The Wake County school system’s next-to-last class of high school valedictorians was recognized on Tuesday.
The 25 valedictorians in the Class of 2017 were publicly honored at the Wake County school board meeting. The students were praised for their years of hard work, which will culminate in many of them giving speeches at graduation ceremonies later this spring.
“Thank you for your excellence and your commitment and the diversity of your majors, from STEM all the way to humanities and to politics and religion,” school board Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler told the valedictorians. “That speaks to the depth and the breadth of who you are and what we hope we are pouring into all of our students in the Wake County Public School System.”
This year’s valedictorians, which include co-valedictorians at two schools, are:
▪ Apex High School’s Hershel Wathore, who will attend Dartmouth University and study engineering;
▪ Athens Drive High School’s Neeva Nicole Wernsman Young, who will attend UNC-Chapel Hill and study chemistry;
▪ Broughton High School’s Kristen Gilyard, who will attend Harvard University and study mathematics and computer science;
▪ Cary High School’s Noah Jabusch, who will attend N.C. State University and study physics and mathematics;
▪ Enloe High School’s Daniel Liu, who will attend Princeton University and study pre-med;
▪ Fuquay-Varina High School’s Brianna Monet Smith, who will attend Howard University and study mathematics;
▪ Garner High School’s Aishik Ghosh, who will attend the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and study computer science;
▪ Green Hope High School’s Emily Ryu, who will attend Princeton and study chemistry and pre-med;
▪ Heritage High School’s Abigail Abella Nacional, who will attend Duke University and study biomedical engineering;
▪ Holly Springs High School’s Micala Merino, who will attend N.C. State and study biomedical engineering;
▪ Holly Springs High School’s Michael Pupi, who will attend Duke and study chemistry;
▪ Knightdale High School’s Kelly Phuc Uyen Tran, who will attend UNC-Chapel Hill and study chemistry and pre-med;
▪ Leesville Road High School’s Kathryn Konrad, who will attend UNC-Chapel Hill and study biomedical engineering and neuroscience;
▪ Millbrook High School’s Samuel Zachary Thomas, who will attend Duke and study economics and political science;
▪ Millbrook High School’s Michael Corvin Pasca, who will attend UNC-Chapel Hill and study physics;
▪ Middle Creek High School’s Margaret Loughlin, who will attend N.C. State and study physics;
▪ Panther Creek High School’s Christina Chen, who will attend Duke and study statistical science;
▪ Mary Phillips High School’s James Everette Cole, who will attend Wake Technical Community College and study accounting;
▪ Sanderson High School’s Valerie Ann Lucas, who will attend UNC-Chapel Hill and study public policy and public health;
▪ Southeast Raleigh High School’s Korbyn Hackney, who will attend N.C. State and study electrical engineering;
▪ Wake Forest High School’s Salvador Chavero Arellano, who will attend Duke and study statistical science;
▪ Wakefield High School’s Robert Herhold, who will attend N.C. State and study engineering and computer science;
▪ Wake Early College of Health and Sciences’ Vidya Venkataganesan, who will attend UNC-Chapel Hill and study psychology and pre-med ;
▪ Wake Young Men Leadership Academy’s Connor Lloyd Hughes, who will attend Appalachian State University and study religious studies and political science;
▪ Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy’s Emma Benjamin, who will attend Campbell University and study pharmacy.
Some high schools are not on the list. East Wake and Rolesville high schools. the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy and the Wake STEM Early College didn’t naming valedictorians.
Those four schools dropped the use of valedictorians and salutatorians – titles that go to the seniors with the two highest weighted grade-point averages – ahead of the changes that will be coming countywide after 2018.
The school board voted in June to prevent principals from selecting a valedictorian and salutatorian after the 2017-2018 school year. Starting in the 2018-2019 school year, high schools will switch to the Latin honors system where seniors will get recognition such as summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude if they have a weighted GPA of at least 3.75.
School leaders said the change will end the “unhealthy competition” and stress that exists to be named valedictorian. School leaders also said the change is a better way to recognize students who may have barely missed being named valedictorian or salutatorian by several decimal places.
But Wake’s change has drawn complaints from conservatives such as talk show host Rush Limbaugh and Eric Bolling, a commentator on Fox News.
School districts around North Carolina have switched to the Latin honors system since the state moved to a 10-point grading scale that will result in more students getting top grades and sharing valedictorian and salutatorian titles. An A is now 90 to 100 instead of the old seven-point scale where an A was 93 to 100.