Viera High’s Gabrielski celebrated graduation in a different way


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Viera High's Alex Gabrielski, wears her graduation cap while at the 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles.

photo courtesy of Jana Gabrielski

On the day when her Viera High classmates were walking across the stage at Hawk Stadium as part of their graduation ceremony, Alex Gabrielski was more than 2,500 miles away, walking across a different kind of stage.

Wearing her Viera High graduation cap for the whole world to see.

Gabrielski was in Los Angeles for the 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), an event that attracted 1,778 students from more than 70 countries.

While her friends were texting her about what was going on at the Viera High graduation, Gabrielski was accepting her third-place prize in the Earth and Environmental Sciences category for a project she has been working on for the past six years.

“The awards ceremony was the same day as my graduation ceremony, so I had to choose — should I fly back early? Or should I stay there?” Gabrielski said. “I decided to stay there because you only get to experience something like that once.”

Gabrielski’s project, titled “Increasing the Sustainability of a Heterotrophic Algae Biomass Production System” has been something she has been working on since seventh grade.

Viera High graduate Alex Gabrielski will attend Stetson University in the fall. | PHOTO COURTESY OF JANA GABRIELSKI“I worked with algae and trying to improve algae growth so it can then be used as bio-fuel,” she said. “And this year, I grew algae that purified waste water and then also could be used for bio fuel.”

While creating algae biofuel has been a long-term project for Gabrielski, it’s hardly the only one she has ever worked on.

In fact, this year’s ISEF event was the seventh international science competition she has been to and the 36th science fair she has attended at various levels.

She’s been interested in science and environmentally conscious most of her life.

“I think in kindergarten, I actually did a project on slime and how bouncy and stretchy different types of slime are,” Gabrielski laughed.

As much fun as she has had doing science fair competitions throughout her life, those days have now ended.

“This is my first summer where I’m not trying to rush and get my project together for next year, but it’s kind of sad that I don’t get to do that again,” she said. “I’m going to miss those people and seeing them … I’ve made friends from all over (the world).”

She will be attending Stetson University in the fall.

 “Right now, I’m going into health sciences and I want to eventually go to med school and kind of see what I want to do from there after that,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gabrielski has a high school graduation story nobody else in her class got to experience.

After all, who can say they walked across the stage in front of people from more than 70 countries?

“I felt like it was worth it. I got third place,” Gabrielski said. “Walking on stage in front of all of those kids … it was fun because I wore my graduation cap. The world congratulated me on graduating. That was a really cool thing.”