Hectic schedule helps Suncoast valedictorian maintain balance


MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Jacqueline Chen, 18

For those high-schoolers who blame their schedules on why their grades might not be so great, check out what Jacqueline Chen does each and every day.

Chen is an 18-year-old who takes advanced classes at Suncoast Community High School and spends her nights studying as much as she can before she dozes off to sleep. She’s a dancer – experienced in ballet, jazz and Chinese dance, and is also a bit of a tae kwon do expert, having trained for five years. She voluntarily signed up for a public speaking class and she’s currently a cheerleader for the high school’s varsity basketball team. She’s also performing in Suncoast’s spring musical because she wanted to keep busy once cheer season ends.

Oh, and Chen is graduating the top of her class – a feat that she’s pretty proud of, considering that her schedule sounds more demanding then some adults’.

So how does she manage to squeeze all of this into her day and still manage to pull of being valedictorian of her graduating class?

“I always have to take lots of breaks because otherwise I’d probably breakdown,” Chen, of Wellington, said. “But (extracurricular activities) are stress relievers for me. When I do those things, it makes me want to finish my work.”

Chen is the daughter of Ming Chen, a soil chemist, and Donghui Shui Chen, who teaches Mandarin. She has two sisters – Rosaline, 6, and Catherine, 19. Catherine graduated valedictorian last year from the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach and now attends the University of Southern California.

Her older sister is her biggest hero, Chen said, because she’s a workaholic who is also creative, and Chen strives to be like her.

“If she was the average person, I would be considered lazy,” Chen said. “I learn faster than her, but she’s a hard worker. Chinese people have a proverb that says, ‘The clumsy bird flies first.’ I look up to her. She works so hard all the time.”

Though her big sister attended Dreyfoos, Chen decided to go to Suncoast because she felt it was more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) driven. An adult had told her at the time that it would be more difficult for Chen to graduate as one of the top students because Suncoast had so much competition.

Chen is happy that she proved that person wrong.

“I got to number one because I was reaching for the moon,” said Chen, who holds officer positions in all of the honor society clubs at Suncoast.

Chen is graduating with an unweighted GPA of 3.99, and she plans to become an architect so she can design buildings and homes that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Chen, who speaks fluent Mandarin, said there are times when she puts too much pressure on herself to succeed, and, when that happens, her parents encourage her to take breaks and enjoy the outdoors. She finds solace when she’s surrounded by nature, she said.

“Being outside helps calm me in a sense,” Chen said.

Her hard work has earned her multiple college entries, including to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Miami and University of Florida. She’s waiting to hear from Cornell University and Yale University and admitted that the more colleges she’s accepted to, the more difficult it is to make a decision on which one to choose.

But Chen seems to know what’s best for her and will likely choose the school that will allow her to continue her path of excelling not just in academics, but, simply, in life. Because that’s when she’s at her happiest.

“When there is an opportunity,” she said, “I take it.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Scientists will battle mosquito population by releasing 20 million of them
Scientists will battle mosquito population by releasing 20 million of them

Mosquitoes are an annoying pest, particularly during the summer. Now, scientists in California are working to shrink the population of the pesky insects that carry disease. >> Read more trending news How? The scientists will be releasing 20 million of them in California. If that sounds counterproductive, there is a method behind it. The plan...
First woman enlists to become a Navy SEAL
First woman enlists to become a Navy SEAL

A woman will be training with other potential candidates as she tries to become te first female Navy SEAL, CNN reported. >> Read more trending news The midshipman and another woman have enlisted and hope to join the Navy’s special operations teams. The Navy declined to identify the candidates, citing security considerations, NPR reported...
Canadian rock legend Kenny Shields dies 
Canadian rock legend Kenny Shields dies 

Kenny Shields, the lead singer of Canadian classic rock ‘n’ roll band Streetheart, died Friday after cardiac surgery in Winnipeg, CBC News reported. He was 69. >> Read more trending news Shields and Streetheart charted during the 1970s and 1980s with hits like “Action,” “Hollywood,” &ldquo...
‘Britain’s Got Talent’ champion dog Pudsey dies
‘Britain’s Got Talent’ champion dog Pudsey dies

Former “Britain’s Got Talent” winner Ashleigh Butler announced the death of her beloved dog, Pudsey on Friday, ITV reported. >> Read more trending news Butler, who won the 2012 season title on the ITV television show with Pudsey -- a mix of border collie, bichon frise and Chinese crested -- posted an emotional tribute on her...
Woman, deputies aid 4 children left in car in Walmart parking lot
Woman, deputies aid 4 children left in car in Walmart parking lot

A Virginia woman and three sheriff’s deputies helped make four children comfortable, providing them with formula and diapers after they were left alone in a car in a Walmart parking lot, WTVR reported. >> Read more trending news Crystal Richards-Jackson said she noticed three Hanover County deputies making multiple trips to a car parked...
More Stories