tampabay.com

Hard work leads graduates to top

By TIMES STAFF
Published May 16, 2007


Graduation is on the horizon but now it's smack in the middle of finals week. Before they get ready to head off to places like the University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of South Florida or wherever, there's more to be done. In the back of their minds, no doubt, is getting that all-important speech written. That's one of the rewards for those who have worked their way to the top. Here's our second installment of this year's valedictorians and salutatorians. More to come next week.

Emily Moore

Valedictorian

GPA: 4.0/4.41 weighted

Clubs/extracurriculars: Class vice president, Spanish Club, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, varsity basketball (captain), varsity volleyball, varsity track (captain).

Favorite place on campus: The gym. I spend a lot of time there throughout the school year, and it's my favorite place to be.

If you could, what would you change about your high school? I wish there was more participation in support of sports in our school. As the first graduating class, we've seen our sports programs grow from literally nothing. I'd like to see them improve and grow.

Future school: University of Florida Honors College.

Ideal career: Undecided.

Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Most inspirational person: My father. He always works hard, and he encourages me to do the same. He makes me want to be the best I can be.

Best advice/quote: "Success means having the courage, the determination and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be." - George Sheehan.

Deanna Velazquez

Salutatorian

GPA: 3.8/4.28 weighted

Clubs/extracurriculars: Class secretary/treasurer, Key Club, Spanish Club, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, drama (The Music Man; Wiley-Hairy Man; Noises Off), assistant dance teacher at Children's Dance Workshop, Rhythm in Motion Dance Company, varsity track.

Favorite place on campus: The Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center. I have been dancing and performing since the age of 3 and acting throughout middle and high school. I love being on stage.

If you could, what would you change about your high school? If I could change one thing about my school, I would increase the size of the drama and musical theater program. However, with time, I am sure our young school will grow and acquire many new programs.

Future school: University of Central Florida, majoring in English.

Ideal career: English teacher.

Favorite book: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

Most inspirational person: My mom, Susan Velazquez. She has faced many obstacles in her life but is still strong and holds on to her values.

Best advice/quote: My mom has always reminded me of this Bible passage: Romans 12:9- 12. "Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying."

Thanh Tran

Valedictorian

GPA: 4.30 weighted

Clubs/extracurriculars: Spanish Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Math Honor Society, National Honor Society, Interact Club, NJROTC Drill Team, Color Guard.

If you could, what would you change about your high school? I would change the school hours so that the school would start at a later time, around 8 to 8:30, because as the students get to high grade levels they tend to need more sleep because they become so involved in the extracurricular activities, work and also the homework, which becomes harder. Giving them more time to sleep would enable them to concentrate better in school.

Favorite place on campus: The media center.

Future school: University of South Florida. Major in business accounting.

Ideal career: Actuary.

Favorite book: Catch 22, by Joseph Heller.

Most inspirational person: My sister, Dung Tran, because she has taken the place of my mother to take care of me since I have come to the United States of America.

Best advice/quote: A friend told me to follow my heart and make decisions based on what I think, not what other people tell me.

Jonathan Munoz

Salutatorian

GPA: 3.83/4.27 weighted.

Clubs/extracurriculars: French Club, French Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society, Christians in Action, National English Honor Society, Math Honor Society, Interact Club, soccer at West Pasco, tennis, football, work at Chili's as a server and busing tables.

If you could, what would you change about your high school? Support more equally the different sports held in high school and go back to having a club period, because it really helps to encourage interaction between classmates with similar interests.

Favorite place on campus: Soccer field.

Future school: University of Florida. Major in architecture. Minor in interior design.

Ideal career: Pro soccer player.

Favorite book: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Most inspirational person: My mother, because she has succeeded in raising my brother and me as a single parent in Mexico and the United States.

Best advice/quote: Leave everything in God's hands, and He will provide.

Mary Coursen

Valedictorian

GPA: 4.0/4.5348 weighted.

Clubs/extracurriculars: Varsity weightlifting, varsity track, gymnastics coach at Suncoast Gymnastics, where I was a gymnast for 13 years.

Favorite place on campus: The courtyard because that's where all the cool people are.

If you could, what would you change about your high school? I would group all the Advanced Placement classes into the first periods of the day so that students who also take dual enrollment classes along with Advanced Placement would be able to leave school early. This would help students avoid getting scheduled with so many free periods.

Future school: University of Florida, majoring in pre-med.

Ideal career: orthodpedic surgeon.

Favorite Book: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Most inspirational person: My fourth- and fifth-grade teacher, Miss Sinks, because she was the first person that told me that grades were important and that I should always push myself to do my best.

Best advice: To get my priorities straight so that I would place my education as most important.

Richard Soash

Salutatorian

GPA: 3.978/4.5333 weighted

Clubs/extracurriculars: Varsity cross country, varsity track, drama, National Honor Society, Hope United Methodist Church youth group.

Favorite place on campus: the drama room.

If you could, what would you change about your school? I'd suggest that the school spend more time focusing on Advanced Placement classes.

Future school: Florida Southern, majoring in history.

Favorite book: The Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell.

Most inspirational person/people: My parents.

Best advice/quote: "I am not afraid to die and, in fact, would be more than willing, but I have an irresistible desire to live until I can be assured that the world is a better place because of my having lived in it." - Abraham Lincoln.

Chelsea Steccato

Valedictorian

GPA: 3.95 weighted

Clubs/extracurriculars: Phi Theta Kappa (Pasco-Hernando Community College), Phi Beta Lamda (PHCC), water sports, part-time job.

Favorite place on campus: The gym.

If you could, what would you change about your high school? Nothing. I think they give a good quality of education focused on God.

Future school: University of Florida. Major: business administration with a focus on finance.

Ideal career: Financial adviser, helping others plan for retirement, start a business, children's college fund, etc.

Most inspirational person: My mom, because she is very intelligent and has such a warm and loving heart. She is my greatest inspiration.

Best advice/quote: To just be myself. Don't try to do things that will please others, because you can't please everyone all the time, but do what would be pleasing to God.

Kevin Speer

Salutatorian

GPA: 3.74 weighted.

Clubs/extracurriculars: Work.

Favorite place on campus: The gym.

If you could, what would you change about your high school? Nothing.

Future school: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University or Pensacola Christian College.

Ideal career: Aviation.

Favorite Book: CSI .

Most inspirational person: God. He is always there and never leaves me when I need Him.

Best advice/quote: "Failure is not an option." - From Apollo 13.