time for graduating seniors across Tampa Bay. As the school year ends, parents and faculty look on proudly as students celebrate the next step on their journey. Every acceptance letter opened or new college sweatshirt worn is another step as students prepare to transition to colleges and universities across the country.

A college acceptance letter is the culmination of years of hard work. For students at Academy at the Lakes, a private school in Land O’ Lakes, that journey does not start in high school; it begins when they first walk onto campus, which for some students was 14 or 15 years ago. According to Mark Heller, Head of School at Academy at the Lakes, teaching “soft skills” should begin as early as possible. “We want our students to feel empowered and confident so that when they leave our campus, they have the skills to succeed academically, professionally, and socially.”

While academic skills remain a crucial component of a child’s education, Heller believes that a focus on relationship building, effective communication, and public speaking provide students with a margin of difference that prepares them for what comes after graduation. “When Academy alumni come back to visit campus, I love to hear their feedback. Almost all tell me how their writing skills and their ability to comfortably communicate with faculty and peers have helped them stand out on their college campus. Hearing them remark, ‘Mr. Heller, everything Academy taught us really was true!’ always earns some good-hearted laughter among the faculty.” Starting in Lower Division, Academy faculty work to introduce students to high-level writing tasks and encourage creative thinking. Over the years, students are presented with opportunities to dive into great literature and avenues to explore art and science, including environmental science and robotics. They’re also encouraged to pursue the AP level in every academic subject. “One of the major advantages of a small teacher-to-student ratio is that faculty can work hard to meet each student’s needs and build long-lasting relationships with Academy students and families,” says Heller.

From Here, Our Students Go Everywhere!

Class of 2021 College Matriculation

Vanessa Nicole Alexander

Brown University

Jacob Thomas Ayoub

Boston College

Madeleine Kate Bain

Belmont University

Josiah Jared Bayona


Haven Malina Blinder

Florida Southern College

Samson William Brend

University of South Florida

Jalen Deshawun-Demar Brown


Alexander Dean Carmichael

Upper Iowa University

Ava Caroline Caudle

Trinity College

Ethan Victor Cisler

Purdue University

Dwight Roy Downing

Florida Gulf Coast University

Tikiri Manohari Ekanayake

University of Florida

Hannah Elisabeth Fowler

Florida Gulf Coast University

Yue Gao

Boston University

Rori Kathrine Gerstner

Nova Southeastern University

Nicole Marie Gilleland

Florida State University

Hudson Robert Griffith

University of Florida

Emily Ann Halfpenny

Eckerd College

Kathryn Nicole Johnson

Saint Leo University

Behroze Khalil

University of South Florida

Adrian Christopher Leverette

Luther College

Daniel Richard Messineo

Florida State University

Zoë Arianna Moore

Howard University

Taimoor Nawaz

University of Florida

Zainab Nawaz

University of Florida

Tia Thanh Nguyen

University of South Florida

Tayshawn Qareeb Pendleton

LaGrange College

Sean Alexander Saccomanno

Saint Norbert College

Seth Angel Sanchez

Lipscomb University

Summer Lynn Senior

University of South Florida

Zelin Shen

Virginia Polytechnic Institute

McKenna Allyn Smith

Duke University

Jeslyn Sophia Socorro

University of Tampa

Jacob David Syversen

US Merchant Marine Academy

Jack Brian Teeter

Eckerd College

Sarah Anne Witt

Florida Atlantic University

Joseph Caleb Yann

Florida Gulf Coast University

Isabella Simone Yee

Florida State University

Daria Igorevna Yurchenko

University of Central Florida

Adam Hazrat Zarak

University of Central Florida

Shuo Zeng

New York University