Interview with Central Kistap High School 2022 Valedictorians, Salutatorians

Of this year’s 12 valedictorians and salutatorians, 6 were available to talk about their journey, and how it feels to be awarded their title.

by Sophia DeBon, Reporter

The valedictorians and salutatorians of the 2022 school year were recently announced. Several of them discussed their journey here, how it feels to be given this title, words of advice for fellow students, and post-high school plans. 

This year’s valedictorians are William Putaansuu, Eleanor Hebard, Victor Gutierrez, Kal-El Drummond, Claire Atkinson, and Reece Huey. The salutatorians are Katherine McDonald, Elliot Schweitzer, Rachel Tan, Rachel Haugen, Angela Bai, and Oliver Larson.

When asked how it felt to be valedictorian or salutatorian, all those interviewed gave the same answer: “Weird.”

“Weird, definitely weird,” said Victor Gutierrez, valedictorian, “Not something I guess I expected. But now I’m just in this position of I have to write a speech in like a week.”

Some, like Elliot Schweitzer, salutatorian, were surprised they had been picked for the title. 

“I feel like I haven’t really done that much,” said Schweitzer, “Like, I am a good student, I’m taking hard classes, but it just kind of surprised me. I thought they would take more things into account, because I definitely don’t have club leadership or anything. It’s been cool though.”

Others said that though they appreciate the recognition, they feel a bit of guilt over receiving the title, as they feel that other students who are equally deserving had missed out.

“Feels nice, a little bit surreal.” said William Putaansuu, valedictorian, “ I definitely do feel like I’ve earned it, although I also feel like there are many people who deserve the recognition too, so I guess [I feel] a little bit of guilt because like, I know a few people who probably really deserved it, that didn’t get it. So it feels nice on my part, but kind of bittersweet.”

None of the students interviewed said that earning the title of valedictorian had been a goal of theirs. For some, it never even crossed their mind. 

“It wasn’t the goal I was going for, but it was something that, well, If I get it, that’d be nice,” said Putaansuu “I’ve certainly had it in my mind since I was a freshman. Although, at the time, I kind of thought it wasn’t all that realistic . . . But it really turned out that my ultimate goals were to do well in school, and be a really good student, and get into a good college and that sort of stuff. And that ended up kind of aligning with valedictorian.”

Most of the valedictorians said that their main goal through high school has been getting into a good university. This goal motivated them to take hard classes and get good grades.

“Most of the work that I was putting in throughout high school was to get into college, and it kind of led to valedictorian,” said Eleanor Hebard, valedictorian. 

Each of the valedictorians and salutatorians interviewed shared a piece of advice for students who hope to achieve similar success in high school.

“Follow your interests, and flesh out what you genuinely want to do,” said Rachel Tan, salutatorian. 

Claire Atkinson, valedictorian, shared an important quote from a movie she watched in AP government class. 

“There was this movie we watched recently in AP gov, and the guy, the main character said, and this is not a direct quote, he said ‘if you go after your passion, success will follow,’” said Atkinson, “and I think that’s most important. You’ve got to just do things that you enjoy, and I don’t think you should force yourself to do something if it’s not something that you feel like you would do anyway.”

Putaansuu shared several pieces of advice, including following passions, and not making valedictorian a goal. 

“Don’t make being valedictorian your main goal, because you’re either going to meet the goal, or be disappointed, and the odds are not in the favor of anyone hoping to be valedictorian,” said Putaansuu, “Challenge yourself if you can. If you have the choice, take the hard class, and think deliberately about what you want to do and what you want to put your time into. Because if you put your time into something you want to do, you’re going to get way more out of it than putting your time into something you hate doing.”

And finally, Hebard shared the simplest, but probably most important advice for overachievers: “Work hard, but don’t burn yourself out.”