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From left to right: Gabriel Gilles, Nicole Tjahjono, Angelina Krinos and Shea Greenberg.

Q&A: Introducing the class of 2021 Valedictorians and Salutatorians

An insider look on the 2021 Valedictorians and Salutatorians

March 26, 2021

The 2021 Valedictorian and Salutatorian for both IB and Traditional students have been announced. RHSToday asked these scholars how they achieved their titles and what their plans are moving forward.

Traditional Q&A with Gabriel Gilles, Valedictorian, and Nicole Tjahjono, Salutatorian

(Interviewed by Olivia Godinez)

Q: Was becoming Valedictorian/Salutatorian a goal for you?

GG: “To be honest, being Valedictorian was never like a goal I set at the beginning of high school. I really just took AP classes to try to boost my GPA a little bit and because they were interesting. When I found out I was number one in my sophomore year, I was like, ‘oh, that’s nice,’ and just kept doing what I was doing, and it paid off.”
NT:  “Becoming Salutatorian wasn’t exactly a goal of mine.  My main priority in school was to do well enough [and] not to have to worry so much about my grades. It wasn’t until late last year that I found out I was second in class. All I really did was complete my assignments in [a] good enough quality that I was proud of in a timely manner. My only worry was on tests and exams. I’m not exactly the smartest person, but I can get things done when I need to.”

Q: Who would you say were your biggest supporters?

GG: “I would say my biggest supporters are my parents because they have always pushed me to do my best in school.”
NT: “My biggest supporters, besides my teachers and friends, would have to be my older sisters. They are always ready to help me whenever I need it, and whenever I was close to burning out, they would take the time to help me feel better.”

Q: What kept you motivated?

GG: “Nothing really kept me motivated the whole time. I really just tried to do my best in school.”
NT: “My sisters’ support and great music definitely helped, but to put it in a nerdy way, it would further motivate me to continue to do my best whenever I could tell I was better understanding the content in my classes. It meant that my hard work was paying off in the long run.”

Q: What is your favorite memory from high school?

GG: “My favorite memory from high school would have to be homecoming last year since it was my last high school dance, and the parties afterward were pretty fun too.”
NT: “That’s quite a tough question because there were so many ups and downs, but two equally-favorite memories from high school I can think of are from two different classes. One memory was in Driver’s Ed. My group was on the driving track testing out a new maneuver, listening to some nice jams and getting pretty confident with our capabilities when suddenly the driver forgot to press on the brakes when it was time to and instead stepped on the gas while we were facing, and now heading towards a decently far-away fence. Hence, the passenger had to slam on the passenger brakes in a quick and assertive panic. Afterward, my group collectively laughed it off in an understandably panicked manner because it’s incidents like that you think could happen but never really expect to happen. But all the students in that group are alive and well today, so all is good. Another memory was in Auto. After Mr. Hamlik finished checking up a classmate’s car as part of a lesson, for some reason, the classmate popped open their trunk and asked if anyone wanted some snacks. Somehow, for the rest of the period, the whole class just ended up standing around the car eating some pretzels and drinking some chilled Capri Suns. Again, it was a pretty unexpected sequence of events, but those were some of my favorite memories.”

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years? 10?

GG: “In five years, I see myself graduating from college and entering the workforce. I don’t know what job I want to have after college, but in ten years, I see myself becoming a millionaire by taking my money from my job and investing it.”
“In five years, I hope I’m working with a company or organization related to computer science or baking after graduating from college. Though vastly different, both disciplines are quite enjoyable and exciting to me. In 10 years, I’m not too sure. Maybe I might own a bakery, but all I hope for sure is that by then I hope I’ll be surrounded by lifelong friends and family who’ll support whatever direction I choose to take with my life.”

Q: How will being Valedictorian/Salutatorian help you get to where you want to be?

GG: “Valedictorian was a plus to college admissions, so I guess it helped me get into college.”
 NT: “I wouldn’t say being Salutatorian really gives me that much of an advantage, but it could be used as proof of my abilities to others. Being a Salutatorian could help open more opportunities to scholarships, which would help pay off for school and help me better focus on my experiences in school, such as spending time with friends or studying abroad. Additionally, it may lead to more offers to gain experience in areas that may directly help me make connections for future career opportunities. However, it should be known that in the long run, it doesn’t matter if you were a Salutatorian; it’s the hard and soft skills that really get you where you want to go.”

Q: Do you think the extra effort was worth it?

GG: “Yeah, the extra work was worth it because, to be honest, I never really viewed it as extra work, [it was] just me doing the best I could, and I never was like ‘I can’t do this’ because I just learned to manage my time effectively so I could do everything I wanted to do.”
 NT: “For the most part, I’d say the extra effort in my work was worth it because that meant I better understood the class material and could do better on tests and exams, and the AP classes I was able to pass gave me a head start to college-level classes. Though, I do have some regret. I work slowly, so I usually didn’t have that much spare time to spend with friends after I finished my schoolwork. For the future, my goal is to be less of a perfectionist so that I may have a better balance between my life and school life.”

IB Q&A with Angelina Krinos, Valedictorian, and Shea Greenberg, Salutatorian 

(Interviewed by Meena Vasquez)

Q: How did you balance your academic life and social life? 

AK: “I wouldn’t say it’s as difficult as it seems. Keeping a planner, [or] an agenda, [helps to] keep track of all your dates. It’s more an accountability thing than like an ‘oh, I don’t have time to do anything else.’ Just managing time and making sure you have time for self-care. I think it’s pretty doable.”

SG: “I spent a lot of my time after school to do my school work, kind of immediately so I [can] free up my Saturdays.”

Q: What extra academic activities did you do to achieve this goal?

AK: “I took FLVS classes and HCC dual enrollment classes.”

SG: “I took a lot of online classes with FLVS. I did one every year and one every summer; I didn’t even plan to try to get Salutatorian; I just did this because there were extra classes online that I wanted to learn.”

Q: Who was your biggest supporter during this journey?

AK: “My parents supported me, [also] I think that my friend group, in general, supported me. Having them around, not necessarily from an academic standpoint, but having people to confide in [terms of my] emotional and mental health [helped me] be secure in my emotional and mental health [which] pushed me [to do better academically].

SG: “All my friends, we would be like ‘ok, we’re gonna take this class together.’ Most of the time it didn’t end up happening, but we would [try] to push ourselves [together].”

Q: Was it worth it?

AK: “Yeah. [But] it’s not like I set out to be Valedictorian, I was taking classes because I enjoy learning more things, and I enjoy having things occupy my mind and learning more things. I get bored easily, so it was worth it because I wasn’t taking classes for the Valedictorian title; I was taking classes because I genuinely like learning about things.”

SG: “I didn’t do a lot of the things I did to get the title, but I would say yeah, it was worth it. I took psychology because I wanted to learn psychology [but] I can’t take it here if I’m doubling science. I’m glad I took it because now I know a lot of cool information and stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Q: Any future plans?

AK: “Yes. I’m not sure where I’m going to college right now; I have a couple of places in mind, such as UF or MIT.  I want to major in material science and engineering or chemical engineering. I’m interested in sustainable energy and developing sustainable energy sources.”

SG: “I don’t know exactly where I’m going yet, [but] I’ll probably go to Vanderbilt because I got a scholarship there, but I’m definitely going to major in something [with] math.”

Q: What was your reaction and your family’s reaction to finding out you are the Valedictorian/Salutatorian?

AK: “I was in Mrs. Peterancez’s JA, and the announcement came on and I was confused at first, a lot of people were coming up to me [to congratulate me], and I was embarrassed. I was kind of shocked and embarrassed, but I was grateful because I know a lot of people don’t have the same opportunities as me [in terms of] how much I was able to do in my extracurricular life.”

SG: “Everyone was super happy for me, and that was really awesome. I wasn’t even at school when they made the announcement [and] I got a bunch of texts and a bunch of calls. My parents were super excited for me [too], so it was super cool.”

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