Coed, independent, PK3-12th grade school in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Meet Caroline Gibbons

According to Caroline Gibbons, she is indecisive. But what she calls indecision may in fact be the wonderful quality of finding joy in many, disparate places. An exceptional athlete, piano virtuoso, environmental activist and world traveler, this Class of 2016 graduate may have found her true passion by accident at the 2014 Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit.

“I went with on a whim and attended a couple of environmental documentaries and talks. I met a woman who works for an organization called Ocean Doctor and became fascinated with her career path in ocean conservation. Through this connection, I realized I was really interested in ocean conservation as well as the environment in general,” says Caroline.

As early as she can remember, Caroline has loved the natural environment. “Within the last two years it’s really been developed and become more focused, but I’ve always loved the outdoors and loved nature. My family has always loved spending time outdoors; I even had my birthday party at the New England Aquarium when I was young.”

Caroline’s involvement with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council played a key role in helping her identify how she could use her passion for the ocean to make a difference. “There are 40 council members across the country,” says Caroline. “We have professional development calls each month with experts in all different fields from all over the world, we receive guidance from mentors at the Jane Goodall Institute and are able to collaborate and brainstorm with other council members on how to create positive change on a local and global scale. All of that has really helped give me focus on my passion for the environment.”

Combining a love of language and other cultures with her love of the ocean, Caroline chose to study the effects of tourism on the environment for her Global Scholars Initiative capstone project. Though the GSI projects have typically been done independently, Caroline petitioned to take on the project as a partnership with a fellow student. “I worked with Olivia Rovin (Class of 2017) and it was the first time for a GSI project working with partners. She and I saw Jane Goodall together two years ago and we had a lot of the same interests.” In another first, the GSI Board members opted to bestow the “Accepted with Distinction” label on Caroline and Olivia’s portfolio for its overall excellence.
Collaboration, making connections, and building a case for support are just a few of Caroline’s many strengths. Drawing on her connection at the Blue Ocean Film Festival, Caroline championed the creation of a trip to Cuba for Shorecrest Service Week. “Ocean Doctor already offered marine science trips for adults there, so I wanted to take advantage of their expertise and bring it here to Shorecrest.”

Knowing that she’d be in Cuba for Service Week, Caroline and Olivia decided to narrow their GSI project focus to the effects of tourism, specifically of trash, on the environment in Florida and in Cuba. Traveling to Cuba with a group of nearly 20 students, Caroline stumbled upon yet another passion for her growing list.

“I’d never been super interested in Cuba specifically. I really wanted to go there more for the environmental aspect, but after the trip I was getting all the free ebooks I could download on Cuban history! It was really an amazing experience,” says Caroline.

Travel and experiencing new cultures have played a role in shaping Caroline’s view of the world. She was born in Boston, and lived in Toronto and Singapore before moving back to Boston in her early years, then from Boston to St. Petersburg, Florida, where she’s lived since the sixth grade. In addition to Cuba, her travels, which have all had a focus on service, have taken her to Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica and Hawaii. She has also experienced different cultures here at Shorecrest by hosting French exchange students for three consecutive years.

According to French teacher Mme. Jackie Carnes, “She was a great American ‘sister’ to them. While finding interesting, fun things to do together she was always very sensitive to any feelings of homesickness or culture shock they may have had.”

Compassion is a characteristic that comes up often when talking about Caroline; she seeks out opportunities to build empathy and step in others’ shoes whenever she can. One such example is her leadership of the Live Below the Line Challenge, in which she challenged herself and her peers to eat on just $1.50 day.

“I had to prepare and plan our daily food budget. We purchased mostly beans, rice, corn and oats,” she recalls. “Thinking about just eating to survive was a huge learning experience in and of itself. There were no options to have more - to think that over a billion people live that way every day -  [but knowing] I could stop whenever I want to. Just getting people to think about that reality was enough.”

Learning for the sake of learning, even when there’s no grade like in the Below the Line Challenge, is something Caroline’s teachers find so refreshing in her. Mme. Carnes says, “She may be the only French student I can remember who never tried to get away with speaking English to me. Though a struggle at first in French 3, she always pushed herself to speak in French.”

Dr. Emerson Littlefield, her AP Language and Composition teacher recalls Caroline frequently seeking out and following up on feedback about her papers in his class. “Her diligence is absolutely beyond reproach, and her desire to really learn is genuine,” he says.

The opportunity to review papers one-on-one with Dr. Littlefield or discuss environmental issues with Mrs. Peck are things that Caroline does not take for granted about her Shorecrest experience. Those close teacher-student relationships are what she hopes to replicate in her university experience.

“I really like any teacher or class where we discuss issues and can have conversations, just because I like talking with people,” says Caroline. “I love that at Shorecrest I get to be friends with my teachers and am able to talk to them about college, random thoughts, or even the trip to Cuba. I didn’t realize at first that that was what I was looking for in a college.”

Caroline hopes to find what she is seeking at the University of San Diego. USD is one of thirty Changemaker campuses worldwide whose core values inspire students to create meaningful lives and powerful change in the world. Class sizes are capped at 40 students, the school boasts an intensive environmental sustainability initiative, and the San Diego sun shines 266 days a year.
    • Caroline bonds with local children on her Shorecrest Service Week Trips

Shorecrest Preparatory School

5101 First Street Northeast
St Petersburg, FL 33703
Phone: (727) 522-2111  |  Fax: (727) 527-4191

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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.