Valedictorians, salutatorians honored for academic success
By Kelby Newcomb
When decimal points separate the valedictorian and salutatorian, it has been a good race to the top.
The Carroll County school districts have announced the top students for the Class of 2019, honoring the seniors for their academic success.
Berryville High School announced that Amber Veach is this year’s valedictorian and Alex Maldonado is the salutatorian. Veach said she is ending the year with a grade point average (GPA) of 4.295, and Maldonado said his GPA is 4.240.
The seniors said it feels great to be recognized as the top of their class.
“We thought we were going to be co-valedictorians for a really long time,” Veach said, “and I was going to be perfectly fine with that because we both worked so hard.”
“We both had straight A’s,” said Maldonado. “We’ve never had a B.”
He said he and Veach were able to exceed a GPA of 4.0, which is typically the highest possible score, because of advanced placement (AP) courses, which are graded on a five point scale.
“She and I have both been in the race for a while,” Maldonado said. “We both knew one of us was going to be the valedictorian.”
“We knew it was going to be us two,” said Veach, laughing. “It was a race, and it was hard.”
She said she and Maldonado will have to give a speech at graduation this Sunday, May 12.
“I want to entertain the crowd but make sure it’s memorable,” Maldonado said.
“I want mine to be inspiring,” Veach said. “I’m still hashing it out. I’m still really nervous. Public speaking makes me nervous.”
“I actually really like public speaking,” Maldonado said.
He said he wants his speech to be funny but poignant.
“I’m still kind of undecided if I want to make it something funny that captures my personality,” he said. “I don’t want to be cliché. I don’t want to do some cookie-cutter speech.”
Maldonado and Veach were awarded Honors College Fellowships for the University of Arkansas.
Veach said she plans to study biomedical engineering and attend graduate school after college. Maldonado said he plans to have a pre-med focus and graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree with a major in biology.
They said it will be tough to leave the tight-knit community of Berryville High School behind.
“I’ll miss the people the most. What’s a school without the friends?” Veach said.
“You might not even know somebody here,” Maldonado said, “but you have a sense of community. It’s an unparalleled sense that you can talk to anybody and they care about you.”
“It’s going to be very different at UA,” Veach said.
“I can’t imagine walking down the hall there and saying something to someone,” Maldonado said, “and they know exactly who I am.”
“It’s going to be the exact opposite,” Veach said. “It’s going to be crazy.”
Maldonado said graduation will be somewhat bittersweet.
“I think graduation will be very fun,” he said, “but at the same time it’s going to be an opportunity for us to say ‘goodbye’ to each other.”
“I think it’s going to be sad but really happy at the same time,” said Veach.
Eureka Springs High School announced that Clover Danos is this year’s valedictorian, and Kayden Eckman is the salutatorian.
The seniors said they felt honored to be recognized for their academic achievement.
“It feels pretty good,” Danos said.
“I just did the homework,” Eckman said, laughing.
Danos said she has heard that she will be giving a speech at graduation but plans to write it closer to that time.
“I’m not sure what I’d like to write about yet,” she said.
Danos said she has received a full scholarship to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and plans to study creative writing.
Eckman said he is waiting to hear about a potential appointment to the U.S. Military Academy before making his final decision.
“I’m still waiting for confirmation from West Point,” he said. “If that doesn’t work out, I got enough scholarships for a full ride at the University of Arkansas.”
He said he plans to study mechanical engineering.
Eckman said he is excited for the independence of college.
“I’m ready to live away from my parents,” he said, laughing.
“I’m excited to go somewhere new,” Danos said, “and meet more people. I’m excited to learn more, too.”
Eckman said he will miss being part of the athletics program at Eureka Springs.
“I’m going to miss soccer, cross country and track,” he said. “That was always me.”
“I’m going to miss art and film the most,” Danos said.
Green Forest High School announced that Caleb Marroquin is this year’s valedictorian, and Trinity McMahan is the salutatorian.
Marroquin said it felt like a big accomplishment to be at the top of his class.
“This has been like a goal of mine,” he said. “When I was really young, someone put the idea in my head. At first, I didn’t think much about it, but as I got older I thought ‘You know, I might actually be able to do this.’ ”
He said he worked on the goal throughout high school and told his counselors this was what he wanted to do.
“They helped me out through the whole thing, and I finally accomplished it,” Marroquin said. “It feels pretty good.”
McMahan said being top of her class happened naturally for her because she has always been drawn to advanced classes.
“I wouldn’t say it was ever a specific goal,” she said. “I just have always liked the harder classes, so it kind of fell into place because I like to challenge myself.”
They said they will have to give a speech at graduation this Friday, May 10.
“I’m kind of excited to give my speech,” Marroquin said. “I really enjoy doing that kind of thing.”
“I’m a little terrified,” said McMahan, laughing.
She said she will be attending John Brown University (JBU) in Siloam Springs and plans to study financial planning.
“I’ve changed my mind a few times throughout this year,” McMahan said. “I’ve always liked teaching. I liked teaching in my church, helping with Sunday school and that sort of thing, but I’ve kind of decided I don’t want to go that way as my profession.”
She continued, “I want to continue helping with church and kids, but I really like planning stuff out and organization. So I’m thinking more like financial planning. JBU’s business program is amazing! It’s really focused on affecting positive social change through business, so I’m really excited to be part of their Entrepreneurship in Action (ENACTUS) program.”
Marroquin said he will attend Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and plans to study chemical engineering.
“My college gave me a $32,500 scholarship and a $19,000 grant along with it,” he said. “There are not a lot of very cheap engineering colleges. Most are very expensive. Knowing I probably won’t have to take out student loans to pay for my college is really nice.”
McMahan said she received a scholarship from JBU for being a National Merit Finalist and also received the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship, which offers $10,000 per year for tuition, mandatory fees, room and board.
“It covers a pretty big chunk but not everything. I’m still waiting on some others,” she said. “I think there’s a reason for the challenges. I’ve had to work really hard to fill out a ton of applications for colleges this year. I think it will all come together.”
Marroquin said setting the goal of being valedictorian helped keep him focused in high school.
“It was not so much the actual goal. I didn’t care about the speech or the honor,” he said. “It was setting the goal that helped me keep my priorities straight and focus on what was important and what I needed to do to achieve this goal.”
He said he believes setting goals like that is important for any students coming into high school who want to achieve academic success.
“Setting goals for something that’s really hard to achieve that you’ll have to work for over a long period of time,” Marroquin said, “will greatly help you stay focused and keep your priorities straight.”
“When it comes to doing well academically,” McMahan said, “it’s something you’ve got to start whenever you’re in elementary school. Being curious about the world and being willing to work hard makes a big difference.”
She concluded, “It’s not so much trying to achieve academic success but trying to better yourself. Keep in mind why you’re doing the things you’re doing, what your goal is and maybe what your calling is.”