After falling mysteriously ill and spending almost her entire sophomore year at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, Chiaravalloti (pronounced share-a-voh-lot-ee) picked up something else — her college major.
“In October 2011, I got really sick. I had lots of stomach pain and nausea,” Chiaravalloti said. “I ended up staying in the hospital for six months.”
The discovery of a pinched artery in her stomach led to a surgery and her eventual recovery, but it’s an experience that inspired the Allatoona High School senior. She wants to be a nurse.
“The nurses genuinely wanted to be there,” Chiaravalloti said. “They wanted to be taking care of the kids and trying to make them smile despite being sick. I wanted to do that, too.”
The fact Chiaravalloti is even graduating this year is quite an accomplishment. She dropped all of her classes as a sophomore in order to protect her GPA and didn’t receive a single class credit, but is still graduating on time thanks to a rigid course schedule. Her grades remained exceptional and — because she also skipped kindergarten — she’s graduating after just 11 years of school.
In addition to her studies, Chiaravalloti was drum major in the marching band for the last two years and has spent time as a math tutor and member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honors Society, Beta Club and Spanish Honors Society.
She graduates May 23 with a 4.286 GPA and nine hours of college credit thanks to Advanced Placement courses.
“It’s been a lot of work,” she said, perhaps making an understatement. “I think I’m prepared for college.”
Chiaravalloti was born in Pennsylvania and always thought she was Penn State bound. She lived in Colorado for her first two years of school before coming to Cobb for third grade. She has attended Ford Elementary, Durham Middle and now Allatoona High, but still saw herself as a future Nittany Lion.
On spring break of her junior year, she visited six colleges in a week, including the University of Alabama. It was Southern hospitality that changed her mind.
“Alabama was the first time I’d ever been to a Southern campus,” she said. “Me and my family got lost and none of us knew how to read the campus map. We had no idea how to get to the right dorm to do a campus tour and three people as they walked by said, ‘I can show you on my way to class.’ That atmosphere is infectious. I love it.”
She’ll attend the Tuscaloosa school on what’s known as a Presidential Scholarship that covers all of tuition. In November, she turns 18. A decade from now, she sees herself as a pediatric nurse with a master’s degree.
Dr. Lori Maffe, Chiaravalloti’s chemistry teacher, praises her work unequivocally.
“She’s one in a million,” Maffe said. “She is the best student I have taught at Allatoona.”
While acknowledging she’d make a great nurse, Maffe sees bigger things in the student’s future if that’s what Chiaravalloti chooses.
“She’s dissecting medical journals in my class,” Maffe said. “She’s doing graduate school-level work now. She’s really quite sophisticated.”
Maffe says Chiaravalloti could be a top-notch doctor if she wants to. She sees the student as one who would never settle for second best, as someone who will end up doing something big one day.
Maffe talks about how Chiaravalloti was actually comforting others, even when she was in the hospital herself. She started an online journal and told friends not to worry about her.
Chiaravalloti, according to Maffe, is a rare combination of natural talent and hard work. She describes the student as very enthusiastic, hard-working, kind and sensitive, especially after her hospital stay. In short, Maffe describes Chiaravalloti as “the real deal.” Maffe jokes she asked Chiaravalloti’s mother if she could adopt her.
Maffe is in her fourth year teaching at Allatoona. Before that, she spent four years at Kennesaw Mountain High School and was a practicing chemist prior to that.
Maffe taught Chiaravalloti three separate times during her high school career. Chiaravalloti said the two instantly formed a mentor-student relationship.
“She pushes me to do things the best way,” she said.
Chiaravalloti also gives high praise to her parents, Wendy and Joe, but says she actually pushes herself even harder than they do.
Despite her drum major experience, Chiaravalloti won’t be joining Alabama’s “Million Dollar Band” during the next football season. Instead, she plans to join the school’s drama program and pursue her love of acting.
Chiaravalloti spent her 15th birthday in the hospital. She said missing out on all of her high school activities and not seeing her friends and siblings was the worst part of the ordeal. She missed school dances and seeing her friends in the band. Even her siblings were largely inaccessible. And she also didn’t know what was wrong with her. She was transferred to a Scottish Rite hospital in Cincinnati to see a specialist and spent Thanksgiving 2011 there.
The nurses at Scottish Rite didn’t just inspire Chiaravalloti. Her mom, Wendy, also left the experience with nursing on her mind and is taking classes at Kennesaw State and Chattahoochee Tech right now in pursuit of her own nursing career.
Emily Chiaravalloti said the experience is one she will never forget.
“Sometimes things in life don’t work out for you. I’m definitely a testament to that,” she said. “I spent six months in the hospital. It’s not something I wanted to do. But even when life doesn’t seem to go the way you think it should, you have to readjust and keep going.”
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series spotlighting some of Cobb County’s outstanding members of the class of 2014. Candidates are selected by their schools, which consider criteria such as the students’ GPA, extra-curricular activities and general attitude in and out of the classroom.