When Jacob Peterson, Heritage High’s valedictorian, heard he was the No. 1 student in his graduating class, the athlete and scholar was surprised. “When I first found out, Mr. Parsons (Heritage principal) called me into his office and said, ‘You’ve probably been expecting this call,’” said Peterson. “And I told him that it depended upon what he was going to tell me.”
The news was good, of course, and come September the biology major will be making his way to Brigham Young University, with an eye on becoming a doctor. Peterson credits his parents’ gentle yet persistent support for keeping him focused and on track.
“I didn’t always see my potential, but my parents did, and they pushed me along and I went for it,” said Peterson, who will finish his high school career with a 4.28 GPA. “This is a great honor. I never really expected that I would achieve this. But I guess all the hard work and sleepless nights paid off.”
Muniba Ahmad understands. Becoming valedictorian, said Ahmad, is like running a marathon: “It’s about setting a goal. When runners run marathons, it’s not just about the work; you have to keep going. It’s about perseverance.”
And Ahmad should know. As Deer Valley’s valedictorian of the Class of 2009, she has spent most of her educational career keeping a careful eye on the final prize, and now with a 4.24 GPA under her belt and UC Berkeley in her future, she can, at last, relax.
“It’s been a lot of work, a long road,” said Ahmad, who has not yet decided on a major. “But ever since I heard what a valedictorian was, I wanted to be one. Now I can spend some time just ‘being.’”
And for Ahmad, that will that will include a summer filled with plenty of R&R. “I’m going to sleep and read and relax,” she laughed. “I also want to spend some time with my friends before I go away. I’m going to miss all that.”
Amber Basore feels the same way. Freedom High’s valedictorian (with a GPA of 4.25) will soon be packing her bags and heading to UCLA in the fall, and despite the excitement of trading small-town life for the big city, she knows she’ll be leaving something important behind.
“I know I’m going to miss all of my friends, so I want to spend a lot of time with them this summer,” said Basore, who has not yet decided on a major. “I’m nervous, but also very excited.”
A member of the Freedom varsity tennis team, Basore also served on a number of school clubs and has been an active community volunteer. She says being chosen valedictorian is an honor beyond measure. “I’ve worked hard for it (valedictorian) but I’m incredibly proud to have been chosen,” she said. “It’s something I’ve hoped for.”
Harpreya Chumbar, one of Liberty High School’s two valedictorians, agrees that the honor of being chosen co-valedictorian is the culmination of years of hard work and resolve: “It’s a huge honor and for me it validates what I’ve been working for during my time here. Honestly, I was surprised when they told me – but very proud.”
Chumbar will enter UC Davis in the fall as biology major, taking aim at a medical degree. The 4.07 student hopes to spend her summer working and saving for college next year, as well as hanging out with her friends.
“I will definitely miss my friends and the fun times we had together,” she said. “But I’m ready to make a fresh start in September; I’m very excited.”
Liberty’s other co-valedictorian, Melisa McChesney, was unavailable for comment, but has said she hopes her college studies will involve a combination of biology and art.