Local students named Sunshine State Scholar representatives

Eastside's Joyce Huang (left) and Buchholz's Katie He were named the Alachua County Public Schools' 2024 Sunshine State Scholars program representatives.
Eastside's Joyce Huang (left) and Buchholz's Katie He were named the Alachua County Public Schools' 2024 Sunshine State Scholars program representatives.
Courtesy of ACPS

Two local students were recently named the Alachua County Public Schools’ 2024 Sunshine State Scholars program representatives for their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) achievements.

Joyce Huang of Eastside High School and Katie He of Buchholz High School received recognition by the state for their excellence in STEM-related activities. The Sunshine State Scholars program recognizes juniors across the state for their STEM achievements.

Huang, who is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB program) at Eastside, maintains a 5.0 weighted grade point average and has taken multiple Advanced Placement (AP) and IB science and math courses. She’s taken a leadership role in Eastside’s High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling, the National Science Bowl team and founded the Eastside USA Biology Olympiad. Huang designed a prototype to detect muscle weakness and stimulation and she writes STEM-related articles for the Eastside newspaper. The junior also researched, illustrated and wrote a children’s book that explains the various chemical and biological processes.

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In Huang’s qualifying essay for the Sunshine State Scholars program, she discussed the underrepresentation of low-income students, women and people of color in STEM along with what she is doing and how she hopes to address this issue. That includes her work with Eastside’s Science4Kids Club, which brings hands-on science activities to students in lower-income communities.

“Ultimately, the inclusion and encouragement of underrepresented demographic groups will benefit not just members of these groups, not just America’s STEM fields, but all of American society as a whole,” Huang wrote.

He, who has earned the highest score of 5 on 10 AP math and science exams, also earned a perfect score on the AP Computer Science A Exam. She is an officer on Buchholz’s national championship math team and, in that role, has organized summer competitions and camps for elementary and middle school students. She is the vice president of the CoderGirls Club, which introduces female high school students to computer coding, and she is the Gainesville chapter head for INTEGIRLS, which hosts math competitions for middle and high school girls. He has won various STEM awards at the local, state and national level, including a first-place award in calculus in the national Mu Alpha Theta Competition. She is one of the top 40 female math competitors in Canada and the U.S. invited to the summer G2Math program to be held at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In He’s qualifying essay, she addressed the prevalent but false notion that boys are better than girls in STEM subjects and looks at what can be done to reverse gender bias in STEM fields.

“One way to increase girls’ participation in STEM is by providing them with many opportunities to engage in mathematics,” He wrote. “Building a strong foundation in math gives girls confidence in their abilities, propelling them to overcome negative gender stereotypes.”

Huang and He attended the 2024 Sunshine State Scholars program held in Orlando in May, which allowed them to network with other top STEM scholars from around Florida and connect them with STEM-related employers and representatives from the state’s colleges and universities.

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