Siya Patel, foreground, worked hard to graduate with the highest GPA for a female in Wharton history, utilizing advice from brother Yash (background), last year’s salutatorian. (Photo: Charmaine George).

Siya Patel knew when she entered Wharton High that she could become her class valedictorian, but she didn’t really give it much thought.

Instead, Siya decided to focus on her grade-point-average. While the two things — a high GPA and becoming a valedictorian — go hand in hand, she decided she wanted to post the highest GPA ever, so instead of chasing another student for valedictorian, she decided to chase a number: 9.0.

When Siya officially graduates, it will be with a 9.09 weighted GPA, the highest ever for a Wharton High female. Tori Bell had a 9.01 in 2019.

“I wanted my GPA to be well over 9, because that’s the highest in Wharton’s history,” Siya says. “Due to Covid, I thought I wouldn’t make it because some of the classes I wanted to take were only being taught in school. But, I was able to work around it and accomplish my goal.”

Siya achieved her goal with a busy schedule of classes, taking as many as she was allowed. In her time at Wharton, she took 15 dual enrollment course online — three classes each semester her last two years — through Hillsborough Community College, as well as 13 AP classes for Wharton. 

While that may sound like a grind, for Siya, it wasn’t. She managed to fit in time playing the violin in the school orchestra, she was in a number of Honors clubs and volunteered 200 hours.

Like almost every valedictorian at every school, she was masterful in not taking too much and using enhanced time management skills to get it all done.

“I didn’t ever think it was too hard,” she says. “I always just did what I could do.”

The key was not letting the schedule get the best of her. She was attending school during normal hours, and would do her homework before starting on her HCC assignments. She says she split up everything evenly during the week so her weekends wouldn’t be filled with stressful deadlines.

She did not try for an AA degree, saying that it would have involved too many unnecessary classes that she wouldn’t normally be taking. So instead, she took extra math classes. Her favorite was AP Statistics. 

She’ll attend USF in the fall and major in finance. Sometimes, she sits with her father, Dr. Prakashkumar Patel, a neurologist, and her mother, Aarti Patel, and helps do the billing for her father’s practice.

Siya will join brother Yash, a biomedical science major, at USF. Last year, Yash was the salutatorian at Wharton, and used his experience to help guide his sister to the top of the academic standings this year.

“He always helped me whenever I needed help, and was one of the biggest reasons I was able to become valedictorian at Wharton,” she says.

Yash says he is proud of his sister. He advised her about what classes to take, and which ones to avoid, and was happy to see her finish No. 1.

Yash says the best piece of advice he gave his sister was to not rest on her laurels. No one ever asks if he was salutatorian in high school, and next year, no one will probably ask Siya if she was valedictorian. It is one of those nice but fleeting distinctions, and something he says she will discover quickly fades into the past.

“This is just one step in the journey,” he says. “When you go to college you still have to show that same rigor and effort and still be motivated, even if you’re not first every time.”

That won’t be a problem for Siya. When she reunited with the senior class of 2021, which has been scattered due to Covid— some learning in school, others learning at home — due to Covid, she shared that same advice with her classmates at graduation.

“Take everything they’ve learned the last 13 years,” she says, “and put it to good use.”

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