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Pinellas County's public school valedictorians and salutatorians for 2012

PARTING THOUGHTS

We asked Pinellas County's top graduates to answer these questions:

LEARNING: Name one thing you didn't expect to learn.

Influenced by: Name one person who has influenced you and why.

SHOUT-OUT: Is there is a teacher you want to thank and why?

LOOKING BACK: What is your best high school memory?

MADE IT THROUGH: What was your toughest high school moment?

COMMUNITY: Name one volunteer effort, community project or job that made an impression. Why?

Wishful friend? Name one famous person you wish was part of your Facebook collection.

BOCA CIEGA HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Steven Andrew Hollis, 17

GPA: 4.78

Parents: Saeng Kum Hollis and James F. Hollis IV

COLLEGE: University of Florida

Studying: applied physiology and kinesiology/economics

LEARNING: Pretty much everything in my nursing assistant class: from cleaning bedpans to emptying out urinary drainage bags. Mrs. Pridemore, you're awesome!

INFLUENCED BY: My brother, Ryan Hollis. At only 12 years old, he exuberates a ton of perseverance and influences me to be the best brother and student I can be.

SHOUT-OUT: A special shout-out to Mr. Lynch and Mr. Forche, my current AP calculus teacher and former AP world history teacher, respectively. Mr. Lynch's drive for supporting his "Calculus Corps" with pizza and knowledge, and Mr. Forche for providing me with the tools necessary to be a successful college student (extra credit questions were fun, too!)

LOOKING BACK: My three years with the BCHS tennis team serves as my favorite high school memory. I've met some of my closest friends through tennis, and playing my heart out for a team effort was a blast.

MADE IT THROUGH: Deciding whether or not to switch into the medical magnet program after an easy freshman year; it happened to be one of the best decisions of my life since I quickly met many friends and became inspired to join the health care field.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering over 400 hours at St. Petersburg General Hospital. From organizing patient charts to speaking with patients and making new friends along the way, community service still plays a pivotal role in my character.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Barack Obama

SALUTATORIAN

Truc Thuy Nguyen, 18

GPA: 4.69

Parents: Kim Trong Nguyen

COLLEGE: University of Florida

Studying: biology and psychology

LEARNING: One thing I didn't expect to learn is how much I love Boca Ciega High. The teachers and staff at our school are so dedicated to making sure that every student is heard. I truly feel that they care about us.

INFLUENCED BY: My mother has shown me that you can achieve anything as long as you work hard. She had inspired me to always do my best.

SHOUT-OUT: I'd like to give a super shout-out to my AP calculus teacher, Mr. Lynch! He is truly devoted to his students and will do whatever it takes to teach us. He is someone I will always respect and look up to.

LOOKING BACK: On International Peace Day, our Multicultural Club made hundreds of paper flowers, hair bands and bracelets to give out to students during lunchtime. To be able to see the gifts that we made put a smile on our fellow classmates' faces was definitely the most memorable moment of my high school life.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment would be cramming for final exams. I tend to overstress myself and not get enough sleep.

COMMUNITY: I volunteer at St. Anthony's Hospital. My dream is to be a part of the medical field. It is truly an exhilarating experience to be able to work in a medical setting with actual nurses, doctors and patients.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Selena Gomez

CLEARWATER HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Ben Rophie, 18

GPA: 4.84

Parents: Ralph Rophie and Vanessa Rophie

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: pre-med

LEARNING: I never knew how much fun anchoring the morning announcements could be.

INFLUENCED BY: My twin brother, Albert, because he supports me with everything I do. He's like a brother to me.

SHOUT-OUT: My TV production teacher, Mrs. Ryan, because she has motivated me to produce award-winning videos.

LOOKING BACK: Being crowned homecoming king.

MADE IT THROUGH: Maintaining my academic success all throughout high school.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at the Special Olympics taught me that helping out, just a little bit, can mean so much to someone.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Keith Mastorides my principal

SALUTATORIAN

Albert Anthony Ralph Rophie, 18

GPA: 4.84

Parents: Ralph Rophie and Vanessa Rophie

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: pre-medicine

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn the importance of community.

INFLUENCED BY: My twin brother, Ben, because he is always there for me and if I ever need to look at myself in the mirror, I just look at him.

SHOUT-OUT: My teacher Mr. Lewis because he is my favorite and the best math teacher. He encouraged me to work hard and find the solution.

LOOKING BACK: Being elected president of the National Honor Society with the support of my peers.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school memory would be waking up early and recording the CT morning announcements.

COMMUNITY: Working the Special Olympics made a great impression on me because I had become aware of how precious life is.

WISHFUL FRIEND: John Lennon

COUNTRYSIDE HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Taylor Minich, 18

GPA: 4.81

Parents: Kent and Penny Minich

COLLEGE: Columbia University

STUDYING: biology

INFLUENCED BY: My Cuban ballet teacher, Ms. Ivonne Lemus, has influenced me greatly. Her wisdom and different perspective on life have changed how I view the world.

SHOUT-OUT: I would like to thank Ms. Hannigan and Ms. Patterson for not only being exceptional teachers, but also for playing an active role in my life outside of school.

LOOKING BACK: One of my best high school moments is walking around the track with my friend and my physics teacher at 3 in the morning during Relay for Life.

COMMUNITY: Relay for Life stands out as the most rewarding volunteer effort I was a part of. Not only did my friends and I raise money for cancer research, we also had a blast doing it.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Marianela Nunez

SALUTATORIAN

Allison Fisher, 17

GPA: 4.76

Parents: Greg and Karen Fisher

COLLEGE: Florida State University

STUDYING: athletic training or communications

LEARNING: I did not expect to learn to think or speak in puns. Thank you, Mr. Stauderman!

INFLUENCED BY: My parents have played huge roles in my life. They have influenced me in more ways than I can express intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and socially.

SHOUT-OUT: Ms. Vesey, English teacher and yearbook adviser, has influenced me in so many ways. Not only did she expand my knowledge base, but she provided real opportunities for me to learn how to work and act in the professional world.

LOOKING BACK: I have the best friends in the world, and they made every moment one to remember.

MADE IT THROUGH: The moment I first heard my knee pop in a soccer game. It resulted in three knee surgeries and three long years of rehab.

COMMUNITY: Feeding the homeless was an eye-opening experience. I heard so many different and crazy stories that really caused me to want to work harder in school to ensure I would lead a successful life and be able to help those in need.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Evan Longoria

DIXIE HOLLINS HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Anh Sam, 18

GPA: 4.61

Parents: Xoai Sam and Thu and Mike Farquharson

COLLEGE: University of Florida

Studying: business major with minor in mathematics

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn about the pain, suffering and desires of human kind through the pages of books I read in AP literature. These books gave insight on who I am as a person.

INFLUENCED BY: My mom motivates me to strive for the best academically, and from that influence I gained a love for knowledge.

SHOUT-OUT: I would like to give out a shout-out to Mrs. Greenburg, my calculus teacher, who taught me derivatives and gave me the tools I need to be successful later in life.

LOOKING BACK: Being in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee playing one of the lead roles, Marcy Park. I will always remember the songs, costumes, and characters that the stage brought to life.

COMMUNITY: Saddle Up Riding Club's therapeutic horseback riding barn allowed me to be part of an experience where I can help improve lives. I've meet and helped out amazing little boys and girls who struggle with mental or physical disabilities.

WISHFUL FRIEND: James Franco

SALUTATORIAN

John Michael Foster, 18

GPA: 4.50

Parents: James and Lois Foster

COLLEGE: University of South Florida St. Petersburg

STUDYING: economics

LEARNING: That I am a very strong writer.

INFLUENCED BY: I would say my English teacher from sophomore year, Mrs. Ball. She would always tell me to pursue what I enjoy most as my studies rather than what pays the biggest salary.

SHOUT-OUT: My middle school band teacher, Mr. Hero. I haven't seen him since I left eighth grade, but he pushed me to pursue my full potential in music.

LOOKING BACK: I've had so many great memories in the print shop and on the tennis team it would be hard to just pick one.

MADE IT THROUGH: Honestly, my toughest high school moment has to be my calculus class this year. It has been a real challenge.

COMMUNITY: Working with the students and staff at Westgate Elementary.

WISHFUL FRIEND: John Fitzgerald Kennedy

DUNEDIN HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Andreas Zacharopoulos, 17

GPA: 4.91

Parents: George and Angela Zacharopoulos

COLLEGE: University of South Florida

STUDYING: biology, pre-med

LEARNING: The harder the question, the more likely you'll find the answer on Google.

INFLUENCED BY: My dad. He's the most hardworking person I have ever known. He has motivated me ever since we moved to Florida to pursue the American Dream.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Haynes taught me AP U.S. history, but for only a semester because he developed cancer and had to retire. One year later he is as healthy as ever and teaches biology at our school, thus making himself the epitome of dedication.

LOOKING BACK: My last varsity soccer season; I helped my team go to regionals for the first time since 1998.

MADE IT THROUGH: Running the 5K race for the first time (cross country).

COMMUNITY: The Relay for Life was a very touching experience, seeing people joining together in the fight against cancer.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Stephen Colbert

SALUTATORIAN

Rachel Hannah Sperber, 18

GPA: 4.86

Parents: Matthew and Marci Sperber

COLLEGE: University of Miami

STUDYING: secondary education/Spanish/social work

LEARNING: I learned to have a voice, not only to represent who I am today, but also to inquire about the world and stand up for what I believe in.

INFLUENCED BY: My parents have been a driving force because they have instilled the values of education, volunteerism and responsibility in me.

SHOUT-OUT: I would like to thank Mrs. Bosker, Mrs. Cappel and Mrs. Barrett for teaching me to always do quality work, think outside of the box and have an appreciation for different cultures and other languages.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory was the discussion about Gulliver's Travels in Ms. Kuropas' AP English language class because we conversed about how reading makes us into human beings.

COMMUNITY: Being the co-captain for my school's Relay for Life team made an impression because I worked tirelessly to raise money to help fight cancer and encouraged others to join my fight.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Laura Ingalls Wilder

EAST LAKE HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Tyler Michael Fredricks, 18

GPA: 4.85

Parents: Neil Fredricks, Elyse Fredricks

COLLEGE: Duke University

STUDYING: pre-med with a political science double major or minor

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn how some other people are genuinely much better than me at things. It's impossible to be the best at everything.

INFLUENCED BY: My mom helped keep me focused throughout high school and taught me about the meaning of life and how we need to cherish the moments we have.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Barbieri because nearly every day for about two to three months I was in her classroom early in the morning giving her college essay after college essay to look through, and she helped me figure out constructive ways to make my essays stronger.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is when (and how) I met my girlfriend.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at the library made an impression on me because I was a part of the teen group and made a lot of great friendships while doing good deeds.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Mark Zuckerberg

SALUTATORIAN

Erin Moore, 18

GPA: 4.81

Parents: Chris and Mike Moore

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: biomedical engineering

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn how to make a sculpture out of clay.

INFLUENCED BY: My mom has never stopped supporting and encouraging me. She is always there to help me when I need her and she has instilled in me the importance of a good education.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Cathey and Mr. Murphy were the two most dedicated teachers I had. They did their best to make two of the most difficult courses, AP U.S. history and AP calculus, exciting and easy to learn.

LOOKING BACK: Homecoming week senior year. Seeing everyone dress up in '80s attire was hilarious.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was after my shoulder surgeries freshman and senior year.

COMMUNITY: Westchester Gardens was an amazing place to volunteer. I had the pleasure of meeting so many senior citizens who had so much to share with my generation. It really opened my eyes to the world and forced me to think deeper about things.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Markus Zusak

EAST LAKE ENGINEERING ACADEMY

VALEDICTORIAN

Jacqueline Wegner, 18

GPA: 4.96

Parents: Gwen and Bill Wegner

COLLEGE: Tulane University

STUDYING: undecided

LEARNING: One thing that I didn't expect to learn was how important other people are on my road to success. Our goals are oftentimes individual, yet we must remember that we can't do it all by ourselves all the time.

INFLUENCED BY: Two people who have influenced me are Terry and Barb Small. The way in which they have dealt with adversity has shown me the importance of always being the bigger person despite the temptations to do otherwise.

SHOUT-OUT: To Mrs. Mobley for genuinely caring about all of us. She wanted us to succeed in the classroom, but it's the valuable life lessons she taught us that I'll always remember.

LOOKING BACK: Junior year when my volleyball team became the first team to ever win a state title at East Lake and my senior year when we repeated as champions.

COMMUNITY: Mission trips to Costa Rica and Brazil showed me that we mustn't limit our world view to what we're affected by in our daily lives.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Misty May-Treanor

SALUTATORIAN

Stephen C. Boyd, 17

GPA: 4.92

Parents: Steve and Erin Boyd

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: civil engineering

LEARNING: I never expected to learn how to not be afraid of the opinions of others.

INFLUENCED BY: My best friend, Justin West, taught me to not get caught up in the small things, to relax and to live in the little moments that take your breath away.

SHOUT-OUT: To my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Ring, who conditioned me to write essays that have impressed even my 12th grade AP literature teacher.

LOOKING BACK: Spending my senior spring break in Gatlinburg, Tenn., with the greatest friends I could ask for.

MADE IT THROUGH: The hardest part of high school has been making it through with a misfortunately unemployed father and minimal income.

GIBBS HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Jessica Goodin, 18

GPA: 4.63

Parents: Suzan Goodin and Rick Goodin

COLLEGE: University of South Florida

STUDYING: undecided, leaning toward business and marketing

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn that I have to grow up so soon. Even though I'm antsy to graduate, I feel my school life flew by.

INFLUENCED BY: I owe everything to my family. Although they're not perfect, they're the best support system anyone could ask for.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Sara Dubbeld. She was the best English teacher I ever had. She really dedicated herself to her students.

LOOKING BACK: I feel that every day has some great moments in it. I especially love my art classes, the senior visual artists at PCCA are just one big family.

MADE IT THROUGH: The toughest thing I had to face was coming out of my shell. I've always been the type to keep to myself and just observe. It's a lot more fun to be involved in everything.

COMMUNITY: Last year, our National Honor Society walked along the beach and picked up trash. It made me feel like even small acts make a big difference.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Mark Zuckerberg

SALUTATORIAN

Kristi Miranda Medina, 18

GPA: 4.62

COLLEGE: University of South Florida

Studying: pre-med

LEARNING: I didn't expect how excited my friends would be that I was named salutatorian. They even might be more excited than I am.

INFLUENCED BY: My mom gave me an enormous head start by teaching me college algebra at the age of 3. I really do owe her my success for all her patience and hard work.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Zuercher gave me a love of history and an entirely new perspective on life and education.

LOOKING BACK: In the words of Michael Buble: "The best is yet to come." I am especially looking forward to graduation.

COMMUNITY: As president of Mu Alpha Theta, I tutored mathematically challenged students. One of the most rewarding moments occurs when the light of comprehension pops on in their eyes.

WISHFUL FRIEND: I don't have Facebook, but if I did, I would LOVE to be friends with Johnny Depp.

LAKEWOOD HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Tahrell Jones, 17

GPA: 4.36

Parents: Ife Davis and Tarvin Jones

COLLEGE: University of Central Florida

Studying: marine or general biology

LEARNING: One thing I didn't expect to learn is how to navigate through and complete high school, in a public school system, without being affected by the distractions.

INFLUENCED BY: I find it quite difficult to just name one person who has influenced me, besides my family, because my AVID teachers (Tara Fowler, Chantella Moore and Linda Santiago), mentor and principal Robert Vicari, and athletic coaches (Anthony Snead and Corey Moore) have always related athletics and other interests to my academics to keep me on track.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is when principal Vicari informed me that I was valedictorian.

MADE IT THROUGH: Having to juggle going to football or track practice, working until close most of the time and after completing homework and studying.

COMMUNITY: In teen camp, every Wednesday my friends and other campers went somewhere in the city and either picked up trash, painted a house or cleaned out schools. I believe this made an impression because we were doing things to help sustain a clean environment.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Although I don't have Facebook, if I wanted someone to be my Facebook friend it would be Will Smith.

SALUTATORIAN

Janelle N. Bygraves, 17

GPA: 4.24

Parents: Sheron and Alfonso Bygraves

COLLEGE: University of Central Florida

STUDYING: hospitality management, travel and transportation tourism.

LEARNING: I never thought I would be taking statistics my senior year.

INFLUENCED BY: My brother, Ryan Bygraves who is in the Air Force, encourages me to never give up and keeps me focused and motivated.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Fowler. She has helped me prepare for college through the AVID program.

LOOKING BACK: My freshman year.

MADE IT THROUGH: Studying for the ACT.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System for four years helping our veterans.

WISHFUL FRIEND: "The Boss" Rick Ross

CENTER FOR ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES AT LAKEWOOD HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Aaron R. Teetor, 17

GPA: 4.78

Parents: Barbara A. Wilmarth, Albert R. Teetor, and stepfather, Stuart A. Wilmarth

COLLEGE: University of Central Florida

STUDYING: computer science

LEARNING: The magic of friendship. Hi Andy!

INFLUENCED BY: I can't pick one wrestling coach. They all taught me new levels of strength and determination.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Zulli for dealing with network assistants all day. Nobody deserves that.

LOOKING BACK: Victory bagels at the top of gym stands.

MADE IT THROUGH: Earning the victory bagels through wrestling.

COMMUNITY: Voluntary pre-kindergarten taught me you are always a role model.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Tara Strong a.k.a Twilight Sparkle

SALUTATORIAN

Steven Doyle Jr., 16

GPA: 4.77

Parents: Steven Doyle Sr. and Maria Doyle

COLLEGE: University of Notre Dame

STUDYING: accounting/Spanish double major

LEARNING: I never expected to learn how to create my own television broadcast. I am now the proud producer of Fox ThirTEEN Magazine.

INFLUENCED BY: My program director at CAT, Mr. Peter Oberg, has always challenged me to find something positive in even the worst experiences. His optimism has helped me stay positive and open-minded.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Darlene Lebo has been my Spanish teacher for all four years of high school. She is always supportive and willing to give me advice.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is being named the most valuable player of the varsity soccer team my senior year.

MADE IT THROUGH: Sophomore year I didn't make the varsity soccer team and had to spend the season on the practice squad.

COMMUNITY: In my time working at Panera Bread, I discovered that there is a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work to keep a restaurant ready for customers.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Morgan Freeman

NORTHEAST HIGH SCHOOL

CO-VALEDICTORIAN

Dimitry Ignatov, 18

GPA: 4.71

Parents: Inna Isbell and Vincent T. Isbell

COLLEGE: University of Florida

Studying: aerospace engineering

LEARNING: How much more there is to learn about everything.

INFLUENCED BY: My parents have been my support and guidance throughout high school and many other parts of my life. Everything I achieve I owe in part to them.

LOOKING BACK: For me, it was all the little things here and there that made high school memorable.

CO-VALEDICTORIAN

Tess Bedell, 17

GPA: 4.71

Parents: Page Ridenhour, Nung Bedell and Kathy Bedell

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: mathematics

LEARNING: There are so many things, but one that stands out is that a third derivative is also called a jerk.

INFLUENCED BY: Brother, Zak Bedell, because he helped show me the ropes in all aspects of life.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Michelle Dudley for all of her dedication and care for the students and the school.

LOOKING BACK: Senior year homecoming week.

MADE IT THROUGH: Every year during AP exam period.

COMMUNITY: Relay for Life because it is so good to see groups of people gathering for an all-night walk to raise money for cancer research.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Michelle Obama

SALUTATORIAN

Cesar G. Santoyo, 17

GPA: 4.69

Parents: Renan and Blanca Santoyo

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: aerospace engineering

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn that humor can be the best solution to many situations that arise.

INFLUENCED BY: Without a doubt the person who has influenced me the most has to be my mom. She has always guided me through every situation I've been in, whether good or bad, while also teaching me how to appreciate the little things in life.

SHOUT-OUT: A big shout-out to my boy coach Burrows! He's been the greatest coach ever since I met him in sixth grade and for that I say: Thank you, Coach!

LOOKING BACK: The first semester of my senior year was probably the most enjoyable time of my life.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school memory is realizing that I won't be able to swim competitively with the same people who made being a swimmer the best high school experience.

COMMUNITY: Tutoring at Meadowlawn Middle School made me realize how precious education can be.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Warren Buffet

LARGO HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Laura Morris, 17

GPA: 4.70

Parents: Sharon Krick and Jeff Morris

COLLEGE: Florida State University

Studying: biological sciences/pre-med

LEARNING: I was unsure of myself in middle school, therefore, I was surprised to learn that I was able to become valedictorian and to take on leadership roles in my school clubs.

INFLUENCED BY: My mother, because she has taught me to be independent.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Klapka, my AP U.S. history teacher, because he made class fun yet challenging. I have learned so much from him, both about history and about life.

LOOKING BACK: Being involved with drama and the International Thespian Society, and getting to be the lead in two school musicals, Annie and Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

MADE IT THROUGH: Junior and senior year because it was my first time dealing with strenuous AP classes, and I had to learn how to manage my time in order to get everything done.

COMMUNITY: Rainbow Recovery Room at Morton Plant hospital was a great place to volunteer because it brought together my two passions, children and medicine. I loved being able to take care of the children and seeing that making them smile can help them feel better.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Nick Jonas

OSCEOLA HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Bradley Maller, 18

GPA: 4.77

Parents: Glenn and Debbie Maller

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: biochemistry

LEARNING: My parents have always told me to try to learn something new every day. Living by that philosophy, my only expectations are to continuously expect to learn.

INFLUENCED BY: My brother, Alex, teaches me how to communicate with people of every age, how to be assertive to get what I want, how to make people laugh, and, as he would say, "how to take a punch!" Alex has influenced me by teaching me these lessons and I know that I am a better person for having my brother in my life.

SHOUT-OUT: I would like to thank Mr. Robinson, Ms. Ferguson, Ms. Eubanks, Ms. Yormark and Mr. Schwartz for going above and beyond to help their students succeed. I'd also like to thank coaches Dan Smalley and Kevin Smalley for everything they do for Osceola wrestling.

LOOKING BACK: Grad Bash.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest moment was during my freshman year while I was on the JV wrestling team. Having not won a match entering the season finale, all of my hard work finally paid off in a come-from-behind pin in the final seconds.

COMMUNITY: The Executive Internship Program I completed over the summer before my senior year gave me the privilege of shadowing doctors and nurses at Northside Hospital and St. Petersburg General for four weeks. That experience gave me a remarkable preview to my future career in the medical field.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Marty St. Louis

SALUTATORIAN

Marissa Lazo, 17

GPA: 4.76

Parents: Jennifer and Vidal Lazo

COLLEGE: Duke University

STUDYING: biology

LEARNING: How much work you can complete in the class period before an assignment is due.

INFLUENCED BY: My father. He shows me every day what it means to sacrifice, to struggle and to persevere in life's harshest circumstances and to never, in the fullest sense, give up even when you have nothing but the shirt on your back.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Colton, thank you for believing in me when I couldn't. If you hadn't pushed me when I was a sophomore, I could not be here today. Thank you so much.

LOOKING BACK: The funniest high school moment I had (which was definitely not so funny in the beginning) was getting completely stuck in the girls bathroom during the second week of my freshman year. It was devastating for a long time, but now it's something hilarious to look back at.

MADE IT THROUGH: Coping with difficult family circumstances, applying to college, juggling an internship and trying to keep my sanity.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at Largo Cultural Center for a theatre summer camp. I've never seen such young talented kids before.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Taylor Swift

PALM HARBOR UNIVERSITY HIGH SCHOOL

­ VALEDICTORIAN

Aryanna Ismaili, 18

GPA: 4.80

Parents: Qibaret and Gzime Ismaili

COLLEGE: Florida State University

STUDYING: biochemistry/pre-med

LEARNING: To be productive on three hours of sleep.

INFLUENCED BY: My parents are my biggest influence, they always push me to do my best and support me every step of the way. I would not be the person I am today without them.

SHOUT-OUT: My art teacher Mr. Jenkins. His class was my breath of fresh air this year, and I constantly looked forward to being there.

LOOKING BACK: My best memory was winning volleyball districts my junior year.

MADE IT THROUGH: Getting through clinical rotations with my medical peers was definitely one of my toughest experiences.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering through Big Brothers Big Sisters really made an impression on me because I formed a very strong bond and it was a great experience.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Lee Brice

CO-SALUTATORIAN

Michelle Christine Dunbar, 18

GPA: 4.80

Parents: David W. and Cindy Dunbar

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: undecided

LEARNING: I never expected to gain so much insight from each and every teacher. Taking anatomy and physiology last year was simply another science credit for me, but having Dr. Applebaum as my teacher made the subject matter so interesting and relevant that it impacted my future decisions.

INFLUENCED BY: My parents have been my biggest influence and support team. My mom has always told me to love whatever I do, and if I'm not loving it, then it's not right for me. My dad gave me the drive and hunger for success.

SHOUT-OUT: There is no way I would be in the position I am now without all of my teachers, however, one of my teachers this year has shown me what a true teacher is. Mrs. Bride has made AP calculus less of a beast, and has really and truly taught us what calculus is while keeping it interesting.

LOOKING BACK: My best memories would have to be homecoming week each year. It's a time when every student feels like they're a part of something, and especially this year, for seniors, it's our last big week to have fun.

MADE IT THROUGH: At the beginning of this school year I was battling some health issues and realized at that point that I had to put my health before my academics.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering both at the Morton Plant Mease Dunedin emergency room and at the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater has taught me a lot about myself and others. The emergency room spiked my interest in the medical field, and HEP, especially the soup kitchen, was one of the most humbling and satisfying experiences I've ever had.

WISHFUL FRIEND: John Mayer

CO-SALUTATORIAN

Brooke Liston, 18

GPA: 4.80

Parents: John and Sonya Liston

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: pre-med

LEARNING: The one thing I didn't expect to learn was basically anything in AP chemistry. I learned so many truly intriguing and relevant things about this world.

INFLUENCED BY: My mother because she would always put my interest above hers, and taught me integrity, humility, commitment and many other important qualities that she exhibits every day.

SHOUT-OUT: I want to say thank you to all of my AP teachers because they have been amazing. Especially to Mrs. Collias and Mrs. Bride for staying at school late to help the students.

LOOKING BACK: In summer 2011, I participated in Ocean for Life check out the website oceanforlife.org.

MADE IT THROUGH: Choosing between athletics and academics. Academics one, athletics zero.

COMMUNITY: Suncoast Hospice. I have met incredible people, who have done amazing things that have changed my life.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Zayn Malik

PALM HARBOR UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE

CO-VALEDICTORIAN

Stephen Powers Ross, 18

GPA: 4.88

Parents: Susan Powers and Richard Ross

COLLEGE: Northwestern University

STUDYING: environmental science/pre-law

LEARNING: cynicism

INFLUENCED BY: President Obama because he showed that no matter how obvious something is, it's not obvious enough for the public.

SHOUT-OUT: My first/second-grade teacher at Sunset Hills Elementary School, Mrs. Davis. She recognized my potential and encouraged me to push my intellectual limits.

LOOKING BACK: The friends I've made.

MADE IT THROUGH: Overcoming the overwhelming urge for mediocrity.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Richard Branson

CO-VALEDICTORIAN

Masi Javeed, 16

GPA: 4.88

Parents: Hayath Javeed and Sabiha Javeed

COLLEGE: University of South Florida

STUDYING: biomedical science

LEARNING: I did not expect to learn more about myself through my high school journey.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at Heather Hill Healthcare Center helped me to develop patient care skills.

CO-SALUTATORIAN

Mitchell Harris, 17

GPA: 4.87

Parents: Evan and Renee Harris

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: mathematics

LEARNING: For distinct, positive, odd primes p and q, then p has the same quadratic character modulo q as q has modulo p if and only if at least one is congruent to 1 modulo 4.

INFLUENCED BY: My mom, who has taught me for as long as I can remember to "always do the right thing."

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. MacFarlane, you've enhanced my enjoyment of learning to reach a level I never would have anticipated.

LOOKING BACK: After studying a lot for the first regional precalculus competition, I won first.

MADE IT THROUGH: When I had to write up 30 physics labs in one weekend.

COMMUNITY: I helped coach an elementary school math team, and the enjoyment for mathematics that the kids developed inspired me to continue my study of the subject.

WISHFUL FRIEND: I wouldn't want to waste more time on Facebook, so I don't think I should add a random person.

PINELLAS PARK HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Henri Zaimaj, 18

GPA: 4.77

Parents: Deti and Bardha Zaimaj

COLLEGE: Georgetown University

STUDYING: political science/pre-law

LEARNING: Didn't expect to learn that I would be going out of state for college.

INFLUENCED BY: My dad has influenced me the most because he has set a great example for me of what type of man I want to be, and he has guided me from the mistakes he has done in order to steer me the right way.

SHOUT-OUT: I have to give one for Mrs. Freed, my English teacher who been a mentor and a guardian angel, and is also the reason for me going to my dream school.

LOOKING BACK: Sitting down with my principal when he congratulated me on being valedictorian.

MADE IT THROUGH: Giving a speech at the National Honor Society induction ceremony.

COMMUNITY: It wasn't a job, but my internship at the State Attorney's Office this past summer helped me become aware of the duties and responsibilities adults face in the career world.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Al Pacino

SEMINOLE HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Kristiana Morgan, 18

GPA: 4.75

Parents: Kim and Kevin Morgan

COLLEGE: Emory University

STUDYING: chemistry/biochemistry

LEARNING: Psychology. I didn't ever think I would learn about the subconscious mind, and what forms our personality.

INFLUENCED BY: My sister because she has always given me high standards to work toward. Her good influence and encouragement have helped me become the person I am today.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Wolodkowicz. Her enthusiasm for teaching has always inspired me, and sparked my love for science.

LOOKING BACK: Going on a mission trip to Homestead Miami. It was the best, and most life-changing experience I ever had.

MADE IT THROUGH: AP exams during junior year. It was so stressful and sleep-depriving.

COMMUNITY: Working with autistic children has opened my eyes to different perspectives on life, and I have been very blessed to have had this experience.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Barack Obama

SALUTATORIAN

Evan Dolling, 18

GPA: 4.70

Parents: Sven Dolling and Jill Storm

COLLEGE: University of Florida

STUDYING: engineering

INFLUENCED BY: My older sister Carmen has influenced me the most because she has experienced almost everything first. Both her successes and regrets offer insight into what the future holds and help guide my decisions.

SHOUT-OUT: I've had so many awesome teachers at Seminole High, but APES with Mrs. Kindinger and AP micro with Mrs. Short have been my favorite classes senior year.

LOOKING BACK: One of my favorite memories is of performing with the SHS Warhawk Marching Band at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis during my sophomore year.

COMMUNITY: In Key Club, one of the largest annual volunteer projects we help organize is called Every Child a Swimmer. As volunteers, we teach children how to swim, and it was startling to discover how much younger kids look up to us.

ST. PETERSBURG HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Lauren Davis, 18

GPA: 4.78

Parents: Cindy Davis

COLLEGE: University of Georgia

STUDYING: biochemistry/pre-med

LEARNING: How quickly people can adapt to different situations.

INFLUENCED BY: My brothers, Matthew and Daniel, by providing me with examples of what NOT to do in high school … and by being such caring people.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. McCoy, my seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher. He was the first teacher to challenge me and help me realize my potential.

LOOKING BACK: Spending time with all my best friends at Rays games and camping at Fort De Soto.

MADE IT THROUGH: Moving from my childhood home.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at Creative Clay, I realized that everyone has a talent that should be able to be expressed.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Bradley Nowell

SALUTATORIAN

Katie Victoria Keefer, 17

GPA: 4.77

Parents: Mark and Jan Keefer, and Margi Pecukonis

COLLEGE: University of South Florida

STUDYING: psychology

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn how sacred after-school naps are.

INFLUENCED BY: My dad has been my absolute hero and role model for the past 17 years; he makes me believe in myself and always stresses the importance of integrity and individuality.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Benton, Mr. Tarrou, and Mrs. Burnsed, for equipping me with the tools and desire to carry out my pursuit of knowledge.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is the bus rides home from volleyball games; win or lose, we always ate enough food and had enough laughs to get through it all together.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was AP English literature at 7 in the morning.

COMMUNITY: My job at Chick-fil-A has been such a blessing in so many ways; it has given me the experience of the professional world, and it has provided me with a second family that I wouldn't trade anything for.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Dave Matthews

ST. PETERSBURG HIGH SCHOOL INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE

VALEDICTORIAN

Eric Tong, 18

GPA: 4.92

Parents: Zhen and Ying Tong

COLLEGE: Columbia University

STUDYING: biomedical engineering

LEARNING: I didn't expect to become a debater.

INFLUENCED BY: Ms. Davis, my debate coach and teacher, has taught me public speaking, but also how to treat others and how to lead.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Marshman is my IB higher level math teacher and my academic coach. As my academic coach, she has done so much to help me through my high school career. Moreover, she is a person who I aspire to become a hard-working and caring person who also leads an interesting life.

LOOKING BACK: Being elected as the executive president of Student Government Association. I felt it was a tremendous honor that my peers had faith in me.

MADE IT THROUGH: When my bio EE deadline was approaching, I couldn't get my experiment right. Later, I was having trouble reducing my essay from 6,000 words to 4,000 words because I felt it needed 6,000 words to fully explain my topic.

COMMUNITY: Mentoring a kid in fourth grade at the YWCA. By the time I needed to leave YWCA, the kid didn't want me to go. It really touched my heart.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Lin-Manuel Miranda

SALUTATORIAN

Danny Zakria, 18

GPA: 4.91

Parents: Roula and Faris Zakria

COLLEGE: Duke University or the University of Florida

STUDYING: pre-med

LEARNING: I never expected to learn the meaning of life, and I still haven't learned it.

INFLUENCED BY: My mom because she has taught me many important values and legacies. She always leads by example, and my work ethic, compassion and integrity are all attributes that she has instilled in me.

SHOUT-OUT: To my social studies teacher Mr. Halstead because he is an extremely understanding person and he strives to work with his students so that they can be as successful as possible.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is winning the tennis regional semifinals against Palm Harbor my senior year.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was taking my higher level mathematics IB exam.

COMMUNITY: Habitat for Humanity has made the biggest impression on me because I was able to challenge myself by volunteering at a build site and creating a home for a struggling family.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Mark Zuckerberg

ST. PETERSBURG COLLEGIATE HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Rachel Knapp, 18

GPA: 4.77

Studying: nursing and music

INFLUENCED BY: My parents have helped me to be successful in school with their never-ending support and help.

LOOKING BACK: When I was accepted into St. Petersburg Collegiate High School. This has been such a wonderful opportunity for me.

MADE IT THROUGH: Having to deal with classes and teachers that I disliked and keeping up with all of my homework during stressful semesters while trying to find time to practice the piano.

COMMUNITY: Over the past three years, I have volunteered over 130 hours at Special Kids Dance, which allows children with special needs to enjoy the performing arts. This has been a very memorable and enjoyable experience to have had the chance to work with these sweet children.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Taylor Swift

TARPON SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN

Isabela Karay, 18

GPA: 4.80

Parents: Steve Karay and Gloria Karay

COLLEGE: Florida State University

STUDYING: family and child sciences and psychology

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn so much information that has everyday application. I find myself talking about things I've learned in psychology or government almost every day.

INFLUENCED BY: Two people that have influenced me are my parents. They've taught me to work hard, never give up, love God and to enjoy life.

SHOUT-OUT: I would give a shout-out to Mr. James Gordon. He made learning psychology so interesting and used different mediums to enhance our learning experience.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory has been all the times and trips I've spent with my youth group. They're my best friends and have been like a second family to me!

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was during senior year when AP classes were in full tow and so were yearbook deadlines. As editor in chief of the yearbook, I had to balance all my homework, on top of having to create spreads during our crunch time.

COMMUNITY: One volunteer effort that really made an impression with me was when I helped clean up damage from tornadoes in Alabama with my youth group last summer. I saw how people's lives were transformed in minutes and it made me really appreciate what I have.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Josh Hutcherson

SALUTATORIAN

Carly Marie Ciociola, 17

GPA: 4.79

Parents: Andy and Terry Ciociola

COLLEGE: North Carolina State University

STUDYING: agricultural science and veterinarian medicine

LEARNING: I never expected to learn that giraffes have the exact same number of cervical vertebrae as humans.

INFLUENCED BY: One of my biggest influences has been Dr. Matt Oakes, who is an orthopedic surgeon at Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Oakes has been kind enough to allow me to observe him in surgery, which has further strengthened my desire to become a vet, and he is a good friend and a great person.

SHOUT-OUT: I'd like to give a shout-out to Mr. Lucey for believing in my abilities.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is when the powderpuff football team made our entrance to the game by riding in on a fire truck around the track with the sirens going.

MADE IT THROUGH: The hardest moments for me where when I would have to balance a heavy work load with extracurriculars such as sports and clubs.

COMMUNITY: The time I've spent volunteering at Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists has definitely made an impression on me because it has expanded my knowledge of veterinary medicine and further buttressed my desire to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Emma Watson

Honoring the achievers

The Times' salute to the top scholars of the Class of 2012 was compiled by Times staff writer Emily Rieman from questionnaires filled out by the students and their schools. Photos are courtesy of the graduates. Information was not available for these honor graduates:

Largo High School salutatorian Tehya Saylor, GPA 4.63

Palm Harbor International Baccalaureate co-salutatorian Alec Sokol, GPA 4.86

Pinellas Park salutatorian Pye Naing, GPA 4.75.

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School salutatorian
Alessandro D'Alessandro, GPA 4.74

Pinellas County's public school valedictorians and salutatorians for 2012 06/04/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 10:47am]
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