Palmetto High School Junior Thomas Whiting surprised the school by winning his race for Student Council President. He ran a different type of campaign.
“The whole point of my campaign was that I wasn’t in the student council,” he says. “I’m not a popular kind of guy. People like that I wasn’t part of the popular inner circle.”
Although Whiting says he’s not considered one of the popular guys, he has been a strong member of the Palmetto community. He has been on the cross-country team for two years and he plans to run again in the fall as a senior.
Whiting is a member of the English Honor Society and the National Honor Society. He’s been on one of the History Bowl teams for the last two years.
He also started a new club that is a sub-committee of the English Honor Society.
“I started, with a friend of mine, a Philosophy Club,” he says. “We had been talking about starting a club like that where we could talk about anything. Things like time travel, or how the universe works.”
The club gives students a safe place to talk about these types of ideas. He says they have 10-15 members who attend the monthly chat sessions.
“There are plenty of situations where things become quite intense,” he says. “Topics like environmental issues. When things get too rough, we try to make it so that no person can be too loud. We don’t want any one person overshadowing anyone else. We like balance. “We don’t want anyone feeling like they can’t say what they want.”
At the last meeting, things got a tad heated because they discussed people’s right to life. But Whiting says everyone left with a smile on their face and no hard feelings.
“We are going to try and bring it to a couple of happier notes,” he says. “There’s been a lot about death.”
He and Jaclyn Levine started the club after a discussion at his home about time travel and how it might work. And why there are so many shades of green in a tree.
“Silly ideas like that,” he says. “We try to make it that this is truly a safe place for everyone. No matter how crazy or dumb their idea might be.”
Earlier in the year, they had a discussion on Westworld, a show on HBO.
“We brought in themes of what constitutes consciousness,” he says. “There are robots on the show.”
It was a passionate discussion about robots – are they good, evil – can they think.
Whiting has a wide range of interests. He’s been part of the orchestra for the past three years. He’s been the principal bass player all three years of high school.
He’s a good enough musician that he considered music magnet schools but he knew he wanted to go to Palmetto.
For college, he’s taken tours in Boston of schools like Northeastern and MIT. He’s also toured Duke, and the University of Virginia. He is interested in applying to the military academies.
He plans to major in engineering although he’s still deciding between mechanical or electrical engineering.
“It’s one of those things you can’t know for certain what you want to do when you are 17,” he says. “Young minds are always changing. The reason I’m looking at mechanical or electrical – I’ve taken an interested in robotics.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld