Lakeland Collegiate valedictorian and salutatorian credit school staff, parents for success

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

The first and second in Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School’s 2024 graduating class are proud to be second and first, respectively.

Valedictorian Isabel Perez is the second member of her family to earn the distinction of valedictorian. Her older sister, Mareli Perez, was valedictorian at Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School in 2019. Jasmyn Cabral, the salutatorian, is the first member of her family to earn a college degree in the U.S.

“I was shocked (to be valedictorian), but I was extremely happy because I felt my hard work paid off,” Perez said. “I’m proud to be the second valedictorian in my family.”

Perez, 18, graduated with a 4.712 grade-point average. Cabral, 18, wasn’t far behind with a 4.691 GPA. Seventy-two percent, or 123 of the 171-member class, graduated with a GPA of 4.0 or greater.

“Obviously, I’m very happy and grateful,” Cabral noted. “I’ve worked very hard. It was very emotional.”

Perez and Cabral each graduated with their Associate in Arts (AA) degree. Polk State’s collegiate high schools allow students to take high school and college courses simultaneously at no cost to them. More than 80%, or 139 members, of Collegiate’s 2024 class earned their AA degrees.

“The guidance staff really helps you find your career and makes sure you take care of your (prerequisites),” Perez explained, specifically mentioning Guidance Counselor Holly Arnaud and Student Resource Specialist Bradley Hofstetter. “The professors and everyone at Polk State were super helpful. It’s great when the staff really cares about the students. The staff really makes sure you get involved and have a great high school experience.”

Collegiate’s 2024 class graduated with an average of 61 college credits. Graduates combined to earn more than $3 million in college scholarship rewards and more than 17,000 community service hours. Cabral offered similar sentiments to Perez when reflecting on her time at Lakeland Collegiate.

“I loved it so much,” she said of her school. “I was given countless opportunities. I made great relationships with the staff and faculty. It’s a small school, so everyone gets to know each other and has a bond.”

During their time at Lakeland Collegiate, both students were involved in many extracurricular activities. Perez was a member of National Honor Society, Student United Way, and the Collegiate Student Board. After beginning her high school career at Bartow High School, she continued to play for the school’s soccer and lacrosse teams, earning All-County honors for girls lacrosse.

“It’s important to make relationships and be part of the clubs,” Perez added. “The school allows you to have a little less stress, but you have to stay on top of your work and take advantage of your free time. The faculty is always there to help.”

Cabral was the Vice President of Lakeland Collegiate’s Student Government Association and a member of National Honor Society, Senior Ambassadors, Polk State’s Upward Bound program, and was a teen health volunteer at Lakeland Regional Health. Cabral also founded a campus Christian organization called Finding Faith. Arnaud, Teaching Lab Assistant Gwen Simmons, and Assistant Principal Dawn Allen served as mentors for Cabral.

Perez and Cabral will each be staying in the state of Florida to continue their education. Perez will attend the University of South Florida in the fall to study nursing. She credited her parents, Jose and Emelia Perez, for serving as her support system.

“They always supported me,” Perez said. “They tried to give me everything they didn’t have growing up.”

As Cabral gets set to attend the University of Florida to major in communication sciences and social disorders, she also credited her parents for her successes. Her father Dario, a native of the Dominican Republic, and her mother Laura, from Puerto Rico, instilled Cabral with her strong work ethic as she strives for a career as a speech pathologist.

“My parents have always been my biggest supporters,” Cabral reflected. “They taught me the value of an education. I do this for them.”

Cabral spent her first two years of Lake Gibson High School before transferring to Lakeland Collegiate, recently recognized as the top school in Polk County by U.S. News & World Report. Beginning during the Fall 2024 Semester, Collegiate will accept 10th graders for the first time.

Members of the 2024 class have been accepted into universities across the state, including Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, and Florida A&M University as well as Howard University and the U.S. Naval Academy. Cabral offered advice for those considering Collegiate.

“Go for it,” she advised. “It’s hard, but it’s rewarding. The education is very personalized.”