Five great students

Published 9:50 pm Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In today’s edition of the Suffolk News-Herald, we conclude an annual tradition of interviews with the city’s five top high school graduating seniors, and we are left once again with a great sense of hope for the future after meeting and getting to know these valedictorians.

Getting to the top of the class at any school requires diligence, commitment and years of hard work. The valedictory honor is not bestowed lightly, and it has nothing to do with popularity or prestige. A valedictorian must earn that honor through a dogged dedication to study and a sometimes-ruthless determination to avoid those things that might prove distractions from the goal of making the most out of one’s education.

At King’s Fork High School, Ethan Gould has been involved in drama at the same time he was participating in the school’s demanding International Baccalaureate program. He will be attending the University of Virginia in the fall, pursuing a liberal arts education.

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Lakeland High School’s Sarah Peelen, inspired five years ago by the trials her mother faced in recovery after learning she had Stage 3 breast cancer, decided to “knuckle down and (take) all the hard work (she) could take.” She also will attend the University of Virginia, where she will study nursing.

Ernestine Powell, the valedictorian at Nansemond River High School, has already earned an associate’s degree from Paul D. Camp Community College through a dual enrollment program that puts her at least a couple of steps ahead of the other students at Christopher Newport University, where she will attend classes in the fall.

After attending seven different schools to get her primary and secondary education, Abby Cockrell, who graduates with top honors from First Baptist Christian School on Saturday, overcame tough odds to earn the honor of valedictorian. She will attend Liberty University in the fall and hopes to follow in her father’s footsteps to become a teacher.

And Nansemond-Suffolk Academy valedictorian Meredith DeLuca may have found her future calling when medical professionals saved her mother’s life after a heart attack a couple of years ago. She will attend the University of Richmond in the fall and is leaning toward a career in medicine.

Suffolk’s five 2012 valedictorians have all proved their academic mettle. We wish them nothing but success in their future endeavors. They’ve already proved their ability to achieve it.