Dreyfoos valedictorian finds perseverance key to success


Facing some of her fears and overcoming failures during her high school years has taught Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts valedictorian Mounika Vattigunta some very valuable life lessons.

She said even though she works hard to keep her grades up, she enjoys just being a regular high school student. “I’m serious, but only when I need to be,” she said.

Vattigunta said her advice to her peers is “calm down and relax” when encountering failure because it’s temporary and the hard work will pay off.

“Most of the time, nine out of 10 times, it’s not going to be the end of the world,” she said. “You’re going to stand up again and keep going and persevere. Even if you think you’re not the best at something, if you work hard and truly want to get there, you can.”

SEE MORE: Previous profiles of Palm Beach County’s top grads

Vattigunta said dealing with failure in high school and not doing as well as she thought she would have done at times has been one of the biggest challenges she has faced.

“Insecurity was obviously a big issue,” she said. “But I feel throughout my high school career and making those mistakes and having to face those failures has actually made me more resilient.”

Vattigunta has a 3.98 GPA and 5.11 HPA and is an intern at The Scripps Research Institute in the chemistry lab.

Vattigunta said she plans to go to college and major in biochemistry and minor in economics. She wants to become a doctor but is still undecided on which school to attend.

Vattigunta said her mom, Sumithra Vattigunta, who is a cancer doctor, inspired her to start a club that helps patients dealing with the disease through musical support.

“I started this club at the cancer center and I bring students to sing to the patients as a form of music therapy,” she said.

Vattigunta, 18, lives in Palm Beach Gardens and is a vocal major at Dreyfoos.

She is also a member of the North Palm Beach Girls Club recreational rowing/crew club, vice president of the school’s Tri-M Music Honor Society, volunteers at the Palm Beach Medical Center, tutors at Holy Cross Catholic School in West Palm Beach and Place for Hope, a foster care home.

She also founded the Refugee Fund Raising Club which has drives to collect hygiene, clothing and school supplies that help support Syrian and Haitian refugees.

Vattigunta is a member of the school’s choir and had participated in competitions and festivals including the Heritage Festival in Chicago.

Vattigunta also has studied piano for 11 years. In addition, she is fluent in Telugu, a language commonly spoken in India.

Going to Dreyfoos has opened Vattigunta up to a world of new experiences, she said.

“I’ve made friends with some of the most talented and smartest kids in Palm Beach County,” Vattigunta said. “And learning about the arts every day is really exciting, which I wouldn’t have gotten to do at a regular high school.” 

See profiles of our county’s top grads at https://www.palmbeachpost.com/valedictorians/

Q&A

What are your hobbies?

Singing. I like it in my free time and my time at school. I like singing around the piano and finding different chords and stuff like that. Sometimes I play tennis just for fun. I like Netflix. My favorite show is “Grey’s Anatomy.” And I like hanging out with my friends a lot.

What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

At the pet store, they normally don’t let you play with the puppies unless you want to buy one. So I would go there and play with the puppies.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?

Reshma Saujani. She is the founder of Girls Who Code. It’s a club that teaches young girls about coding and technology.

I want to be a doctor, but I also want to go into clinical research, maybe work in technological aspects of medicine.

What is the best advice you ever received?

It’s basically a quote. “You miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.” I was kind of scared to take (advantage of) opportunities when I was younger because everyone has that fear of failure. But I feel like as I’ve gotten older, taking risks has been something that’s helped me learn instead of hiding in the background.

What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed? 

When Rosalind Franklin founded the structure of DNA.

Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?

My mom because I admire her in a lot of ways, and when I meet her patients, they admire her so much for all that she does for them. And also my 13-year-old Shih Tzu, Bella; she always gets what she wants and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

What is something most people don’t know about you? 

I’m really, really silly. In school, I’m not always someone who’s (diligently) doing their work. I usually goof off a lot.

What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?

My dog, Bella, a hammock and a boat to get off the island.


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