Meet the Class of 2016 Valedictorian and Salutatorian


It is with great pleasure and pride that Admiral Farragut Academy announces Sashinya Nishka DeSilva as its Valedictorian and Michael Edward Cooney as its Salutatorian for the Class of 2016.

In the field of academics, Sashinya, known as Sasha throughout the Farragut community, distinguished herself as an AP Scholar with Honors, graduating with a 4.53 cumulative grade point average. She will continue her education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where she intends on taking classes to become an oncologist. An active participant in the Student Advisory Committee, Teen Science Cafe, the National Honor Society, and the Spanish National Honor Society, Sasha also co-founded the school’s poetry club four years ago as a way for students to express themselves in a different way. Throughout her five years of schooling at Farragut, Sasha used that creative spirit to develop award-winning works of prose, namely the National Scholastic Writing Gold Medal in 2015 for her novel, “When the Moon Isn’t Watching,” and a National Silver Award in the 2016 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for the poem, “Boxes”.

She has played tennis since picking up the racket as a seven-year-old and has competed for the BlueJackets varsity team, along with her sister, Bianca, an eighth-grader. She also is capable of playing Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven on the piano, an instrument she mastered around the same time she began learning tennis.

Her role as a volunteer at the Freedom Square Continuing Care Retirement Community in Seminole stemmed from growing up with a mother — Dr. Swanthri DeSilva, a Rheumatologist and Allergist — who would “bring home medical journals all the time and discuss the nature of medicine with me.” She developed a community service project to assist local doctors and hospitals in Sri Lanka, the birthplace of her parents.

A voracious reader, Sasha, who worked with a St. Petersburg College professor on research for a microbiological project, has a goal of “writing books about intellectual medicine,” due in part from her discovery of the New York Times’ best-selling book “The Emperor of All Maladies,” a powerful history of cancer and its treatment that won the Pulitzer Prize.

Michael Cooney, son of Mike and Susan Cooney, is the Salutatorian of the Class of 2016. In the fall of 2016, Michael, whose sister, Maya, goes to Farragut, will be attending Rochester University to pursue a currently undecided major. The president of the Farragut chapter of the National Honor Society and the vice president of the Student Government Association, Michael has taken part in a number of activities throughout his three-year journey at Farragut. He was a member of the drill team, the color guard, the Student Advisory Committee, and chorus. He played lead trumpet in the band. He participated on the baseball, soccer and tennis teams. He was the Headquarters Battalion Commander. He helped form and start the Model U.N. Club this school year and attended conferences in Gainesville and Tallahassee. His community service involvement has included The Challenger League at Azalea Park, American Legion Post 125, and TASCO (Teen, Arts, Sports, Cultural Opportunities).

Tampa Bay Times feature below: Meet the 2016 top grads for Pinellas County private schools”

INFLUENCED BY: Tell us about a person outside school who has influenced you and why.

SHOUT-OUT: Is there a teacher you want to thank?

HOW I CHANGED: Tell us how you have changed since your freshman year.

THREE WORDS: What are three words that best describe you?

BEST THING I LEARNED: It can be anything you picked up in high school — a life lesson, a concept, a quote, something a teacher told you or a classmate taught you or you found out on your own.

Sashinya DeSilva, 17



GPA: 4.53

PARENTS: Swanthri DeSilva and Lakpriya DeSilva

COLLEGE: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

INFLUENCED BY: Malala Yousafzai, the 18-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner who continues to fight for women’s rights and the right to education despite being shot by the Taliban for her views. She inspires me with her courage to stand up for what is right and take action against injustice.

SHOUT-OUT: To Mrs. Ewing for introducing me to creative writing. With her support, writing has become one of my greatest passions.

HOW I CHANGED: I have become more outgoing since freshman year and have learned to go after my goals and dreams without being scared of what anyone thinks. I learned to be myself and not conform to anyone else’s opinion.

THREE WORDS: Determined, creative, curious.

BEST THING I LEARNED: “While all bodies share the same fate, all voices do not.” — Li-Young Lee

Michael Edward Cooney III, 18



GPA: 4.3

PARENTS: Mike and Susan Cooney

COLLEGE: University of Florida, Gainesville

INFLUENCED BY: Justin Cobourne, my youth group pastor at Central Christian Church. He inspires me to further my faith, have fun and love others.

SHOUT-OUT: To Mr. Mark Panuthos for motivating me to be the best I can possibly be. He has been a great role model and has expanded my love for baseball and history.

HOW I CHANGED: I have become a leader since freshman year. Farragut has molded me into the leader that I am today.

THREE WORDS: Confident, diligent, motivated.