BY KYLE NELSON
It’s noon on Fort Lauderdale beach during the Tortuga country music festival, and CCHS Senior Landon Counts is swaying with the crowd during one of his favorite songs as his mind drifts off to the thought of school the next day. After a quick mental rundown of the forthcoming school week, he pushes the idea of his impending AP Physics test, NHS meeting and college applications out of his mind and focuses on the task at hand: having a good time. This is the existence of Landon Counts, an outlier of the commonly perceived idea of a valedictorian.
Landon Counts was born in Plantation, and from a young age was instilled with the value that education is important. Since moving to Cooper City when he was five, he has been enrolled in public schools for his entire life, attending Embassy Creek Elementary School where he was in the gifted program. He later furthered his education at Pioneer Middle School where he won the STEM award (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
“I would say I was a born leader,” Counts said. “It was pretty clear early on, even in second and third grade.”
Once he entered high school, Counts had little idea as far as what he desired to do for extracurriculars, but after looking at all his options, he planted his roots in DECA and NHS.
“Freshman year, I had no idea what clubs I wanted to join,” Counts chuckled. “The first time I went to a DECA meeting, I didn’t even know what it meant.”
After joining DECA and NHS, he realized quickly his interests would be in clubs that would allow him leadership and self growth of his own strengths. Freshman year, Counts tested into DECA states after placing third at districts. The following year, Counts was offered the choice to run for state office by the academy of finance. He jumped at the chance, and won the election as Vice President of Florida DECA. During his junior year, Counts decided to withdraw from DECA leadership and pursue NHS.
“It was really weird at first [joining NHS],” Counts said. “I know so much about DECA and I was so involved, so not being involved [as much] now just feels strange. But my philosophy is that sometimes in life, situations don’t work out in the way you expected them to, and I am super happy I get to work with Mr. Dixon.”
Academically, Counts has always been at the top. Freshman and sophomore year, through hard work and dedication Counts secured his spot in the top of his class by taking the most rigorous classes allotted, this set the precedent for what he desired to continue to do in high school. In junior year, he was the only student from the classes of 2017 and 2018 to earn a 5 on the AP Chemistry exam. Although he is currently first in his class, Counts knows that this may not stay the same until graduation.
“As it came closer [graduation] I wanted it more,” Counts said. “I did as much as I could to ensure I would hold the position, and now it’s here and I’m still number one, but I know the competition is tight and I know anyone could pull something out at any time so I’m not banking on anything.”
With that said, there is more to Counts than just school. Education has always been important to him, but he doesn’t let it consume his life. While he is the prospected Valedictorian for the class of 2017, he has a very balanced outlook on his school life and social life. Counts thoroughly loves all things sports. He played basketball when he was a child and kept his love of sports alive even after he had to quit because his academic life was expending more and more time. Counts is a devout Florida State football fan, and he enjoys doing his homework with a game on. Aside from sports, Counts is a huge Star Wars fan. Counts admitted he has seen the movies too many times to count and even obtained his first life size lightsaber when he was five from his aunt.
Counts is the oldest of three children and has set a considerable example for his younger siblings. He values family relationships above all, right in front of his relationships with his best friends.
“You need to have good relationships with your family first and foremost. Those are the people that are going to be supporting your and be there for you for your entire life,” Counts said. “When you move onto others, you need to find people who think the same as you, people who share your ups and downs with you and don’t run out when things get rough.”
As he prepares to embark on his venture out of Cooper, he will be leaving friends that he has acquired and stuck with for years, some for almost his entire life.
“Landon and I have known each other since kindergarten,” Senior Hunter Harrington said. “We met on the first day and have been best friends; he’s like a brother to me.”
In his years after high school, Counts hopes to achieve the impossible. Pursuing a career in study biology, chemistry or biological engineering, Counts desires to find a cure for cancer. His junior year, his aunt was diagnosed with cancer and sadly passed. Instead of allowing this family tragedy to knock him down, Counts used it as a catalyst to light a fire within him to pursue the field of cancer research. A very devoted problem solver, when a problem has yet to be solved he will not stop working towards it till he finds his answer. Cancer is his newest problem he hopes to conquer in the future.
“My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago and ever since then it has been on my mind. I love biology and chemistry and it seemed like everything was coming together where I finally found something that meant a lot to me that I could make a difference in. [Cancer research is] a field that I truly want to revolutionize,” Counts said. “I always feel like there is always a way to solve a problem and all you have to do is unearth it.”
As far as Counts’ future, he is undecided on where he will go and how he will get there, but he knows that making a name for himself is of utmost importance. Stepping into a new and vast chapter of his life doesn’t scare him at all; in actuality, it does the exact opposite. Counts plans to jump into his next big decision headfirst, without looking back.
“I make decisions and I stick with them, period.” Counts said.