La Jolla High School Class of 2016 salutatorian Clayton Glenn Halbert with valedictorians John Fitzpatrick Mann, Madeline Randel Gates, and Sophia Elaine Eliopulos. / PHOTO BY LAINIE FRASER
For the first time in La Jolla High School history there has been a three-way tie for valedictorian. The students are John Fitzpatrick Mann, Sophia Elaine Eliopulos and Madeline Randel Gates. Each of the students have displayed academic excellence with 4.81 GPAs and remarkable college acceptances. The salutatorian this year is Clayton Glenn Halbert with a 4.79 GPA.
Graduation for La Jolla High School will take place 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 21 and will be held at UCSD.
John Fitzpatrick Mann
A desire to find the greater meaning in coursework and a genuine interest in classes has lead John Mann to his 4.81 GPA and his role as one of three valedictorians for La Jolla High School’s Class of 2016.
“I have been fortunate enough to have an interest in my classes,” Mann said. “If you aren’t interested it is difficult to do well. For me, it was never enough to just complete an assignment or go through the steps. I have always been driven to really understand and I believe I have been blessed in that sense.”
Mann says success in school was never demanded of him by anyone in his life. He has always had a curiosity about things and wasn’t satisfied with simply completing something without meaning. He says he is where he is because he wanted to be there and worked to be there.
Mann was enrolled in mostly advanced placement and weighted courses throughout his entire career at La Jolla High. In addition to a heavy course load and the necessary study time, Mann filled his free time with clubs, sports and tutoring.
During his senior year, Mann served as president of the mock trial club he has been a part of since freshman year. Mann has also run on the cross country track team while attending La Jolla High. In addition to participating in extracurriculars at school, Mann has donated his time over the past three years to help Hispanic students struggling with the language barrier. Combining his interest in helping those around him and his love for knowledge and education, Mann tutors students whose first language is something other than English.
La Jolla High is not the only institution recognizing Mann for his academic excellence. Arizona State University has offered him a full-ride academic scholarship and an acceptance to their honors program. He plans to major in finance there in the fall.
“I don’t want to say I’ve been vindicated but this has taught me that hard work really does pay off,” Mann said.
For the summer, Mann plans on enjoying every last minute of his family, friends and San Diego. His family has a trip to Ireland planned and recently purchased a fishing boat, and he and his father intend on getting plenty of use out of it before he leaves.
“I think this is a bigger deal for my parents,” Mann said. “It does make me happy though that I was able to make them so happy.”
While speeches from the valedictorians are not required at La Jolla High, Mann says regardless of a public speech he would like to thank his parents and particularly his teachers.
“I have had some great teachers here, I think La Jolla High School is very lucky and in turn so are the students,” Mann said.
Sophia Elaine Eliopulos
As she looks to the future with nothing but excitement, Eliopulos, one of three valedictorians for La Jolla High, can’t help but thank the people around her.
Eliopulos says she was never pushed by her family to do well academically and she thinks that is why she has always been genuinely interested in school.
“I didn’t even know what a valedictorian was until a few years back when my older friend was one at her graduation,” Eliopulos said. “I had no idea I was close to it until I started applying to colleges last year and my counselor was shocked by my GPA.”
With a 4.81 GPA, Eliopulos says no one ever forced her to take the harder-weighted classes, and she never intended on being recognized for an academic achievement, she simply wanted to learn. This want lead her to take as many advanced placement classes as were offered and she finished multiple semesters with a 5.0 GPA.
“I was just doing my thing and honestly it’s crazy how everything has just fallen into place,” Eliopulos said. “I’ve learned that hard work really will pay off in the end and that’s something I will take with me to college and beyond.”
While valedictorian is selected solely based on GPA at La Jolla High, Eliopulos has excelled in other areas as well. She played volleyball for all four years of high school and was on the varsity team from sophomore through senior year. She was also a member of the varsity swim team for most of her time at La Jolla High.
Eliopulos plans to study biology at UCLA starting in the fall.
“I want to do something in the science pre-med area because that sort of stuff is just so interesting to me,” Eliopulos said.
Speeches are not required nor are they reserved for the valedictorians at La Jolla High and this is something Eliopulos thinks needs to change.
“I want to thank the people in my life,” Eliopulos said. “My family has been great and just there for me the whole way through. Sports has kept me focused and distracted in all the right ways. My friends have been the most understanding people, if I say I can’t go somewhere because I need to study they always understand and my teachers, I mean I have had some really great teachers here.”
With UCLA on the horizon, Eliopulos plans to travel this summer, work as a lifeguard as she has most summers and prepare for college.
“I met so many fun and exciting people at orientation,” Eliopulos said. “I can’t wait to start a new part of my life, get to know my roommates and rush a sorority, it all just looks like so much fun.”
Madeline Randel Gates
La Jolla High School volleyball star and one of the Class of 2016 valedictorians, Madeline Gates has recently been recognized for both her academic and athletic achievements.
Gates attributes her academic success to her family support and something inside her that tells her she can do better.
“I would say that my family really pushes me to be and do my best but I am also such a perfectionist with everything I do,” Gates said. “I always want to take it to the next level.”
After taking a variety of advanced placement, weighted and community college courses, Gates has a 4.81 GPA and has been offered an athletic scholarship to the UCLA. Gates plans to join the Bruins and major in mechanical engineering in the fall.
Gates has been taking challenging “next level” courses since sophomore year. She has also been involved in both basketball and volleyball for the past four years. Her academic success and her athletic talent is known to La Jolla High, but was recently acknowledged by her dream school.
“I am a little nervous but mostly excited about UCLA,” Gates said. “It’s been four years of me playing a game I love and now they want me to keep playing.”
Gates says there was the normal amount of pressure from her family to do well in school. They have always been and will continue to be her support system through everything.
“There were no crazy expectations from my family, I had no expectations and then this happened,” Gates said.
Gates says she can see her family support and her perfectionist qualities impact the way she plays sports and in her academics.
“I just want to be the best I can and I want to make them proud,” Gates said. “I don’t do anything, academically or athletically, with half of the effort and they don’t want me to.”
Clayton Glenn Halbert
Ending the semester with a 4.79 GPA, Halbert looks back on his time at La Jolla High fondly but looks to the future for greater success.
Halbert is the salutatorian for La Jolla High School’s Class of 2016. Halbert says he got his GPA by taking every advanced placement class that was offered to him and doing exceptionally well in them. He also took a number of community college courses offered at the high school.
Not only has he taken on a challenging number of courses since sophomore year, but he has also been greatly involved in a variety of extracurriculars. Halbert is a member of the speech and debate team, mock trial, quiz bowl and the math team. He also sings in the Saint Paul’s Gentlemen's Choir and the First United Methodist Church Choir.
His academic excellence has earned him a spot at the University of California Berkeley where he plans to major in physics starting in the fall.
“I mean it’s Berkeley so yeah I’m really excited and ready to get out there,” Halbert said.
Halbert says he wants to make a speech at graduation and wants to make sure people understand how important the high school experience is.
“High school is an opportunity to meet all kinds of people from all walks of life and I did not take advantage of that,” Halbert said. “I wish I had but I didn’t and so I would tell people to not miss out on this opportunity. I plan to make up for my missing out in college.”
Halbert says he has always sort of been a valedictorian-type of kid. His parents have held their expectations pretty high from the start. He feels that because of their pressure, he did well and would thank them for urging him to do better.
“They have always been expecting me to do well,” Halbert said. “I am happy I could make them happy and yeah this is great. I am really honored to finally be recognized and it is nice to be the representative of hard work.”