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Whiz Kid: Berkley High School Valedictorian Sets Sail at Baylor

BHS counselor says 2011 graduate "is not defined by her intellect but rather she is defined by doing what is right and good."

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Lyons

School: Class of 2011 valedictorian

Accomplishments: Earning a 4.492 and finishing her BHS career as the 2011 valedictorian is the beginning of Lizzy Lyons' accomplishments. She has decided to attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas, with a full scholarship. She was accepted by several other colleges (with full scholarships) including Yale, Duke, Harvard, Dartmouth, Tulane and Rice. After earning 78 college credits, Lizzy starts Baylor as a junior and plans to study speech pathology. As a national merit scholar, which provides a custom degree program, she also will study American Sign Language, Spanish and French. Lizzy is an AP Scholar with Distinction,  a member of National Honors Society, the National Spanish Honor Society and the National Mathematics Honor Society, BHS guidance counselor Lori Bullis said. She is a member of the Rose Marie Floyd Contemporary Civic Ballet Company, was involved in Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), played volleyball as a freshman and sophomore, was a member of the BHS knitting club and interact club, and has been a piano student since 1998. Bullis said Lizzy worked at the St. Leo Soup Kitchen in Detroit, participated in the Halloween for Hunger and Brooms for Berkley, was an elementary Chess Club mentor, participated in Berkley Schools Caring and Sharing Program and was a tutor for struggling BHS students after school.

From Berkley Bears to Baylor Bears

“Lizzy believes that while searching for knowledge is extremely important, developing the mind and soul together should be valued more,” guidance counselor Bullis said during the 2011 BHS commencement ceremony June 2 at Meadow Brook Music Festival on the grounds of Oakland University. “She is not defined by her intellect but rather she is defined by doing what is right and good.”

Bullis said Lizzy has 27 foster brothers and sisters.

“Because one of her foster sisters was deaf, Lizzy decided she needed to learn sign language in order to communicate with her,” Bullis said.

Lizzy started taking high school classes in the seventh grade and has been earning college credits since she was a 10th-grader, Bullis said.

“Impressively, Elizabeth has a 4.492 grade point average, taken 11 Advanced Placement classes and has earned over 70 college credits (78) through the Dual Enrollment Program,” Bullis said.

Where is she taking all those credits and talent?

She is preparing to be a top-notch Baylor Bear. She will study speech pathology, inspired by her foster sister who has been receiving speech therapy since she was 18 months old.

The school offers an American Sign Language (ASL) program, one of the draws to the Christian university, Lizzy said. She had visited a number of New England colleges, as well as another contender, Vanderbilt, but Baylor stole her heart.

It was easy to fall in love with the school, Lizzy's mother Janet Lyons, said after she visited with her daughter at the school recently. First of all, she said, “It's just a gorgeous campus.”

The school has a marina with sailboats and kayaks for students, an indoor lazy river, a rich history, Big 12 football team, a grand piano in the lobby of the honor dorm, and a zoo, which includes its own bears.

Janet Lyons said she is pleased with the move and said she knows it's the right place for Lizzy “after having such a great experience at Berkley.”

The school focuses on the “whole package,” she said, not only teaching academics, but morals, values and the arts. Lizzy will continue to study piano and ballet, and her reading list this summer includes Plato, Aristotle and Virgil.

Bullis said the valedictorian is sure to succeed, not only academically, but as a person.

“I see Lizzy as an extremely happy and successful woman,” she said. “I see her as a speech pathologist leading her field in research and innovation. I see her being involved in her community and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”

Lizzy said she wanted to experience a different culture and is excited about being in the South.

“I'm so happy here,” she said.

New horizons

Lizzy plans to have some Berkley friends visit her at Baylor around the Fourth of July.

She will be working this summer on the historic Elissa, climbing the rigging and helping to restore the 1877 ship.

She'll also be studying philosophy,keeping up on her reading list, dancing in the Houston Ballet, sailing and learning to surf.

As a student at Baylor, she is sure to keep heading toward distant horizons. The school offers Lizzy full tuition, room, board, books and a full year to study abroad.

Bullis said Lizzy isn't comfortable touting her accomplishments.

“She is not arrogant or egotistical, instead she is modest and refreshingly optimistic,” her counselor said. “Lizzy is carefree and does her best because it is the right thing to do. She does not like the limelight and is not concerned about impressing others.”

Key to awesomeness: “Lizzy is a gifted student and learning is a passion of hers,” Bullis said. “The most extraordinary thing about Lizzy is that she does the right thing even when no one is watching.”

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