PLANT CITY — Dhara Patel says she always tried to set her sights high at Plant City High School.
But she didn’t know her final grade point average would land in the academic stratosphere.
Her GPA — 10.02 — is believed to be the highest ever for a student in a Hillsborough County school.
“I didn’t believe it when they told me. I still can’t believe it,” the 18-year-old said.
College and career counselor Sherrie Mueller said the school has fielded requests for interviews with Patel from reporters as far away as India. She’s also created a stir in academic circles.
“I went to a guidance counselor meeting today and they all were amazed that we had a student with such a high GPA,” Mueller said.
The school district doesn’t keep records on grade point averages from year to year, but no one can recall a student reaching double digits, spokeswoman Tanya Arja said. And until fairly recently, students didn’t have as many opportunities for extra points on their GPAs, she said.
On a traditional unweighted scale, the highest attainable GPA is 4.0. Patel reached such lofty levels by earning bonus points through advanced placement classes at Plant City High and classes at Hillsborough Community College, where she graduated with an associate’s degree.
“She took just about every class that Plant City has to offer,” Mueller said.
Patel said as word of her accomplishment spread around campus, her classmates started flocking to her for academic advice.
“It was really flattering. They all asked me, ‘How did you do it,’” she said.
Patel, daughter of Dipak and Bhavana Patel, credits long hours of study late into the night. She has been a straight A student except for a B she earned in an HCC history class.
“Time management is the key, and spending your time studying in the areas that you aren’t as strong in. For me, that’s reading and history,” she said. “You have to spend your time where you need it the most.”
Mueller said Patel also distinguished herself by civic and community service, such as helping serve food to the needy with the Civinettes club.
“You would think she would be just all about academics, but she is a very rounded student with a heart of gold. She’s a born leader,” Mueller said.
Dhara will deliver the valedictorian speech during Plant City High’s commencement in early June. Her brother, Parthik, was Plant City High’s salutatorian in 2012.
She plans to major in microbiology at the University of Florida and become a dentist.
Mueller sees a bright future for Patel:
“She’s very outgoing and yet she’s very humble. She is the kind of a student who can do whatever she sets her mind on.”