When Samantha Politano steps on to the stage to speak to Wesley Chapel High’s graduating class of 2017 on May 26, it will be the culmination of a dream she’s had since the third grade, when the letter “A” first appeared on her report card.
It was at that time — when she saw not just one, but all As on that report card — that she says she became determined to always get straight As, and to become her class valedictorian. And now, she’s done it.
With a weighted GPA of 4.77, she has the privilege of the title, and the responsibility of making the speech.
“I’m really excited about it,” Samantha says, “I’ve been thinking about it since third grade, so I feel like it’s a lot of pressure.”
At the same time she’s receiving her high school diploma, she’s also earning her Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree from Pasco Hernando State College, thanks to dual enrollment classes she’s been taking for the last three years. She’ll be recognized as an “honors graduate” for maintaining a 4.0 GPA in her college classes when she walks across the stage at that graduation ceremony.
While she’s been busy studying, doing her homework and keeping her grades up, Samantha also has been committed to extracurricular activities as an officer in seven organizations. She’s not only student body president at WCH, she’s also vice president of the PHSC chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
Samantha also received the Girl Scouts Gold Award, the highest award given by that organization. When she earned it in 2016, she was the only Gold Award recipient in Pasco County that year. She says she was an active Girl Scout for 12 years, and the project to earn the award was to make Wells Rd. — where Wesley Chapel Elementary, Weightman Middle and Wesley Chapel High schools are located — safer.
Currently, Samantha is planning to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee, where she’ll be in the Honors College.
“My parents never went to college, so I’ve always dreamed of going to college,” she says. “When I started at Wesley Chapel Elementary, I thought that was college.”
Samantha says her parents’ story is an inspiration to her. She looks up to her mom, who she says is, “so organized and gets everything done without getting distracted; she motivates me.”
She also says that her dad’s hands are a reminder of why she works so hard to be successful. “Dad used to be a gas fitter and he had to work hard, digging deep holes,” she says. “His hands are so rough. I want to work hard mentally so my family and I don’t have to work hard with our hands.”
Samantha is still on the waiting list at both Harvard and Yale, and should find out by the end of May if she’ll be accepted into either of those Ivy League universities. If she does end up at FSU, she has earned so many scholarships that she will have the cost of her education covered, and then some. She earned a prestigious scholarship for students who have overcome significant adversity, called the Horatio Alger Scholarship. She also was named a national semi-finalist from the Elks National Foundation for a “most valuable student” award, plus she was awarded scholarships from the Mary and Bob Sierra Family Foundation, the Florida PTA, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative and from FSU.
Ultimately, she says she hopes to become a lawyer. “It’s unfair that lawyers charge so much and that low-income families can’t afford a lawyer,” Samantha explains. “I’d like to advocate for low-income families and help them.”
Because her scholarships will cover four years of education, “I’ll probably take my time,” she says. “Because I already have my A.A., it would be too easy to just do one major.” She’s planning to study both English and Biology, following a track for marine biology, and thinks she might study abroad.
Samantha says that, to apply for law school, she can have any degree, so her choice to study marine biology is purely for fun and the experience of learning more about something she loves. “I won’t be using that as a lawyer,” she says. “I’m just passionate about it. It’s going to be really enjoyable. I think more people should do things just because they enjoy them.”