051519_MNS_Stanek_val_001 Michelle Stanek

Riverwood valedictorian Michelle Stanek stands next to the globe statue at the front of the school’s campus.

While many high school seniors begin looking at what college or university best fits them in their junior and senior years, Riverwood International Charter School valedictorian Michelle Stanek had her mind made up entering her sophomore year.

The 18-year-old Sandy Springs resident said her choice after graduation has always been Georgia Tech. She said it was a “fantastic” school to start working toward what he believes will be her career, chemical engineering.

“I knew I wanted to major in chemical engineering and make a career out of it, and you can’t do better than Georgia Tech in studying chemical engineering,” she said.

Stanek goes into the final days of classes before her May 23 graduation at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre not only studying for exams but also writing her commencement address to the student body.

Using Riverwood’s 100-point scale as a measurement of her academic success, Stanek will take the podium with a 103.89 score on that scale in addition to having an SAT score of 1560 and an ACT score of 36, which is perfect.

Having been named Riverwood’s STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) student, she selected social studies faculty member Daniel Gribble as her STAR teacher, calling him an instructor who cares about his students.

“His entertaining lectures and interesting assignments have inspired my classmates and I to explore our curiosity and go beyond what is asked of us,” she said.

Stanek has an impressive list of honors and achievements. She is president of the National Honor Society, a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, recipient of the Harvard Prize Book Award, a member of the Principal’s Honor Roll four straight years and has also received academic achievement awards and, among other honors, was Riverwood’s winner in the school’s annual Big Question Debate in 2017 and 2018.

According to Gribble, Stanek represents a rare combination of natural intellect, eclectic curiosity and personal charisma “that makes her the modern equivalent of a renaissance women.”

“Her studies are representatives of a keen intellect that embraces deep thinking, that loves satire and that expresses itself with enough wit to be humorous without being categorically sassy.” he said.

In addition to holding a black belt in taekwondo, Stanek is an avid thespian and has had a role in every school stage performance at Riverwood. She also enjoys playing guitar and violin as well as painting and calligraphy.

“I am taking college-level classes now and find them interesting and challenging at the same time, a great combination,” she said.

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