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Valedictorians, salutatorians from Pinellas County private schools

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

If you were president what one thing would you change?

SECRET INGREDIENT: What's the secret to your success so far?

INSPIRING PEOPLE: Name one person who has influenced your life. How and why?

MEMORABLE: What is your best high school memory?

GIVING BACK: List your top senior volunteer work/community project/job.

Here are the private school grads' replies.



Chester Joseph Claudon IV, 18

GPA: 4.34

College: Emory University, Atlanta

Parents: Chester and Carol Claudon

In charge: As president I would do everything in my power to end terrorism. Defense of our country is key to the survival of our nation and what is important: liberty and freedom.

Secret ingredient: The secret to my success is simply hard work and dedication.

Inspiring people: One man who has influenced my life is my former English teacher and swim coach, Mr. Matt Lameyer. He did not settle for anything less than my best, encouraging me to reach my full potential.

Memorable: My favorite memory is sailing with my friends on Boca Ciega Bay after school.

Giving back: While I valued volunteering at the VA hospital, serving as battalion commander of the Admiral Farragut Academy NJROTC unit was my top senior job, teaching me leadership skills that will serve me in the years to come.


Sebastian Hyun Dong Kim, 19

GPA: 4.26

College: University of California, Los Angeles

Parents: Kyu Han Kim and Myung Hyon Jung

In charge: It is time for us to explore the future of life in space and under the ocean. I will promote research for an innovative policy in science and technology to better utilize the ocean and universe.

Secret ingredient: Every time, I tried to communicate with others, understand them, and valued myself no better than any others. I connected as a good leader worth following, and I believe that it resulted in me being a president of student government, company commander of unit, and other administration for the school clubs.

Inspiring people: I am passionate about engineering, and wanted to learn more about it. One day, I came up with (an) idea to organize the club "Engineering Society." Commander Gibbons, the first person to get interested in our club, supported us with funds and ideas. I believe that by his support, we could win several competitions and we became the biggest club in the school. We had 30 members this year.

Memorable: When Russian education delegates awarded me a medal which represents great leadership and achievement in science.

Giving back/top job: When I did an internship as a research assistant at Polytechnic College in Korea to co-author an APAC conference research paper.



Austin Samuel Winfield, 18

GPA: 4.69

College: University of South Florida, Tampa

Parents: Alan and Pam Winfield

In charge: If I were president I would reintroduce New Deal programs that were started by FDR in the 1930s through the early 1940s. This could help our economy jump-start in a positive manner.

Secret ingredient: My secret to success so far is getting a good night's sleep and avoiding stressful situations that may come about. Also, it doesn't hurt to eat your veggies.

Inspiring people: Besides my parents, who have influenced me the most, Mr. Lipham, who was my cross country coach and teacher, has helped me become who I am today. He did this by sacrificing his time to impact my life as well as countless others at our school.

Memorable: My best high school memory is that of when my teammates and I went to a cross country camp in Boone, N.C. I formed some friendships that will last forever.

Giving back: My top senior volunteer work was at the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater. My friends and I helped out the homeless by preparing meals for them as well as doing odd jobs on the project's property.


Meghan McGonigle, 18

GPA: 4.6

College: University of Miami, Coral Gables

Parents: Kevin and Pam McGonigle

In charge: If I were president I would fix the unemployment rate. It is so sad the number of Americans today without jobs and I think that is the first thing that needs to be fixed.

Secret ingredient: My secret to success is always setting goals. Whether it be finishing the class with an A, getting into college or finishing my homework before the weekend, I am always setting goals every step of the way.

Inspiring people: One person who has influenced me is my soccer coach and athletic director, coach Greg Thiel. He always encourages me to push myself physically and spiritually, and he gives really great advice.

Memorable: My top high school memory was our senior trip to Vermont and NYC. I was a terrible skier, but we all had so much fun I know I will never forget it!

Giving back: My favorite volunteer project I have done is volunteering for All Children's Therapy Center. I want to be a physical therapist, and I love working with kids, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to serve.


Christian Roeder, 18

GPA: 4.61

College: Stetson University, DeLand

Parents: Carl M. and Diane L. Roeder

In charge: If I could change one thing as president of the United States I would set some guidelines or limitations on the government to make sure that the government does not infringe upon the people's rights … or I would choose world peace.

Secret ingredient: My secret so far is to stay on top of assignments. Procrastination always hurt me in the end.

Inspiring people: Mr. Kalenberg. He came and talked at one of our chapels. He became a friend and has influenced my spiritual life greatly.

Memorable: One of my best high school memories is the senior trip to New York City and Stowe, Vt. From dancing in Times Square to crazy skiing wipeouts, we all had a blast.

Giving back: My favorite place to do community service was Everybody's Tabernacle. It supplies housing, food and health care to people in need.



Andrea Ritch, 18

GPA: 4.83

College: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

Parents: Dr. Mark Ritch and Marlaine Ritch

In charge: If I were president, I would establish community service requirements in the hope that citizens may learn to see beyond themselves.

Secret ingredient: I attribute my success to a natural sense of curiosity and a continual drive to improve.

Inspiring people: One person who has strongly influenced my life is my science teacher, Mr. Sean Murphy. Not only has he helped me discover a passion for science, but he has also been a model of character and integrity, and he has taught me many lessons that will remain long after I forget all of those fungal life cycles.

Memorable: Some of my favorite high school memories are from the lunch table and all of the spontaneous things that occurred there.

Giving back: Volunteer at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Girl Scouts of America.


Alexandra Suzanne Feinberg, 18

GPA: 4.51

College: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Parents: Helen and David Feinberg

In charge: I would reform the public school system. Education is the foundation for success, so it would be imperative to better prepare students for college and a successful career.

Secret ingredient: Organization, time management and thorough preparation.

Inspiring people: My grandfather. He is so hardworking, motivated and determined. Throughout my life, he has always pushed me to succeed and taught me to never settle for anything less than my best. He's such an incredible businessman, and I feel fortunate to have learned as much as I have from him.

Memorable: Winning the doubles championship in the district finals with my partner, Christine. That same year (junior year) our team advanced to regionals, and that was quite an amazing experience.

Giving back: Volunteering for the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation.



Michela Martinazzi, 18

GPA: 4.0 *

College: University of Florida, Gainesville

Parents: Luca and Doris Caitak-Martinazzi

In charge: If I were president, I would reform our nation's policies on immigration and citizenship. I would try to formulate an easier and faster procedure for accepting future citizens into our nation.

Secret ingredient: Focus, discipline and rewards — I made sure to reward myself after a long day of school or a hard test to keep myself motivated.

Inspiring people: My dad is a very creative and imaginative person. He has taught me to apply a sense of insouciance to life.

Memorable: Going on a trip to Europe with my class. I learned so much about different cultures and incredible art.

Giving back: I was very active in Youth for a Drug-Free Florida and I worked at Pangea Café as a barista.


Paul R. Zombory, 17

GPA: 3.97*

College: New College of Florida, Sarasota

Parents: George and Rhonda Zombory

In charge: I would most likely change the educational system. An application of the subjects learned, rather than the passing of exams, should be the priority in any school.

Secret ingredient: I try to approach my work with humor and creativity. I make an effort to make things interesting.

Inspiring people: Through her books, J.K. Rowling instilled magic and a love for writing in my life.

Memorable: In my freshman year, I went on a school trip through Europe. I remember visiting Venice and thinking, "I'm in school right now."

Giving back: I'm an active member of Youth for a Drug-Free Florida.

* Unweighted GPA

CLEARWATER CENTRAL CATHOLIC International Baccalaureate program


Agnes Wasilewski, 17

GPA: 4.61

College: Florida State University, Tallahassee

Parents: Jozef and Ewa Wasilewski

In charge: I would definitely try to reduce the unemployment rate.

Secret ingredient: I don't think it's a secret. I set goals for myself and work hard to achieve them.

Inspiring people: Both my parents have really influenced me because they have always supported me and encouraged me to work hard in school.

Memorable: Playing one of the five lead roles in my school's musical. I had so much fun especially because it was my official "acting debut."

Giving back: I was a "Camp Invention" counselor. I also continuously participate in my church's choir, and I participated in a project for Habitat for Humanity.



GPA: 4.46

College: Elon University, Elon, N.C.

Parents: James and Nancy Gianacakes

In charge: If I were president I would repeal and rework the health care bill.

Secret ingredient: The secret to my success is balance between work and play.

Inspiring people: One person who has influenced my life the most is Erica Cook. She taught me to always see the good in any situation and it helped me to conquer pessimism.

Memorable: My best high school memory would be my Theory of Knowledge class with one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Hamacher, because the class operated so unconventionally.

Giving back: A trip to Tennessee to work for the Blount County Habitat for Humanity group over spring break.



Jacquelyn Marie Wehling, 17

GPA: 4.483

College: Georgia Institute of Technology, At, Atlanta

Parents: Randy and Annie Driscoll Wehling

In charge: The college application process! It's all so stressful. I would make every school use the common application and forbid supplement applications.

Secret ingredient: I would say being focused, and never turning down an opportunity to challenge myself.

Inspiring people: My mom. She's been through so much and yet she's still the amazing person she's always been. She reminds me that I can get through anything.

Memorable: We went on a two-day, overnight senior retreat and there was a candlelit ceremony where we talked about who had influenced us the most. Nearly everyone ended up in tears, but it brought everyone closer together and repaired broken friendships.

Giving back: I worked with Habitat for Humanity a lot, through our Math Honor Society. I never thought laying sod in the freezing cold and rain could be enjoyable, but the end result was worth it.


Kaelyn Patricia Kenner, 18

GPA: 4.43

College: University of Florida, Gainesville

Parents: Sally and Todd Kenner

Secret ingredient: I had a really good education and great teachers who have challenged me and pushed me to be the best I can. I also have had great coaches that have taught me to manage time and to be a hard worker.

Inspiring people: My father because he taught me that "things always work out, not sometimes, but always you just have to think positively."

Memorable: Going to the state championships in both cross country and soccer in 2008.

Giving back: Give Kids the World was my favorite place where I volunteered because I assisted terminally ill children in their enjoyable experience of a lifetime.



Lindsey Bennett, 17

GPA: 4.42

College: University of Florida, Gainesville

Parents: Kevin and Sherrie Bennett

In charge: I would find a way to guarantee that no child ever had to go hungry. If America is supposed to be such a great country, then we should be able to take care of our own children.

Secret ingredient: I refuse to give up or quit. I keep trying until I get it right; I persevere.

Inspiring people: My mom has been a major influence in my life. She has always encouraged me to do my best and to follow my dreams.

Memorable: My favorite high school memory is of my senior trip; we went to Six Flags and went white water rafting. It was a perfect way to end high school with all my friends.

Giving back: My senior year I traveled to the island of Malta on a mission trip with my school. Our group worked with several different churches helping them pass out tracts and inviting others to come check out the church.


Brittany Lynn Witherington, 18

GPA: 4.25

College: University of Central Florida, Orlando

Parents: Larry and Cindy Witherington

In charge: If I were to become president, I would find ways to put God back into our political system. Our founding fathers based our entire country around biblical principles and I think that it is important that we preserve and honor those basic principles.

Secret ingredient: My secret to success has been to never give up on anything, no matter how hard it may be, and to always rely on my Lord and Savior for the strength to achieve anything.

Inspiring people: My mom has been the biggest influence on my life so far; she has never given up on me and has always pushed me to be the best I can be.

Memorable: My best memory in high school was during our senior retreat. That retreat was the first time I was really able to see our class come together and decide to be mature students worthy of being in positions of leadership.

Giving back: This year I was able to tutor a sophomore in biology each week and was also given the opportunity in March to travel to Guatemala on a missions trip to serve the native people there.



Victoria Lea Hale, 18

GPA: 4.33

College: Bob Jones University, Greenville, S.C.

Parents: Dr. Gregory Hale and Verna Hale

In charge: I would provide fewer handouts but instead offer training programs so that people can learn how to care for themselves.

Secret ingredient: Hard work and glorifying God was and is essential to this success.

Inspiring people: My dad was the one who truly motivated me to go beyond my abilities by setting high goals which many times resulted in failure, but failure is what one must go through before reaching the mountaintop of success.

Memorable: I was blessed to play a part in Central Baptist School's first girls state basketball championship of Tennessee.

Giving back: I had the opportunity to work alongside Habitat for Humanity by laying sod.


Scott Oliver, 18

GPA: 4.25

College: University of South Florida (Honors Program), Tampa

Parents: David and Pearl Oliver

In charge: I would enact and enforce stronger immigration laws.

Secret ingredient: Hard work and applying myself to get the task accomplished.

Inspiring people: Coach Rick Sanson. He taught me the value of hard work, commitment and dedication to accomplish the goal that is before us. He also taught me that it is not about whether you win or lose but your attitude and how you respond to the situation.

Memorable: Winning back-to-back district championships in football.

Giving back: Coaching elementary students in football and basketball.



Hannah Michelle Heimbigner, 18

GPA: 4.3

College: Oxford College of Emory University, Oxford, Ga.

PARENTS: Dean Scott and Jodi Patricia Heimbigner

In charge: If I were the president, I would raise taxes dramatically on goods from China. This would encourage the people to buy from Americans, resulting in more jobs for America.

Secret ingredient: The secret to my success so far is having God as my father to inspire me to be my personal best. Also, I always keep my goals in focus.

Inspiring people: One person who has influenced my life is my father. He has given me loads of spiritual and life guidance.

Memorable: My best high school memory is dressing up and going to the prom. It was fun to get to hang out with friends in a formal atmosphere.

Giving back: My top senior volunteer work was for the Humane Society. I worked in the medical center by cleaning rabbit and cat cages. I am glad I was able to give back.


Chandler Aaron Walp, 17

GPA: 3.7

College: St. Petersburg College, Tarpon Springs

Parents: Aaron and Tammy Walp

In charge: I would increase tax cuts for private jobs so that the money would go back into the business which would help grow the business, hence more jobs.

Secret ingredient: My secret to success so far is to separate times for different work. I use four or five days out of the week for work, those nights for schoolwork, and the weekend to relax.

Inspiring people: I would have to pick my parents for the biggest influence on my life. They showed me hard work pays off and to keep moving on through the rough parts of life.

Memorable: My best high school memories were homecomings at football games and I played for the team. I enjoyed the whole school coming out to have fun and watch.

Giving back: My top job was working for Odessa Christian School as the person who ran lunch and prepared food.



Sarah Rose Smith, 18

GPA: 4.62

College: University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

Parents: Laurie and Thomas Smith III

In charge: I would get rid of the national debt by cutting tons of programs that don't work anyway.

Secret ingredient: Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best.

Inspiring people: My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Patti Webster. I had surgery that year, and she really helped me get back on my feet schoolwise; also, she was the one who introduced me to the idea of "good, better, best."

Memorable: AP calculus, because of the teacher (Mrs. Jennifer Keller) and the students, not the classwork.

Giving back: Designing, building and maintaining my church's website.


Will Scott, 18

GPA: 4.59

College: University of Florida, Gainesville

Parents: Jeff and Nancy Scott

In charge: If I was president I would promote the use of efficient energy sources.

Secret ingredient: The secret to my success is dedication and having fun. Having fun increases dedication and catalyzes success.

Inspiring people: My dad has influenced my life because of his work ethic and love for his work. He has inspired me to pursue a career in medicine.

Memorable: My best high school memory is a combination of all my sporting events and the cafeteria food fight.

Giving back: As a senior I volunteered at my church and also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity.



Matthew E. Davis, 18

GPA: 4.0 *

COLLEGE: University of South Florida, Tampa

Parent: Sandy Davis

In charge: If I were president I would encourage our country to not neglect our Christian morals that made us the great nation we are.

Secret ingredient: I wouldn't be anywhere near as successful as I am if it weren't for Jesus Christ.

Inspiring people: My mom has been a great influence in my life, because she never gave up on me and my sister even after a really rough divorce and struggling to find a job in today's economy.

Memorable: My best high school memory would have to be my whole senior year in general just because I did all I could to show the love of Christ to others around me, and I strived to do my best in sports and academics and had fun doing all this, too.

Giving back: I became an Eagle Scout my senior year.



GPA: 3.88 *

College: Undecided

Parents: Allan and Wendy Smith

In charge: I would do everything in my power to protect the unborn. I feel that the lack of value for human life is the biggest downfall of our nation.

Secret ingredient: My relationship with God.

Inspiring people: My mom has been the example of Christ's unconditional love in my life. She always seems so strong even when the world is shaking around her. I hope I can be like her when I am a mother.

Memorable: I loved being a part of the shows put on by our school's fine arts department. It was such a great experience to perform with my friends and classmates under the direction of my mother, Wendy Smith.

Giving back: Working as a caretaker for autistic children.

* Unweighted GPA



Monica Vu, 18

GPA: 4.51

College: Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Parents: Dien and Phuong Vu

In charge: I would try to open the public's mind about the issue of discrimination. It still exists today, in industries such as the film industry and in simple everyday conversations.

Secret ingredient: Success is impossible without determination. All throughout high school I held onto my dream of attending a great university and that dream motivated me to always work my hardest and be the best that I can be.

Inspiring people: My mom has really influenced my life. She encourages me to be my best. She is a loving and caring mother and a hardworking dentist. I want to be like her.

Memorable: My best high school memory would be the school musical my freshman year, A Year with Frog and Toad. I played Mouse, and the musical was so fun.

Giving back: Gospel Roads is a service retreat given by the Salesians of Don Bosco every summer. This program opened my eyes to how a group of people could work together, grow in friendship and positively impact the lives of complete strangers.


Andrew Stephen Chanrasmi, 18

GPA: 4.51

College: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Parents: Tony and Connie Chanrasmi

In charge: I would improve the scholastic system and provide more access to public education.

Secret ingredient: Hard, honest work and the spirit to never give up. Even though the road may get rough, it is essential that we keep moving forward in order to achieve success.

Inspiring people: My mother has been a great influence on my life. I admire and model after her determination to the get the job done using creativity along the way.

Memorable: My best high school memory would be the epic adventures in my AP physics class with our teacher, Dirty J.

Giving back: I enjoy working at the music and youth ministry at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. I have been volunteering at this church since elementary school.


Jennifer Palacios, 18

GPA: 4.5

College: University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Parents: Marianne and Fernando Palacios

In charge: If I were president I would change how divided our country is. It seems as if we are all on opposite sides of the political spectrum battling against each other.

Secret ingredient: My secret to success is never leaving anything unfinished and always completing a task to its fullest, no matter how hard it may be.

Inspiring people: One person who has influenced my life is my dad. He has always worked hard for everything he has.

Memorable: My best high school memory is going to Grad Bash with all of my friends.

Giving back: All Children's Hospital teen volunteer; I tutor patients who are out of school for sometimes weeks at a time.



Chantal Marie Jahn, 18

GPA: 4.64

College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

Parents: Kjell and Tanja Jahn

In charge: I'd do more for the homeless. An economical downturn can hit people due to no fault of their own, and there has to be more that we can do.

Secret ingredient: Optimism and selective memory have worked wonders for me. I stay lighthearted and motivated by focusing on where I want to be in life and by not worrying about how much work that has taken or will take in the future.

Inspiring people: One of the most influential people in my life was the tutor that I had when I moved to the States. She patiently helped me learn English, and on the way, a lot about persistence, patience and Charlotte's Web.

Memorable: My favorite high school memory was when our class won powderpuff volleyball against the senior boys during our sophomore year.

Giving back: As part of a committee, I was one of a small group of seniors that organized a high school-wide community service week/minimester, which took place for the first time this February 2010, and is well on its way to becoming an annual event. During this week, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.


Chloe Marie Hoeppner, 18

GPA: 4.57

College: University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Parents: Rhonada and Dennis Hoeppner

In charge: If I were president, I would implement a more efficient way of preserving our natural resources and utilizing recycling programs across the country.

Secret ingredient: The secret to my success so far has been setting goals for myself and being determined to work as hard as I can to achieve them.

Inspiring people: My mom, Rhonada Hoeppner, has influenced my life by showing me that I can change my own destiny by achieving the first master's degree in her family. Her determination to succeed has helped inspire me to set my own goals and to never give up when the going gets tough.

Memorable: My best high school memories stem from the month that I spent studying abroad in Seville, Spain, going into my junior year of high school. I stayed with a host family and one of my classmates, Crawford Hunt, while we engulfed ourselves in the Spanish culture and had an amazing summer.

Giving back: My top senior volunteer project has been working in the Child Life department at All Children's Hospital. I worked with another classmate of mine by managing the activity cart and making sure that all of the patients were given various opportunities to play games, draw, and make arts and crafts.

Valedictorians, salutatorians from Pinellas County private schools 06/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 7:21pm]
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