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Plant City Observer Friday, Jun. 17, 2016 2 years ago

Strawberry Crest High School IB valedictorian and salutatorian 2016

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Meghana Chapalamadugu is the valedictorian, and Abraham Mathew is the salutatorian.

By Jose Lozoya
Staff Intern

Meghana Chapalamadugu

Meghana Chapalamadugu

Meghana Chapalamadugu was a member of National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Science Competitors Club, varsity tennis and the concert mistress of chamber orchestra. Outside of school, Meghana played the piano, was a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee and the Tampa Youth Metropolitan Orchestra. Meghana graduated with a 8.35 GPA and is the daughter of Satya Chapalamadugu and Satya Chapalamadugu.

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

It was never my goal to become valedictorian. I always thought it would be something nice to have, but as the pressures of IB took over, I made it my goal to make good grades in the classes I was taking, rather than overwhelm myself by taking a lot of classes. 

Did you think you would become valedictorian? 

During my freshman year, I dreamed about walking across that stage at the top of my class, but I never thought it would be a reality. I knew that there were so many other smart, motivated people in my class who would be at the top of the class. 

When and how did you find out you were valedictorian? 

I found out at the breakfast for the top ten of the class. I was expecting to be salutatorian, because that’s what everyone in my class had been saying, but to my surprise, they didn’t call my name for the salutatorian. At that moment, I realized that I was valedictorian, and I only had a couple seconds to process this news before they called my name. I was honestly really surprised, and it caught me off guard at the moment, but as it sunk in it felt really good. 

What is your favorite subject?

That’s a tough question to answer. I’m split between English and biology, which I know is a really unusual combination. I enjoy biology because I find it incredibly satisfying to know exactly how everything works about the human body. I find life science fascinating, to think about how nonliving things interact with each other to create life. I also find English really interesting, because I think it’s so cool how writers incorporate so much hidden meaning into their literature. I used to be terrible at English, and I didn’t understand the big deal behind literary analysis until my sophomore English teacher (shoutout to Mrs. Schultz) really opened my eyes and helped me to develop strong analytical skills. 

What is your biggest high school accomplishment besides becoming valedictorian?

One really cool thing that I was involved in throughout high school was robotics. My robotics team became a family to me, partially because I loved them, and partially because I spent eight hours every Saturday at practice in Lakeland. During my sophomore and junior years of high school, my team advanced to the World Championships in St. Louis. In my junior year, we were able to captain the winning alliance of the entire championship, placing first in the world. This was an incredibly neat experience as it allowed me to develop my creativity as well as interact with so many cool people from so many places. I was able to learn a lot from robotics and these experiences 

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

The biggest obstacle I had to overcome in high school was realizing my limits. I had this really bad tendency of overbooking myself because I have a lot of interests, and I did not realize that it was impossible to devote my time to so many different areas without burning out. As I realized this, I was able to manage my time more effectively and gain more control of my life and my interests. 

What does your family think of you becoming valedictorian?

My family is really proud of me, but rightfully so, because there’s no way I could have done it without their support. At first, my mom did not believe me when I told her because she thought I was joking. 

What are your plans after graduating?

After graduating, I will be attending the University of Miami as a neuroscience major. I hope to complete my undergraduate education and then attend medical school.

What is your 10-year plan?

In the next 10 years, I hope to complete my undergraduate education at the University of Miami and then attend medical school. As of now, I hope to go into the field of neurology, either as a neurologist or a neurosurgeon because I think the brain is a fascinating organ, and I really enjoy human interaction in the dynamic field of medicine. 

What are your hobbies?

In my free time, I really enjoy playing music. I have played the piano and the violin for 11 years now, and playing music is a really good escape from reality. Also, I enjoy playing tennis. After high school, as I gain more free time, I hope to be able to read for pleasure. 

What advice do you have for other students?

I would tell other students to never forget the bigger picture and to always stay true to themselves. One imperfection may seem like the end of the world, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s less important than a lot of other things. Ultimately, students should do what makes them happy. It is pointless for them to involve themselves in activities that look good on a resume if they don’t enjoy them, because then they become a waste of time. I learned this when I got my first B in high school. I was devastated, but as time passed, I realized that who I was as an individual was a lot more important than a bad grade in my high school career. 

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

If I could be any animal, I would be a tiger. There is something mysterious in their nature, and they have great reflexes. They are strong yet gentle and they seem to understand a lot about their surroundings. They are also very intelligent.

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

The book “The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger changed my life. It was the first book that I was able to apply literary analysis to, and it really influenced my thinking in terms of understanding the world around me. Although the book itself is quite pessimistic, Salinger’s perception of the world taught me to appreciate genuine human relationships. He also taught me not to take anything at face value, but instead to understand it for its true meaning.

What do you sing in the shower?

I fluctuate between belting out Disney songs (my favorite is Part of Your World) and listening to Drake, J.Cole, and Beyoncé to get me pumped for my day. 

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

Toward the end of this year, my chemistry teacher told us that she was teaching on our last day of school. Initially, the entire class whined because we thought she was teaching us chemistry, but instead she gave us a life lesson that will probably stay with us for the rest of my life. She told us that we were the only ones who would ever really know ourselves and understand our struggles. She told us that if we didn’t love ourselves, no one else would. After that, she played Whitney Houston and made our entire class almost cry. I feel like this advice will come to me when I’m feeling the stresses of college, and it will motivate me to keep going in spite of the challenges present.

Abraham Mathew

Abraham Mathew

Abraham Mathew was the vice president of the Red Cross Club, president of Marine Science Club, historian of National Honors Society and was the schools mascot. Abraham graduated with a 8.31 GPA. He is the son of Mathew Abraham and Mercy Pathiyil.

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

I remember in middle school, the number one goal I wanted to do was to say a speech at my high school graduating class. However, I never ever realized the amount of dedication, hard work and sleepless nights it required to attain my spot as salutatorian of my class. In fact, going through the International Baccalaureate program, which was already rigorous enough, really motivated me to reach my goal. At first, my parents pushed me to take dual enrollment courses at Hillsborough Community College. This unique and maturing experience really opened my eyes to what it is like as a high school student taking college courses at a community college. I first began following my sister’s footsteps, taking the same courses as her, since she knew what she was actually doing compared to myself. In fact, she was also the salutatorian of her class too. After getting bored of taking the same classes as my sister, I decided to take classes that were actually interesting to me, like anthropology and environmental sciences. In fact, these classes presented a bigger challenge because I was solely responsible for going to class, preparing for exams and completing the homework without my sister reminding me. However, I got better at managing my time and learned how to handle both high school, IB, extracurricular activities, sports, community college and my family and friends. Even though it was difficult in the beginning, my goal to become the salutatorian of my class was really revitalized throughout my experiences in high school and the support of my family and friends. 

Did you think you would become salutatorian?

At first, I did not because I was competing against the best and brightest IB students ever in my graduating class. Nevertheless, my ambition and drive to prepare that speech and represent my class really allowed me to focus on myself and acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses. My parents and siblings were also my biggest supporters because they believed in my potential and my ability to achieve this accomplishment. Their support really pushed me to continue working hard and even seeking help if I needed to. 

When/how did you find out you were salutatorian?

There was a rumor in school throughout the third quarter of my senior year that I was either valedictorian or salutatorian of my class. In fact, I did not care if I was valedictorian because all I wanted to do was make that speech during graduation. But I officially found out that I was salutatorian of my class during the class rank breakfast. This news really made me ecstatic because that was when I knew that the rumors were true and that I would be able to present my speech during graduation. 

What is your favorite subject?

My favorite subjects will have to be a tie between environmental sciences and biology. I always enjoyed learning about the environment because there is so much to learn. From geology to oceanography, environmental sciences has a plethora of topics that I can delve into. My other favorite subject is biology because it also has fascinating topics. After taking biology for three years in high school, I learned pretty much everything from human physiology, cellular and molecular biology, genetics, evolution and ecology and plant biology. 

What is your biggest high school accomplishment besides becoming salutatorian?

The biggest high school accomplishment besides becoming salutatorian is surviving the International Baccalaureate Program. From analyzing ancient and translated works to writing 4,000-word essays, the IB program was definitely the toughest program I experienced, if not the toughest program in the world. Even though IB was very arduous, the friends that I bonded with and the amazing relationships I formed with my teachers definitely made IB worth it. In fact, participating in the IB program really made me a well-rounded person because I got to overcome failures and learn from them. In addition, the IB program enabled me to appreciate all of the cultures and backgrounds that I learned in the past four years of high school. 

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

The biggest obstacle I had to overcome in high school was the death of my Aunt Rini. My siblings and I were really close to her because she would always take us to amusement parks, dinner and the movies. However, the hardest thing about her death was that she left behind three beautiful young children. Even though she passed away during my freshman year, she has continued to motivate me to follow my dreams and aspirations in life. 

What does your family think of you becoming salutatorian?

My family is very proud of me because they knew I could make it with their support. My parents and siblings have been with me since day one and really inspired me to keep pushing towards my ultimate goal: speaking to my graduating class. 

What are your plans after graduating?

My plans after graduating are to attend the University of Florida for undergrad and get a degree in dentistry and a master’s degree in environmental sciences. I want to be an orthodontist, but I also want to conduct environmental research at an institution too. 

What is your 10-year plan?

My 10-year plan is to attend the University of Florida as an honors student while majoring in biology and minoring in environmental sciences. I will take the pre-dental track since I want to be an orthodontist when I grow up. With all of the credits I pulled from dual enrollment and IB, I should be able to graduate in three years. For my fourth year, I want to join the American Peace Corps and provide humanitarian aid to people living outside of the United States of America. During this time, I will prepare for the Dental Admission Test so I can attend dental school the following year. The dental schools that I am considering are the College of Dentistry at the University of Florida or the College of Dental Medicine at Nova Southeastern University. After dental school, I want to specialize in orthodontics. I also want to achieve my master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of Florida and possibly conduct research there. 

What are your hobbies?

My hobbies include playing basketball on the weekends and biking. I have played basketball for almost my whole life and always enjoyed playing with friends on the weekends. I also enjoy biking because it helps relieve stress from school. 

What advice do you have for other students?

Be proactive! Do not just focus on academics and schoolwork, take an interest in extracurricular activities or athletics that help keep you moving. Even though academics are very important, try to be a well-rounded person by participating in community service activities like Relay for Life or being an active volunteer for the American Red Cross. If you like sports, go to tryouts or practice with the team. Being a risk-taker is important in making challenging decisions and can better prepare you for the real world. More advice is to not be afraid to accept failure. Everyone is going to fall or make mistakes at some point in their lives, so it is better to make them earlier on so you can learn and grow from them. Even though it may sound cliché, it is true. Learning from your mistakes can help mold you into a better person because you learn to self-evaluate yourself and realize your potential. The last advice is to never ever quit. Even though quitting seems tempting, it is totally not worth it. Even though I felt like quitting IB during the rough times, I always persevered. Even though life may have thrown so much at you, you have survived every single thing, so do not quit.

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

If I could be any animal, I would be a salmon. Not just because it is so tasty, but it faces challenges and obstacles with endurance and persistence. Salmon are fishes that have to jump out of the water to overcome natural barriers, such as waterfalls, to reach the other side. The reason why I like salmon is that despite the dangers that lurk from above, they are driven to fight and overcome the zealous waterfall. In my perspective, the salmon represents us in that we have to overcome our own obstacles, which is represented by the waterfall. The bear that attempts to eat the salmon represents people that want us to be unsuccessful in life. In the words of DJ Khaled, “They don’t want us to succeed.”

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

A book that has made an impact in my life is “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. This novel has made an impact in my life because it illustrates the struggles of normal teenagers prior to adulthood. This book (is relatable) to numerous high school students like me because it highlights the stress and anxiety that we go through prior to growing up and how we can do our best to make the road ahead of us easier to cross. 

What do you sing in the shower?

I sing countless songs in the shower, ranging from hip-hop and rap to old school jazz  and the blues. One of my favorite songs that I sing in the shower is Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. This song is just so catchy and awesome.

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

The best advice people give me is just be yourself. Many of my teachers tell my class this advice because it holds true. It is important to be yourself because it makes you more genuine and real. No one likes people who are fake and tell lies to others in order to get what they desire. In essence, their pride ultimately leads to their downfall. It is important to be sincere because it is what forms the bonds of many pure and lasting relationships. 

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