CLEARWATER – If you want to succeed then you have to work hard no matter how gifted you might be. That is the advice from both the valedictorian and salutatorian from Clearwater High School.
As they prepare for their June 5th graduation, valedictorian Alexandra Russell and salutatorian Deja Blunt took time to reflect on their years in high school and the challenges ahead. Both said the key to success was the priority they attached to their studies.
“I definitely put my studies first and it was difficult,” said Russell, 17. “It was difficult balancing studies and volleyball, but I knew my studies had to come first and I made it my priority. It was hard but I really enjoyed learning all the different subjects on my journey through education.”
“I wouldn’t say I enjoyed studying all that much,” said Blunt, 18. “But I knew I had to get it done in order to move on with my future. Things do seem to come naturally to me and if I stick to something and re-read it a couple times than I’ll get it.”
The immediate future for both students is at the University of Florida. They have both been accepted for the fall and both are excited about going.
“This is my dream school, and their medical school is the one I want to go to,” said Blunt. “My parents are happy because I’m the first one to go to college, my parents just didn’t have the opportunity to do it.”
Russell had a different story for wanting to go to Florida.
“I’m going to Florida because I have a lot of family history there,” said Russell. “My grandmother went there, as did both of my parents, my sister and an uncle. It is a school that has been in our family for a long time and I’m excited to carry on that tradition.”
Both students are not taking it easy as they move into the halls of higher learning. Blunt is going to study medicine.
“I want to go to medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon,” she said. “My doctor, Coco Eaton, was inspiring and made me want to go down that path. He is the Rays team doctor and I’d like to do something like that with a basketball or football team.”
Russell is a little less clear on what she wants to do with her future.
“I will be studying biochemistry but I haven’t quite decided what I want to do,” she said. “I may go into the pharmaceutical field.”
Both young women did much more than just study in high school. Both are gifted athletes, Russell plays volleyball and Blunt plays basketball.
“I have played volleyball for about 9 years,” said Russell. “I have been on the Clearwater varsity team since my freshman year and I play club volleyball as well. And I travel a lot with the varsity team.”
“I’ve been playing varsity basketball all four years I’ve been here,” said Blunt. “I love the energy and the intensity of it and my team mates are like a second family to me.”
Some might look at students with grade point averages approaching 5.0 as nerds or geeks. Both Russell, and Blunt laughed at the suggestion that they were either.
“I don’t think of myself as a nerd or a geek,” said Russell. “I’m a student athlete; that is what I am.”
“I think I am, just an all-round person,” said Blunt. “I can go and have fun but when it comes to studies I can be focused, studying comes first, academics is my number 1 priority.”
Russell has a grade point average of 4.72. She grew up in Clearwater and attended Skycrest elementary and middle school before going to Clearwater High. Becoming valedictorian she said is special.
“I was very honored and humbled when I was told at the beginning there was a small chance to become the valedictorian,” she said. “I want to prove that it could happen and I set that as my goal.”
As a Career Academy International student with a focus on culture and commerce, Russell had to take extra courses in order to qualify for the valedictorian appointment. She did and met her goal.
Blunt, whose grade point average is 4.71, grew up in Clearwater and attended Curtis Fundamental school and Coachman Fundamental. Her GPA meant she automatically was appointed salutatorian.
“This is a big honor,” she said. “I’m proud that I worked this hard and it has paid off.”
Russell says the next step in life, going off to university, is tough, but exciting.
“I’m very sad to leave my friends and I have to move on, but I’m very excited to start a new life to see where my education will get me.”
Four hundred students of Clearwater High will graduate on June 5th at Bright House Field.
Editor’s note: Profileds on Countryside High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian will run in next week’s Clearwater Beacon.