A tradition among schools impacts students throughout high school


Photo by Shylah Gibson

A 2018 valedictorian, Hannah Stiffler, speaks at the Honors and Awards ceremony.

Throughout a student’s years of education, there are many different goals. The goals may range from educational aspirations to sports aspirations, and even those that may seem impossible to achieve. As many people could guess, being a valedictorian is one of those goals for students across both the nation and the world.

Many people often debate on whether or not the name “valedictorian” should be placed upon students for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, valedictorians are recognized for their perseverance and dedication, is the overall reason to why this name has been in place for as long as it has.

Not only does this title come with dedication, but with competition as well.

“It was a goal of mine to get all A’s through high school, and by maintaining these grades it allowed me to be ranked 1st in the class,” current senior valedictorian Payton VanMiddlesworth said. “I like to challenge myself and would consider myself very competitive, and I think this motivated me to push to keep my rank.”

While some students only take the classes necessary to graduate, others may push themselves to take weighted classes for the GPA they come with.

“I only took classes that were not weighted if they were required, and I made sure to take as many AP and Honors classes as I could,” VanMiddlesworth said.

Along with the GPA that students receive comes more time put into homework and other study methods.

“Since I picked up AP’s during sophomore year, I really had to revise what I was doing,” current junior valedictorian Anjali Patel said. “That meant more Quizlet sets or reviewing notes more often to make sure I remembered stuff. My primary focus when I was in middle school was the four large projects that I did every year, so my focus got lost in that instead of my grades. Going into this year, I had a mindset of doing things early or on time so I could have review time and a bit of a breather. All that combined really helped me maintain my grades all throughout the past years and this year.”

Although some students make it a goal to be the top of their class, others just want to push themselves to succeed.

“Besides the competition, I have always strived to try my hardest,” current junior valedictorian Josh Jones said. “My focus was not necessarily to be first in the class but to excel in all my endeavors. My ultimate goal was to learn all I could in preparation for college and take advantage of the great opportunities we are given here at Richmond High School.”

Along with the rigorous schedule thrown at students who take many honors classes comes other extracurriculars they may participate in.

“As both a student and an athlete I’ve had to develop better time management skills,” Jones said. “Since I participate in 3 sports, I have to make sure I stay in shape for each season, but also make sure that I’m maintaining my grades, especially with AP exams approaching.”

While students tend to focus a lot on their GPA’s which come with these courses, oftentimes the course work may take a toll on them. This situation occurs purely through whether or not they actually understand the work being thrown at them.

“I would say the hardest part was about keeping my grades up is understanding the concepts in each subject,” Jones said. “I know that if I don’t understand a concept, then I will not be able to succeed on a test, thus I will not reach my expectations on the test and my grade will drop as a result.”

On the contrary, some students feel that the naming of valedictorians shouldn’t be limited to a certain number of students.

“I don’t think there should be only a certain number of valedictorians, like the top 10,” senior Sierra Wandersee said. “It should be more towards like all of the students who get honored at Academic Excellence. Although everyone gets noticed there, all that anyone really cares about is the top 10 when in reality, we all put in hard work and shouldn’t be degraded or looked down upon because our GPA was a little lower.”

Some students feel that the race for valedictorian negatively impacts other students.

“Just because a kid struggles in school doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get recognized,” Wandersee said. “Some kids need extra help in school and it’s not fair to them that they don’t get rewarded. All students should be looked at equally.”

This position in class rank may have a more valuable impact on other students.

“Being one of the valedictorians would definitely be a personal accomplishment for me,” Patel said. “Having a rather smart family with many valedictorians (two of which graduated from Richmond High School), it would feel really fulfilling to join my family in continuing that. I don’t necessarily know if schools should continue the tradition however- it places immense pressure on students to where they begin wasting their lives away on school work even before college. A lot of students also have extracurriculars, jobs, and sports along with maintaining a high GPA, and that pressure should not have to exist in high school students.”

This tradition of valedictorian has many different impacts on a variety of students, some may even come from a tradition of past generations.

“My parents always wanted me to do well in school so earning a good rank was a good way to show them how hard I was working,” senior Maria Aquino said. “Also my older sister was a part of the Academic Excellence, so I knew that I had to be a part of it too, and preferably even better to really show my parents that I’m actually working hard.”

Overall, some students feel that the tradition should continue because of the foundation it has created within the school itself.

“It’s been with us for so many years [valedictorian] and it’s something that middle-school me was excited about,” Aquino said. “Besides, it would feel a little weird to get rid of since it is a tradition among schools.”