Ashleigh Lacey had a lofty goal when she entered Cypress Creek High as part of its first freshman class — she didn’t want to get anything lower than an “A’’ in any class she took. Ever.
It wasn’t that far-fetched of an idea. The only “B’’ she had ever received was in third grade at Denham Oaks Elementary. The subject was reading, which is actually something she loves to do. Like any good student, she analyzed why she didn’t get an A and made sure she never made that mistake again.
“Back then, I thought you could only get As if you were a nice person,’’ Ashleigh says. “I just thought I needed to be nicer. But, that isn’t how it works.’’
It helps to be nice, and Ashleigh certainly is. But, the hard work is the most important thing.
After four years of budgeting her time between classes, extracurricular activities and a part-time job, Ashleigh has accomplished her goal.
She will finish her high school career with a weighted grade point average of 4.6. She earned only As in every class she took, which included her favorite classes (history and psychology) and her not so favorite classes (anything to do with math).
On June 2, Ashleigh will graduate as Cypress Creek’s valedictorian. She will be the first valedictorian to attend all four years at the school, which opened in 2017.
“I guess I’m in the school history books,’’ Ashleigh (photo) says.
She already has taken enough college-level classes to earn her Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree, which means she will enter college needing only two years to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. She will attend the University of South Florida in Tampa on an academic scholarship.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist, so when I entered high school I told myself that I want to get all As,’’ Ashleigh says. “I didn’t even know what a valedictorian was.’’
It was certainly not an easy path to graduation for any student over the past year and a half. Covid-19 restrictions reduced half of the 2020 school year to on-line learning only. Students were given a choice of on-line or in-person learning this school year. Ashleigh did both.
What’s also impressive is that Ashleigh didn’t just spend her high school days in classrooms and libraries or behind a computer screen. She has been part of the school’s art club for three years. And, she is an important member of the Coyotes’ track team. She won the District long jump championship last month and advanced to the Regional meet. She also competes in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles and is part of the school’s 4x100m relay team.
In short, she is one of those student athletes who excels at whatever she decides to try.
“I would say that’s right,’’ her father Robert says. “You could see signs of it as a child, just in the way she organized and lined up certain toys in a perfect row. She always did very well in school. She’s just always done well in everything she’s done. She’s competed in speech contests and done well. She played the flute for a while and became an All-County flute player. She’s a very talented artist. She excels at anything she picks up.’’
The next step is college. Ashleigh’s goal is to attend medical school at USF and eventually become a psychiatrist. Early on, she thought maybe she might like to be a lawyer, but after taking advanced classes in biology and psychology, she decided to change her goals.
“I would read books on those subjects just for fun,’’ she says. “Sometimes I’m kind of a nerd.’’
Just because she is off to college doesn’t Ashleigh’s goals will change. She still doesn’t want to get a B. And, she says she would like the chance to walk on to USF’s track team.
She won’t be far away from the Wesley Chapel home where she grew up. She’ll be able to visit her younger brother Luke and parents, Robert and mom Michelle, often. As expected, Ashleigh credits her parents as having been a key to her success.
“They’ve been very encouraging,’’ Ashleigh says. “They’ve never pressured me. They put a lot of trust in me.’’
“We’re lucky that she’s been so driven,’’ Robert says. “We haven’t had to push her. She’s taken care of her academics. She’s really taken control of her life. She’s made our jobs as parents a lot easier.’’
The Cypress Creek High graduation is scheduled for Wednesday, June 2, 7 p.m. at the school’s football stadium.