CLEARWATER – Knowing when to shut things out so you can study is considered a key to succeeding in high school. That sentiment is shared by the valedictorian and the salutatorian at Countryside High School.
Alexandra Carroll, 17, the valedictorian, said she knew what she had to do to succeed.
“I don’t particularly like to study but I was focused to get into college,” she said. “I kind of forced myself to study so I could be happy in college. I got accepted at the University of Florida which was the goal all along.”
Michael Clennan, 17, is the salutatorian. He had similar feelings about studying.
“To be honest, studying is not that tough,” he said. “I knew when I had to and when I didn’t. I can manage my time really well, along with my sports. I knew what I had to do and I did it.”
Traditionally the valedictorian is chosen based on the highest grade-point average in the graduating class; the salutatorian is the second highest. But GPA alone might not be enough. The students have to show they take part in activities apart from academics. Both Carroll and Clennan are involved outside the classroom.
Carroll is involved with show horses and is excited that she is going to be going to the University of Florida in the fall.
“The university is the right fit for me because I can bring my jumping horses with me. I can board them nearby in Ocala. I also have two ponies that I’ll bring as well; the ponies are basically lawn mowers,” she said laughing.
Clennan is involved outside the classroom in anything that involves running.
“I like cross-country and track,” he said. “I fell in love with running. It keeps you in shape and my teammates were awesome. That was definitely the best part of it. I also play rec league soccer.”
Clennan, like Carroll, is going to attend the University of Florida in the fall. He knows what he wants to do with his life, thanks in part to his involvement on the Countryside High yearbook staff.
“I love it. It is my favorite things to do in school,” he said. “I hope to write commercials when I graduate from the university. I am going to major in advertising, and I’ll be doing a lot of writing classes and journalism courses.”
Carroll is hoping to get into medical school at the university.
“I am going to study biology, which was my goal all along,” she said. “Right now I want to go to med school. I’m thinking about becoming a plastic surgeon.”
As for what motivated her to academic excellence, Carroll said it was the two things she loves most in life right now.
“What motivated me was college and where I wanted to go if I maintained my grades,” she said. “And I want to continue to show my horses. They are important to me. I go to two shows a month and I’ve been to the nationals twice.”
Carroll, who lives in Safety Harbor, has a GPA of 4.79. She attended Espiritu Santo Elementary School in Safety Harbor, then Safety Harbor Middle School before enrolling in Countryside High.
Clennan, a resident of Clearwater, attended Leila G. Davis Elementary School in Clearwater and Safety Harbor Middle School. His GPA is 4.77.
Do those grades earn those students the moniker of nerd or geek? They differ on their answers.
“I’m not really a nerd or a geek,” said Clennan. “I have a lot of friends. I don’t spend hours and hours studying. That’s not all I do.”
Carroll had an entirely different answer to that question.
“I’m really nerdy. I like that, I own it,” she said. “I’d rather be a geek because I want to be successful and if that means being a geek then I’ll take it.”
Both students will take their appointments as valedictorian and salutatorian. Both are proud of their accomplishments.
“It was definitely a big honor,” said Clennan. “Four or five others could have gotten it; I had no idea I was going to be in the top two. Once it was announced and people started congratulating me I thought, wow, that was a big accomplishment and I realized all that hard work really paid off.”
“It was never a goal for me,” said Carroll. “I just wanted to get the good grades to get into college. It was like a bonus. When I found out I had tears of happiness then I started to think about writing the speech. I had real tears. The speech is not done yet; I’m going to put it off like I do all my assignments and do it at the last minute.”
Carroll will get to deliver that speech on graduation day, June 5, at the USF Sundome. She’ll be delivering it before her Countryside High graduating class of 475.