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Best of the best

By DONNA WINCHESTER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 6, 2001


EDITOR'S NOTE: They have the highest grade point averages in their classes, but it doesn't stop there. The Class of 2001 valedictorians and salutatorians also have found time to participate in school clubs, sports and community activities. Over the next several weeks, Top of the Class will pay tribute to these outstanding individuals.

* * *

ADMIRAL FARRAGUT ACADEMY

photo
[Times photo: Cherie Diez]
Admiral Farragut valedictorian Stefanie Joy Schuyler, facing the camera at right of center, turns over her battalion commander post to successor Ashley Patterson, facing the camera in a black uniform behind Schuyler. The ceremony took place on the school's football field.

VALEDICTORIAN: STEFANIE JOY SCHUYLER

PLANS: Jacksonville University

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: Battalion commander

HONORS AND AWARDS: National Honor Society president, Elk's Lodge student of the month, four-year Navy ROTC scholarship

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Leo Club

BEST CLASS AND WHY: My 10th- and 11th-grade English honors class, because my teacher was very intuitive and I learned so much

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Spending time with family and friends

MOST MEMORABLE SCHOOL MOMENT: Volunteering for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation at Super Bowl XXXV

FAVORITE BOOK: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

PARENTS: Joy and William Schuyler

Stefanie Schuyler, 17, lived in California, Hawaii, Guam and Maryland before her family moved to St. Petersburg seven years ago.

"My dad was in the Navy, so we traveled a lot," she said. "I went to six different schools in six years."

But she had never attended a military academy, and didn't know what to expect.

"I had no clue," she said. "I just thought it would be cool to go to school with my dad."

Her parents enrolled her at Admiral Farragut when her father became an assistant naval science instructor at the school. Stefanie has never regretted their decision.

"The classes are small and the teachers are really helpful," she said. "Since it's a boarding school, everyone becomes your family. You know you have people on your side 24-7."

The support was especially important to her this year. She served as battalion commander, a job she called the most stressful position at the school.

"It was kind of overwhelming at first," she said. "I oversaw all the officers and the corps cadets."

She also was on the lookout for "skylarking," otherwise known as goofing off.

She gave demerits for a variety of offenses, from exposed shirttails and missing insignias, to more serious problems like disrespect to cadet officers and improper performance of duty. She learned about responsibility, and about not worrying what others think of her.

She also learned how to practice what she preaches.

"If I'm wearing a non-regulation T-shirt, people will think, "Well, if the battalion commander is wearing that type of shirt, it's okay for me to do it.' I have had to set an example."

* * *

SALUTATORIAN: NICOLA MICHELLE ALVORD

PLANS: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: Battalion adjutant, wing leader, Leo Club vice president, National Honor Society, blood drive chairman, yearbook editor, girls varsity basketball captain

HONORS AND AWARDS: Headmaster's List, Radford Star, Outstanding Student Award, Florida Bright Futures and Naval ROTC scholarships

BEST CLASS AND WHY: English, because the teachers were so knowledgeable

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Being around the people I love

MOST MEMORABLE SCHOOL MOMENTS: Performing in Grease in front of a live audience and winning the tug of war at the Pinellas JROTC field meet

FAVORITE BOOK: The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

PARENTS: Deborah and Gregory Alvord

Nicola Alvord's parents wanted the best for their children. That's why they emigrated from Zimbabwe to the United States when Nicola was 5 and her sister was 7.

Now 17, Nicola is grateful they enrolled her in Admiral Farragut Academy. Besides getting a good education, she believes she got a foundation for life.

"Going to a military academy helped me with structure," she said, explaining that wearing a uniform and responding to a bell schedule taught her discipline.

It also taught her responsibility. In her senior year, she served as battalion adjutant, the first-in-command after the battalion commander.

"Some people don't like to listen to other kids their age," she said. "I had to learn to work around that, to help them out in spite of it."

Nicola served as a support to the other battalion officers and made sure the students were accounted for at all times. She also gave commands during military parades.

The extra responsibility, along with her heavy class load, cut into the time she would have liked to dedicate to sports. But she still managed to be captain of the basketball team and statistician for the football team.

She doesn't regret her decision.

"It's good to have that kind of responsibility," she said. "It taught me different ways to work with different people."

* * *

CANTERBURY SCHOOL OF FLORIDA

photo
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Anthony Marshall, at left, and co-valedictorian Justin Osborne at the Canterbury School of Florida are good friends who say they don't mind sharing the honors.

CO-VALEDICTORIAN: ANTHONY J. MARSHALL

PLANS: University of South Florida

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: National Honor Society president, National Spanish Honor Society president

HONORS AND AWARDS: Honor Roll, Citizenship Award, University of South Florida scholarship

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Volunteer at Nina Harris Exceptional Student Education Center, Ronald McDonald House and CASA

BEST CLASS AND WHY: British literature, because my teacher involved us in class discussions

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Hanging out with my friends

MOST MEMORABLE SCHOOL MOMENT: Fifth-grade camping trip to north Florida

FAVORITE BOOK: J.B.: A Play in Verse by Archibald MacLeish

PARENTS: Kay F. and Frank Marshall, Jr.

Anthony Marshall, 18, considers himself an optimist grounded in reality. He wishes more people felt the way he does.

"A lot of people aren't as optimistic, and there's so much good to life," he said.

He is in particularly good spirits these days.

"I'm feeling great about college, about how my friendships are working out, about my relationship with my girlfriend," he said.

He also feels good about his future career. He plans to enter the University of South Florida in the fall to study political science. He may follow in his father's footsteps after he graduates and study law at Stetson.

"My dad is a role model. He's amazing," Anthony said.

Somewhere between political science and law, he hopes to indulge his love of literature.

"Literature gives you a background on everything," he said. "If you know literature, you know a little bit about everything."

Besides reading, he enjoys computer games, movies, basketball and karate, but he made the choice to concentrate on school work this year. The effort paid off in a four-year scholarship to USF.

Before he hits the books again, he is looking forward to spending time with his friends.

"I've known seven or eight of my classmates for 12 or 13 years now. It's nice to have that," he said.

* * *

CO-VALEDICTORIAN: JUSTIN OSBORNE

PLANS: University of South Florida

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: National Honor Society co-president, senior class president

HONORS AND AWARDS: Rev. George LaBruce Founder's Award, honor roll, Citizenship Award

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Maximo Presbyterian Church deacon, National Honor Society tutor, Boy Scouts of America

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Hanging out with my friends

FAVORITE BOOK: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

PARENTS: Dr. Sally Osborne and Robert Osborne

When Justin Osborne, 18, found out that he and his friend Anthony Marshall had grade-point averages so close it would be difficult to determine who would be valedictorian and who would be salutatorian, he realized he would be happy with either honor.

"We had both worked hard the entire school year," he said. "Neither one of us wanted to beat out the other because we're friends."

Along with a handful of other seniors, Justin and Anthony entered Canterbury as kindergarteners and have spent the last 13 years as classmates. Everyone was satisfied when school administrators decided they would represent the class of 2001 as co-valedictorians.

Justin, who describes himself as a quiet, listening, thinking person, wants to be an engineer. He hasn't decided his specialization area; he just knows he wants to build things.

"For my senior project, I made a solar-powered boat. You can actually ride in it," he said.

Several classmates, Canterbury's headmaster and one of the teachers trusted Justin's engineering skills enough to take test drives in the two-person, 15-foot-9 vessel when Justin transported it to Fort De Soto Park for senior beach day. Everyone returned to shore safely.

Justin will begin an apartment search shortly, but has mixed feelings about leaving home.

"I like living at home. I don't see why people want to move so badly," he said. "You have everything you need at home."

* * *

FIRST BAPTIST CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN: AMANDA ELAINE MITCHELL

PLANS: St. Petersburg Junior College

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: Volleyball team captain, National Beta Club, Student Council

HONORS AND AWARDS: First Baptist Christian Outstanding Artist of the Year, Presidential Education Award, U.S. National Mathematics Award nominee, Who's Who Among American High School Students, President's Scholarship to St. Petersburg Junior College

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Volunteer activities with Kiwanis Club of Pinellas Park and Lighthouse Baptist Church

BEST CLASS AND WHY: English, because I like reading

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Playing volleyball

MOST MEMORABLE SCHOOL MOMENT: When I collided with my friend Taryn during a school volleyball game

FAVORITE BOOK: I don't really have a favorite book.

PARENTS: Evelyn Carey and Ron Mitchell, Jr.

Individuality is essential to Amanda Mitchell, 16. She said it is her most distinguishing characteristic.

"I do not like to be the same as everybody else," she said. "That would be very boring."

She expresses her creativity mainly through her artwork. She draws and paints and has recently discovered pottery. She has designed and decorated her room and has even made some of her own furniture.

Fascinated by what makes people tick, Amanda thinks she would like to study psychology or sociology when she gets to St. Petersburg Junior College.

"I just think it's neat when you can figure out why people do stuff, why they act like they do," she said.

She knows she has chosen fields that demand a lot of effort, but she is undaunted.

"If it interests me, I have no problem studying for it," she said.

She had no problem doubling up her course load this year so she could graduate from high school before her 17th birthday. Claiming she "just wanted the challenge," she plans to use the year she has saved to get a head start on college, rather than taking a break.

"Most of the time when people lay back, they don't get up from laying back," she said.

* * *

SALUTATORIAN: ASHLEY WIEDER

PLANS: St. Petersburg Junior College

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: Student Council representative, volleyball team member

HONORS AND AWARDS: First place in school logo design contest

BEST CLASS AND WHY: Teaching assistant, because I worked with pre-schoolers

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Hanging out with my friends

MOST MEMORABLE SCHOOL MOMENT: Senior trip to Orlando

FAVORITE BOOK: Life Is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman PARENTS: Cheryl and Scott Wieder

Ashley Wieder, 16, considers herself a "people person." Her classmates agree. When they voted for senior superlatives, they named her Most Noticeable, Most Humorous and Most Outgoing.

"I can go up to anyone and have a conversation," she said. "I'm very expressive."

She expressed herself through dance when she started clogging lessons at age 4. Her troupe performed at senior centers and participated in clogging competitions throughout the southeast. By the time she was 6, she had achieved clogging champion status.

"I hated it when I did it," she said. "I was so self-conscious then."

She likes being in the limelight now. A spot on her school volleyball team gave her a good opportunity to shine.

"I like making the odd shots, the shots that you just don't think you would hit," she said.

A member of a large extended family, Ashley said family ties are important to her. Her parents, sister, aunts and uncles have loved and encouraged her and cheered her successes.

But she said she has learned her most valuable life lesson from her own mistakes.

"Whenever I've been disobedient, I've paid the price," she said.

She would like to spare her younger sister, Aimee, some grief by sharing her experiences with her, but she realizes Aimee may have to make her own mistakes.

"You live and you learn," she said.

* * *

KESWICK CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

VALEDICTORIAN: JAIMEE LIN BARNES

PLANS: University of South Florida

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: Yearbook assistant editor

HONORS AND AWARDS: Florida Academic Scholars Award, University of South Florida honors scholarship, St. Petersburg Junior College Trustees scholarship, Dean's List, Honor Roll, AP English award, President's Education Award

BEST CLASS AND WHY: Lance Lipham's AP English class

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Weekend road trips with my friends

MOST MEMORABLE SCHOOL MOMENT: When I realized that as a senior, I was an example to those around me and could have an impact on other people's lives

FAVORITE BOOK: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

PARENTS: Linda and Richard Nesbitt

Jaimee Barnes, 17, describes herself as a very open, very bold individual.

"If there's a problem or something, I'll confront the person," she said. "I don't shy away from things."

But if there's one thing that drives her crazy, it's disorganization.

"I like everything to be done in an organized manner, not helter-skelter," she said.

Her stint as assistant editor of the yearbook gave her a chance to exercise her leadership skills and to share her talent for organization. It also taught her diplomacy, she said, since she had to work with a wide range of personalities.

In spite of her creative success with the yearbook, she is interested in chemical engineering as a career. Especially drawn to the pharmaceutical aspects of engineering, she envisions herself working for a large corporation.

"Engineering is pretty much a male-dominated field," she said. "I feel that as a female, I would be able to offer a different outlook."

Jaimee believes her leadership skills, her fresh ideas, and her determination will pave the way for her success. She plans to live at home during her freshman year so she can concentrate all her energy on her classes.

In addition to her own hard work, she credits Canterbury for her scholastic achievement.

"Going to a small private school helped me be myself and stand up for what I believe in," she said. "It taught me to be a strong person. I'll always be pushing for better, better, better."

* * *

SALUTATORIAN: JANELLE DINE

PLANS: Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas

SENIOR YEAR ACTIVITIES: Fellowship of Christian Athletes, yearbook editor, basketball team, varsity football statistician

HONORS AND AWARDS: $16,000 in scholarships and grants to Texas Christian University, Outstanding Academic Excellence Award

BEST CLASS AND WHY: AP history, because it stretched and challenged me

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Listening to music

MOST MEMORABLE SCHOOL MOMENT: Scoring the winning touchdown in the Homecoming powder puff football game

FAVORITE BOOK: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

PARENTS: Darlene and Jamie Dine

Janelle Dine, 17, would rather aim high and miss than not try at all. She considers a turn down from her all-time favorite school a temporary situation, rather than a dead end.

"I really wanted to go to Duke University," she said. "I applied and went through all that, and I didn't get in."

But, she added, she doesn't have to wonder about what might have happened if she hadn't applied. And she is resolved to try again next year, after she spends her freshman year at Texas Christian University.

"That was tough, but it motivated me to work in my first year, to work really hard, she said.

Two years as yearbook editor have convinced her she has a talent for journalism and communications. Her passion for athletics has her thinking about sports broadcasting, but she also is considering law school.

In addition to her academic interests, she likes to sing. She was a member of her church choir and soloed at age 13. She learned to share her gift for music as a child when she visited nursing homes and sang old gospel songs with her grandfather.

Her membership on the girls varsity basketball team taught her that life isn't always fair. After a successful year as state runner-up, the team didn't fare as well last year.

"It helped me learn that life's not fair, that things are going to happen," she said. "You have to rise above it and realize the best in yourself and just work for that."

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