Coed, independent, PK3-12th grade school in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Meet Aliyah Samuelson - Valedictorian

The name Aliyah means to rise, and Aliyah Samuelson rose to the top of the Class of 2020 as this year’s Valedictorian. This came as no surprise to many of her peers. Each year Shorecrest Upper School awards “Top Scholar” to the individual with the highest GPA in the grade. Aliyah Samuelson received the award the last three years before being named Valedictorian.

The Shorecrest Lifer has an innate brilliance and intellectual curiosity. Her academic accomplishments include: maxing out the Shorecrest AP curriculum (we limit students to 10 AP courses), maxing out all higher level science courses (doubled up sophomore year, tripled junior year, and doubled senior year), and enrolling in 7 out of 7 courses every year of high school (not one free block!) At the same time Aliyah also participated in competitively vetted research projects and Upper School Performing Arts - which some may argue is a full time job in and of itself. 
 
On stage in the Janet Root Theatre, Aliyah acts, sings and dances. Her creative pursuits also led to her drawing and painting project, Unwantedrescue.com, which started as a Shorecrest eighth grade passion project. Aliyah paints clients’ pet portraits and donates the funds raised to a local no-kill animal shelter. She understands that being open to creative pursuits can help her find innovative solutions to analytical problems.
 
Aliyah broadened her passion for animals by attending a 3-week summer abroad program in Costa Rica.

“I went to Costa Rica on a trip with GLA (Global Leadership Adventures) for 21 days the summer before eleventh grade,” Aliyah told Shorecrest. “We worked with a local dog shelter in Orosi where we painted, arranged for microfunding, and made collars and toys for the dogs. We also worked with an organization called VIDA and helped set up clinics where we assisted in surgery and did anesthesia for dogs and cats who were getting spayed or neutered.” The group also conducted home visits where they surveyed the living conditions of pets and taught their owners the importance of spaying and neutering their pets.

Aliyah was interested in the trip’s combination of animals and psychology. “I am really interested in learning how different types of animals think and how their thought processes differ from our own.”
She followed the passion further and joined a dolphin ecology research program partnership between NOAA and a small selection of Shorecrest students. With NOAA, Aliyah studies the behavior of dolphins in Tampa Bay and tracks their migration, spending time on boats and in a lab. “I am really interested in science, especially animal sciences, and it is an incredible opportunity for a high school student to be involved with government research,” the level-headed scholar explains. 

Tracking dolphin migration was merely a springboard for Aliyah, as she rose yet again to the next step.

“I am currently doing a research project in AP Physics II about magnetic navigation and how animals are able to detect and use the earth’s magnetic field to orient themselves and navigate while migrating.”

You might be able to guess what comes next: “I am also considering veterinary school as something that I might be interested in in the future, and I think that having a good understanding of animal behavior would help me in this pursuit,” Aliyah admits.

This may be why, when probed, Aliyah says Upper School biology teacher Dave Hyink is one of her favorite teachers. “I love his class so much. I think he’s such a great teacher. He respects his students and is up front with them. You feel like you actually have a connection with him as a teacher. He helped inspire my interest in biology.” 

Aliyah keeps rising, as she puts in research hours during her downtime too. This past summer she spent time in an intensive lab with experiments focusing on fingerprints and DNA and spent a week at Duke in an accelerated STEM program

Two values run deeply through Aliyah’s family: a commitment to service and education. Shorecrest’s Elizabeth Samuelson Community Spirit Award was initiated in 2018 in honor of Aliyah’s mother, a passionate parent volunteer and Past-Chair of the Board of Trustees. It is given to members of the community who best build and support Community Spirit at Shorecrest. Aliyah says she also puts community high on her list of what she loves about the school, particularly when each Upper School grade bonds during Homecoming week. 

Aliyah has helped others to rise as well. More than once, she joined the Shorecrest Service Week trip to Pine Ridge, South Dakota. “We worked with the organization Re-member on a Native American Reservation in South Dakota. We made bunk beds, sorted donations, split wood, and delivered firewood to people who lived on the Reservation.” What this Florida girl glosses over is that her team completed this work while in freezing, winter temperatures.

Aliyah’s long list of accolades at Shorecrest include membership in National Honor Society, Cum Laude Society, Spanish Honor Society, International Thespian Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Scholar Thespian award, Outstanding Ensemble Award and Ari Weiss Award in theatre. This member of the Girls STEAM Club won the Dartmouth College Book Award will be rising up to Dartmouth College in the fall.

Shorecrest Preparatory School

5101 First Street Northeast
St Petersburg, FL 33703
Phone: (727) 522-2111  |  Fax: (727) 527-4191
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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.