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Dwyer High valedictorian made top spot her goal in ninth grade


If you’re about to enter high school and already have a goal of graduating as valedictorian of your school, Julia VanCora wants to let you in on a little secret.

Make sure to squeeze some fun into your studies.

VanCora should know because she is honored to serve as the 2017 valedictorian for William T. Dwyer High School. It’s a title that this 18-year-old hoped to conquer since she entered the ninth grade, and it’s one that she intentionally worked hard to earn.

But, she said, what she learned along the way, in between all of her studies and the pressure of scoring good grades, is that she needed to balance her life out with some good ole’-fashioned fun.

“There’s more to life and to your college application than just your grade point average,” VanCora, of Jupiter, said. “It’s important to have fun and to have great experiences. Don’t make it your sole thing.”

VanCora, who is the daughter of Lisa and John VanCora, has a sister, Ella, in the eighth grade at Independence Middle School, and she also has a brother, Johnny, in college. It was her brother who helped mold her determination to be valedictorian because she saw first-hand how difficult it was to get into the college of your choice.

She also remembers sitting in his graduation and listening to the valedictorian at the time speak.

“I remember looking at her, and I was in complete awe,” VanCora said. “It made me realize I wanted to be in her spot.”

This year, she will be.

VanCora is ending her senior year with an unweighted GPA of 3.97. She managed to keep good grades while participating in in all of Dwyer’s honor societies, including science and English. She’s also managed to dedicate time to internships and volunteering, both of which likely taught her more than she could learn in a classroom. The summer after her sophomore year she spent three weeks in London and interned for a corporate travel group. And at the beginning of her junior year, she began volunteering for the Alliance For Kids program, which is part of the Palm Beach Children’s Hospital. VanCora serves as the social media intern there, and she creates and manages daily posts on platforms such as Facebook. The time she spends there isn’t for any kind of a credit, she said, but more for herself.

VanCora thinks she wants to major in business and concentrate on marketing in college, but, just like many college-bound students, she isn’t 100 percent sure what she’ll want to focus on. She favors history and English more than math and science and calls herself the more creative type. So far, she’s been accepted to the University of Florida, and is waiting to see if she gets into her dream school, Cornell University.

Until she leaves for college in the fall, she plans to continue what she’s been doing – sleeping in on the weekends, spending time with family and friends and enjoying her time helping out at the hospital.

She said that school has helped her hone her immensely and, for that, she will be forever grateful.

“School made me realize how to be really determined, and how to set your mind to something and how hard you have to work to really achieve it,” VanCora said. “It really gave me a sense of determination and ambition that I didn’t have before that, which will hopefully serve me for the rest of my life.”

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