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Plant City Observer Friday, Jun. 10, 2016 2 years ago

Durant High School valedictorian and salutatorian 2016

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Damien Miyamoto is the valedictorian, and Cristina Llaneras is the salutatorian.

By Abby Baker
Staff Intern

Damien Miyamoto

Damien Miyamoto

Damien Miyamoto has been aiming for his current valedictorian position since freshman year. 

With a 9.01 GPA, the Durant senior is ready to make the move to Manhattan, New York to attend New York University. He will be pursuing pre-medical studies. 

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Miyamoto ended up in Plant City when his mother earned her law license in the Sunshine State. His parents, Nerizza and David Miyamoto, have encouraged their son to have the highest GPA in the school since he was old enough to have a report card. 

Miyamoto was involved in Students All Connected, Future Business Leaders of America and Science Competition Club.  

Was it your goal to become valedictorian? If so, why? 

Yeah. My parents pretty much told me that’s what I had to be so I was like, “Alright.” 

Did you think you would become valedictorian? 

In the beginning, like facing the course of it. I was like, “Oh, it’s going to be tough.” But after sophomore year, junior year, it became evident. 

When and how did you find out you were valedictorian? 

Junior year. (Counselor Franci) Dupre told me. 

What is your favorite subject?

Probably English or biology. Probably because they’re not math intensive, numbers don’t really do it for me. 

What is your biggest high school accomplishment besides becoming valedictorian?

Making it to states for Future Business Leaders of America. 

What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in high school?

Probably junior year. I mean I was taking nine classes. 

What does your family think of you becoming valedictorian? 

They’re really proud. 

What are your plans after graduating?

To go to NYU and start down the pre-med path. I’m not sure if I want to go into research or actually hands on.

What is your 10-year plan?

Four years undergrad and four years grad school. If I was to do residency, I was probably looking into doing dermatology. 

Did you always want to go to NYU?

Yeah, it was always in my top five. I like the location, definitely, and the ranking. 

What made you want to be a doctor? 

The prestige of being a doctor and, of course, just the added benefit of being able to help people. 

What are your hobbies?

I like to longboard, hangout with my friends and watch Netflix. 

What advice do you have for other students?

Start taking AP classes early on. Senior year is when you’ve really got to grind.

If you could be an animal, which would you choose?

A hawk. They have the freedom to go wherever they want.

Is there a book that has made an impact on your life?

“The Great Gatsby.” It added on to my interest of the grandeur of high society. It kind of pushed me to want more, to experience those type of things. 

What do you sing in the shower?

I don’t sing anything in the shower. 

What’s the best advice someone has given you, and who gave you that advice?

Probably that, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. It pushed me to be self-aware and to know that there’s probably another tier to move on to. 

Where have you always wanted to travel to? 

Probably London. I’m just interested in their culture. A lot of my favorite shows are filmed there.

What shows?

“Sherlock” specifically. 

What is one word that describes your high school experience? 

Change. I feel like I’ve changed a lot. 

Cristina Llaneras

Cristina Llaneras

Cristina Llaneras graduated with a 7.12 GPA and a string of titles. The 17-year-old was her school’s senior class president, vice president of Durant’s National Honor Society and a member of the science competition club. 

Llaneras wasn’t aiming for her current salutatorian position. When she realized she had a shot junior year, she worked to maintain her spot. 

Llaneras is originally from Los Angeles, California. She made the move to Plant City at age 5 with her parents, Ana and George Llaneras. 

Was it your goal to become salutatorian? 

Originally, it was not my goal. But then, my junior year, I looked at my transcript, and I was number two so I tried to stay there because I was already there. 

Did you think you would become salutatorian?

When I was younger I didn’t give too much thought to it. But when I saw I was number two, I kept a pretty rigorous schedule to stay there. 

When and how did you find out you were salutatorian?

Well, my junior year I found out from my other guidance counselor, (Franci) Dupre, who doesn’t work here anymore. Then, officially I found out in January of this year. 

What is your favorite subject?

I have three: biology, chemistry and calculus. I like the challenge they present. I mean biology, because of the health portion of it, I want to be a doctor. Then chemistry, it’s more of a math-based science. And calculus because I like solving the problems.  

What is your biggest high school accomplishment besides becoming salutatorian?

I would say all the community service I’ve been able to do and getting other people involved in community service. I have over 360 hours, and it was all stuff that I enjoyed doing. 

What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in high school?

The death of my grandmother. We were really close. When I was younger I lived with her a lot, so when she passed away it was hard on me. 

What does your family think of you becoming salutatorian?

They’re really proud of me. They were proud of me, regardless. It wasn’t their ultimate goal for me to be number two. They consider it like a cherry on top of the ice cream. 

What are your plans after graduating?

I’m going to major in biomedical sciences and minor in mathematics. And then I’ll be on the pre-med track. I hope to specialize in surgery and neurosurgery. 

What is your 10-year plan?

Well, most of it is going to school. The first four years of it will be undergraduate. I’ll study at USF. Those four years I’ll have to do volunteering and shadowing and research to compile my resume for medical school. My next four years will be spent at medical school, and after that I’ll have my first year of internship, and my second year of internship is technically my first year of residency. 

What are your hobbies?

Going to the beach. I like reading. I like spending time with my family and friends. I don’t do this as much anymore but I used to play the piano, and I have a first degree black belt in taekwondo. 

Could you do it right now? 

I’d have to refresh but I did it for eight years. I have the basis. It doesn’t just dissolve. 

What advice do you have for other students?

Don’t procrastinate on getting your college resume ready. Find volunteer positions, and get involved in extracurricular activities. 

If you could be an animal, which would you choose?

Maybe, like, a cheetah. They are at the top of the food chain so they won’t get eaten. Also they are very intelligent and one of the fastest animals on earth. 

Is there a book that has made an impact on your life?

It’s a book I read when I was a lot younger: “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.” It kind of taught me to appreciate life and that there are others that have it a lot harder than I do. I think I read it in middle school. It’s more of a children’s book but the message is really good. 

What do you sing in the shower?

I like Michael Bublé and Maroon 5. I probably sing some Hannah Montana in there too.  

What’s the best advice someone has given you, and who gave you that advice?

There’s a Walt Disney quote that I really like: “You never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Actually, I found it when I was giving my salutatorian speech. 

What’s your most embarrassing moment? 

Sophomore year my shoe was untied, and I tripped on the stairs and rolled all the way down. Everyone was too busy laughing to help me up, and I tripped again trying to get up. 

What is one word you would use to describe your high school experience? 

Home. I feel very at home here. I’ve made really good friends here, I have close relationships with some of the teachers. 

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? 

I’ve always wanted to go to Italy and Greece and Spain and France. I’ll just go backpacking. 

Do you have a favorite moment? 

Freshman year a bunch of my family came down and they were all together and we live in all different places. We had a dinner. It was kind of simple but it was nice. 

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