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

Meet Clay DiGiorgio

Ask anyone at Shorecrest to describe Clay DiGiorgio and one word comes up again and again, “He’s just so NICE!” And while that word could be used to describe many Shorecrest students, Clay really seems to embody that word. When he walks into a room, you can’t help but smile. Clay’s easy-going manner, omnipresent grin and authenticity seem to put others at ease. He is constantly thinking about the feelings of others and is always thinking about what he can do to help out in his class, at home or in his community.
 
In the Fall of his senior year, Clay was called to the Upper School office and he was told that he was a National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist. Clay’s face lit up. He turned and promptly went to each of his Upper School teachers to personally thank them; having a moment to share his accomplishment with them. To Clay, education has been a team adventure, and he’s sure to give credit to those who have helped him along that journey.
 
Clay is eager to admit that it has been a journey. The son of an alumna and a student at Shorecrest since he was in first grade, Clay has called himself a Charger for over a decade. “My mom is an alumna, and she sent me to Shorecrest because she wanted me to have the same opportunities she did,” he explains. But it took him some time to find himself. As with many students, Clay’s Middle School years were a bit tumultuous as he struggled to find his interests and find his place with his peers. The Upper School is where he has really hit his stride.
 
When he entered his freshman year in the Upper School, the computer science program had just started, and Shorecrest had just launched its first robotics club. “At the Club Fair, everyone was talking about this team or that group and then I heard the words ‘Robotics Club’ and I thought ‘That sounds neat. I’ll go check that out.’”

After he attended the first meeting, he was hooked. “I remember seeing this half-built robot that someone brought in and all I could think was ‘I want to be able to do THAT!’”
Clay, along with a few of his peers, began meeting regularly, building and tweaking robots and preparing for competitions with teams from other schools. “Eventually I became the de facto Captain and through that experience I really found myself,” Clay explains. “I had finally found something that I was really into, really interested in. I also learned how to be a leader--how to motivate others, and I also learned a lot about myself.”

Each year, the Shorecrest Robotics team works together to build a robot in response to a challenge. In Clay’s sophomore year, the Robotics Club’s second year in existence, teams were challenged to have their robots move game objects to designated areas around a 12 x 12 foot field to score points. The object of the challenge is to attain the highest score possible. That year, Clay and his teammates got a bid to the VEX Robotics’ National Competition by receiving a high-ranking score in a local competition. But that wasn’t an easy task. Their robot wasn’t doing quite as well as they had hoped, when they had one final chance to compete.

“In our category of competition, you can have two drivers on a robot,” he explains. “I was part of a two-man team where my partner was the wheels and I was the lift mechanism, and had to get the robot to move the game objects to a specific area. It was so intense: the clock was running down; we were stacking objects, and at the very end I was so jittery I almost dropped the game object, but I made it! And I looked at the clock, and watched as the timer clicked to zero seconds left! And that was just enough to get us to Nationals--I just about collapsed!”

While Clay spent a lot of his time at Shorecrest tinkering with robots--even on weekends and school breaks--he also served as a class representative on the school’s Honor Council, one of the most highly-regarded leadership positions at the school. Elected by his peers as a member of the Honor Council in his Freshman year, Clay served on the Council all four years he was in the Upper School. When an Upper School student has a major disciplinary issue, that student appears before the Honor Council, and the Council then makes a recommendation to the administration about how the situation should be handled. “The Honor Council is so important,” Clay explains, “because it gives the whole process a student perspective.”

Clay takes this position very seriously, “The most important thing when a student goes to Honor Council is for them to learn from their mistakes. We're not there to punish them, we’re there to help them learn.” Clay also points out that he’s learned a lot from the experience of serving on the Council. “I’ve learned that there’s almost always more to the story,” he explains. “You have to listen and keep your ears open.”

So what does Clay plan on doing next? In the fall, he will head to University of Central Florida (UCF) where he plans to study microbiology in The Burnett Honors College. He’s also thrilled because UCF has programs in robotics, engineering and nanotechnology--one of the only universities in the country to have all three of those concentrations in one place. “I loved that UCF had all three areas of study--and their dedicated nanoscience program is one of the only programs like it in the whole country!”

With a smile he adds, “UCF also has a koi pond which really sealed the deal.”
Clay is also thrilled that UCF isn’t too far away from his home in St. Petersburg. He has a very close relationship with his younger sister, Isabel, who will be moving up to Shorecrest Middle School in the fall. Together, they build robots, work out problems, and just enjoy time together. In fact, just days after graduating, Clay was back at Shorecrest to support Isabel as she presented a project in her fourth grade class.

“My sister and I are really close. We work really well as a team—she sees the forest and I see the details on the trees,” Clay explains. “I’m going to miss her a lot next year. She’s just a really amazing person and I’m really excited to see what she does in the future!”

As for Clay, where does he see himself in the future? “Whatever I do I want to be able to help people,” says Clay. “I really want to be able to solve problems and make people's’ lives better.” Right now he sees biology as the best path to do that, “I really like biology. I like the idea of making medicines, fighting disease, stuff like that.” But he hasn’t completely ruled out robotics yet either. “The other option that I’m considering is artificial intelligence development—machine learning, helping disaster victims or first responders. Artificial intelligence is the way of the future!”

But he will miss Shorecrest a lot when he leaves for UCF. “I just love my class and I love the school. I’ll miss all the people so much.” He pauses for a moment and then adds, “The people here helped me build my confidence and helped shape me into the person I am today.”

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.