Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School valedictorian Dania Flood and salutatorian Leah Shirah are celebrating their milestone accomplishments, the class of 2020, and the opportunities made possible at Polk State.
Flood, who accomplished a grade-point average of 4.697, and Shirah, who achieved a 4.648 GPA, expressed great gratitude for their parents, friends, and support system at Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School and they will share thanks with their peers and the community during their virtual graduation 5:30 p.m. today, May 15, at www.polk.edu/chain-of-lakes-collegiate-high-school.
“Collegiate is a great program full of opportunities, including free college,” Flood said.
“The warm welcome that comes with this school and program is so special,” she elaborates in her valedictorian address. “I would like to thank Polk State, all of our Chain of Lakes faculty and staff, and the seniors before us for befriending and motivating us from the second we stepped foot on campus as nervous and clueless juniors, who suddenly felt like freshmen again.”
Flood continued to play soccer and golf and to participate in track and field at Winter Haven High School. At Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School, she was involved in the National Honors Society and Key Club.
The 10-year soccer captain who has led her local competitive team to state championship wins will be studying sports management at the University of Florida on an array of scholarships, including one for golf and another from the Lakeland Elks Lodge. She aspires to work in sports facilities and coordinate events professionally. A dream of hers is to also one day open a small bakery.
“My greatest advice is to listen to your mentors – they’re here to help you every step of the way,” she said. “And take chances. Join clubs you wouldn’t normally join. Talk to people you don’t know. Take it slowly and know that everyone is in the same boat.”
Shirah shared similar advice for her peers.
“Hard work and dedication are very important, but it is also really important to have people who support you,” she said. “That’s why this school is so great. There are so many people here dedicated to the students and supporting our success.”
She began her high school career at Polk Pre-Collegiate Academy.
“I chose to enroll in Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School because of the opportunities here that you can’t find anywhere else,” she said.
She noted the small class sizes, diversity of staff and students, and the ability to build close connections with her peers and teachers.
Shirah is continuing her higher education at Polk State and plans to apply for the Nursing Program. She is inspired by her brother, who suffers from anaphylaxis, to pursue medical school and a career in healthcare working with children.
“My family has been an inspiration to me and their support has brought me to where I am today,” she said.
During her time in high school, she participated in the National Honors Society and Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA). She also received a Voice of Democracy scholarship from the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.
“We’ve worked so hard for this moment,” Shirah shares in her salutatorian remarks. “Despite our circumstances, we are graduates today…, I hope you all look back on your high school experience and think to yourself that you wouldn’t have done anything differently. Enjoy this moment because we have finally made it to what we have been waiting for. Enjoy it, because it’s happening now.”