New System Honors More Graduates at Commencement


Meghan Keith, Staff Reporter

Achieving valedictorian status has been a goal of many in high schools across America for decades. This year Wake County officials have decided it is time to retire the valedictorian award, leaving some wondering why.

For many students school is where they put all their effort. They dedicate hours studying, preparing for tests, taking rigorous AP classes and making sure their work is perfect. Their work will still be rewarded, just in a different manner.

Elizabeth Holland is currently top of the senior class, and while the final class ranking could change, Holland is unquestionably in the running for the number one spot in her grade.

“I feel that it is unreasonable for the valedictorian and salutatorian awards to be taken away because the people who earn these awards have constantly challenged themselves and worked extremely hard to learn and understand as much information as they can,” Holland said. “These students go the extra mile, and they are no longer being awarded for their hard work and dedication.”

Sydney Crisanti, currently second, is also disappointed.

“I actually am really upset about it because I came into high school wanting, planning to work really hard to be number one and number two and then they took it away my junior year, kind of recently. So, it’s now kind of really discouraging because now I don’t really care as much,” Crisanti said.

Holland draws a parallel between athletics and academics.

“The school recognizes the football team for being first in athletics multiple times, but the school refuses to recognize their top students for academics. What is this teaching our students?” Holland said. “I feel that recognition should be given where recognition is due for academics as well. It’s only fair.”

School leaders began informing counselors and students two years ago.

WCPSS will move to a system that mimics universities. Those with a weighted GPA of 4.25 or higher will receive the distinction of summa cum laude, 4.0-4.249 the recognition of magna cum laude and 3.75-3.99 cum laude.

The intent is, “providing a common, consistent standards for recognizing academic excellence across all 32 high schools in the district. This allows for individual academic excellence to be measured against a set standard, rather than being dependent upon how other students in a given school may perform,” Wake County Senior Director of High School Programs Drew Cook said.

While this decision has disappointed Holland and Crisanti, Cook says the decision may be beneficial to students who want to take classes that they are passionate about.

“The new system is likely to encourage students to take more of the courses where they have a true interest and/or need, rather than over-focusing only on those courses that are worth more quality points and may boost a GPA,” Cook said.

Holland remains proud of her accomplishment despite the change.

“One day in sixth grade, I was having a conversation with my mom, and I decided that it was a goal of mine to become the valedictorian of my graduating class,” Holland said, “I would not want it any other way because I have a passion for learning about new topics and a desire for success.”