With final exams and college decisions bearing down on the top students in Pinellas County public schools, we threw one more assignment at them. We asked them to write a paragraph reflecting on this moment. They could look back at their high school years or focus on the road ahead. It could be about anything.

If there were eye rolls over the Tampa Bay Times adding to their workload, these students didn’t show it. They embraced the task, giving thanks for those who had helped them and showing excitement — plus a few butterflies — about their next step.

What stood out, though, was an eagerness by many to see how they and their peers will do as a group. “We are generation Z,” one student began. “We are resilient and willing to put up a fight. We are diverse and open-minded individuals who are looking to make the world a better place.”

We give you the valedictorians and salutatorians from the Class of 2019:

Boca Ciega High

Robert Hurley
Robert Hurley

Robert Hurley, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.67
PARENT: Amy Krusemark
COLLEGE: Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
MAJOR: Chemistry
PARTING THOUGHTS: High school has been an incredible, strenuous and amazingly life-changing experience. No matter how overwhelmed or overbooked, I was still overjoyed with my time here. BCHS Class of 2019 Forever.
Alexander Louis Jenks
Alexander Louis Jenks

Alexander Louis Jenks, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.61
PARENTS: Pamela and David Jenks
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Biology (Pre-professional)
PARTING THOUGHTS: As we end this chapter in our lives, remember to live on with affection and gratitude. Looking back, I am so thankful for my magnificent teachers and fantastic friends that shaped me — both scholastically and personally — and made high school a time to never be forgotten. In the present, I am extremely grateful for my exceptional family providing me with endless love and support. … In memory of and inspiration from Walt Disney, graduate remembering that “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Clearwater High

Jianna Eryka Chiong Tan
Jianna Eryka Chiong Tan

Jianna Eryka Chiong Tan, 17

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.7745
PARENTS: Edwin and Janet Tan
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJORS: Chemistry and English
PARTING THOUGHTS: The class of 2019 holds the curiosity, confidence, and charisma to change the world for the better. From everything we have experienced, to everything we will go through, I am forever grateful to say I have been surrounded by the most incredible family and friends. With people like these, it truly feels like anything is possible.
Tillie Frances Palma
Tillie Frances Palma

Tillie Frances Palma, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.7736
PARENTS: Caroline and Bernard Palma
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJORS: Biology and anthropology
PARTING THOUGHTS: We have already experienced so much and learned so many things, yet this is only the prologue.

Countryside High

Ryan Scivally
Ryan Scivally

Ryan Scivally, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.71
PARENT: Jodi Scivally
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Actuarial science
PARTING THOUGHTS: I would like to thank my teachers, coaches, friends, family, and specifically my mom and sister, who collectively helped me achieve this honor. My success is not just an individual achievement, but a reflection of a community that has consistently encouraged and supported me. I look forward to continuing my education and blazing my own trail, while giving back to those who have influenced me. Congratulations to the class of 2019 and good luck wherever you’re headed next.
Charlie Vu Nguyen
Charlie Vu Nguyen

Charlie Vu Nguyen, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.69
PARENTS: Chuong Nguyen and Linh Vu
COLLEGE: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
MAJOR: Economics
PARTING THOUGHTS: I’d like to simply say thanks. To my father, who taught me the value of discipline and diligence, as well as my mother, who showed me the importance of being humble and compassionate towards others. I hope to continue my success in college and to keep making all who have supported me throughout my life proud. The future looks bright, and through determination as well as hard work, I expect myself, and my generation, to truly make this world a better place.

Dixie Hollins High

Polina Leger
Polina Leger

Polina Leger, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.81
PARENTS: Elena and Edmond Leger
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Electrical and computer engineering
PARTING THOUGHTS: Insight and advice for the future generation: First, I want to say thank you to all the people who have been in my life, from my teachers to the lunch lady, who have impacted my journey and made each day that much brighter. For those who are in high school or want advice about high school I want you know there are important and unimportant things to focus on. What IS important is to always try your best and to believe in yourself. What ISN’T important is GPA or class rank. Reflecting on these past four years, I realize that the things that made me the happiest also prepared me the best for my future.
Reanna Stiehler
Reanna Stiehler

Reanna Stiehler, 17

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.74
PARENT: Raquel Stiehler
COLLEGE: DePauw University Greencastle, Ind.
MAJOR: Biology
PARTING THOUGHTS: As graduation day approaches, I’m not sure what to think. … I never imagined that my future would be in Indiana. I had never even heard of the school I’m going to be attending until about two months ago. That’s a crazy thought. I decided where the next four years of my life are going to be in less than two months. But that’s how senior year is, full of crazy things that will hopefully turn into the future you want. I believe it can for everyone. However, that’s only if they work hard enough for it.

Dunedin High

Hannah Enzor
Hannah Enzor

Hannah Enzor, 17

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.60
PARENTS: Kim and Joe Enzor
COLLEGE: Undecided
MAJOR: Nursing
PARTING THOUGHTS: After spending my freshman and sophomore years participating in school competitions and getting involved in the Health Organization for Students of America club, I knew that health care was for me. My junior and senior years were some of the most exciting years of my life. I became involved with my school by playing volleyball and joining the National Honor Society, and met the people who would become my closest friends. … I am extremely thankful for my friends, boyfriend, and family who have helped me make it this far, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Raymond Joseph Sass
Raymond Joseph Sass

Raymond Joseph Sass, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.59
PARENTS: Jenny and Andy Sass
COLLEGE: Brown University, Providence, R.I.
MAJOR: Architecture or environmental engineering
PARTING THOUGHTS: My four years of high school will be missed and forever remembered thanks to the wonderful people that have accompanied me throughout. Thank you to the teachers who have challenged me as a student and pushed me to work hard. Thank you to the friends who made these years truly joyful. Thank you to the teammates that I’ve shared the baseball field with for most of my life for being the closest thing to family outside of my family. Lastly, thank you to my family for loving me and teaching me countless life lessons, making me who I am today.

East Lake High

Amanda Marie Foreman
Amanda Marie Foreman

Amanda Marie Foreman, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.70
PARENTS: Christine and David Foreman
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Animal science
PARTING THOUGHTS: I can hardly believe that graduation day is approaching. I am excited to close this chapter of my life and move onto the next. Graduation means I am one step closer to my end goal of being a mixed animal veterinarian. One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors—Jane Austen—says, “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” I plan to take that mindset with me in life. Actions speak louder than words. Decades from now, I hope to tell someone what I have done, not what I would have liked to do.
Erica Wonicker-Cook
Erica Wonicker-Cook

Erica Wonicker-Cook, 17

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.64
PARENTS: Joel and Beth Wonicker-Cook
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Health on a pre-med track
PARTING THOUGHTS: I would like to thank my parents and my teachers for helping me get to where I am today, but I want to give a special thank you to my sister, Lauren. She’s two years older than me and being the younger sibling naturally made me want to be just like her. Growing up, I always felt like she was smarter and just better at everything. Most times, without her knowing, that fueled me to push myself to my full potential. I want to thank her for being there as my silent competition, helping me in ways beyond what she could imagine. … Thank you Lauren for helping me realize my potential and teaching me that the sky is not the limit.

Academy of Engineering at East Lake High

Ashwin Ganesh
Ashwin Ganesh

Ashwin Ganesh, 17

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.79
PARENTS: Ganesh Ramakrishnan and Gayathri Chandrasekaran
COLLEGE: University of Texas at Austin
MAJOR: Computer science engineering
PARTING THOUGHTS: East Lake High School and the Pinellas County School Board have provided me with a very uplifting environment that has not only allowed me to pursue my education but also my passions through various extra-curricular activities. I experienced a lot of what they had to offer and was successful in many pursuits, but occasionally I felt that I was spread too thin. My advice to you, therefore, is to commit to the few things that bring you the most happiness and pour your heart out into them. Even if you decide you want to do it all, you will benefit immensely as you will meet a diverse group of people and have a wide variety of perspectives to draw from, all of which will mold you into a more seasoned individual in the future.
Jessica Bennett
Jessica Bennett

Jessica Bennett, 17

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.78
PARENTS: Judy and John Bennett
COLLEGE: Brown University, Providence, R.I.
MAJOR: Mathematics
PARTING THOUGHTS: “I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.” — Richard Feynman.
“Increasingly, the mathematics will demand the courage to face its implications.” — Michael Crichton.

Gibbs High

Sofia Torino
Sofia Torino

Sofia Torino, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.57
PARENTS: Peter and Maria Torino
COLLEGE: Florida State University, Tallahassee
MAJOR: Physics
PARTING THOUGHTS: At many points throughout our lives, we will make seemingly critical, life-altering decisions that we’ll have to live with every day. But it is important to remember that one wrong turn on your path does not condemn the rest of your journey. Make the most of every opportunity.
Cameron Kay
Cameron Kay

Cameron Kay, 17

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.50
PARENTS: Gordie and Bonnie Kay
COLLEGE: Florida State University, Tallahassee
PARTING THOUGHTS: Live life making the most out of everything. Every choice and every situation we come across is an opportunity by which we may grow. Embracing changes and utilizing them as opportunities is an invaluable means by which we may grow and fully experience life.

Lakewood High

Shadine A. Henry
Shadine A. Henry

Shadine A. Henry, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.17
PARENTS: Alain A. Martin and Burchell U. Henry
COLLEGE: University of North Florida, Jacksonville
MAJOR: International relations and affairs
PARTING THOUGHTS: As I approach my graduation, I can’t help but think about the fact that these four years of my life are over and I’ll be in a whole new world. I can’t really plan ahead like I’ve done these years, and to be honest it scares me. I don’t know how prepared I am, and when I look back on these years I know it will be interesting. I know that I’ve grown both physically and mentally and that is, and will always be, my favorite part of high school. Being so close to graduation, I wonder if I’ve made my family proud and did what they brought me to America to achieve. And I manage to smile when I think of my achievements so far.
Camila Romero Cherone
Camila Romero Cherone

Camila Romero Cherone, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.11
PARENT: Yoimirlen Cherone Cabrera
COLLEGE: University of South Florida, Tampa
MAJOR: Pre-med or business
PARTING THOUGHTS: Lakewood High School was my second home. My teachers became my parents, and my friends became my siblings. Those walls saw my lowest points, from having a breakdown with my journalism teacher to running into the best hugs from my Spanish teacher. I was surrounded by so much love from those who at first were classmates and now are family, but I didn’t feel like this always. My mother brought me to the United States from Cuba to have better opportunities, but we encountered so many adversities that I lost all the confidence in myself. “I don’t belong here” was a motto I was living by. I am so grateful my family, teachers and friends did not give up on me even when I did. I learned that people change people and that we all deserve a chance to find our true selves, even if the ride is bumpy.

Center for Advanced Technologies at Lakewood High

Nathan Shane Hamilton
Nathan Shane Hamilton

Nathan Shane Hamilton

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.76
COLLEGE: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.



StefStefan Michael Mason
StefStefan Michael Mason

Stefan Michael Mason, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.70
PARENTS: Michael and Michele Mason
COLLEGE: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.
MAJOR: Computer science and music
PARTING THOUGHTS: I learned some extremely valuable lessons in the past four years. I learned it’s important to find out what your passions are by experiencing different opportunities and to not self-limit. Be true to your strengths and passions and dive deep. Once you do this you will end up in the right places with the right people. Be empowered; create your path and work hard. Living by these philosophies has given me many great opportunities, such as studying computer science and music at a top school in the nation.

Largo High

Alyssa Nicole Ril
Alyssa Nicole Ril

Alyssa Nicole Rill, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.50
PARENTS: Tom and Darenda Rill
COLLEGE: University of South Florida, Tampa
MAJOR: Health sciences
PARTING THOUGHTS: As I approach graduation day, I am filled with both excitement and nerves for what the future holds. I will be forever grateful to all the amazing teachers that I’ve had throughout the years who have helped me along my journey. I look forward to continuing my education and learning even more in college and in life.
Ajla Bilali
Ajla Bilali

Ajla Bilali, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.46
PARENTS: Rahmi and Anila Bilali
COLLEGE: University of South Florida St. Petersburg
MAJOR: Psychology
PARTING THOUGHTS: This moment means a lot to my family and I, given the difficult process of having immigrated from Albania to the United States. My parents took this risk in hopes of my sisters and I receiving a better education. While this process has not been the easiest, it certainly has been the most rewarding. The support I have received from my family and friends has made this moment that much more special and memorable. Years of hard work and dedication have led me to where I find myself today, and I hope to continue through college and graduate school with an even greater drive for success.

International Baccalaureate program at Largo High

Connor James Mann
Connor James Mann

Connor James Mann, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.73
PARENTS: Joni and Gary Mann
COLLEGE: Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
MAJOR: Computer science
PARTING THOUGHTS: I’ve met so many interesting people during high school. To everyone — the artists, the musicians, the mathematicians, the activists, the biologists — thank you. For your perspectives. For your jokes. For your support. My high school experience wouldn’t have been the same without you.
Samantha Hama Askey
Samantha Hama Askey

Samantha Hama Askey, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.60
PARENTS: Susan and Chet Askey
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Health science
PARTING THOUGHTS: I would have never pushed through the physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing IB program without the IB family I became apart of. From supporting each other at art shows to sharing history study guides, being in IB has taught me a very important lesson: Surround yourself with supportive people. With such a strong support system, I realized I was never alone in my struggles and there was always someone there to help, whether it be another student or a teacher. …Though I will be leaving my IB family very soon, I will always be grateful for all the new friends I have made and all the memories we have created as I will carry these memories wherever I go.

Northeast High

Sarah Marie Gruber
Sarah Marie Gruber

Sarah Marie Gruber, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.62
PARENTS: Anthony and Kelly Gruber
COLLEGE: Johnson and Wales University, North Miami
MAJOR: Baking and pastry arts and food service management
PARTING THOUGHTS: As I approach graduation, I am exhilarated knowing that my hard work and dedication has paid off. My high school years in the Culinary Arts Academy have made a positive impact on my life, preparing me for my college studies in the culinary field and giving me experience through caterings and competitions. High school is a stepping stone to a new beginning. I have learned that reaching your goals takes time, patience, dedication, and skill. Never give up on your goals. One or two road blocks may be present to make you stronger. After college, I plan to open and run my own bakery that presents a traditional, yet modern take on desserts.
Elizabeth Anne Early
Elizabeth Anne Early

Elizabeth Anne Early, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.60
PARENTS: Kimberly and Richard Early
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Business
PARTING THOUGHTS: The people who have had the largest impact on my high school journey are my family — my sisters who taught me from their experiences, my parents who encouraged hard work, and my grandparents who have always shown immense pride and optimism. Surrounding yourself with supportive people is a large component of success and I was blessed to have been raised by such a wholehearted family.

Osceola Fundamental High

Ethan Hoang Phong To
Ethan Hoang Phong To

Ethan Hoang Phong To, 17

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.68
PARENTS: Bruce and Becki To
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Undecided
PARTING THOUGHTS: For all my life I’ve lived with the support and scrutiny of my family who I love and am grateful for. But the thought of living independently and making my own legacy is exhilarating. I’m thankful for a certain number of teachers for pushing myself to my fullest potential while guiding me towards the next phase of my academic journey. … Dr. Herzhauzer taught me the beauty of language and its effect on people’s mind and soul. Mr. Robinson showed me the most effective way to stay organized and methodical in how I approach problems in both calculus and in life. And finally Ms. Ferguson, who demonstrated how the world is influenced by the knowledge we learn in school and the complexity of the universe in which we live.
Benjamin Allen
Benjamin Allen

Benjamin Allen, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.65
PARENTS: Alison Freeborn, Ed Harris and Eric Allen
COLLEGE: Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
MAJOR: Undecided
PARTING THOUGHTS: I have had unconditional support from my family, friends, teachers and mentors, and from each of them I have learned the true value of education. Listening, observing, and paying attention has allowed me to understand complexities in the world I never dreamed possible. However, the most vital lesson I learned was that people need to communicate with one another, have conversations constantly, and know that a dialogue should change people’s outlooks in the end. Communication allows the world to continue evolving as we get insight into different opinions and different experiences, in turn letting us apply that to our own world and building a better future along with it.

Palm Harbor University High

Shady Mina
Shady Mina

Shady Mina, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.63
PARENTS: Hany Mina and Neveen Nader Shehata
COLLEGE: Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
MAJOR: Molecular, cellular and developmental biology (Pre-medical track)
PARTING THOUGHTS: I am truly thankful for the great individuals that have molded me into the scholar and leader I am today. Indeed, I would not be who I am without my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am blessed to have the infinite support of my family. My parents and my sister Sandy have sacrificed so much for me, and I can never forget the advice they give me. I am extremely grateful for the community that always encouraged me to achieve my dreams. Ambition and self-motivation are the most potent forces that can guide each one of us to leave our legacies. I look forward to a bright future full of success to ourselves, our families, our teachers, our mentors and our world.
Taylor Norwood
Taylor Norwood

Taylor Norwood, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.59
PARENTS: Lori and William Norwood
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Architecture
PARTING THOUGHTS: I would like to thank my parents for always supporting me when I needed them the most, alongside the teachers, teammates and friends that made these last four years some of the best years of my life. I learned so much about the woman I am meant to become due to both the hardships I’ve gone through and the good people I’ve met, and I wouldn’t change my past for anything. I am so proud to be in this position and I cannot wait to see how the students of my generation are going to change the world someday.

International Baccalaureate program at Palm Harbor University High

Anuj Som
Anuj Som

Anuj Som, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.75
PARENTS: Sudipa and Ananda Som
COLLEGE: Duke University, Durham, N.C.
MAJOR: Biomedical engineering
PARTING THOUGHTS: As our long journey comes to a close, I would like to offer congratulations to everyone who has accomplished their goals and followed their dreams. However, this is not the end. It takes a village to raise a student, and as we diverge from our roots I’m sure the tenacity and drive instilled into us by the Tampa Bay community will carry us far and provide great successes. To teachers and parents of myself and my peers: thank you for your incessant teaching, which has molded us into great leaders and profound thinkers. To my classmates: let us make our parents, teachers, and, most importantly, ourselves proud by striving to achieve beyond what we believe is possible. …I can’t wait to see the future that we will create.
Viraj Mithani
Viraj Mithani

Viraj Mithani, 17

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.74
PARENTS: Priti and Vimesh Mithani
COLLEGE: Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
MAJOR: Biological sciences
PARTING THOUGHTS: Congratulations to all of my classmates. Our accomplishments over these four years continue to amaze me. I would like to personally thank all of my friends, family, teachers and counselors who helped me along the way. I could not have succeeded without their support and guidance. As I look towards the future, I see endless possibilities for our class. I am confident that we will each reach new heights in many fields, from making a new discovery to writing a novel.

Pinellas Park High

Thao Vo
Thao Vo

Thao Vo, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.61
PARENTS: Bang-Tam Tran and Truyen Vo
COLLEGE: University of South Florida, Tampa
MAJOR: Biomedical engineering
PARTING THOUGHTS: Shortly after entering high school, I didn’t realize that there were family and/or friends who were always there to encourage me through everything I was experiencing. With their reassurance, they helped me build courage and resilience over time to keep going and to push further towards my goals. I’ve learned to appreciate those people, especially my brother. He is my main role model in life and is someone who influenced and guided me to become a better person. … Just having that one important person can help inspire you to become a better version of yourself, whether it be during your academic career or beyond.
Roy Harrison, Pinellas Park
Roy Harrison, Pinellas Park

Roy Harrison, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.52
PARENTS: Wayne Scott Harrison and Hyun Jung Harrison
COLLEGE: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga.
MAJOR: Computer science
PARTING THOUGHTS: I absolutely love mathematics and computer science. They both fascinate me and the applications of these fields are limitless. Someday, I hope to create a 3D virtual reality classroom specifically designed to enhance teaching effectiveness and learning outcomes. I enjoy helping others overcome their challenges, especially those that are similar to the ones I once faced. You are defined by how you have persevered in life. The moral is to maintain your integrity, never lose faith, and always strive to do your best, no matter what. … We should be like the mighty oak tree: Maintain a strong spirit, persevere, grow tall and extend many branches that will reach out to others.

Seminole High

Julia Doyle
Julia Doyle

Julia Doyle, 17

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.60
PARENTS: Steve and Maria Doyle
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Biomedical engineering
PARTING THOUGHTS: Over the course of high school I have learned that hard work is important but that almost no one can succeed on their own. I am extremely grateful to have had many people who supported me along the way. I had a gifted teacher in elementary school who was one of the first to help me get out of my comfort zone. I had several sports coaches who taught me perseverance and the difference between success and failure. I had a math teacher in high school who taught me how to make learning fun. Without these people and many more, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Robert Anthony Ovalle Jr.
Robert Anthony Ovalle Jr.

Robert Anthony Ovalle Jr., 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.58
PARENTS: Robert and Michelle Ovalle
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Biomedical engineering
PARTING THOUGHTS: I would like to offer some advice to those of my age and younger. Do not take these years of your youth for granted. These are some of the best, and most important, times of your lives and they will absolutely fly by. Make the most of them and live your life in the moment. Study hard, work hard, but most importantly, play hard. Pursue something that intrigues you and something that you will love to do.

St. Petersburg High

Taylor Redington
Taylor Redington

Taylor Redington, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.50
PARENTS: Tony and Patrice Redington
COLLEGE: Florida State University, Tallahassee
MAJOR: Political science
PARTING THOUGHTS: We are generation Z. We are resilient and willing to put up a fight. We are diverse and open-minded individuals who are looking to make the world a better place, not only for us, but for those who will follow after. Hate seems so prevalent in these times, that it can cast a negative shadow on life. It did for me. But something I have learned, is that in times of hate and fear, people stand together in love and solidarity. I have learned how to be proactive with my peers rather than reactive. Instead of a grim future, I see one of vitality and hope because my generation knows what’s at stake.
Matthew Wohlwend
Matthew Wohlwend

Matthew Wohlwend, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.49
PARENTS: Allen and Beth Wohlwend
COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville
MAJOR: Information systems and data analytics
PARTING THOUGHTS: I’m blessed with some amazing people in my life. A huge thanks to my family, Coach Russell, and teachers for the guidance and support. A shout out to Mr. Tarrou’s YouTube channel, “ProfRobBob.” And to the Class of 2019, a quote from Confucius: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High

Catherine Yunshin Lee
Catherine Yunshin Lee

Catherine Yunshin Lee, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.67
PARENTS: Sharon and David Lee
COLLEGE: Rice University, Houston, Texas
MAJOR: Neuroscience
PARTING THOUGHTS: I will always think fondly of my time in high school because of the people I met in these past four years. I have made countless memories with them that I will cherish for years to come. They have helped me grow into the person I am today and I cannot imagine my life without them. Their friendship means the world to me and I will always be grateful for my friends. Additionally, I cannot thank enough my teachers for their patience and support. They taught me not only the core concepts of my subjects but also to enjoy what it was that I was learning.
Justin Barlas
Justin Barlas

Justin Barlas, 17

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.66
PARENTS: Lea Ann and Peter Barlas
COLLEGE: Brown University, Providence R.I.
MAJOR: Mathematics
PARTING THOUGHTS: Thank you to my family, teachers and friends who have helped me reach my potential as a student and as a person. Throughout the past few years I have learned that we as individuals have a larger impact on others and our surroundings than we may realize. With this comes the responsibility of helping others, lifting them up and making a positive difference in the lives of those around you.

Tarpon Springs High

Nomikos George Skoutelis
Nomikos George Skoutelis

Nomikos George Skoutelis, 18

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.72
PARENTS: Georgii Michael and George Skoutelis
COLLEGE: University of South Florida, Tampa
MAJOR: Microbiology
PARTING THOUGHTS: Those four years were not at all what I expected them to be. I have both fun and not-so-fun memories, but the memories I could never replace are the ones I share with my family. My mother, father, step-parents, cousins, sister, aunts, uncles and grandparents all were there for me and believed in me when I didn’t. It was their shoulders I cried on when I felt as though the world didn’t understand me. Through their love and comfort, I learned not only to accept the fact that I am gay but to share my confidence with others. I hope as I continue my education I can honor my family by being myself and inspire others to be the best versions of themselves.
Mackenzie Dufresne
Mackenzie Dufresne

MacKenzie Dufresne, 18

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.64
PARENTS: Julie and Mark Dufresne
COLLEGE: University of Tampa
MAJOR: Criminal justice
PARTING THOUGHTS: I’ve learned that perseverance is the name of the game. It was a word I learned my freshman year and have been exercising ever since. If you want something bad enough you will work at it relentlessly until you’re satisfied. At the same time, though, remember: In the grand scheme of things we’re here for a good time, not a long time, so you better live this life the way you want to. Go out and be bold, try something new, dare to get lost, and make some memories you’ll laugh at 30 years from now. This truly is your time, so don’t be afraid to go out and take what’s yours.

St. Petersburg Collegiate High

Cecelia Faith Gordon
Cecelia Faith Gordon

Cecelia Faith Gordon, 17

Valedictorian
GPA: 4.7845
PARENTS: Philip and Dawn Gordon
COLLEGE: Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers
MAJOR: Psychology
PARTING THOUGHTS: I have learned throughout my academic journey that success is achieved with hard work and determination. As I pursue my goals and work to make my dreams a reality, I must remember my struggles and use them to push me through the challenges I will face as I enter the most exciting time of my life.
Erin Murphy
Erin Murphy

Erin Murphy, 17

Salutatorian
GPA: 4.7768
PARENTS: Roni and Tom Murphy
COLLEGE: Florida State University, Tallahassee
MAJOR: Computer engineering
PARTING THOUGHTS: I’ve realized the importance of expressing gratitude for my many blessings, so the people I care about can see how much they’ve touched my life. To my parents, family and second family at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School: Thank you all for loving and supporting me endlessly. To my friends: Thank you for helping me and making this journey so fun. I can’t wait to see what our future holds.