Should RHS Continue to Not Honor a Valedictorian, Instead Using Selected Speakers?


Photo by Camila Torres

Pro: Sarai Presman

The tradition of having a valedictorian at graduation is an outdated practice because it brings on extra competition between students to be the best in their class. RHS has made the correct decision to get rid of this in recent years.

The valedictorian is the student who gives a final speech at graduation. He or she is picked from the students with highest grades of everyone in the graduating class. There is major competition to place in this pool of eligible students, and often lines are blurred to make it in. In the past, students have taken extra classes to one up others in order to have the credentials to be the top of the class.

Senior class sponsor Farron Riggs explained that RHS decided to get rid of the valedictorian in the early 2000’s because administration disliked the unfairness affiliated with the competition.

Instead, a group of seniors with top grades are honored at Senior Awards Night, so they can be recognized for their hard work. “By separating the recognition of grades and graduation, RHS has made the process of getting good grades less of a competition,” Riggs said.

The absence of a valedictorian also allowed speakers to be chosen from a larger pool of students in their class who may have gone beyond simply getting good grades. Speakers at graduation for the class of 2013 included Alumna Kelly McTighe who was involved in SGA and many school sports.

RHS includes students in graduation who are involved in extracurricular activities like student government to represent a broad view of the graduating class. This is good because the student who “wins’ valedictorian for outstanding grades is not necessarily a great representation of the class as a whole.

Alumnas Sara Jaller, Betsy Gorman and Jocelyn Hsueh all made speeches at this year’s graduation ceremony. They are all involved in RHS student government, as class president, student body president and class vice president.

Though getting rid of the valedictorian is a good first step, there is still some controversy surrounding the tradition of having some speakers chosen based on their participation in the SGA. For example, Betsy Gorman said, “I think it’s nice that the school recognizes [high performing students] at the senior awards ceremony because then the person who wins is recognized in front of their friends and not just strangers.”

The students with the top 5 percent in the graduating class are honored with the Governors Merit Scholastic Award of Maryland. This achievement includes a medal at graduation and is also recognized at Senior Awards Night. However, it is good because they are not given anything extra at graduation and it makes the whole process less competitive.

Photo by Camila Torres
Photo by Camila Torres

Con: Nora Wahlbrink

Four years of hard work all come down to one of the most important days in a student’s life: graduation. However, some students do not receive the credit they deserve at RHS as the valedictorian is not selected based on class rank.

Valedictorians are typically students with the highest weighted grade point average who are selected to represent their class, an honor which motivates many to excel. Traditionally, they get the chance to speak at graduation. Without this incentive, students’ may not give their best effort.

This year’s speakers are members of the SGA and were chosen based on their rank in position in the student government. SGA President Betsy Gorman, 2014 Class President Sara Jaller, and 2014 Class Vice President Jocelyn Hseuh all spoke. Although serving in these leadership roles benefits the senior class, there are many other student who worked hard academically and deserve a moment to shine in front of their class.

Good Counsel HS alumna (2011) valedictorian Molly Burgoyne not only had the highest grade point average, but also served in other student leadership positions. Burgoyne said, “Naming a valedictorian is important not as a way to motivate students to work hard, but rather as a way to recognize the time and commitment that students have made to perform exceptionally well.”

The valedictorian position not only serves as a major incentive, but also highlights the highest achieving student to the graduating class and their families. For some, the motivation to be the best in their class makes them work harder to get that recognition.

Junior Audrey Lyhus does well in school, but the valedictorian spot would have helped her do even better. “Being the best doesn’t really matter at Rockville because no one is acknowledged for it,” Lyhus said. “Here, just being good is considered good enough. Being the best is unnecessary.”

Senior class adviser Farron Riggs said that RHS decided not to have a class valedictorians because it did not properly represent the highest achiever.

“We weren’t really representing the top person a�� so we really didn’t think that was fair to name them valedictorian,” Riggs said.

The selection process should be adjusted in a way in which it fairly elects a high achieving, well rounded student a�� a valedictorian. The current selection based on SGA position is unfair to those students who worked hard academically and are not involved in SGA. Maybe a number should not dictate the process, but it should be taken into account so the hardest working students receive the recognition they deserve.


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