Ask them who will be valedictorian and all eyes in the room automatically turn to Scott Kelly.
With grade point averages ranging from 4.3 to 4.5, the Amherst Steele High School Class of 2017’s top six academicians gathered Friday to talk about the rapidly-approaching May 27 commencement ceremony at the Cleveland State Wolstein Center and their post-graduation plans.
Jason Belak, David Bloom, Brianna Sekerak, Rachel Rosebeck, and Bridgette Wadge said they have no illusions — Kelly will be the one to deliver the coveted valedictorian speech.
With just a handful of grades yet to be tabulated, he’s nearly impossible to beat, they agreed. “He’s got such a lead, nobody’s going to catch up,” Belak said.
Kelly didn’t boast and said he never set out to claim Steele’s highest academic honor. He worked hard and the GPA numbers panned out in his favor.
MEET THE TOP GRADS
• Kelly will attend Ohio State University to major in biochemistry, then head to medical school. He said his sister, Erica Mantell, is starting her third year of med school and inspired him. “She’s seven years older and I’ve always looked up to her,” Kelly said. He is leaning toward oncology or dermatology.
• Belak will attend the University of Delaware to major in chemical engineering and minor in biochemical engineering. He said it’s a blossoming field with high demand. Belak said he wants to work in the field of pharmaceutical development, specifically in the area of antibiotics.
• Bloom will attend Bowling Green State University to major in digital arts. He wants to work in the animation field for a large studio like Disney, but he said his passion for art could lead to a career in illustration or graphic design.
• Sekerak will attend the University of Pittsburgh to study physical therapy. She feels called to help people in Third World countries, possibly through the Army Medical Corps. “I’ve always wanted to see different countries, try new things, and put myself in other people’s shoes and find out what’s going on in the world,” she said. She also will join the ROTC in college, following in the footsteps of her brother, Michael Sekerak.
• Rosebeck will attend Lorain County Community College for two years in pursuit of a nursing degree, then plans to earn both bachelor and master’s degrees. The goal is to become a nurse practitioner in oncology — a tribute to her father, Richard Rosebeck, who died due to a brain tumor when she was an infant. “Other families shouldn’t have to go through that,” she said.
• Wadge will attend Ohio State University to major in mechanical engineering and minor in business through an honors program. With a focus on design, her studies are inspired by a fascination with roller coasters. Wadge, who was terrified of the rides until age 12, when she completed a school project detailing the technical aspects of coasters, said she would love to someday be a project manager at Cedar Point.
What’s the secret to their success? We asked the top graduates to share some advice with underclassmen and they provided some jewels.
In terms of grades, said Kelly, the most important step is planning out studying and homework far in advance. Know your commitments and set a schedule around them, he said. “A week or two before assignments are due, map out the free time you’ll have to work on them — and stick to that schedule,” he said.
It’s never too early to start visiting colleges, Kelly said. The process should start in your freshman year or even eighth grade: “You might look at 50 schools and never find that one that’s perfect for you because you missed out and just didn’t have enough time.”
And when you’re feeling lost, when your grades are down, ask for help. Teachers won’t mind and they won’t judge; you can get a tutor.
Don’t take easy courses, said Belak. Be sure to challenge yourself, especially in your senior year. Colleges love to see applicants who didn’t slow down approaching the high school finish line. And don’t take classes just to be with your friends, added Wadge.
Have a good relationship with everyone at school: office staff, guidance counselors, custodians, and people in the lunch room, she said: “They’re good people and they’ll help you out if you need something.”
Sekerak said it’s important to motivate your friends. “You’re going to motivate them and they’re going to motivate you to be the best you can be,” she said.
Remember the Golden Rule, said Bloom. “Just be nice to people,” he said. “If you go around treating people horribly, you’re never going to make it in life, nor will you have a good backbone to fall back on when you hit hard times.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
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