Though only in his first year at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, seventh-grader Chance Pittman has already made his mark.


Though only in his first year at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, seventh-grader Chance Pittman has already made his mark.



Pittman, a resident for just a year, was named the winner of a statewide essay competition earning him a 2+2 Florida Scholarship to any of Florida’s 12 state universities.



Last October, two students from Ruby Knox’s language arts class were given five days to write a 500-word essay on a former Florida governor the student believed made the greatest impact on the state.



“I was really excited to hear that I won,” said Pittman. “When I was researching governors, I wanted to look for someone that a lot of people probably wouldn’t write about.”



Pittman’s winning entry focused on the 37th Governor of Florida, Reubin Askew, who served from 1971 until 1979.



Askew is best known for being the youngest governor to ever serve two consecutive terms and was a leading proponent of racial desegregation.



The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University rated Askew as one of the top 10 governors of the 20th century.



“It’s an amazing feeling to have one of our students win the big prize,” said school Principal Jeremy Knapp.



Pittman, who enjoys cooking, playing football and jumping on his trampoline, has moved eight times in seven years, but is enjoying his first school year in Port St. Joe.



“I like it,” Pittman said. “It’s a quiet town.”



The 2+2 Florida Plan allows a student to receive an associate’s degree from a Florida Junior College and then transfer to an in-state university with guaranteed admission.



With college admission becoming more competitive than ever, Pittman will be able to hand-pick which Florida state college he will attend.



“Now, we have a flood of kids who want to participate in future essay contests,” said Knapp. “Chance has really made his mark in only a few months.”



Askew has a connection to Gulf County stemming from the full pardon he gave to Freddie Lee Pitts and Wilbert Lee, two African-Americans who were convicted and sentenced to death for the 1963 murder of two white gas station attendants in Port St. Joe.



Pitts and Lee were convicted despite a complete lack of physical evidence. The defendants were ultimately released in 1975 and Askew said he was sufficiently convinced that they were innocent.



The Pitts and Lee case inspired the book, Invitation to a Lynching, written by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald reporter Gene Miller.