It’s that time of year when high schools across America are celebrating the achievements of their seniors.
One of the most prestigious accomplishments a high school senior can obtain is being named as their senior class’s valedictorian or salutatorian. These honors go to the scholars with the two highest weighted grade point averages.
Bryan County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Paul T. Brooksher announced, “This year we are particularly proud of these young women and men since our valedictorian and salutatorian from both schools have been Bryan County Students since Pre-K. On behalf of the board of education and myself, we would like to not only congratulate these four outstanding students, we would also like to congratulate the entire class of 2022. You have shown determination and resiliency like never before. We know this class will go on to do great things and we wish you the best as you move forward in your education, career, armed forces, or whatever path you may take. We are proud of you!”
Bryan County Middle High School Catalina Temple is BCMHS’s valedictorian and daughter of Temple and Cary Temple. She believes no matter what you struggle with, you will always be able to overcome it. She has certainly applied that mentality to her studies, where she credits her academic success to various educators, but specifically Mrs. Tawauna Dixon.
“She has always been there for me when I needed her. She is a very strong leader and has given me the confidence to do what I need.”
She also has fond memories of Bradley Godbee’s class where “every day going into class that no matter what, we would have meaningful conversations, have fun, and learn.” She will take those memories and many more with her to Georgia Southern University in the fall to study Nursing.
BCMHS’s salutatorian is Kyndal Leggett, the daughter of Katie and Tony Leggett. Kyndal credits hard work and determination to obtaining this achievement. “I have always tried really hard to make sure my grades are really good. When I didn’t get a good grade, I would do whatever I could to try and bring that grade up.” She remembers struggling in middle school and “Ms. (Liz) Raeburn always reassured me to be positive and not to give up. She is someone who has always believed in me.” One of Kyndal’s favorite high school memories is being crowned Miss BCHS in the 2021 high school pageant. She will wear that crown to Statesboro, Georgia next year to study Early Childhood Education at Georgia Southern University.
Richmond Hill High School Cecilia Mateo, RHHS valedictorian, is the daughter of Mona and Noel Mateo. Cecilia credits her success to her parents. “They have been my biggest supporters. They have been with me through my whole life, not just high school. They have taught me the importance of school and ife and have modeled dedication and hard work.” Cecilia’s favorite high school memory is winning the grand championship at their second marching band competition in Valdosta, where she was the drum major. Cecilia plans to march into Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech in the fall.
RHHS’s salutatorian is Ryan Wiebold, son of Amy and Scott Wiebold, and is also headed to Georgia Tech to study Chemistry this Fall. Ryan said his favorite high school memory was when he was a relief pitcher in the regional championship baseball game. “I got a ground out in a bases loaded situation. Then I went up to bat and hit a single RBI that helped in winning the game.” Ryan hasn’t had an easy journey but encourages others: “Don’t let anything bring you down. I have been hearing impaired since birth and I have been able to rise above it to accomplish anything. I hope I can inspire others to learn from this and encourage them.” He continued, “My parents taught me to value hard work."
Here is the RHHS Valedictorian speech by Cecilia Mateo:
Good morning and welcome. Before I begin my commencement speech, I would first like to thank some people. To the faculty and staff of Richmond Hill High School, thank you for providing us with a wonderful place to learn and guiding us through this journey to make sure we ended up at graduation. None of us would be here without your passion and dedication. To the friends and family of all the graduates today, thank you for your endless love and support— without you guys none of this would be possible. And lastly, to all the graduates, this isn’t exactly a thank you, but I could not have asked for a better class to share this day with. We have been through a lot together, and today is the culmination of all the long nights and even longer days at school that we have survived. So congratulations on all your hard work. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.
There’s a popular phrase: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I know it’s cheesy and it’s a quote we’ve all probably heard at least once in our lives. However, it's something that I’ve been reflecting on a lot this past year. If you think back, we all have our moons— something we’ve been working towards for most of our high school careers or even most of our lives; maybe it was earning an athletic scholarship or getting into a particular school. My moon was getting into an Ivy League school. I worked really hard for it. I took the most difficult classes I could manage, joined a multitude of different clubs and extracurriculars, and pushed myself unrelentingly. This past winter, after years of work and stress, it came time for me to submit my applications. Three months later, I received my rejection letters.
I couldn’t help but be let down that the dream I had focused on for the entirety of my academic career would never be fully realized. But then I understood that all my work wasn’t for nothing. Almost two months later, I can safely say that my rejection wasn’t a failure. Even though I didn’t reach the goal I wanted, I found everything I needed during my journey through high school. Setting my sights on big schools early pushed me to take AP classes as a freshman. Without that push, I would have never taken AP Biology which helped me discover my love for biology and science. Deciding to join all the extracurriculars in hopes of becoming a well-rounded student helped me find friends and a love for helping others, something I hope to continue doing for the rest of my life. Joining the marching band was something I was initially hesitant about, but it led me to find my two best friends and a community that gradually became my second family.
Now, this is simply my story. Maybe you did end up getting recruited or getting into the school of your dreams. Maybe you achieved the goal, whatever it may be, or, maybe you’re like me and you didn’t. Even still, along the way, I am sure that you found something greater. You found friends and mentors, learned lessons in perseverance and diligence, and gained wisdom and life experience. The journey to achieve each and every goal you put your mind to teaches you something new, something you never expected. Don’t let mistakes or misses deter you because there is always something greater to be gained.
Graduates, even if you didn’t reach your moon or haven’t reached it yet, never stop working, never stop dreaming. Our lives have been intertwined for so long, and I have seen us all work hard to get to this finish line. As we prepare for a future where we are no longer seeing each other every day, I am confident that each of you is destined for great things that will leave a lasting impact. Each and every one of you was put here for a reason, and it’s up to you to find that and pursue it relentlessly. There are an infinite number of possibilities you can shoot for, and I’m sure that no matter what, you’ll end up where you are meant to be— whether it be on the moon or among the stars. Thank you everyone and congratulations Class of 2022!
Here is the RHHS Salutatorian speech by Ryan Wiebold:
Good morning everybody. I want to start off by saying thank you to the wonderful RHHS administrators, teachers, and staff; you all played a huge role in my life and the lives of others over the past four years- we wouldn’t be here without you. I also want to thank my friends and family for always helping me study and providing constant support. I want to give a special thank you to the baseball guys for the brotherhood we shared; I’ll never have something close to that again.
I think me standing here giving my speech before Cece is pretty poetic. After barely beating her GPA each year in middle school and then scoring just 10 points higher than her on the SAT, she is finally getting the last word over me. I’m very proud of her accomplishments and what she will achieve, and I’m happy to call her my friend.
What I want to talk about today is challenge. Everybody has had their own challenges during high school, some big and some small. I’ve had my share, believe it or not. Last year I was sitting at zero out of ten required service hours for my clubs… and it was May. I ended up getting all my hours by cataloging and boxing books for Mrs. Goldrick and Mrs. Turner as they moved offices, which led me to a friendship with those amazing teachers. Another time earlier this year, I really needed to go to the bathroom, but all of the ones on the west campus were closed down after a mysterious toilet disappearance. Some of us have struggled with procrastination, others with finding friends. Whatever the challenge, we persevered through these four years, and are now perched at the starting line for what comes next.
But really, some of us have had lifelong challenges that define who we are. When I was born, I was diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension and respiratory distress, which in English means I couldn’t breathe and almost died. Over the next few years, the doctors delivered to my parents a series of professional opinions: I would have extreme, if not total, hearing loss, I would have learning disabilities, and I would never be able to play team sports. Now, my lungs work just fine, I definitely don’t have trouble learning, and I’ve been an athlete my entire life- but whether due to the stress my infant body went through or the side effects of the medication I needed to live, I was left with mild to moderate hearing loss that I must deal with for my entire life.
My parents never wanted to limit me like the doctors suggested. They raised me to be more than a kid with hearing aids. I accomplished everything they wanted for me and more because I never saw this challenge as a towering cliff that I faced, but as a small hurdle along the way. Once you understand that everyone, even those who appear happy and carefree, have leapt over their own hurdles or are facing their own cliffs, you begin to realize that life is going to work out. If others can make it through, you can too. In fact, all of you have already overcome so much by being here today. In 2020, when it seemed like the worst time to be a high schooler, we adapted and thrived, and now, two years later, we graduate. I think that lets you know the amazing character held by the class of 2022. Most of our other personal challenges are different, but this difference is what has created all the unique people sitting around each and every one of you, ready to begin their next race.
All in all, don’t limit yourself. No challenge is too difficult to overcome. Life may not be easy, but you are all more prepared than you realize to take on whatever obstacles are in your path. Take that tough course, walk on to that college sports team, go skydiving; achieve what people around you thought you could never do. Every single one of you holds a unique place in this race to success - don’t let a hurdle or two hold you back. Thank you for the ride class of 2022.
Now, I am beyond honored to introduce your class valedictorian, Cecelia Mateo!
Here is the BCHS Valedictorian speech by Catalina Temple:
Good morning to the Bryan County High School Class of 2022! I would like to welcome the Bryan County Board of Education, BCMHS administration and faculty, fellow classmates, family, friends, and distinguished guests.
It is an honor to be here today to recognize the achievements and memories of this outstanding class.
It is surreal to be here at this very moment. This occasion felt so far away and nearly impossible when we started high school 4 years ago, yet here we are. We have endured a lot! We even survived a year of isolation and another with what seemed to be endless quarantines.
Despite these obstacles, we’ve discovered who we are, set goals for the future and are moving in the direction of our dreams. For that reason, I commend all of us for adapting and overcoming these challenges that have led us to this very moment.
As a key part of our high school journey, I would like to thank all the new-found friends and supportive teachers that have created beautiful memories for this graduating class to carry into the future. In addition, I would like to thank all the parents and family members for being here in attendance to encourage our success in the future.
The knowledge, time, and effort you have all put into this class is sincerely recognized and appreciated.
As our journey here comes to a close, many of us will continue to strive for success in the future by seeking secondary education, by going directly into the workforce, or by entering into the military. C.S. Lewis once said, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Graduation is not the end of a chapter, but the beginning of a new one.
Wherever your journey takes you, I truly hope that you embrace the future and keep striving to reach your goals and go forth to be just who you are as you chase your own success.
Finally, as we end our high school career, I find it fitting to say, as we were told every day during our time in school spent with our amazing principal, “If no one told you today, Ms. Raeburn, the Class of 2022 loves you.”
Here is the BCHS Salutatorian speech by Kyndal Leggett:
Good morning and welcome faculty and staff, friends and family, and most importantly, the class of 2022. I want to start off by saying how thankful and blessed each of us graduates should be for having the opportunity to walk across this stage and receive our diplomas.
When I began writing this speech most people told me, “you better be funny,” but 99 percent told me, “keep it short.” I could stand up here and ramble on about my high school experience, but I assured my classmates that I would “be quick” … I LIED - I worked hard for this and I’m going to talk. I’M JUST KIDDING!!
So for those of you who are just ready to graduate, I promise this speech will not last forever!.
Most of us have been together since we were 4 years old. We have grown up with one another, and you all are like family to me. I’m not saying everything has been rainbows and butterflies, but the good times most definitely outweigh the bad.
When I was a freshman, I was told over and over again to enjoy it while I can because it flies by.
I remember thinking to myself, “you’re crazy this is going to be the longest 4 years of my life.” Now that I am standing here, in my cap and gown, I realize how much I am truly going to miss high school. Friday night football games, preparing for homecoming week, stressing over completing the world’s longest paper, dressing up for my first high school dance, putting on a Redskin uniform, being sent off to state through the hallways, going to prom, and hearing Ms. Raeburn in the hallway with her jammy-pack; these are the things I think we will all miss the most.
I know I speak for each of us when I say; thank you mom and dad for being so supportive of my academic and extracurricular pursuits throughout the years. I know I can be a handful, but you always made it very easy for me to succeed.
Thank you to all the amazing teachers who have made this day possible. I want to say a big thank you to Mrs. Shelby for always pushing me to be a better version of myself and for always being there for me. Each of us graduates has a special teacher or staff member that we go to when we are stressed, and without that person we wouldn’t be standing here today, as confident young adults, ready for the next chapter of our lives.
Thank you Mrs. Raeburn for the endless amount of time and energy that you pour into this elite school and the commitment you show to all of the scholars and faculty. Your hard work and dedication is truly appreciated. I’ve been a part of this community my entire life, and it is obvious that we have the best principal.
Finally, I just want to congratulate each and every one of my fellow classmates on their achievements. I am so proud of us, and I am honored to be your 2022 Salutatorian.
To quote Elle Woods from Legally Blonde - “Congratulations Class of 2022 - WE DID IT!!!!”