Land O'Lakes High School
International Baccalaureate Valedictorian: Shaina Maldonado
GPA: 4.66 weighted
Future school: University of South Florida
Major: International business
Ideal career: Business lawyer
Most inspirational person: My mom. When compared to all the work she puts into supporting and caring for my family, my homework workload suddenly doesn't seem so bad.
Favorite quote: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx.
Hardships overcome: My father was hospitalized twice within two years by physical accidents.
Favorite place on campus: Ms. Stanley's classroom. It's a friendly, comfortable learning environment.
Favorite book: Dr. Seuss Goes to War, by Richard H. Minear.
Clubs and extra curricular activities: National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Pasco Academic Challenge, Teen Court, MOSI Summer Science Camp counselors assistant, private art lessons.
How would you improve your school or education in general? The Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs should both be expanded and more students should be encouraged to take honors, AP and IB classes.
Sage advice for the up and coming: Sleep while you can. It will keep you sane.
International Baccalaureate Valedictorian: Victoria Margaret Dahl
GPA: 4.66 weighted
Future school: Undecided
Ideal career: Criminal profiler for the FBI
Most inspirational person: Victoria and Daniel Watson, the directors of the Acting Studio , are living proof that with hard work, determination, love and a little luck, dreams can be realized.
Favorite quote: "I'd rather be nine people's favorite, than 100 people's ninth favorite thing."
Hardships overcome: Through acting I overcame my crippling low self-confidence.
Favorite place on campus: Mr. O'Brien's classroom because I've had the most laughs there.
Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
Clubs and extra curricular activities: Drama Club, acting lessons at the Acting Studio, National English Honor Society, Academic Challenge team, Invisible Children Club, Model U.N., horseback riding, working part time at the Cobb Theater.
What is your impression of the Pasco County School District's attempt to better prepare students for the work force through career academies? My impression is that the attempt has been effective and beneficial to students who are sure of what their career choice is, as it saves them time, effort and money.
How would you improve your school or education in general? I would definitely reduce the size of classes; I remember middle school being difficult because the classrooms were so full, not allowing much opportunity for one-on-one between teacher and students, (which was) one of my favorite and beneficial parts of the IB program.
Sage advice for the up and coming: Always stay true to who you are and do only what you truly believe is right and just.
Valedictorian: Matt Schwartz
GPA: 4.45 weighted
Future school: Georgia Tech
Major: Mechanical or aerospace engineering
Ideal career: Astrophysicist
Most inspirational person: Carl Sagan. His books and his TV series, Cosmos, sparked my interest in space and engaged me in critical thinking about humanity's role in the universe.
Favorite quote: "Dream as if you'll live forever; live as if you'll die today." James Dean.
Favorite place on campus: The track because that is where my mind is clearest.
Favorite book: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
Clubs and extra curricular activities: Cross country (captain), track, National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Interact Club.
How would you improve your school or education in general? I would abolish the policy at Land O'Lakes High School that requires students who want to use the media center to get a special pass before the school day begins. It forces students to arrive at school very early or risk being late for their first period class.
Sage advice for the up and coming: Remember that all four years count. Working hard early on will pay off when it is time to apply for college.
International Baccalaureate Salutatorian: David C. Clark
GPA: 4.59 weighted
Future school: Undecided
Major: Pre-med (biology)
Ideal career: Neurosurgery
Most inspirational person: My physician, Dr. Reynaldo Lim. Although he doesn't love me or support me as much as my parents do, the fact he comes close amazes me. He also taught me what it was like to be a doctor.
Favorite quote: "El vago trabaja doble." William Clark. It translates to, "The lazy person works twice as hard," and might as well have been created by my dad since he says it so much.
Hardships overcome: Moving to Florida from Puerto Rico, overcoming the culture change and the 30- to 45-minute drive to school from the west side of U.S. 19 in Hudson.
Favorite place on campus: The cafeteria — the only break in my busy day!
Favorite book: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
Clubs and extra curricular activities: Model U.N. (secretary), National Spanish Honor Society (treasurer), swim team for Land O'Lakes High and TBAY. Job at Publix for one year, sold Rainbow Vacuums for a summer and I currently tutor and repair computers for money.
What is your impression of the Pasco County School District's attempt to better prepare students for the work force through career academies? I find it's a very intelligent choice for those who are sure they do not want college, but feel it is not a scenario that should be pushed because of the necessity of college for any real success.
How would you improve your school or education in general? I cannot speak for anything but the IB program. I feel we are too segregated. Interaction with peers is essential in the learning process and a key component of college life. Thus I feel the IB program should be broadened or more thoroughly integrated.
Sage advice for the up and coming: The greatest obstacle to success is doubt in yourself. Never question your capabilities, rather enter every scenario with the belief the only impossibility is your own failure.
Salutatorian: Kevin Engle
GPA: 4.43 weighted
Future school: Undecided
Ideal career: Academia
Most inspirational person: Socrates. Even if what's known about him is unclear, his story is the story of a person who analyzed and judged the nature of the world as reasonably as he could and whose integrity didn't waver in the face of death.
Favorite quote: "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18." Albert Einstein (Translated: Understand your biases and the underlying subjectivity of things.)
Hardships overcome: Reconciling the apparent meaninglessness of life with the desire to leave the world in a better state than I found it in.
Favorite place on campus: Mr. Connolly's physics/calculus classroom, because it's an environment conducive to learning.
Favorite book: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Clubs and extra curricular activities: National Honor Society (president), National English Honor Society (treasurer), job at Papa John's Pizza, reading, working out.
What is your impression of the Pasco County School District's attempt to better prepare students for the work force through career academies? It's a bad idea. Education shouldn't be tailored so narrowly. Effective political participation, for instance, depends on a well-educated populace.
How would you improve your school or education in general? Something is broken if it fails to perform the function for which it's designed. A knife that doesn't cut is useless as a knife. Public education, insofar as I've experienced it, is broken. For one, there should be a higher emphasis on reading. Also, public education shouldn't be so need-blind, meaning that going to school is not always synonymous with getting an education.
Sage advice for the up and coming: Read. Focus on getting good grades so that, when later you decide what you want to do with your life, you can do it. I know too many people who are suffering now for mistakes made when they were 15.