Coed, independent, PK3-12th grade school in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Charity Chen, Valedictorian
When 2018 Valedictorian Charity Chen first enrolled at Shorecrest in ninth grade, she was ambivalent about the experience. Having been homeschooled for her entire academic life thus far, a high school of 300 students was daunting. But flash forward four years later and she confidently and warmly addressed the audience of a packed Janet Root Theatre saying, “This school has opened doors for me that I had never even known existed. I sincerely hope that Shorecrest will continue to welcome students like me, who come from different backgrounds, who add diversity to the student body, and for whom the right school can make a huge difference so that they can fulfill their potential.”
From attending school theatre productions, to serving alongside her classmates during Service Week, Charity's Shorecrest years were full of new experiences that have prepared her to succeed on her next step in her journey - at Dartmouth College.
Kyle Mullins walks out of his AP Literature exam with a smile on his face. When asked how it went, Kyle coolly responds, "It was better than I expected! But I can't talk details because that's against the College Board's rules. But let's just say I really enjoyed the poetry essay!" This, in a nutshell, is Kyle: calm but confident; smart and cheerful; ever the rule-follower. A Shorecrest lifer, the 2018 Salutatorian is known for being a leader on campus, whether serving on the school's Honor Council, editing the campus newspaper "The Chronicle," or accepting an award as a National Merit Finalist.
In his remarks at 2018 Commencement, he said, "I know I will look back on my Shorecrest years with the knowledge that they shaped me into a lifelong learner, that they inspired in me a drive to be the best that I can be, and that they have nurtured in me a gratitude I am unable to fully express." Kyle will attend Dartmouth College in the fall.
"He is the kind of guy who sees a need and jumps in to help before being asked. He doesn’t seek recognition, but serves others selflessly, by drawing from some endless well of goodwill that he has. He is also willing to take risks, 'to try and fail if necessary' as Mr. Miller wrote," read Head of Upper School Tom Dillow as he began to announce this year's Outstanding Senior. Already, eyes darted around the stage and landed on Hunter Holland.
The Outstanding Senior is a Shorecrest tradition. This student is selected by the faculty as someone who demonstrates the best qualities and characteristics of a Shorecrest student: leadership, scholarship, mentorship and service. The 2018 Outstanding Senior Hunter Holland represents these and more. He will attend Columbia University in the fall and is invited to return to Shorecrest to give the Commencement address for the Class of 2028.
Elizabeth Hodgson cares deeply about the world around her. Whether founding a second grade "Save the Earth" Club, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, or feeding hungry children through The Kind Mouse, Elizabeth feels a strong duty to care for the overlooked and underserved. For that reason, the aspiring doctor was drawn to the Honors Medical Scholars program at FSU, a highly selective pre-med track that allows undergraduates access to the FSU College of Medicine community.
"The FSU medical school's mission is to help underserved populations," she explains. Elizabeth frequently seeks out opportunities to help the neediest among her community. For the past two years, she's been actively involved with The Kind Mouse, a local nonprofit that helps to feed chronically hungry children in the St. Petersburg area.
Laszlo Leedy had a little preview of college dorm life when he lived in France the summer after his sophomore year of high school. "It proved to me I can live on my own just fine. I can get up when I need to be at work on time. I’ll be able to buy my own food and wash my sheets." He also got a taste of college-level project work when he participated in the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp with St. Pete College, working alongside college students to design an Internet of Things (IoT) product and pitch it to business leaders. To anyone who knows Laszlo and his passion for and skill in computer science, it's no surprise that his product was the one selected by the team. He'll continue his study of computer science at Fordham University in New York this fall.
When asked to describe her earliest memories of Shorecrest, Adrianna is quick to respond. "I came to Shorecrest in fifth grade, and even though Shorecrest is pretty small, it was HUGE compared to my last school. I remember everyone here being so, so nice to me on that first day of school and being so welcoming." Little did Adrianna know that in just a few years, she would help launch the Student Ambassador program, spearheading outreach to new and prospective students. She probably didn't expect to be recognized as a top golfer either. She's sure to continue to discover new talents and experiences as she moves on to Washington University in St. Louis.
Casey Reich doesn't fit any archetype of a high school student. When he discovered Iovine and Young Academy at the University of Southern California, he knew he'd found something created just for students like him. Casey recalls, "I liked it because it combined my interest in art and design, but also business and tech, and you get a bachelor's of science degree." That degree is in "Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation" in a nascent program at USC founded by entrepreneurs/disruptors Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young, the powerhouses behind Apple Music and Beats by Dre. The program just graduated its first cohort the week before Casey himself graduated Shorecrest. According to the Dean of the academy, "The No. 1 thing we look for in an academy applicant is: Do they see the world differently?”
If Juliette Shelton has her way, women in STEM fields will no longer be the exception, but will become the rule. After rigorous coursework at Shorecrest in both the Center for Medical Sciences and Computer Science tracks, the Class of 2018 graduate will matriculate to Georgia Tech to study computer science engineering with a biomedical concentration. Juliette's interest in engineering is directly tied to her passion for service, more specifically, to the service of the people of La Gonave, Haiti. Over the last four years she has visited the community seven times working to build schools, create clean water systems, and enhance agricultural infrastructure with Youth Partners with Haiti, an organization she helped found.
A State Championship rower, Julianna Wright will continue to compete as she moves on to Wellesley College. Her dedicated training schedule has allowed her to excel at her sport, but also in the classroom at Shorecrest. She credits the faculty for developing her strong discipline and study habits. "My US History and Comparative Government classes with Mr. Wahlgren were just fantastic. In those classes I definitely learned how to study massive amounts of information." While Julianna plans to study Economics at Wellesley, she plans to minor in Art History. "I discovered my love for Art History because of Ms. G [art teacher, Mrs. Gaglio]. She's just made this year especially fun. She has presented art in a way that I've never looked at it before."
At the Baccalaureate Ceremony for the Class of 2018, student-voted speaker Jorden Sanders, Upper School English Teacher, addressed the graduates, their families and friends. She cautioned students that starting college being anyone but themselves could be disastrous. (A transcription follows the video*.)
So fun fact: When I came to Shorecrest, I was convinced I knew exactlywhat kind of teacher I would be. I was going to be all of my favorite teachers combined. I was going to be as stylish and southern as Dr. Mitchell who pulled intelligence out of her students like a magician mixed with the soft, dulcet tones of Dr. Heidi LaVine whose whispered genius was a spell all by itself, poetic like Dr. Zade, yet coollike Dr. Velez who would lean against her podium and expound.
Then I met y’all.
And y’all taught me a lesson that hadn’t quite sinked in during my six years of higher education. The lesson was, “When starting somewhere new, being anyone but yourself is a painfully comical disaster”.
If you don’t believe me, ask your classmates who had me that very first semester. Do y’all remember those impossible reading quizzes, those ridiculous lectures? I think one of you even asked if I was alright after one of them.
I was tired.
Y’all were stressed.
Those were dark days.
But we survived. We figured out that being Ms. Mitchell-Lavine-Zade-Rizzuto-Velez wasn’t what we needed. We needed me to be me. Mom, Big Sister, Miss Sanders, JoSand, JSand.
And if you think I’m just being cheesy, y’all know I have some research to back me up. Tim Clydesdale, a professor of sociology, calls this the problem of the “identity lockbox”; it’s the tendency of college freshmen to take all the parts of their identity that they consider sacred and sensitive (their religion, politics, race, gender, ethnicity, economic status) and lock them away in a safe place so that they don’t make “‘Wrong’ choices” that may put them “out of step with mainstream culture.”
Yes, I’m sneaking in one last lesson on intersectionality. (Ha! You thought you’d never hear that again, tricked ya)
While Clydesdale focuses on college freshmen, we all are guilty of living with a lockbox, but you don’t have to. Don’t be a comical disaster. Don’t be so busy trying to be the perfect college student or professional that you stop being you. Realize that sometimes “being more” means being more you than you’ve ever been.
To be clear, this isn’t the Bruno Mars “You’re Amazing Just the Way You Are” approach. My wish for you, my prayer, is that you let life and people you trust see you for who you really are so they can shape you. I want you to recognize your value as an uncut diamond and allow life to cut and shape you until you are brilliantly and unapologetically you— until you refract light into a world that can be as dark and confusing as a Toni Morrison novel.
I guess this is more Rihanna and Rascal Flatts collab. than Bruno.
Allow life to do for you what you did for me: force you to take it all out of the lockbox. Y’all have cut and refined me as a teacher and person. You’ve reminded me that there is literally a song for every occasion, that there are at least 17 ways to ask the same question, and if you keep asking, someone will answer it. You’ve reminded me that ideas can be inventive, thought not as inventive as making Pearl a succubus (ahem, Pablo). You’ve reminded me that there is strength in numbers, so when you have a risky question or appeal, take a few friends with you. You’ve taught me that the best negotiators are teenagers. You’ve reminded me that sometimes the solution to a ridiculous situation is a pointedly phrased joke. Conversely, y’all taught me that sometimes you don’t need words; facial expressions may be all you need.
Learn the lesson now. For this lesson there won’t be a bell to dismiss you. Miss Morlando won’t be able to remind you over intercom. PowerSchool won’t build a reminder into your life calendar. I won't be there to remind you. But you can do it... because you taught it to me.
This is a life lesson that takes a lifetime to learn. It’s been an honor to learn from each of you.
And at least, for right now, class is dismissed.
Clydesdale, Tim. “Abandoned, Pursued, or Safely Stowed?” Essay Forum on the
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