Polk State Lakeland Collegiate senior wins statewide Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

High school and college students often have plenty of responsibilities to juggle. For the next two years, Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School senior Jasmyn Cabral won’t have to worry about how to pay for college.

Cabral, 17, was one of two high school winners from across the state of this year’s Florida Hispanic Heritage Month Essay Contest. She’ll receive a two-year Florida College Plan Scholarship, which will cover all tuition and fees, and a $100 gift card for supplies. The contest is funded by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation and sponsored by Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis.

Cabral, a first-generation American and college student, was presented with the award on Tuesday in Tallahassee. She had the opportunity to meet Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz – the subject of her essay.

“He noticed me from across the room,” Cabral said of Diaz. “He wanted to meet the person who wrote about him. He said he hung my essay up in his office. It was really cool.”

Participants at the high school level were tasked with choosing a Hispanic American from Florida and writing about their contributions to freedom. Cabral wrote the 524-word essay in early September but didn’t know that she had won until this past weekend. She was given transportation to Tallahassee to be recognized.

“The works that Diaz has accomplished in his lifetime are enough to fuel a new generation of students to follow in his footsteps,” Cabral wrote. “His acts of honor, dedication, and authority have especially proven to every Hispanic-American that the success of one’s futures is in one’s hands.”

Cabral said she was inspired by Diaz’s story. He began his professional career as a teacher and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, then to the Florida Senate, and ultimately selected by DeSantis to head the Florida Department of Education.

“Education is really important to me,” Cabral explained. “Education is really the only way to success. I applied to Collegiate because I knew it was a great way to ahead in my college career.”

With parents from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, Cabral wants to become a bilingual speech pathologist. She took speech therapy herself for six years and is a testament to the difference it can make. Cabral is considering Florida State University and the University of Florida as possible destinations to further her education.

Cabral began her high school career at Lake Gibson High School before transitioning to Polk State Lakeland Collegiate as a junior. Polk State’s three collegiate high schools provide students with a genuine college experience and the opportunity to graduate with their diploma and Associate in Arts degree at no cost to them.

“Collegiate has been very helpful in my academic journey,” Cabral noted. “Since it’s a small school, I’ve been able to get the personal support that you can’t find at a regular high school. The opportunity has been amazing.”