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The Student News Site of Walnut Grove High School

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Wildcats Wired


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Abbie Fleeman, Section Editor • May 16, 2024

Sariah Thomas: Walnut Grove’s First Ever Valedictorian

Sariah Thomas
Photo sent in by Sariah shows her hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

The clock is ticking for Walnut Grove seniors, who will no longer be high school students in a few short weeks. For valedictorian Sariah Thomas, high school has been “the perfect balance between freedom and independence while still lacking many of the responsibilities that await us in adulthood.”

Thomas is the first-ever valedictorian at Walnut Grove and will attend Dartmouth College with a plan to study Biological Sciences and Anthropology Global Health.

“While it’s an exciting title, I don’t feel particularly extraordinary. I feel as though I know so many other people who exude intelligence that I view as greater than my own,” said Thomas. 

Her responsibilities as valedictorian have included answering questionnaires and writing speeches, and she knows she has a precedent to set. 

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“Nothing I write seems adequate—I had to write it in one week,” Thomas said. “I just hope I can capture the mixed emotions that came with starting at a new school for your senior year.”

We often feel that there is one path to success, but Thomas believes it is all about being true to ourselves. 

“As long as you are genuine about who you are, your passions, and your character, you truly can’t go wrong,” Thomas said.  

As far as college applications, Thomas feels that it is an individual journey and that there is not one suitable college experience for everyone.

“People underestimate how much fit plays into the college admissions process,” Thomas said. “I feel as though the people who approach the process with the one goal of showcasing the truest form of themselves find the most success.”

Coming into high school can feel daunting, but it is a pivotal moment. Freshman year is relevant to the rest of high school, but many feel it is hard to find what classes will be the best fit. If Thomas could go back and talk to her freshman self, she said she wishes she had more confidence in her academic abilities. 

“I believe I not only underestimated myself freshman year, but I also did not know about many classes that I would have loved to take,” Thomas said. “Coming from a school district with fewer opportunities academically, I didn’t know all the ways I could apply myself.”

That said, Thomas proves that hard work and dedication can allow us to reach new heights, but she never aimed to become valedictorian.

“I always aimed for good grades throughout high school, but if anything, I believed the prospect of becoming a valedictorian was a bit daunting,” said Thomas.  

Every student has had a class they’ve struggled with, even top-ranked ones like Thomas. She said that AP Calculus BC has been the most rigorous class of her academic career. She knows firsthand how difficult classes can be but believes it is something to overcome, not fear.

“I still struggle with it [AP Calculus BC],” Thomas said. “Spontaneous Grove time sessions with Ms. Heon and The Organic Chemistry Tutor on YouTube saved me.” 

Keeping a healthy balance between school and life can be challenging, especially when taking rigorous classes. 

“I often don’t feel balanced.” Thomas said, “I constantly feel like I’m in a limbo where I either have too much free time or every academic obligation in the world is weighing on me at once.”

Amidst demanding classes, Thomas says that science has been her favorite subject. This has inspired her to go into the medical field, but she also has more personal reasons for pursuing her career.

“Three reasons: germs used to terrify me, I love learning how your habits and diet control health and I’m driven by empathy instead of profits,” Thomas said.  

Teachers are the backbone of education and can make a huge difference in students’ success. These are people who know from direct experience the impact of empathy. Thomas had multiple teachers shape her academically and inspire her to become who she is today. 

“Mrs. Sparks, Mrs. McClendon, and Mrs. Jaballa have all changed the course of my time in high school in different ways,” Thomas said.

Thomas has a lot to look forward to in the near future, but she looks back on her senior year fondly. Starting at a new school is filled with possibilities, and Thomas was part of the first graduating class at Walnut Grove. 

“I think my favorite moments from this year were the first couple of days of senior year.” Thomas said, “It was very refreshing to meet and speak to students in my class who I never talked to before.”

Thomas will look back on her high school years with pride and appreciation of her classmates. 

“Congratulations, I’m so proud [Thomas said about the top ten percent of her class].”

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About the Contributor
Claire Sample
Claire Sample, Social Media Manager
Claire Sample is a senior at Walnut Grove High School and serves as the Social Media manager for Wildcats Wired. She's a dedicated photographer, journalist, and reader. Claire will most likely be attending the University of Oklahoma next year with a major in computer science.
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