Valedictorians

2012
salutatorians

Pinellas County's 2012 private school valedictorians and salutatorians

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?

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.

ADMIRAL FARRAGUT

. CO-VALEDICTORIAN

Amanda Puckett, 17

GPA: 4.34

Parents: David and Shelly Puckett and Laurie Puckett

College: University of Florida

STUDYING: chemical engineering

LEARNING: Being at a school that has students from around the world really opened my eyes to cultures and religions from all over.

INFLUENCED BY: My father has been a role model for me in all aspects of life. He has shown me that through hard work, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

SHOUT-OUT: Ms. McMillin, my freshman English and geography teacher and my soccer coach for three years, has been my biggest influence. She always pushed me to my limits, encouraged me to go for my dreams, and urged me to think, try and experience new things.

LOOKING BACK: During my junior year, my AP U.S. history class took a trip to St. Augustine while we were studying some of the original settlements. Our whole class bonded and became so much closer on the trip.

COMMUNITY: Working at Publix was a great experience because all the employees at my store are like one large family. Also, between the locals and all the tourists, I met some fascinating people and heard interesting life stories.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Taylor Swift

. CO-VALEDICTORIAN

Katryna Thomas, 17

GPA: 4.34

Parents: Dr. Donald Thomas III and Margaret Thomas

College study: University of Miami

studyING: neurobiology

INFLUENCED BY: One person who has influenced me a lot is my mom. She is always hard-working, independent, and has truly earned everything that she has now. No matter what, she always encouraged me to do my best and has never doubted my choices.

SHOUT-OUT: My Spanish teacher of five years, Mrs. Marcia Ellison, is like a mother to me. She has taught me so much not only about Spanish, but about the world as well.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory has to be my lunch conversations. Sometimes, they just get so outrageous, but the levity of it gives me the break that I need to recharge for my classes.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was when I first sat down to take my AP exams. I was very worried, but it all ended up working out very well.

COMMUNITY: Relay for Life made a huge impression on me because I have lost several family members to cancer.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

. SALUTATORIAN

Scott Nicholas Claudon, 18

GPA: 4.15

PARENTS: Chester and Carol Claudon

COLLEGE: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

STUDYING: biomedical engineering

LEARNING: How the inner workings of a U.S. naval destroyer operate while underway (aboard the USS Farragut).

INFLUENCED BY: My dad always works hard, makes decisions based on logical premeditation, and has become one of the people I respect most in the world. Thanks for everything, Dad!

SHOUT-OUT: One teacher I would like to give a shout-out to would have to be Coach Nick (Mike Nicholson), for making learning science so much fun!

LOOKING BACK: One of the best high school memories I have is the school trip to Italy, and seeing the amazing sights there.

MADE IT THROUGH: One of toughest memories is waiting to hear back from colleges.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at the VA hospital taught me to appreciate what the military does and to support it in anyway I can.

WISHFUL FRIEND: J.K. Rowling

CANTERBURY

. VALEDICTORIAN

Emily Sue Winesett, 17

GPA: 4.72

Parents: Michele and Parrish Winesett

College: Haverford College, Haverford, Penn.

STUDYING: biology

LEARNING: How to shoot and actually make three-pointers in basketball.

INFLUENCED bY: My great-grandmother Nanie. She taught me to pray every night and that has made all the difference in my life.

SHOUT-OUT: Señor Gomez was my Spanish teacher, but more importantly, he was my adviser who was always there for me.

LOOKING BACK: Winning a state title in softball.

MADE IT THROUGH: Seeing my now-104-year-old great-grandmother lose her independence after breaking her leg my freshman year.

COMMUNITY: Coaching Little League softball showed me how important it is to always be a positive role model.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Mother Teresa

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Lacy Marie Adams, 18

GPA: 4.42

Parents: Jeffrey M. and Angela M. Adams

College: Winthrop University, Rock Hill, S.C.

STUDYING: education and/or speech therapy

LEARNING: Everything that leadership encompasses.

INFLUENCED BY: Roy Silver … because through coaching baseball and softball, he helps show how the sport relates to life in general and keep priorities in order.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Bridge taught me an important lesson at a young age: "Don't panic and just take a deep breath; everything can be fixed." With this in mind, I was never hesitant to give things my all.

LOOKING BACK: Winning the softball state championship with my team.

MADE IT THROUGH: Sitting with my friend at All Children's Hospital.

COMMUNITY: Coaching summer softball camp. I was able to share my love and knowledge of the game.

WISHFUL FRIEND: John Wooden, coach

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Simone Tyler Leeper, 18

GPA: 4.42

Parents: Silvia Leeper and Daniel Leeper

College: Columbia University, New York

Studying: international relations and theatre

LEARNING: I expected to learn many academic things in high school but I did not expect to learn so much about the person I am and the person I would like to become.

INFLUENCED BY: My brother, Nico, has influenced me because he truly is the role model of who I want to be.

SHOUT-OUT: I would like to give a shout-out to my chemistry teacher Mr. Murphy because he truly goes above and beyond just teaching the material but actually cares about his students' lives.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is the closing night of my last high school production, Guys and Dolls, when I got to be on stage with my brother, who came back from college to be in the show, and my dad.

MADE IT THROUGH: Any moment that involved physics.

COMMUNITY: The summer before my junior year, I participated in a church mission trip to Guatemala. The people that I met had such joy despite the difficult lives that they were living. They inspired my desire to help people just like them all over the world.

wISHFUL FRIEND: T.S. Eliot

CALVARY CHRISTIAN

. VALEDICTORIAN

Kelly Vollmer, 18

GPA: 4.61

Parents: John and Merrie Vollmer

College: University of Florida

STUDYING: pre-law

LEARNING: I wasn't expecting to learn that I actually like government.

INFLUENCED BY: My AP government/macroeconomics teacher, Mrs. Johnson, because she showed me that there are people out there that still strive for excellence.

SHOUT-OUT: Eric Lipham for teaching the hardest class I had ever taken in a ridiculously fun way my freshman year.

LOOKING BACK: One of my best memories in high school is being on the homecoming court.

MADE IT THROUGH: The toughest moment was trying to pass my AP macroeconomics tests.

COMMUNITY: When I worked cleaning up a church in Miami, I saw how even the simplest of things can bring joy to people that need it.

WISHFUL FRIEND: I would totally creep on C.S. Lewis' Facebook if we were friends.

. SALUTATORIAN

Mary Michael, 18

GPA: 4.56

Parents: Ehab and Salma Michael

College: University of Florida

studyING: biology

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn what loquacious meant.

INFLUENCED BY: My dad because I see how hard he works and it motivates me to keep going.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Lizano and Mrs. Rice, you guys helped me to see the best in myself.

LOOKING BACK: Going to Costa Rica on a mission trip with a group from my school.

MADE IT THROUGH: Becoming really discouraged after my SATs.

COMMUNITY: Working at North Bay Hospital my sophomore year. It taught me how precious life is.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Robert Pattinson, actor

CLEARWATER ACADEMY INTERNATIONAL

. VALEDICTORIAN

Armando Abate, 17

GPA: 3.9

Parents: Alberto and Shelley Abate

College: University of South Carolina at Columbia

studyING: international business

LEARNING: How to choose and act on my own determinism.

INFLUENCED BY: My father, because he led by example.

SHOUT-OUT: Mal Ellenberg, English 9H. Not only was he able to teach me the value of good writing, but he became a lifetime friend.

LOOKING BACK: Winning the district varsity soccer championship.

MADE IT THROUGH: Studying for my AP exams.

COMMUNITY: Last summer, I traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to provide relief for the tornado-stricken community. Helping these people gave me a sense of selflessness.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Steven Gerrard, captain of Liverpool FC

. SALUTATORIAN

Rebecca S. Johnson, 18

GPA: 4.0

Parents: Paula Stone and Bill Johnson

College : Maryville University, St. Louis, Mo.

studyING: interior design

LEARNING: Clearwater Academy's study methodology.

INFLUENCED BY: My dad has influenced me a great deal. He's one of my best friends and a great role model.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Houck. He taught me to take responsibility for my education and relate it to my future. And he was funny to boot.

LOOKING BACK: When we hung our teachers' desk from a tree for April Fool's Day.

MADE IT THROUGH: Feeling foggy from lack of understanding and focus before I learned how to study effectively.

COMMUNITY: Disaster relief in Alabama. The overwhelming destruction struck me because I had family very close to the affected area. Picking up the broken pieces and helping people to start over felt indescribably good.

CLEARWATER CENTRAL CATHOLIC

. VALEDICTORIAN

Carrie Cramer, 18

GPA: 4.57

Parents: Mark and Debra Cramer

College: Boston University

Studying: biomedical engineering

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn that calculus isn't as scary as it sounds.

INFLUENCED BY: My parents taught me to always strive to reach my potential. They have also shown that they are open to supporting my goals and dreams.

SHOUT-OUT: I would like to give a shout-out to Mrs. Winer because she knows how to make learning fun! Being a senior class moderator, she also played an enormous role in pulling our class together this year.

LOOKING BACK: One of my best high school memories was when my class united to win homecoming week this year.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school memories involved studying for midterm, final and AP exams.

COMMUNITY: Repairing houses in the poorest town in Costa Rica made me realize how fortunate I am to have been born in a safe, comfortable lifestyle. The kindness and happiness of the people who live there inspired me to focus less on material possessions and money and more on personal relationships and experiences.

Wishful FRIEND: Dillon Francis

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Stephanie Aloy Cruz, 18

GPA: 4.53

Parents: Leonardo and Willa Cruz

College: University of Florida

studyING: English/communications

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn about the great importance of friendship. My friends kept me grounded and sane; they were always there for me and believed in me even when I had no faith in myself, and they all shaped me into the person I am now.

INFLUENCED BY: One person that has influenced me is my younger sister Shannon. She is beautiful and confident, and she often brings out the best in me, always there for support.

SHOUT-OUT: I'd like to give a shout-out to Miss Noyes. She exudes brilliance, and from just 45 minutes of being in a classroom with her, you can tell how incredibly intelligent she is. She is one of the most dedicated teachers that I have ever known.

LOOKING BACK: Receiving a standing ovation after performing at the end-of-the-year Mass. It was such an honor, and I could not have asked for a better gift on the last day of school.

MADE IT THROUGH: Taking AP Spanish online. That was a nightmare.

COMMUNITY: This past February at Give Kids the World, I had the opportunity to meet with chronically ill children, also some of the happiest people that I have ever met. It was touching to know that my service, however small it may have been, truly did make an impact one someone's life.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Neil Patrick Harris

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Michael Joseph Purcell, 18

GPA: 4.53

Parents: Christopher and Carol Purcell

College: Columbia University, New York

studyING: English, creative writing or pre-law

LEARNING: This is going to come across as extremely cliche, and I'm okay with that because I've learned just how true it is, but one thing I didn't expect to learn over these last four years is just how important friendship is. Throughout high school I've had quite a few friends who I can honestly say I think were at times the only thing that got me through the day and are some of the most amazing people I've ever met and won't soon forget.

INFLUENCED BY: Someone who's always inspired me, for various reasons, is my grandma. She's everything I hope to be — caring, loving, compassionate and an amazing friend and listener — but what's most amazing about her is that she's always thinking of others before herself, looking to lend a hand wherever she can, and to me, that's inspiring.

SHOUT-OUT: I'd like to give a shout-out to Ms. Kira Deisler for teaching me so much that I'll never forget the hard work, teamwork and friendship this year.

LOOKING BACK: Something in high school that I'll never forget is being crowned homecoming king. It was an honor and such a fun experience to be on court with so many of my friends, but to actually have been recognized by my school and chosen as the winner is something that meant so much to me.

MADE IT THROUGH: As a captain of the soccer team during my senior year, one of my toughest high school moments came during one of our last regular season soccer games when I broke my foot, ending my season and keeping me from playing in the postseason.

COMMUNITY: For the past three summers, I've been attending a mission trip with a group from my church to an orphanage in Trujillo, Honduras, and that continual effort, I have to say, changed my outlook on life. Seeing how happy the people who lived there were despite the fact that they had so little made me realize just how blessed I have been in my life.

CLEARWATER CENTRAL CATHOLIC INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE

. VALEDICTORIAN

Brendan Klovekorn, 18

GPA: 4.67

Parents: Steven and Carol Klovekorn

College: U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.

STUDYING: mechanical engineering

LEARNING: I did not expect to learn that gummy bears would light on fire when exposed to certain chemicals, but sure enough, my chemistry teacher set up the demo one day.

INFLUENCED BY: My father has always influenced me through example by being a successful, yet caring leader who knows when it's time to be serious and when it's time to have fun.

SHOUT-OUT: I want to give a shout-out to Miss Gabrielle Noyes for preparing me so well for college math that I should be able to validate college calculus courses.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory has been playing basketball over the past four years at CCCHS with my friends.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was making the decision where I would attend college before finally choosing the Naval Academy.

COMMUNITY: My work at CCC's annual Camp Invention had a great impact because it gave me a chance to share my passion for science with children from kindergarten to sixth grade in hopes that they would one day share the sentiments.

Wishful FRIEND: Admiral William H. McRaven, who serves as the ninth commander, U.S. Special Operations Command.

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Alexandra Rae Alberdi, 18

GPA: 4.62

Parents: Andy and Debi Alberdi

College: University of Florida

Studying: veterinary medicine

LEARNING: I never expected to learn that you can function somewhat normally after only one hour of sleep.

INFLUENCED BY: Abuelo, my grandpa has taught me more life lessons than anyone else. Most importantly, though, he taught me that nothing in the world matters more than being true to yourself and embracing everything about who you are — both the good and the bad.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Hamacher, I don't know where you found the patience to tolerate all the whining and complaining we bombarded you with on an almost daily basis, but I know our whole class appreciated it.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is helping lead our team to states and having the privilege to play my last high school soccer game at our home field with the entire school cheering us on.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was struggling through calculus class. It was the toughest class I have ever taken but with the help of my amazing teacher, Miss Noyes, and a little extra effort, I was able to get through it.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering with Horse Power for Kids and seeing how kids in such unfortunate situations could still find so much joy in everything they do. It made me think about how lucky I am to have the life that I have and to start appreciating more of it.

Wishful FRIEND: Dave Matthews

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Samuel Prieto, 17

GPA: 4.62

Parents: Jose and Linda Prieto

College: University of Pennsylvania , Philadelphia

Studying: Undecided

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn of my passion toward and innate affinity for art.

INFLUENCED BY: One person who has influenced me greatly would be my grandfather because I have always looked up to him and constantly strived to be as strong and flexible a person as he.

SHOUT-OUT: I would live to give a shout-out to Mr. Righter for being as interested in and excited about literature in general and, specifically, Kurt Vonnegut, as I am. He was fun to be around and his class was a pleasure. Also, Mr. Hamacher, and if you know him, you know why.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was the district tournament for wrestling.

COMMUNITY: Nothing specifically, but my ongoing activities in the Boy Scouts has impacted me to help others by making the community better.

Wishful FRIEND: The poet Anis Mojgani.

INDIAN ROCKS CHRISTIAN

. VALEDICTORIAN

Rhett Layton Hammil, 17

GPA: 4.41

Parents: Sam and Debbie Hammil

College: University of Florida

Studying: biomedical engineering

LEARNING: I never expected to learn that I would do so well in school which would give me the ability to pick the college of my choice and excel in any career I wanted to.

INFLUENCED BY: My mom, she has always encouraged me to do my best and set my goals high. She was always there to help and support me with school and sports.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Fuoran, my high school soccer coach and physics teacher. Mr. Futoran taught me many new skills on the soccer pitch and made a hard class like physics fun.

LOOKING BACK: My favorite high school memory is my senior year of high school cover. My team excelled in many aspects, making a good playoff run. I wish I could relive every moment of it.

COMMUNITY: Every year I travel to a foreign country with my school on a mission trip. These impacted my life, teaching me valuable life lessons, such as: independence as well as teamwork, never take anything for granted and a language barrier can always be broken through a common love in sports.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Didier Drogba

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Jennifer Lee Nesslar, 18

GPA: 4.38

Parents: Gary and Donna Nesslar

College: University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Studying: education/English

LEARNING: I never expected to learn that following Christ is the most important thing in my life – not academics, sports, or extracurricular activities.

INFLUENCED BY: My best friend Dorothy Parish always encouraged me to work my hardest, to be involved in the right things, and to follow Christ wholeheartedly. I do no believe that I would be the person I am today had she not influenced me throughout high school.

SHOUT-OUT: Mrs. Busjahn. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue my love of writing.

LOOKING BACK: Holding a carwash to raise funds for a friend who was going to Australia.

MADE IT THROUGH: Taking AP human geography. Although my teacher, Mr. Hayward, was tough on us, I learned to be a better student.

COMMUNITY: Serving the community with my youth ministry's Solid Rock Company. While a part of this group, I learned the importance of serving others and surrounding myself with friends that build me up.

Wishful FRIEND: Ryan Hall

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Kristen Marie Nesslar, 18

GPA: 4.38

Parents: Gary and Donna Nesslar

College: University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Studying: secondary education

LEARNING: I always expected to learn subject matter, but as I got further into high school I found that I was learning how to think and analyze material; something that goes far beyond the facts.

INFLUENCED BY: Throughout high school, my friend Dorothy Parish influenced me the most. She is one of those rare friends who I not only enjoyed to spend time with, but also kept me accountable, encouraged me, and strengthened me in my walk with Christ.

SHOUT-OUT: I am convinced that my school has the best teachers in the world, but if I had to pick one to send a shout-out to it would be coach Mark Buchanan. I had him only one year for 10th-grade Bible, but what he taught that year has had a lasting impression on me and impacted me far beyond his classroom assignments.

LOOKING BACK: Participating on the varsity cross country and tennis teams is my fondest memory of high school. I made some close bonds on both of those teams, and I enjoyed having my mom as a part of my experience as she was an assistant coach for cross country.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment happened at the end of the first semester of my senior year when my workload in all of my classes increased and the material was made more challenging. It was difficult to stay on top of my homework and prioritize my time.

COMMUNITY: I have found the opportunity to attend both international and domestic mission trips most rewarding. The past two years I have had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Wishful FRIEND: Bethany Hamilton

KESWICK CHRISTIAN

. VALEDICTORIAN

Mary Jacubec, 18

GPA: 4.55

Parents: Robert and Ssang Jacubec

College: Emory University, Atlanta

Studying: biology with interest in human nutrition

LEARNING: There is nothing that I didn't expect to learn; there is always something to gain and learn from encompassing life lessons to specific classes.

INFLUENCED BY: One person that has influenced me is my varsity basketball coach, Karrmayne King. She has taught me not only to be a good athlete but also have high standards to achieve a strong sense of biblical morals with slogans such as "be uncommon" and "never settle for less."

SHOUT-OUT: Thank you, Mrs. Costa for your dedication and time teaching me and my class especially outside of school hours on Saturdays preparing us for out AP calculus exam.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is placing fifth at the state track meet with my 4 X 800 team, as we ran in the slow heat and weren't even ranked to be in the top eight places.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was when I had an illness that made me exhausted. I almost had to pull out from cross country, a sport that I was passionate about, but I stuck to it and overcame that challenge as I ran the same times this year as I did the year before the illness.

COMMUNITY: Being a musical therapist volunteer at All Children's Hospital opened my eyes as I got to see the difference I made in a child's life by making music with a patient, so he or she would not think about his or her current condition or operation coming up but having fun just like any other child.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Kate Middleton

. SALUTATORIAN

Caleb Thomas McKay, 17

GPA: 4.49

Parents: Joe and Suzi McKay

College: Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va.

studyING: computer engineering and/or computer science

LEARNING: I didn't expect to do well in yearbook class, but I found I was actually pretty good at it.

INFLUENCED BY: My youth pastor has not only helped to further my Christian walk, but also motivated me to finish my school work.

SHOUT-OUT: I would give a shout-out to my first-grade teacher Mrs. McKinney and her husband for helping to set the foundation for my math skills and working with me in advanced math classes.

LOOKING BACK: My favorite memory is probably finishing the Moody Mega Math Challenge. Basically, our team of four sat at a bunch of laptops researching, computing and modeling data and placing it all in a 16-page paper in 14 hours; even though we didn't win, it felt rewarding just to have the whole thing come together like it did.

MADE IT THROUGH: The AP U.S. history test. I have trouble remembering dates and names as well as writing essays, so the entire year was difficult, but it paid off in the end when I passed the AP exam.

COMMUNITY: My youth group went on a trip to northern Florida to help several churches with construction and yard work. It definitely made an impact to see the faces of the people we ministered to and to just help them out when they were in need.

WISHFUL FRIEND: Tim Tebow

LAKESIDE CHRISTIAN

. VALEDICTORIAN

Brianna Christine Smyth, 18

GPA: 4.17

Parents: Mark and Debbie Smyth

College: University of Tampa

Studying: forensic science, criminology

LEARNING: I didn't expect that I would learn more things about myself through high school than anywhere else. It has been a learning experience both academically and personally.

INFLUENCED BY: I can't choose between them so both my mom and dad because they have supported me, helped me through tough times, and made me into the person I am today.

SHOUT-OUT: I would have to say Amy Withee because she has been a great teacher, mentor and friend through my high school years. And she just happens to be the best senior adviser ever!

LOOKING BACK: One of my best high school memories was on senior night during the varsity volleyball season when we beat Keswick Christian School for the first time.

MADE IT THROUGH: One of my hardest high school moments was the very difficult decision I had to make to quit playing softball for Lakeside so that I could play club volleyball.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at Paul B. Stephens Exceptional School because it was gratifying to work with special-needs children and bring a smile to their faces.

Wishful friend: Misty May-Treanor

. SALUTATORIAN

Brittany Behensky, 17

GPA: 4.13

Parents: Darryl and Lee Ann Behensky

College: Texas Christian University, Fort Worth

Studying: biochemical engineering

LEARNING: I never expected to learn so much about myself and the person I am through studying things like World War II and quadratic equations.

INFLUENCED BY: My varsity volleyball coach Gavin McGovern taught me more than simply how to play the game; he showed me how to lead a team, and gave me advice that will carry me through life.

SHOUT-OUT: Yes, to Mrs. Coffman for not only pushing me to be the best student that I could be, but also for inspiring a passion for literature within me.

LOOKING BACK: The best high school memory I have is my senior trip on a cruise to the Bahamas for five days.

MADE IT THROUGH: I know that the hardest thing I will have done in high school is leaving, not only the school, but also my friends I have had for 14 years.

COMMUNITY: My Girl Scout Gold Award, a 70-hour service project, has not only benefited those I've helped at Dunedin's Honeymoon Island State Park, but also it has benefited me in that I have become more responsible and confident through this project.

Wishful FRIEND: Daniel Radcliffe

NORTHSIDE CHRISTIAN

. VALEDICTORIAN

Daniel Matthew Lamont, 17

GPA: 4.71

Parents: David Lamont, Christie Lamont

College: University of Florida

studyING: pre-medicine

LEARNING: All of the outstanding functions and uses of my graphing calculator.

INFLUENCED BY: Mrs. Keller. She is by far the best teacher in the entire school. She knows her subjects extremely well, teaches them even better, and is always there if you need help for school or anything else.

SHOUT-OUT: That was a teacher. But I would also like to give a shout-out to Mr. Christian, my chemistry teacher. He is extraordinarily cool, and I am glad that he put up with me for as long as he did and I am glad that he showed me all kinds of cool chemistry experiments.

LOOKING BACK: Best high school memory was our grade winning homecoming week our junior year.

MADE IT THROUGH: Toughest high school moment was definitely the AP chemistry exam.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at the pregnancy center around a month ago. It showed me exactly how much you can affect others' lives simply by doing small things and doing it with a cheerful attitude.

Wishful FRIEND: Joe Maddon

. SALUTATORIAN

Thomas M. Germain, 18

GPA: 4.67

Parents: Michael and Johnna Germain

College: University of South Florida

studyING: mechanical engineering

LEARNING: Just how complex life is in a chemical, physical and biological sense. It puts me in awe of how wonderfully we are created.

INFLUENCED BY: My father because he has shown and taught me the benefits of hard work.

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Christian, my AP chemistry teacher. Thank you for all that you've taught me, not just in chemistry, but also about how to succeed in life no matter what the circumstance.

LOOKING BACK: Winning the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Math and Science Scholarship my junior year. It was the first time I realized just how far the gift of intelligence could take me.

MADE IT THROUGH: Probably my freshman year when I first attended Northside and did not know anyone.

COMMUNITY: Volunteering at the Taste of Pinellas because it benefited many sick children and it showed me how much the community can accomplish when we rally behind one cause.

Wishful FRIEND: David Crowder from the David Crowder*Band. He's an interesting person and I just wonder how he gets all his creativity.

OLDSMAR CHRISTIAN

. VALEDICTORIAN

Jelyn Leyva, 17

GPA: 4.0

Parents: Job and Jane Leyva

College: University of South Florida

Studying: speech pathology

LEARNING: One thing I learned was that life is unpredictable; no matter how much you plan ahead you may find yourself going the opposite direction, and that's okay, as long as you know how to make the best of a detour.

INFLUENCED BY: My mother is the person who has influenced me most. She was born and raised in the Philippines. She worked hard to make it here in the United States because she knew there's a chance for a better life here. She taught me to not be discouraged because of the presently hard work, but instead to look forward and press toward the goal.

SHOUT-OUT: I would like to give a shout-out to my guidance counselor, Mrs. Macario. I will never be able to repay you for all the hard work and dedication you have put into me and my senior class.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory was performing in all my school's performances like the Storyteller, Pride and Prejudice and Joyful Noise.

MADE IT THROUGH: The passing of a beloved teacher and coach Mr. Blackwell.

COMMUNITY: One volunteer effort that made an impression on me was Operation Christmas Child, an organization that allows people to send Christmas presents to underprivileged children all around the world by filling boxes with toys and hygienic items. I filled my own box and helped in packing, counting and organizing the boxes to have them ready to ship.

Wishful FRIEND: Kristen Johnston

. SALUTATORIAN

Gina Marie Macario, 18

GPA: 3.99

Parents: Vincent and Kathryn Macario

College: Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, Mo.

Studying: film and media arts

LEARNING: I didn't expect to learn how quickly life can take a turn. That's a good thing.

INFLUENCED BY: My dad has really influenced me because he has taught me so much how to be responsible and mature when dealing with things in life, and I am just like him.

SHOUT-OUT: I want to give a shout-out to Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Warren because they are great teachers and they love and care for students unconditionally.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory is being in the play The Storyteller sophomore year.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was going through the loss of a wonderful teacher and mentor to my life, Mr. Blackwell.

COMMUNITY: I used to stream church services on the Internet.

Wishful FRIEND: Brent Smith from the band Shinedown

ST. PETERSBURG CATHOLIC

. VALEDICTORIAN

Tyler Colin Arfman, 18

GPA: 4.56

Parents: Dale and Deborah Arfman

College: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Studying: chemical engineering

LEARNING: Senioritis can get everyone. No one is safe.

INFLUENCED BY: Mrs. Schuyler, my biology and chemistry teacher, influenced me a lot. I've been in her classes since fifth grade and she always draws the best out of her students.

SHOUT-OUT: Shout-out to Mr. Schroeder because he's awesome

LOOKING BACK: My best memory in high school is when the AP chemistry exam ended. No more pain.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was trying to keep an A in calculus. I cut it about as close as anyone possibly could.

COMMUNITY: I volunteered a couple of summers at the Madeira Beach Recreation Center as a camp counselor of sorts. I really enjoyed playing with all the kids.

Wishful FRIEND: Andrew Jackson because he did what he thought was right regardless of all of his haters.

. SALUTATORIAN

Stephen Dillon, 18

GPA: 4.47

Parents: Frank and Mary Ann Dillon

College: University of Florida

Studying: biology

LEARNING: I did not expect to learn as much as I did about Latin American culture throughout my Spanish classes.

INFLUENCED BY: My mother has influenced me significantly by instilling in me strong work ethics and study habits.

SHOUT-OUT: I would give a shout-out to Mrs. Harwell, my advanced placement calculus teacher. She made calculus exciting and interesting to learn.

LOOKING BACK: My best high school memory was going to Universal after a cross country meet at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest moment was taking the advanced placement calculus BC exam.

COMMUNITY: For my Eagle Scout project, I refurbished a cross at Holy Family Catholic Church and built a prayer garden around it. Many people are impressed by the garden and pray by the cross.

Wishful FRIEND: Ron Paul

SHORECREST PREPARATORY SCHOOL

. VALEDICTORIAN

Laura Peterson, 18

GPA: 4.79

Parents: Janet and Andy Peterson

College: Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

studyING: organismic and evolutionary biology

LEARNING: I never expected to enjoy being a role model so much. Some of my best memories at Shorecrest come from running cross country with the middle school kids, singing with underclassmen, and helping out in the lower division.

INFLUENCED BY: The academic teacher who has most influenced me is Mr. Napodano, my physics teacher and adviser. I took honors physics my freshman year, and he encouraged me to take AP physics as a sophomore. In addition to being my teacher, he has been a phenomenal mentor as my advisor for the past four years.

SHOUT-OUT: Another teacher who helped to shape my path is my voice teacher, Mary K. Wilson. There is no way I will ever be able to thank her for the enthusiasm, love, and dedication she has given me over the past nine years in all aspects of my life.

LOOKING BACK: April of my senior year, I performed as Maria in The Sound of Music, and leading such an amazing show with a wonderful cast is a memory I will treasure forever.

MADE IT THROUGH: Junior year was a very challenging time because I had to juggle a rigorous academic schedule, varsity cross country practices, and many hours of performance activities.

COMMUNITY: I participated in Habitat for Humanity junior and senior year. It was very rewarding to help families in need, and to be able to physically see a change at the end of the week.

Wishful FRIEND: Sutton Foster

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Casilia Gwendolyn Smith, 18

GPA: 4.73

Parents: Karen Smith, Curtis Smith

College: Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

Studying: molecular biology and economics

LEARNING: How hard it is to teach small children. Over the summers I volunteered for school-sponsored summer camps for young children, and now I have a lot of respect for elementary school teachers!

INFLUENCED BY: Mr. David Field, my geometry teacher. He taught me that success is 10 percent talent and 90 percent pure hard work.

LOOKING BACK: I host a burning party for my friends at the end of each school year. We burn our worst memories from the year, like bad test grades, embarrassing yearbook photos, and —­ new for this year — college rejection letters.

COMMUNITY: For as long as I can remember, my neighbors and I have cared for and cleaned up trash from our local waterways, and in return we have a great place to fish, swim, paddle, party, and have fun. It's a beautiful symbiosis.

Wishful FRIEND: Karim Nader, a neuroscientist. He came up with and tested the idea that your brain has to make new proteins in order to recall a memory, and that those proteins change the memory each time it is recalled.

. CO-SALUTATORIAN

Jared Elinger, 18

GPA: 4.73

Parents: John and Suzie Elinger

College: Rice University, Houston

Studying: mechanical or aerospace engineering

LEARNING: playwriting

SHOUT-OUT: Mr. Field, my honors geometry, honors pre-calculus and BC calculus teacher, was a great influence from day one as he instilled an outstanding work ethic in me.

LOOKING BACK: Having my play produced at the American Globe Theater for the 15-Minute Play Festival in New York City is my best memory from high school.

MADE IT THROUGH: My toughest high school moment was the first day and adjusting to the new style of schooling.

COMMUNITY: The Empty Bowls project made an impression as it displayed how many unique ways there are to help.

Wishful FRIEND: Steve Jobs

These profiles were compiled by Times staffer Emily Rieman from questionnaires submitted by the valedictorians and salutatorians and their schools. Photos are courtesy of the graduates.

Pinellas County's 2012 private school valedictorians and salutatorians 05/26/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 6:08pm]

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