Meet the class of 2022’s valedictorian and salutatorian

%28Left+to+Right%29+Valedictorian+Rushik+Sakamuri+and+salutatorian+Billie+Brightman

(Left to Right) Valedictorian Rushik Sakamuri and salutatorian Billie Brightman

Sydney Chin, Editor-in-chief

With the class of 2022 getting ready to walk across the stage and into the next phase of their lives, we would like to recognize two bright and hardworking individuals that have earned their titles as Central’s top Bronco students. This year’s valedictorian, Rushik Sakamuri, and salutatorian, Billie Brightman share their high school experiences and advice for current and future students alike.

 

Valedictorian: Rushik Sakamuri

From a young age, the Riviera Beach native has known what it takes to achieve his goals. Sakamuri has earned a long list of academic accomplishments including being a National Merit Finalist, AP Scholar with Distinction, AICE Diploma with Distinction recipient, Business Pathfinder semifinalist, and of course, valedictorian.

“Becoming the valedictorian has always been a goal for me since beginning high school,” said Sakamuri. “It was an accomplishment that I wanted to have. I have this innate desire to be the best and give my all to whatever I put my mind to, so having a chance to become valedictorian was something that resonated well with me.” 

Sakamuri is also an active member of the community. After school hours, he is the president of the chess club, treasurer of Mu Alpha Theta, and a National Honor Society member. He has also volunteered at a hospital, served as an art camp counselor, and was a math tutor for an organization called Embolden tutoring.

Constantly juggling his rigorous course load and extracurricular schedule, Sakamuri cites his reason for success as simply staying on task and avoiding procrastination.

“Procrastination is a major problem that many high school students face,” said Sakamuri. “What’s surprising is that listening to your teachers actually helps you succeed. All jokes aside, starting a big project a week or two before it is due opposed to the day before saves a lot of time that you can use for other things. Not to mention, it saves a lot of sleep and stress. You will definitely appreciate it in the long run.”

Sakamuri also finds motivation from other, more personal places, including his family and culture.

“Ever since I was a kid, they always took the time out of their day to teach me subjects I didn’t understand and always pushed me to learn above and beyond what is being taught,” explained Sakamuri. “My family’s cultural heritage of coming from a small village in India all the way to the United States as well as all the hardships my parents and grandparents had to go through to give me the life I have now inspires me more than words can say. I want to become someone worthy of my family’s name and do the same for my children by striving to give all my effort in whatever I do.”

This drive has ultimately led him to discovering his interest in business and economics and how he can use it to help others. Personally, Sakamuri notes that  coming from a family that has been affected by cancer inspired him to get involved with using economics to help others.  

“When I watched CEO Barbara Abernathy celebrate surviving cancer patients and honoring their courage at a 5k run I found the thing I was passionate about,” noted Sakamuri. “Watching these young cancer survivors get up on stage showing their families and others how far they have come has created a new sense of excitement that I can’t seem to describe with words. It could be helping families in an economically disadvantageous place from cancer or acting as a model to others, but what I am truly passionate about is the inspiration one person can be to another.”

Striving to be a role model for others, Sakamuri has aimed to help families similar to his own. Some of his greatest accomplishments involved his work for the non-profit Pediatric Oncology Support Team. 

“I got to interact with families who have been affected with childhood cancer,”  commented Sakamuri on his volunteering work with the nonprofit. “I also got the chance to give an interview to show how it was to be the sibling of a child with cancer and hopefully inspire or provide solace for others growing up in the same situation I was once in.”

When he has time to unwind, Sakamuri enjoys spending time with his friends by playing basketball, going to the beach, or going to parties. He also has interests in stocks, violin, and shopping for new clothes.

“My favorite part of high school would be making friends that you know you will be in touch with for the rest of your life,” said Sakamuri. “Whether it be through similar classes, clubs, or other extra curricular activities, sharing the same goals with the people you meet in high school builds a really tight bond that will last a lifetime.” 

Sakamuri plans on attending the University of Florida to study Economics in the fall, where he would like to conduct research on the different and broad aspects of his chosen majors.

“Through the Honors program and University Research Scholars Program, I hope to develop interdisciplinary knowledge of real world problems through my research,”  explained Sakamuri.  “I might even double major in either math or statistics in the near future.”

Despite his widespread success so far, being valedictorian only seems like the beginning for Sakamuri.

“I would just say to chase your dreams and aim for the stars because if you don’t chase them who will?” said Sakamuri. “While you should put in the work to reach your goals, you should at the same time have fun, enjoy life, and take it one step at a time. Always learn from your mistakes and never give up.” 

 

Salutatorian: Billie Brightman

All around all star, Brightman has translated her passion for learning into her greatest accomplishment yet, becoming salutatorian.

“I’ve always wanted to be the highest achieving person that I can be because I just like school and I really like learning,” stated Brightman. “Having knowledge is really important to me, so being able to be recognized for that after all these years is like so awesome.”

An AICE diploma with Distinction recipient and Central’s history pathfinder nominee, Brightman has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to getting things done, even if that means utilizing unconventional methods.

“I always make sure that I know when assignments are due and I usually do them as soon as I have time to do them,” said Brightman. “I have a really weird sleep schedule that all of my friends make fun of me for. I go to bed at 8 p.m. and wake up at 4:30 a.m. every day. So, usually I do my homework in the mornings instead of at night and that’s one thing that’s saved me a lot of time.”

Throughout her time in high school, Brightman has attributed her academic success to her innate love of learning. This has allowed her to explore her interests in various courses like AICE Media Studies and even develop a love for history. 

“I got to take a lot of history classes because I’ve never considered myself a history person,” noted Brightman. “After all these classes I was able to learn that I really like history.”

This year, Brightman is taking a wide depth of advanced courses, from AICE Media Studies AS to AICE History A Level.

“Billie has a sharp desire to learn and to really understand historical controversies,” commented AICE History teacher Mr. Salemme. “She not only wants the earn the highest score on an AICE history paper, but wants to fully comprehend the topic and be able to reflect on the deeper meaning of the topic. Her work ethic and drive are the stuff of legend in A level history, as she is both the leader of class discussions and she is the general of her group. She is a leader in a class with strong personalities and is a joy to have in class.”

Outside of the classroom, Brightman has been heavily involved with the National Honor Society. During her junior year, she held the title of junior vice president and this year she is the external vice president. 

“Through that [National Honor Society] I did a lot of volunteer work, like [collectively] raising a total of $111,000 over the last two years for Dance Marathon and Shands Children Hospital,” explained Brightman, “I’ve learned that there’s fun stuff to do for the community and in school.”

When it’s time to relax or have fun, Brightman loves creative writing and listening to music such as K-pop where she can learn various dances to the music.

“It keeps me exercised and keeps my mind sharp,” said Brightman.

In the fall, Brightman is likely to attend the University of Miami where she will study broadcast journalism. Her passion for learning drives her aspiration to be an anchor at a  major news stations 

By pursuing journalism at the University of Miami, Brightman will be following in the footsteps of her mother who went to the same school and had the same major as her daughter.

“I mean she’s [her mom] pretty much my best friend,” gushed Brightman. “It’s always been just us and so she really inspires me to be who I am and to not care what anyone thinks or any of that stuff. Just be who you are, do what you do, and get where you want to go.”

In the end, perseverance is key for Brightman’s success.

“Just keep going, it’s going to seem hard, it’s going to seem annoying, but if you keep going, it’ll be alright in the end.”