The valedictorian speech at graduation may be peppered with innuendos, inside jokes and some honest ribbing, but becoming valedictorian offers more than just a captive audience at a student’s milestone.
“Many of the valedictorians are accepted by the college or university of their choice,” Oneonta High School Principal Tom Brindley said. “These are the kids that colleges want, they are the top of their class. Often these kids get to pick from several good colleges, and a lot of times they get scholarships too.”
This year’s OHS valedictorian, Christopher Lentner, was away on a senior class trip at the time of the interviews for this story. However, Brindley said Lentner typifies the brightest students whom he has seen achieve valedictorian status.
The process of being named valedictorian can vary from school to school. For some, it is simply a matter of having the best grade-point average. Other schools add criteria, such as having attended the school for a certain number of years. Others weight the classes, awarding more points to Regents, advanced and college-level courses than for basic classes.
Jordan Beers is the valedictorian for Franklin Central School. For her, becoming valedictorian didn’t happen by accident; Beers said she has actively pursued the highest grade-point average in her class for several years.
“I have always been at the top of my class — I have always cared about my grades,” Beers said.
Beers will attend Ithaca College in the fall, and she expects to make the women’s basketball and play point guard.
“I have been playing basketball my entire life,” Beers said. “It has been a part of me ever since I was a little girl, ever since I could walk, I think.”
Megan Keil, a senior at Charlotte Valley Central School, said she has known she would be valedictorian for a while. There was a friendly competition between some of her friends, but in the end it was clear Keil would have the highest GPA, she said.