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

Meet Max Kobernick - Valedictorian

To Max Kobernick, stories matter. Whether it’s an oral history from his grandmother, the circumstances of an Honor Council hearing, or an in-depth discussion of politics with Mr. Wahlgren, Max is eager to hear and share stories from many different perspectives.

His story at Shorecrest began at the end of the sixth grade when he came to the school for a shadow visit. “My earliest memory is shadowing with Chris Jayson, who is one of my best friends now,” Max remembers.  

“Just going and seeing some of the classes, you could tell that the teachers really cared about the students and the work that they do. That day I came home from the shadow and said, ‘I want to go there.’”

Enrolling at Shorecrest during Middle School allowed Max the opportunity to participate in an important Shorecrest tradition - the eighth Grade Passion Project - an open-ended, in-depth study of any topic of the student’s choice. For his project, Max chose storytelling, conducting an oral history with his grandmother.

“My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. She told me her story when I was little and it's something that's been very important to me ever since.” For the project, Max interviewed his grandmother and drafted a novel telling the story of her experience.

“I could definitely improve on it because I wrote it in the eighth grade," Max says. "I think it's something I want to focus on and get finished.”

While the novel may remain in draft form, hearing his grandmother’s story has led Max to a sustained interest in Holocaust education that has fueled his History Fair projects, his course of study, and even how he spends his spare time. Following his sister’s footsteps, Max began volunteering with the Florida Holocaust Museum his sophomore year working with the Teaching Trunks Program.

Max describes the program, “It’s a project where the museum has trunks filled with different education materials - DVDs, books, posters, and different things depending on the age group. We have hundreds of them that the museum ships to schools so teachers can use them for a lesson plan.”

His work with the Teaching Trunks began with simply adding materials and repackaging DVDs, but quickly grew to a leadership role. Max led a team of volunteers in identifying and contacting schools to use the program, later creating a database to track and record each school’s shipment and usage. “We’re striving to cover all of Florida, especially counties in rural areas that don't have access to places like our Holocaust Museum,” says Max.  
In addition to appreciating stories, Max is also skilled at finding connections. As a senior Max served as Honor Council President, on the Relay For Life leadership team, President of Interact Service Club, and in Youth in Government. He also pursued the demanding Global Scholars Initiative (GSI) track, a specialized academic track elevated by additional study in foreign language and social studies along with a senior capstone project. Instead of seeing these as discrete demands on his time, Max found a way to make connections across his various commitments.

For his senior GSI project, Max did a three-part project on Holocaust education involving service learning with the Holocaust Museum, research comparing Holocaust education in five different countries, and an analysis of missing pieces of Holocaust education. From the latter, he learned that documenting survivor history was critically important and increasingly difficult, given the aging of the survivor population. To further contribute to Holocaust education, Max conducted interviews of four different survivors.

“It was interesting to talk with them about recent instances of anti-Semitism, to hear their opinions on that and what needs to be done,” says Max. To share the oral histories, Max uploaded the videos to YouTube where they are publicly accessible for others to view and use.  

As part of his GSI coursework, Max took AP Comparative Government with Kurt Wahlgren, which involves the in-depth study of government in six countries: China, Russia, the UK, Nigeria, Mexico and Iran. According to Max, “I've known for a while that I want to major in political science, but before [Wahlgren’s class] I've never had a class where I could just go in there and focus specifically on politics.”

Max loved the small class size of only eight students and found it an especially interesting course because of current events. “We were talking about China's one-child policy and then literally one day in the middle of our China unit it became a two-child policy,” Max recalls excitedly.

Along with class size and timing, Max also credits Mr. Wahlgren for making the experience so meaningful. “Mr. Walgren was really passionate about the material. He'd find me and say, ‘Hey, you should read this book, or this extra article.’ It was really eye-opening.”  
Serving on the Honor Council has also been a large part of Max’s Shorecrest story. He was selected to serve at the end of his freshman year and rose in the ranks to President his senior year. Max says, “Having a student voice on it makes a difference when you have a student in front of the Honor Council. There are challenging times, but [the experience] made me better as a person.”

Like in his project work and course of study, Max’s appreciation for stories served him well with the Honor Council. “It made me think about what would I do in that position? How does this person feel?” Max recalls. “But also balancing that with the fact that the person coming in front of the Council did cheat or did plagiarize, and kind of finding that balance for fairness.”

According to Kathy Sessions, Dean of Students, “He was always very mature, insightful, and willing to share his opinion even if it was not the most popular among his peers. He believed that doing the right thing was the only option for him in all situations.”

Max’s story would be incomplete without mention of his time on the Shorecrest swim team. “It is one of the best experiences I had at Shorecrest,” he insists. Along with allowing him to quickly make friends as a transfer student, Max says that joining the swim team taught him perseverance, determination and the value of hard work. “Especially from my coach, Coach Patti [Nardozzi].”

History teacher Ron Heller is another name that makes a big appearance in Max’s story. “He’s someone who cares so much about his students and was always there for me,” says Max. “When I got the Valedictorian bowl he was the first one to come up to me, he had tears in his eyes when he hugged me.”

Named Top Scholar freshman, sophomore and junior years, Max was a National Merit Finalist his senior year and Valedictorian of the Class of 2017. He will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Cain Scholar - a prestigious honor that offers a full tuition scholarship and participation in extensive leadership opportunities both on and off campus.

Asked for a word of advice for the rising senior class at Shorecrest, Max says, “Even though senior year and applying to colleges is stressful and busy, enjoy the time you have here. The Shorecrest community and the things that we do are special.”

He continues, ”Whether it's through a sport or your senior Homecoming, or all the opportunities you get as a senior at Shorecrest, do things with your class and really appreciate that you're never going to find something like Shorecrest again.”

Max's Valedictory Address

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.