Meet Ellen Choi and Dante Valdivia, 2021 Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy’s valedictorian and salutatorian and two extraordinary young people ready to take flight into the world after a year that tested their mettle.
From among 10,000 applicants for one of the coveted National Honor Society scholarships, Choi was among the 575 to receive a $3,200 college scholarship as a semifinalist. Holy Trinity’s valedictorian is also a National Merit semifinalist and a National AP scholar.
The awards are music to the ears of the gifted student, a violinist with the Brevard Symphony Youth Orchestra since seventh grade and the winner of the annual BSYO Concerto Competition as a ninth grader.
Sports are in Choi’s radar, too, for the Melbourne resident is a member of the girls’ golf team and serves as board leader with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Although the pandemic necessitated remote learning for Choi this school year, she turned lemons into lemonade by forming an association of fellow remote learners to connect with student life and activities.
To serve her community, she created Buddies United to Dream, or BUD, a group of 40-plus students who remotely mentor and tutor fellow students in impoverished areas here and abroad.
“Ellen is a stand-out member of her senior class, an exceptional academic scholar, and a passionate community servant,” Holy Trinity President Dr. Katherine Cobb said.
Choi has yet to decide on a specific college, but she is certain she will major in neuroscience with the goal of becoming a lawyer.
Choi still might be undecided, but salutatorian Dante Valdivia had no questions about the school he wanted to attend.
“Johns Hopkins was always my number one choice as to where I was going to attend, and I didn't really have a close second,” said Valdivia, who immediately enrolled in the Baltimore university in December.
The Rockledge resident plans to enter the medical field, probably in a specialty.
“The road ahead is very long and unpredictable, so we'll see what happens,” he said.
Both students share words of wisdom beyond the years.
“I would like my fellow peers to never forget the many lessons we learned during the pandemic, from perseverance and patience to the importance of our friends and family, and use them to their benefit whenever they encounter other hardships,” Choi said.
Valdivia offers younger students wise advice: never give up. When life throws those inevitable curve balls, don’t back off, but hit it as hard as you can.
“There will be points in your life that you will feel like giving up and dropping all of your commitments and hard work, but brave through the tough times that are bound to happen, and always keep in mind that there will always be an answer to your struggles if you keep persevering,” he said.