Raised in Boca Grande, taking the world by storm

September 4, 2015
By Marcy Shortuse

dumas girl
Ariane at her new home, Harvard University

 
BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Gasparilla Island has the proclivity to bring out the best in many people, residents and visitors alike. There is an endless list of people who were born and raised here who have gone on to do great things, but three students in particular this year have truly proven if you reach for the stars, you can achieve spectacular heights.
Ariane Dumas, Nick Caiazza and Grayson Wolfgang Marxuach Steur all have amazing scholastic tales to tell. While they aren’t the only amazing kids from the island, their stories are certainly worth recognizing.
Ariane has started at Harvard University this semester, after being accepted to many of the prestigious Ivy League schools she applied to “just for fun,” such as Yale. Harvard was her choice, though, and with good reason.
“I moved up to Boston the first week of August, and am living in Harvard graduate housing in Fenway, just a 10-minute walk from Harvard’s Medical School/TH Chan School of Public Health Campus, located in the Longwood Medical Area,” she said. “I chose Harvard due to the ample research opportunities. The Epidemiology, Exposure, and Risk sector of the Environmental Health department has paired with several research centers. I will be working with the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) Educational Research Center alongside Dr. Robert Herrick, specializing in Occupational Hygiene. We will be looking at how traditional exposure models are affected by human contact with chemical mixtures. Through this center, I will be fully funded, and will complete an Occupational Hygiene training program with the National Institute of Health.”
Did you get all that? Well, try to keep up.
Ariane is enrolled in 20 credit hours during the fall semester. Some of the classes she will be taking include Introduction to Statistical Methods, Epidemiological Methods I and II and Principles of Toxicology and Human Physiology.
“My favorite part of the campus is the outdoor seating area and lawn in front of the Harvard Medical School,” she said. “It is a beautiful place where students from both the Med School and School of Public Health can come together and share ideas or just relax and take a break from the whirlwind that is Harvard.”
Ariane grew up in Boca Grande and from the time she was a child she had thoughts of becoming a doctor. It wasn’t until 2006 though, when the local beaches were dredged for a renourishment project, that Ariane realized how much she loved the beauty of our natural environment … and that it takes very little to destroy the balance of nature.
That project smothered miles of coral reef with sand, and in the process destroyed a cherished underwater habitat right in Ariane’s backyard. She realized she was as much an environmentalist as she was dedicated to learning about the human body and medicine.
She attended Lemon Bay High School where she took advanced courses and was a member of the National Honor Society. She also studied for a time in Europe. Ariane graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2011 and did her undergraduate studies at LSU, studying oceanography.
During her second year of studies at LSU she elected to take a quantitative risk assessment course, which changed her line of thinking again.
The professor, a toxicologist, required all of his students to apply particular EPA standards to conduct screening and management option evaluations of the fate and transport of given chemicals in mock situations. Ariane realized that a minor in biology might be very helpful in understanding risk management and exposure, which led her to the decision to take a degree in public health.
We look forward to hearing more about Ariane’s progress at Harvard which, in fact, could very well change the world.
Nick Caiazza
Nick Caiazza

Many will remember Nick Caiazza, son of Joe and Erin. Joe was a Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy on the island for many years, and Erin homeschooled Nick. The family moved away a few years ago, but they certainly left their mark on Boca Grande residents’ memories.
To say Nick has done well in his academic career is an understatement. Now 15-years-old, Nick actually started college when he was 13, and is the youngest student to ever attend Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1852.
He has traveled (through global homeschooling) to Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Bahrain, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. When he graduated from homeschooling in 2014 at the age of 13 he received high honors from the National Society of High School Scholars and officially graduated from high school.
In January of 2014 he was accepted for admission to Westminster College.
He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Sciences (a double major) at Westminster. He is also taking calculus classes as well as discrete math, graph theory, JAVA programming, applied ethics and Spanish classes.
“In addition to my course studies, I worked with my mathematics professor, Dr. Merz, and researched minimal surface area using graph theory and multi-variable calculus to prove results,” Nick said. “I presented my work to the community and my peers, and placed third in the Undergraduate Research and Arts Symposium at Westminster this past April.”
Nick made the President’s Dean’s List for 2014-2015 (both semesters) and was named to Lambda Sigma Honor Society in 2015 where he serves on the Ritual Committee. He also is a Seekers Member, and a member of ENACTUS. He serves as a chapel staff leader for recruitment and ministry awareness, he is the sound coordinator at Seekers’ meetings and was elected by faculty to be the calculus math tutor for the 2015-2016 college school year.
When he graduates, Nick hopes to attend a masters/doctorate program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“I attend a small Christian college where almost everyone knows your name,” he said. “I have a supportive group of friends, and I like staying busy on campus doing various community service projects. I am still too young to live at the college; however, I am close enough to commute from my Pennsylvania home. I am so blessed to have this opportunity, and I love how the school challenges me each and every day.”
Grayson Wolfgang Marxuach Steur is also a phenomenal student in his own right. He and his mother, Janna Marxuach, live on the island and he attends New College of Florida, the state’s only public Honors College. He is studying biology with the eventual goal of obtaining a PhD in neuroscience.
Grayson Wolfgang Marxauch Steur
Grayson Wolfgang Marxauch Steur

What spurred his interest in that particular field? It could quite possibly be the fact he has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum with Asperger Syndrome.
“Grayson has worked very hard, and is a dedicated academic,” Janna said. “His GPA and ACT scores are very impressive, and so is his list of awards.”
He was almost five when he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Janna admits she was stunned and heartbroken at first, filled with questions about her son’s future.
After meeting other mothers whose children had been given the same diagnosis, she realized Asperger’s was not always a “disease” to fear.
“We weren’t about to stand by and let the naysayers convince us that our children were any less,” she said. “Raising a child with Asperger Syndrome has been an incredible journey. We spent our time with occupational therapists, physical therapists, special educators, physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
“Throughout this huge learning curve, there was Grayson, my glorious child. Being told that there was something ‘wrong’ didn’t fit with my view of an incredibly gifted, albeit different, child. I refused to believe the statistics that told me his chances of success were so low. I could not change him, nor did I want to, but I could help shape the public’s perceptions.”
Grayson attended Florida Southwestern Collegiate High School, a public charter school, which Janna said turned out to be a perfect fit. Grayson was able to thrive there, and was inducted into the National Honor Society. He achieved a Letter of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (only the top three percent of students in the nation can claim that), he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.574 GPA, and received the New College of Florida Presidential Scholar Award and the Florida Academic Scholar Award, which pays 95 percent of his tuition. He finished high school with an Associates of Arts degree.
He was also voted prom king, by the way.