Published on March 24th, 2017 | by Rachel Anderson


The Valedictorian process

The second semester marks the beginning of the very end for Samo’s seniors, and as graduation nears, the titles of Valedictorian and Salutatorian are sought after by the most academically savvy of the ’17 class.

Valedictorian candidates are those in the senior class with the highest grades and academic achievements, while Salutatorians are those with the second highest. Commonly, Salutatorians are the students who give speeches at graduation ceremonies, but at Samo, another student gives the speech.

Besides the honor of being named Valedictorian or Salutatorian and the work one accomplishes to earn this title, it is not much besides just that: a title. Although it’s impressive on paper, colleges won’t see it on applications because the honoree isn’t announced until the end of the second semester. This makes the title less valuable to students.

“[Being valedictorian] is not really important,” Johnny Butchko (’17) said. “I’ve already gotten into college, and Valedictorian doesn’t really do anything for you.”

Many students still attempt to be eligible just as an accomplishment for themselves individually. However, the process to attain this title is not an easy feat.

The Valedictorian has to pass a series of qualifications, even to start out as a nominee. These requirements include maintaining a 4.00 grade point average throughout all four years of high school, as well as not getting any suspensions or extreme punishments.  

After the nominees are named, the courses that each nominee took throughout their high school career are broken down even further, until just one or two Valedictorians are selected.  

In April, a committee is chosen to decide the Valedictorian. All the members of the committee must not have children at Samo, in order to avoid bias towards certain students. The committee members include the district director of information service, one designated administrator, the scholarship coordinator, the Delian advisor, a college counselor and two random faculty members. According to Butchko, he doesn’t mind the administration’s ultimate say as to the winner of these prestigious titles.

“I’m fine with the administrators [choosing a valedictorian],” Butchko said. “They know the students best.”

First, before any courses are determined and weighed, student must have attended six semesters at Samo, including the first and second semester of their senior year. They also must be a graduating, fourth year senior for their year, meaning candidates cannot be held back or skip a year ahead.

Those who fill that requirement must have maintained an unweighted 4.00 GPA throughout their four years of high school. The GPAs are collected at the end of the first semester, but the candidates must receive all As the second semester as well. In the unlikely case that no student has a 4.00, then the next highest GPAs are considered. After GPAs are considered, each candidate is also reviewed by academical ethics.

“Everything is taken into consideration,” college counselor Julie Honda said. “Yes, the committee reviews mostly academic things, but they even consider how you are as a person.”

Every academic course that students take can be used for credit towards Valedictorian, even if they were through SMC. College course classes are weighted, however, as well as Honors, AP, and CC. An unweighted class is on a scale of four points (meaning an A counts as four points towards Valedictorian credits), and weighted classes are on a scale of five points (meaning an A counts as five points toward Valedictorian credits).

Once all the credits are counted, the student with the highest score is announced Valedictorian the day of the graduation ceremony, during the morning rehearsal. If there is a tie between two or more students, multiple honors can be given.

“The system is a well-oiled machine,” Honda said.

The extensive process might seem unnecessary to some and designed to exclude almost everyone from the running. However, the students disagree, thinking it’s a long process, but equal.

“We always have a few candidates, so I think it’s fair,” Butchko said.  

While some seniors decide not to prioritize the Valedictorian/Salutatorian selection process and don’t wish to stress about it, many are looking forward to the process that will begin later this semester. After all the college admissions stress and during the final months of high school, the announcement of Valedictorian will provide a perfect graduation present and the cherry on top of one or two lucky students’ high school experiences.


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