LEELA P. ‘26

MIDDLE SCHOOL SCHOLAR

Middle School girl looking in biology class using ipad

Meet Leela

Leela has always been a hard worker who puts her all into everything she attempts, starting with her very first test at Tampa Prep:  the entrance exam. “I took [the Tampa Prep entrance exam] toward the beginning of fifth grade,” Leela remembers, “and it was hard. But I learned that working hard pays off because I studied a lot for it, and here I am!”

Even though Leela’s first year at Tampa Prep was less than usual–with a second semester that quickly pivoted to remote learning as a global pandemic fell upon us all–it’s clear she still feels like she found her home here. 

“The coolest thing my parents have ever given me is being able to come to this school,” she says. “All the teachers are very nice. All the kids too,” she adds. “I feel so grateful that I got the chance to come here, because a lot of people can’t.”

Some of her favorite things about the campus include the middle school “hubs” which are open spaces, also called active learning environments, where students can move around and collaborate. 

Leela excels in science and math “because they just make sense,” she says. “Math is easy for me. As long as I know what I’m doing, it’s really hard to mess up. I like science, too. Right now we’re doing evolution, and it’s really cool. We’re looking at how whales evolved. They used to be on land and walk!” 

Her love of science may be hereditary since both parents are doctors; mom, a dermatologist and dad, a radiologist.

“I want to be any sort of doctor when I grow up,” she says, “partly because both my parents are doctors and they inspire me, but also because I want to help people.”

As the 2019-20 winner of the Sixth Grade Faculty Award, her aspirations are not surprising. Each year the faculty chooses one student from each grade who–in their opinion–best exemplifies the moral and intellectual ideals of the School. Leela certainly fits the bill. When asked what she worries about most right now, her response was about how she might affect others. 

“Right now I really don’t want to get sick because of my grandparents,” she says. “You really have to be careful with wearing your mask–you have to be so careful. It’s really easy to touch your face without realizing it.”

When it comes to this, she would be wise not to worry, but to take her own advice for future Terrapins: “Just try your best.”

Leela is also interested in

Science
Swimming
Ceramics
Kimmy Sanford, Tampa Prep history teacher

Mrs. Kimmy Sanford on Leela

Leela is an active participant in class and is devoted to her studies. She’s obviously super intelligent, and she’s a leader, but she’s so subtle about it. If she’s working in a group and a student is off task she’s gentle in how she redirects them. She just has this empathetic nature. I taught her Geography last year and I teach her in Civics this year. I don’t know how, but she does seem a little more aware of the world than her peers–she just picks up on things quicker. She has a sense of global citizenship. She’s curious, so she always has thought provoking questions after a lesson. You can see that she’s processing things long after the lesson is over. 

We had a simulation in Civics class where students were modeling different types of government and Leela rolled the dice and had to be the dictator. She was the kindest dictator. The object was to build the tallest tower out of paper, but she didn’t want to dictate the group on how to do it. She was required to “banish” someone to the corner of the room, and you could tell she didn’t like doing that. She just wanted to focus on her group working together to build that tower. Like I said, a subtle, empathetic leader.