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

Meet Charity Chen - Valedictorian

The Valedictorian of the Class of 2018, Charity Chen, started Shorecrest in ninth grade after being homeschooled for her early education. Her time away from her studies was once divided among swimming, ballet and gymnastics. Charity is a National-qualifier for all-around gymnastics, meaning she competed in all four women’s events: balance beam, floor, vault and uneven bars. The type of student she is benefits both her activities and her grades. “Focused,” is how she describes herself. “I like to get things done. I don’t like to procrastinate.”

Part one of getting things done for her was getting used to classroom discussions. “For me, entering a high school of 300 students was a giant leap from being homeschooled. Having never participated in a class discussion before, I was reluctant to speak up, but the teachers here made me feel so comfortable and encouraged me to open up, and since then, my confidence has grown immensely. Now I’m one of the biggest participators in class.”

For this reason, she says her teachers are what she’ll miss most about her Shorecrest experience.

And with the wisdom of a mature scholar, Charity realized she could learn from everyone around her. “Shorecrest has helped me to open my mind. Never before had I been exposed to such a variety of perspectives, from my books, Willis Leadership lecturers, my teachers, and my peers. This dynamic way of learning and viewing the world through different lenses has taught me to question my own preconceptions and be more tolerant of others’ opinions.”
High school also gave Charity the opportunity to assist fellow classmates for the first time. “It’s nice to help people understand concepts and do better in the class.”

Beyond the classroom, Charity enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the St. Petersburg community through the Upper School's annual Service Week, one of her favorite Shorecrest traditions. Her Freshman year she enjoyed volunteering with Mrs. Schneider’s Veterans Voices group. “We went to the Veteran’s Hospital and gave out blankets and toiletries. We got to meet a lot of veterans too, so that was interesting. Sophomore year I went to Great Explorations [Children's Museum] with Sra. Andrés. That was very different. I got to play with kids and teach them to do crafts. It was just fun."

Another tradition Charity enjoyed was attending the spring musicals her classmates dedicated so much time to producing, even though she, herself, was not a thespian. “I enjoyed going to the plays. I want to support the arts, and I enjoy theatre, especially when they did “Phantom,” because that’s my favorite Broadway musical. I love seeing that different side of my classmates. I'm always so impressed by how well they can sing and act; just seeing them in the classroom, I would never know how much talent they have.”

Charity doesn’t take her opportunity to be a part of a school setting for granted. “When I tell people I like school, they look at me like I’m crazy, but I actually enjoy going to classes. I love learning. For me it’s not about the grade. I was never trying to go for Valedictorian, I was just trying to do my best and learn the most that I could and if the grade happened to be good that would just follow.”

Charity emphasized this idea in her Valedictory address at the Class of 2018 Commencement ceremony. “It’s not so much about the grade on your report card but the depth of learning, and that education transcends the walls and ceilings of the classroom…”

This is a lesson she learned a couple years back from her junior year English teacher, Mal Ellenburg. “He spent a whole day talking about how grades don’t matter and what matters is how much you learn and how it develops your character. Everyone else in the class started saying, ‘Grades matter. They matter for college,’ but for me, it made a lot of sense to me.”
Next year Charity will attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. She says she is both excited and nervous. “I’m really excited to take interesting classes and see what I’m interested in. People have encouraged me to take philosophy classes, take arts classes, take different sorts of classes than I’m used to and see what I’m really interested in and get myself to open my mind and be able to think. You can take any major, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you are able to think you can use that anywhere.”

With her options open and the world as her oyster, Charity has a clear vision about the type of life she’d like to have in the future. “I want to do something I love; something that helps other people; something I can make a living off of; and something where I don’t have to spend too much time, so I can still spend time with the people I love.”

Although she describes herself as “very self motivated,” Charity still says when things get hard it’s nice to have people to depend on, like her sister, her brother, her parents, “and some people here at Shorecrest too.”

“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.”
    • Excerpts from Charity'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.