May 25, 2018

Linaizisa McNeal, 2018 salutatorian, Arlington Community High School

Linaizisa McNeal, 2018 salutatorian, Arlington Community High School.

Although Linaizisa McNeal is the youngest of four children, and the only girl, she acknowledges that nothing has been handed to her. In fact, she believes her parents — especially her father — have been harder on her because of her station in life.

Despite the added pressure, she’s risen to the occasion. On June 7, Linaizisa (a former John Marshall Community High School student) will graduate as valedictorian of Arlington Community High School.

“When most people hear that I’m the only girl and the youngest, they think, ‘She must be spoiled. She must get everything she wants.’ When the fact of the matter is that I was never given anything,” said Linaizisa. “I was taught that if I wanted something, then I should do anything to get it. … Even though it was harsh, it built a strongminded young woman.”

She used that strong mind to dedicate herself to becoming valedictorian of her class, a feat considering the only other person in her immediate family to “get past high school,” Linaizsa said, is her father.

So, graduating at the top of her class isn’t just a personal achievement, it’s one that sets a family standard for younger generations.

“This is important to me because I want to leave a legacy for my little cousins, nephews and nieces to follow. I want to show them that you can do whatever you want to do if you put your mind to it,” said Linaizisa. “I want to break the chain of settlement and start a new chain with adventure. I don’t want my young ones to settle for anything. I want them to explore life and what it offers.”

She’s also showing students in general that it’s possible to juggle more than just academics and land at the top. While in high school, Linaizisa has been involved with JROTC since ninth grade and began working during her sophomore year (often getting off work around midnight).

Both experiences have helped in her growth, but Linaizisa believes JROTC has provided the greatest benefits.

“JROTC gave me that push I needed,” she said. “JROTC helped me step out of my comfort zone and transformed me into a risk taker. JROTC helped me to not only limit my fears, but to conquer them.”

She’s taking that risk-taking spirit to either Ivy Tech or further south to Bennett College in North Carolina. “I haven’t fully decided, but Bennett College is an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) and an all-girls school that offers a higher education and sisterhood. Ivy Tech is a community college that allows me to get an education and (immediately) start my career.”

Wherever Linaizisa decides to go, the ultimate goal is to study business management and real estate. Her career goal is to complete college with an MBA and have enough knowledge and experience to open up her own real-estate business.