Garner Cleveland Record

GMHS valedictorian to graduate with 5.2 GPA and a scholarship to UNC

Sarah Dancausse speaks at the ground breaking ceremony for the Garner Magnet High School renovations.
Sarah Dancausse speaks at the ground breaking ceremony for the Garner Magnet High School renovations. jalexander@newsobserver.com

It’s been a while since Sarah Dancausse received a “B” on her report card. But to this day she still remembers it.

“My last B was fourth grade math,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll never forget it.”

Needless to say, that would be the last time she got anything less than an “A,” she says. Now Dancausse, 17, is the Garner Magnet High School valedictorian for the class of 2016, and will graduate from the school’s International Baccalaureate Program with 5.2 weighted grade point average this Sunday. Her unweighted GPA is a 4.0.

Her competitive nature and self-motivation pushed her to never settle for anything less than the best.

That includes soccer too. Dancausse first started playing when she was 4 years old. She’s always strived to be her best. Not better than everybody else, but just the best she could possibly be. She played competitively on club teams until last year, when people were being recruited. She said playing soccer in college wasn’t her goal.

She’s also been on the girl’s varsity soccer team since her freshman year at Garner High, and has been the captain since her junior year.

Dancausse’s favorite course in school was Biology. She likes human anatomy and physiology.

“I think it’s fascinating how all the parts of your body come together and work,” she said.

Dancausse said her two most difficult courses to take were IB Spanish and IB Theory of Knowledge. But she still received A’s in those courses. She said “hard work and not getting discouraged when things got tough,” is what got her through.

“I think liking school, and liking learning helps,” Dancausse said. “It isn’t a chore to me. I enjoy it. I don’t know, it’s just something inside of me that drives me to succeed.”

Sarah’s mom, Donna Dancausse, says her daughter has always been interested in learning.

She remembers when her daughter was 4 years old, she became interested in learning everything about Abraham Lincoln.

“We would read stories and books and she would know all these details about him,” Donna Dancausse said, “and I don't know where it came from.”

“So I think that is part of her personality. She’s just intense.”

Dancausse said she and her husband, Ed, have never set expectations for their daughter to be the valedictorian or make straight A’s. All they wanted was for her to be the best all-around person she could be, even if it meant C’s.

If that was her daughter’s best, then she was proud.

Sarah, she said, wanted to be the best for herself.

“She makes us proud in terms of the care and concern that she has for others,” her mother said. “I think she's been given a lot of experiences at Garner that have made her think outside of the box and make her aware of the challenges out in the community. I think that has been very valuable for her.”

Sarah Dancausse, too, credits Garner Magnet High School for preparing her for the next level. When she got to Garner, She was coming from a small private Catholic school. Her eighth grade class had 18 students in it.

It wasn’t very diverse, she said.

At Garner Magnet High, the freshman class had 730 students, of all different races, classes and religions. The school had more than 2,200 students.

“It was a culture shock,” she said. “But I’m glad I did it. I met all different types of people, doing all different types of things that I had never seen before. I was definitely very naive.”

In the IB program, she met many like-minded people who had goals similar to hers.

Garner Magnet High School Principal Carter Hillman says Dancausse has a great future. When asked what he respects most about her, Hillman said: “Her tenacity.”

“For (being) willing to go out for what she wants to do, and not taking ‘no,’ and ‘that might not work,’ or ‘that’s going to be hard for you to do,’” Hillman said. “Any of those answers and she’s going to say ‘OK. That is going to make me work harder.’”

Sarah will attend UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall, the same school her mother attended. She wants to possibly become a doctor, but she’s unsure what kind of doctor yet.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @GarnerCleveland

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