Seminole Ridge High School’s Class of 2019 will graduate on Friday, May 17 at a 9 a.m. ceremony held at the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center. At the top of the class are Valedictorian Aneeshea Cason and Salutatorian Gracie Leon.
Cason, Seminole Ridge’s valedictorian, started high school when she was 12 and is currently just 16 years old. It was her goal even before entering high school to seek the top honor. Now her accomplishments are paying off, opening the door to greater things in life.
Cason will graduate with an associate’s degree at the same time she graduates high school. She will enter the University of South Florida in the fall studying biomedical sciences on the pre-med track for a career as a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.
“It is something I am proud of. I have worked hard to get toward this goal,” she said. “I have definitely made a lot of sacrifices regarding free time and social activities.”
This included AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Education), Advanced Placement courses, as well as taking dual-enrollment courses for college credit over the summer. “It has been a lot of rigorous course work, and taking on a heavy workload has helped me keep my GPA up,” Cason said. “I had to make sure I was competitive for the number-one spot.”
Even getting a B in a class would mean that a candidate could be knocked out of the race to be valedictorian. Cason stayed focused in order to stay competitive and achieve her goals.
“Everyone who is trying to reach this goal is trying their best. They are taking the same courses as you. So, I just had to stay focused on the future and keep making sure I was working toward it,” she explained. “I enjoy being in classes that I get to learn new things; especially the things that I am interested in. One of the classes I enjoy the most is biotech. I can get technical experience working in a lab doing research, participating in science fairs and getting my biotech assistant certification.”
What does she do in her spare time?
“I enjoy reading fantasy books and immersing myself in different worlds. I have an older brother named Dimitri, and we play basketball. He inspired me to play for the varsity team in school for four years,” Cason said. “I hang out at school with friends. We attend the club meetings storming up project ideas. I also love to spend time with my dog Biskerz.”
Strong in athletics as well, Cason was the first ever girl at Seminole Ridge High School to score more than 1,000 points during her basketball career.
Salutatorian Gracie Leon will attend Georgetown University, majoring in science, technology and international affairs. Second in her class, Leon has the determination to achieve her passions and the discipline to act on her goals.
“I am really passionate about school. I have always applied myself. I did gymnastics for eight years, and now I am a rower. The discipline from sports really carried over to school. I try to keep a really good balance between the two,” Leon said. “I was always in the top 10 of my class in high school. Winter break my senior year, I found out I would be salutatorian.”
It is not something she put much planning into.
“I never thought about being salutatorian,” she said. “My parents are pretty hands off with school. I am pretty independent, and this is the best situation for me because it allows me to find passion for school on my own without being pushed.”
In her free time, she is out on the water in Miami, rowing. “I row for a club in Miami called Miami International Row House. It is a long commute, but my crewmate and friend from Jupiter and I travel to Miami every day,” Leon said.
Her rowing career began when her career in gymnastics ended abruptly.
“I was a gymnast,” Leon said. “But at the end of my freshman year, I injured my hamstring, and it took me out of the sport. So, I decided to get into something new. That summer was the 2016 Olympics. I saw rowing on the television one morning. It looked like a unique sport. I looked up where there were clubs around me. I started at the North Palm Beach Rowing Club. Then this past year, I switched to Miami International Row House, as it’s more competitive. In rowing, you have your teammates in the boat with you, unlike gymnastics. We have a deeper connection, and we are always working together.”
Leon also likes to watch movies with her family.
“We are pretty passionate about movies,” she explained. “We talk over the scenes from the movies. When it comes to my friends, I like to do regular things like go to the beach and go out to eat. I am a big foodie! We seek out the coolest places to eat.”
Leon is still undecided about what kind of a career she will have. “I am pretty indecisive,” she said. “The biggest choice may be to go into law as a career; all of the new technology policies interest me.”
What advice would she give other students seeking to be top in their class?
“Find what you’re passionate about,” Leon said. “Tune out what everyone else is doing. You do not need to be doing a hundred things at once to look good for college or applying for a job. You just need to find what you are passionate about. Your passion will shine through.”