Q&A with the Class of 2014 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

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Brianna Clarke, this year’s valedictorian.

Today, the Class of 2014 closes one chapter and begins another with graduation. Reporter Kennedy Stidham sat down with Valedictorian Brianna Clarke and Salutatorian Valarie Cardenas to talk about this special day and their ranks.

Stidham: What was your reaction when you found out your rank?

Clarke: I was really excited about it.

Cardenas: I was genuinely shocked and surprised. My initial rank was seven and every semester since then I’ve risen, but I don’t think I ever got used to it. My goal was to graduate in top 5; being 2 is truly astonishing and proves everyone who said I was do it correct.

Stidham: Who has been the most influential person in terms of your academic career?

Clarke: My dad has probably been the most influential person for helping me achieve this because he has always been teaching me new things. He also helps motivate me to work hard.

Valarie Cardenas, this year's salutatorian.
Valarie Cardenas, this year’s salutatorian.

Cardenas: I don’t necessarily think that it has been just one person. I tend to gather inspiration and motivation from every single person around me. I’m truly indebted to every single person in my life, and the particularly special people know who they are.

Stidham: What do you plan to talk about in your speech?

Clarke: I plan to talk about the journey we have been on and where we are going in the future.

Cardenas: My speech truly embodies who I am; it’s very lighthearted and easygoing. Anybody who knows me knows I never take anything too seriously, so I really tried to keep my speech in the same tone. Of course I have to bestow some words of wisdom, so with that I’ll say “Being afraid to try is being afraid to get better.”

Stidham: What advice would you give for someone who aspires to one day have the same rank?

Clarke: I would tell them to work hard starting freshman year and to always complete every single assignment as well as they can.

Cardenas: You are the consequences of your choices. No matter what it is, always give your best because you want to and not because someone tells you. If you give your best, it’s hard to have regret and wonder “what if”. All of your hard work will pay off exponentially in more ways than you can imagine. Set your goal and follow it.

Stidham: What is next for you now that high school is complete?

Clarke: I’m going to John Brown University in the fall where I will major in Early Childhood Education to become an elementary school teacher.

Cardenas: In the fall I will be fulfilling my dream of attending the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin on a full ride scholarship thanks to the Terry Foundation and another scholarship from the school itself. Until then I plan on enjoying my summer because for the first time in over six years I won’t have a summer assignment. Overall I’m extremely excited to be able to make a difference and embark on the endless adventures the future holds.