Meet the top graduates at Miami-Dade County private schools

Many Miami-Dade County High School seniors are graduating at the tops of their classes, soon to attend prestigious schools across the United States.
Many Miami-Dade County High School seniors are graduating at the tops of their classes, soon to attend prestigious schools across the United States. Miami Herald File

Imagine on a daily basis juggling high school classes, college courses, cheerleading practice and memberships in several honor societies.

For Tabitha Gato, this was a four-year reality.

“Having to balance high school and college at the same time was difficult, but it taught me time management skills,” said Gato, 18, a new graduate of Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School.

Each morning, she would wake at 5 a.m. to attend Miami Dade College and wrestle with Advanced Placement literature — one of her most challenging courses. But instead of getting frustrated, she found a bright side to the class.

“AP literature forced me to get out of my comfort zone and to trust that I can do much more,” Gato said. “I pushed myself and received an A in the class.”

That extra push helped Gato to rank highest in her class with a 5.47 GPA, making her valedictorian. She will be attending Florida International University as an honors student.

“I want to feel that I do my very best in all that I do,” Gato said. “I look forward to the possible opportunities when the workload gets difficult.”

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Many Miami-Dade County High School seniors are graduating at the tops of their classes, soon to attend prestigious schools across the United States. John Amis AP File

Ana Nicholls of Palmer Trinity School knows a thing or two about being out of her comfort zone after she suffered a car accident, during the time she was part of her school’s math team, president of the French honor society and a member of various community service activities.

“I was hit on the side of my car while driving to school,” said Nicholls, 17. “It was a total loss.”

Luckily, she had one week of vacation after the accident which allowed her to study hard and keep from falling behind in school. Now, Nicholls is the class salutatorian and headed to Stanford University to study computer science.

“My parents have always encouraged me to do my best,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist, and that motivates me to work hard and perfect my assignments.”

Although tragedy didn’t strike Esteban Guio while he attended Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, he did learn the importance of balancing life and school after struggling with his math class.

“At one point I had a C in the class, and I was really pressed to bring up my grade to make sure my college options were kept viable,” said Guio, 18.

Guio decided to purchase a Princeton Review Book for AP Calculus and teamed with his father, who loves math, to study and ace the class.

He passed with a B and is now the class salutatorian. He will be attending the University of Chicago to pursue a double major in economics and pre-law.

“My advice for current students is don’t allow school work to consume you because it will ruin your happiness, but don’t spend all of your time partying,” Guio said. “College applications will catch up with you sooner than later.”

There are students like Gato, Nicholls and Guio at private schools throughout Miami-Dade County, who went the extra mile to overcome obstacles and are now graduating at the tops of their classes, soon to attend prestigious schools including Harvard College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University and Vanderbilt University. (Miami-Dade Public Schools do not name valedictorians or salutatorians.)

Meet some of the top scholars for 2017:

Archbiship Coleman Carroll High School

Valedictorian: Tabitha Gato

GPA: 5.47

College: Florida International University’s Honors College

Salutatorian: Sabrina Pouza

GPA: 5.32

College: Florida State University’s Honors College

Belen Jesuit Preparatory School

Valedictorian: Sebastian Suarez

GPA: 5.179

College: Case Western Reserve University

Salutatorian: Esteban Guio

GPA: 5.165

College: University of Chicago

Brito Miami Private School

Valedictorian: Irwin Zavala

GPA: 4.32

College: University of Toronto

Salutatorian: Ryan Ferrer

GPA: 4.26

College: Florida International University

Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart

Valedictorian: Mariana Suarez


College: University of Notre Dame

Salutatorian: Irene Labarta


College: University of Pennsylvania

Christopher Columbus High School

Valedictorian: Kevin Nodarse

GPA: 5.42

College: Johns Hopkins University

Salutatorian: Jonathan Aguiar

GPA: 5.41

College: Northwestern University

Divine Savior Academy

Valedictorian: Kelly Pena

GPA: 4.12

College: Florida International University

Salutatorian: Susana Peca

GPA: 4.09

College: Florida International University

Gulliver Preparatory School

Valedictorian: Faraz Masroor

GPA: 5.8

College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Co-Salutatorian: Pablo Ocampo

GPA: 5.7

College: Stanford University

Co-Salutatorian: Alaz Sengul

GPA: 5.7

College: Columbia University

Hebrew Academy (RASG)

Valedictorian: Gabriel Apoj


College: Harvard College

Salutatorian: Malka Suster


College: University of Florida

Mater Academy Charter School

Valedictorian: Anthony Sanchez-Ayra

GPA: 5.41

College: Florida International University

Salutatorian: Erick Garcia

GPA: 5.329

College: Florida International University

Miami Country Day School

Valedictorian: Alessandro Marchesani

GPA: 4.8687

College: Cornell University

Salutatorian: Lauren Kleidermacher

GPA: 4.7979

College: University of Pennsylvania

Monsignor Edward Pace High School

Summa Cum Laude: Priscilla Velez

GPA: 5.42

College: Nova Southeastern University

Summa Cum Laude: Allison Oddman

GPA: 5.36

College: Stanford University

Palmer Trinity School

Valedictorian: Alma Campiani


College: University of Miami

Salutatorian: Ana Sofia Nicholls


College: Stanford University

Ransom Everglades School

GPA = 12.0 scale

Valedictorian: John Mistele

GPA: 11.61

College: Stanford University

Salutatorian: Ryan Guillen

GPA: 11.24

College: Vanderbilt University

Scheck Hillel Community School

Valedictorian: Jordana Sarah Zackon

GPA: 4.46

College: Washington University

Salutatorian: Danielle Hannah Scheck

GPA: 4.29

College: University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

St. Brendan High School

Valedictorian: Kaitlyn Miller

GPA: 5.34

College: Tulane University

Salutatorian: Isabella Fernandez

GPA: 5.26

College: Boston College

Westminster Christian School

Valedictorian: Sofia Forwood

GPA: 5.41

College: University of Florida

Salutatorian: Hannah Avery

GPA: 5.29

College: University of Texas

Westwood Christian School

Valedictorian: Carlos Herrera

GPA: 4.41

College: N/A

Salutatorian: Leonardo Suarez

GPA: 4.25

College: Florida International University’s Honors College

Miami Herald writer Daniela Morales contributed to this report.