The thoughts of a washed-up valedictorian

By Sierra Dotson
March 25, 2019

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Being at the top of the class with your best friend is the most amazing feeling in the world. Photo by Sierra Dotson.

From the day I started high school I knew I wanted to be first. Although graduation was four long years away, I knew that you didn’t just magically become Valedictorian senior year. If you really wanted it, you had to start working hard from the beginning.

I dedicated so much of my life to school. Everyday I would go from school, to practice, to work and then to bed. I had friends but because of my schedule there was not much wiggle room for a social life. However, despite how busy I was, my best friend Ashley was always there for me. She understood me because she had the same work ethic and the same dream.

In May 2017, me and Ashley were eating lunch when in walked our principal. He hand-delivered us each a fancy letter with an even fancier envelope. This was the moment I had been waiting for. My hard work had finally paid off. I was to be the Valedictorian, and Ashley my Salutatorian. To this day, Ashley is still my best friend. We had heard horror stories of class rank destroying friendships and vowed to never let that happen. She was happy for me and if the roles were reversed I would be just as happy for her.

Graduation was just as exciting as I imagined it would be. She and I each got to deliver our big speech and the cheers from our families in the bleachers was almost enough to move me to tears. I will always remember commencement as one of the proudest days of my life, however, a part of me always looks back on it with a feeling of resentment.

During commencement, I delivered my speech in front of more than a thousand people including not only my classmates but also all the families and faculty in attendance. Photo by Delaware Online.

During my senior year of high school and the summer that followed, I applied for so many scholarships that I eventually lost count. I graduated from Glasgow High School with straight A’s all four years and 4.4 GPA. I sat waiting by the mailbox waiting for the scholarship money to just start flowing in. But then it didn’t. I got denied by every single scholarship I applied for. I cannot express how heartbroken I felt. That heartbreak eventually turned to anger. I would break down in front of my parents trying to figure out why all my hard work still wasn’t enough.

This June, it will have been two year since I graduated high school. Being halfway through college makes high school seem so foreign and distant. Deep down, there is still a small voice in my head beating me up, saying, “All you gained from being Valedictorian was a trophy and bragging rights.” But I’ve learned to block that voice out because I now know that none of it’s true. It was an amazing accomplishment that I am incredibly proud of because I earned it with my own two hands. I look back now on the pain I felt and use it as a learning experience. It taught me that life isn’t only about the grades you get. After it’s over, it will only be reduced to letters and numbers on paper.

Your grades shouldn’t be your whole identity. My grades demonstrated that I was good at studying, but it was my actions and passions outside of the classroom that really showcased my abilities. The truth is that I had already been accepted to my dream school in November, long before the final class ranks could even begin being calculated. Cabrini didn’t just want Sierra the student: they wanted Sierra the creator, Sierra the leader, Sierra the innovator.

While I still think grades are important, I’ve come to learn that it all comes down to time management. If you don’t set aside time to relax and time to pursue your passions, you’ll overwhelm yourself. You’ll spend so much time with your nose in a book that you won’t even realize that life is passing you by at a million miles a minute. I was so busy trying to grow as a student that I almost forgot to grow as a person too. When I started college, I knew I was going to approach education differently. I still get okay grades, but I’m also taking the time to have fun, make friends and make memories so that two years from now, when I’m walking across the commencement stage, I won’t regret a thing.

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Sierra Dotson

Cabrini University 2021 // News Editor 2019-2020

1 thought on “The thoughts of a washed-up valedictorian”

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