When Dimitri Alexis started high school at Palm Beach Central in West Palm Beach, he was ranked No. 6 in his class.
Four years later, he graduated at No. 1, the valedictorian of the class of 2013.
“It wasn’t set in stone until the last day,” Alexis said by phone. “I was always pushing myself, so when they called me in to tell me, I breathed a sigh of relief.”
Rankings, Alexis said, “are a good way to push students but it’s not an accurate way to assess students. I know students that didn’t get into the college they wanted because of rankings. Just because the ranking’s not there doesn’t mean they’re not good students.”
Alexis, who lives in Wellington, says factors like a student’s home life, or whether he or she needs to work to help support the family, can have a negative effect on grades, but are actually indications of responsibility and maturity, and that the students have made tough choices.
Alexis, 18, said his older sister, Gesley-Ann, 20, gave him some good advice. “She’s a hard worker and she told me when you have plans, stick to them. Don’t change your mind on a whim,” like if you were committed to studying, don’t let your friends convince you to go hang out.
Alexis’ mother, Marie, is a nurse and his father, Berman, is a doctor, so no one was surprised when he too showed an interest in science and medicine. “The field just clicked with me,” he said. But it wasn’t always easy.
“The main thing my parents told me is that I can do whatever I want to do. But when I was really young, I was never considered smart because of my handwriting. But my mother helped me at night, practiced with me, and by the time I got to seventh grade, I had perfect handwriting. It taught me that you can overcome your obstacles through hard work.”
Alexis also appreciates the encouragement he received from his teachers.
“There are many teachers who’ve inspired me, but my honors biology teacher freshman year, Dr. (Alana) Milich, told me, ‘You are not challenging yourself enough. You can be better than you are.’ That started me on the right track to pushing myself and challenging myself.”
His hard worked earned him a coveted spot as one of 2011’s Kenan Fellows in Scripps Florida’s annual summer internship program, as well as a fourth place finish in academic excellence in the Pathfinder Scholarship Awards, sponsored by Palm Beach Newspapers Inc., which publishes The Palm Beach Post.
But when he was accepted by the University of Miami and offered a solid financial aid package, it was his father’s turn to celebrate. “My dad jumped around a little bit and we went out to dinner even though it was a school night,” Alexis said.
To de-stress, Alexis plays Ultimate Frisbee, sometimes called Ultimate, a game that’s catching on on high school and college campuses. The object of the game is to score points by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. A player must stop running while in possession of the disc, but may pivot and pass to any of the other receivers on the field. It combines the constant running pace of soccer, with the passing skills of football.
“I’ve been playing for two years. I had some friends that played and they got me into it. I used to run track, but I stopped and focused on academics.”
Now Alexis thinks there’s room for both. “It feels good going to sleep after a hard day of school and Ultimate Frisbee.”
Where are you going to college?
University of Miami
What is your planned field of study?
Biology on a pre-med track.
What is your planned career path?
Trauma surgeon. It’s challenging, and exciting, and I want to help people.
Dimitri’s best advice for freshmen:
High school is going to be a struggle, but never give up on your dreams and always push yourself farther than you think you can go.