Top of their class

Valedictorians, salutatorian discuss time at Baldwin

BALDWIN — In a little more than two weeks, the Baldwin Community Schools graduating Class of 2014 will walk across the high school gym stage and receive their diplomas.

This year, 95 percent of the senior class have made plans to attend college or enlist in the armed services. Many applied to multiple institutions and were accepted to more than one of those institutions.

Of the 95 percent, three students stand out as being at the top of their class. This year, two students have been named valedictorian and one student has been named salutatorian.

“(Being valedictorian or salutatorian) definitely says that you are a scholar and you are consistent,” said Baldwin High School Principal Calvin Patillo. “Anyone knows that you cannot be the valedictorian or the salutatorian and at any point of time dropped off. You have constantly been a scholar and a person who really believes academics was important from day one.”

This year’s valedictorians are Brittney Grant and Tyler Shepler, and the salutatorian is Daekwon Fisher. Grant was accepted to Madonna University, Oakland Community College and Lansing Community College; Shepler was accepted to Ferris State University and Grand Valley State University; and Fisher was accepted to Northern Michigan University, Saginaw Valley State University and Oakland University.

Each of the students are deserving, hardworking, focused individuals, Patillo said. He added that he wouldn’t be surprised if each of them gave back to the community in the future.

“The three of them represent the diversity in the Baldwin community,” Patillo said. “All three of them have different personalities and different stories that have brought them to this point. I think all three of them are very determined and they all have really bright futures before them.”

As the students prepared to be dismissed from Baldwin Community Schools for the last time, the Lake County Star spoke with Grant, Shepler and Fisher to discuss their time at BCS, thoughts on graduation and plans for the future.

Brittney Grant, Valedictorian

Grant has been raised in Baldwin her entire life. While she might not have been striving to become valedictorian as a young child, she has always taken her academics seriously.

“My family has always pushed me to do the best that I can do,” Grant said. “Even as a young child, I’ve always been good in school. I kind of made my expectations high for myself.”

It was Grant’s freshman year in high school when she realized those high expectations gave her the potential to become valedictorian. Noticing she had the drive to reach to the top of her class academically, Grant stayed focused on her schoolwork. She admits, though, sometimes it was hard to balance her social life and academics, but her grades had to come first, she said.

In the end, the balance was worth it. Her advice to her fellow classmates who might be in a similar situation is, “Ask for help. Try your hardest that you can. Friends will be there if they are really your friends, school comes once.”

Grant feels vindicated knowing she will graduate with top honors.

“It feels good, like I feel like all my hard work finally paid off,” Grant said. “While other people just care if they pass, I actually cared if my grade was good.”

Grant plans to attend Madonna University to study sign language and child development. She said she is excited for the next chapter in her life, but will be sad to leave everyone she has grown up with. She also thanks those in her life who pushed her along and made sure she was doing her best.

“This will always be my home,” Grant said. “This is where I was raised my entire life, so I will always come back and visit.”

Tyler Shepler, Valedictorian

Shepler started attending BCS in the seventh grade. He’s had good grades most of his life, but he admits he has had to work hard to achieve those grades. To know he too was named valedictorian meant his hard work paid off in the end.

“I felt very proud of myself,” Shepler said.

His advice to his fellow classmates to help them reach the top of their class is to make sure to do the work that is assigned to you, follow the directions and complete it fully.

Shepler will attend Grand Valley State University this fall and study accounting. He said he also is interested in medical programs the university offers, like the pharmacy program. Until the fall, though, Shepler plans to practice driving more and get a summer job.

“I’m going to get one last summer in before actually going to college,” he said.

Shepler plans to address those who have helped him along the way during his graduation speech, but he would like to tell them “thank you.”

Although he is a little nervous to head to college, Shepler said he is excited for the next chapter in his life.

“I’ll miss (my friends and family), (but) I’m going to be happy to go,” he said.

Daekwon Fisher, Salutatorian

Having attended BCS his entire life, becoming salutatorian wasn’t something Fisher thought about as a kid. He got into a lot of trouble when he was younger, he said, but decided to change that after middle school.

“When I got to high school, it was like, ‘You’ve got to get serious to get to where you want to be,’” Fisher said. “I was just trying to make it out of high school, I never thought that I would be salutatorian.”

Fisher stayed focused, worked on his grades and tried not to get distracted, he said. His dedication worked as he found out he was his class’ salutatorian last week.

He is happy being salutatorian, but he thinks it will mean even more to his mother. He plans to surprise her with the news and will try to keep it a secret from her until the Candlelight Ceremony or graduation.

“I think when (my mother) first finds out she will be really happy, probably be happier than me,” Fisher said. “To me, it’s just a good award to finally know that I made it. I am at the top of my class.”

Staying focused on his grades and having a social life wasn’t difficult for Fisher. He has played sports since his freshman year which helped him maintain high grades, he said. Fisher plans to attend Saginaw Valley University and study criminal justice. He too says he is excited to go to college, but will miss Baldwin.

He also plans to wait until graduation night to thank those who have helped him along the way, but he does have advice to classmates who want to be salutatorian or valedictorian.

“Take your freshman and sophomore classes from the start as no joke, because that will come back to haunt you,” he said. “You can be a senior but still have to take English 12 because you messed around your freshman year. You have to stay on that.”

Fisher also promised he won’t come back to Baldwin until he has his college degree in hand.

The BCS Candlelight Ceremony will take place at 8 a.m. on May 29 in the high school cafeteria. The BCS graduation ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. on May 30 in the high school gym.