Love of school, experience drives WHS valedictorian

Published 10:35 am Friday, June 13, 2014

CARRSVILLE—When William Archer delivers his valediction tonight at the graduation ceremony in Windsor High School, he won’t just be saying farewell to classmates. He’ll be saying good bye to his other family.

William Archer of Carrsville presents some of the academic awards he has won. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

William Archer of Carrsville presents some of the academic awards he has won. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Archer, 18, the son of Bob and Kate Archer of Carrsville, said the theme of his address will be the students.

“Really, I want to celebrate the class of 2014. We all have this unique family. That’s something that needs to be talked about and to celebrate the times,” he said. “You really do form a family.”

He quickly includes the instructors in that category, hesitant to name names for fear leaving out anyone.

“Our teachers and coaches they care so much about us. My heart goes out to Mrs. [Jane] Lankford in English and Ms. [Deborah] McManaway — she ‘s a chemistry teacher. She’s the one who really got me into science,” said Archer, who added that in 11th grade McManaway urged him not to go into business.

“’Business? You’re too smart for that. You can give so much more to the world,’” he recalled her telling him. She would also listen to him rant or give advice.

Brandon Bossick, who teaches history, got Archer to not only take an interest in reading on the subject, but also expanded his musical tastes, such as introducing him to ska.

Molly Nelms taught him math twice, and was also a “great Student Government Association sponsor.

“I could go on for days about them,” he said. “They love you like their own son or daughter. You can feel that.”

Fellow students and teachers combined with his thirst for learning have made for memorable learning experiences. For example, participating in the Scholastic Bowl was one of the best experiences of his life.

“We just got to have a lot of fun. We succeeded just because we were having fun, and were defeated all three years we played. It was a good feeling to grow through it,” he said. “In my senior year I was the only returning player. I got to influence the next generation and make my impact and, I hope, to continue a legacy.”

During the time at Windsor High School, Archer has earned distinction not only academically, but also through extracurricular activities. In addition to serving as president of the Student Government Association, he’s been presented medals for the following:

• Last summer he traveled to the national conference of Future Business Leaders of America in Anaheim, California. In addition to doing job interviews then, it was “cool to meet so many people and from different backgrounds. There were 9,000 kids in one room,” he said. “I just had a great time and experienced something new.” Involvement in the organization has also included being a vice president and president for the Thomas Nelson Region – FBLA. He was a state officer for awhile, but a timing conflict with Boys State required him to give that up.

• For the Great Computer Challenge, Archer and friends made a team “for fun. We wrote six challenges using the computer language of C++”

• Then there was first place in the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition.

• The Beta Club, which is an honor society at Windsor High School.

• The New Horizons Governor’s School in Science and Technology in Hampton, which was a two-year program. Participation there got him a trip to Houston for the sake of conducting an experiment while temporarily weightless.

• The William and Mary Leadership Award, which was earned back in his junior year; he’s thinking of wearing that medal.

• Finally, another medal for being named valedictorian, which also might be worn tonight.

He noted that at Windsor High School, though, they “don’t try to put too much emphasis on one person — education is for everyone.”

“I wasn’t really planning on becoming valedictorian,” said Archer. “My whole goal was to get into the college I wanted. Being valedictorian just came with it. In the long run I just kept doing well. I wasn’t actively striving for the role.”

Actually, he’ll get another honor on Saturday when presented the Eagle Scout Award, which is the highest that Boy Scouts can earn. As a Boy Scout in Troop 125, Archer renovated Shands Park in Courtland by having the landmark gazebo cleaned and new flowers planted.

“I wanted to give them something that would continue to be that symbol,” he said.

In addition to school work, which usually required 4 to 5 hours of homework, there have also been part-time jobs. Archer said he has been a web developer at Insercorp; a landscaper at a private resident; work at NASA/Langley; and most recently at Jefferson Labs in Newport News.

There he’s been working on a compact range lab to test electromagnetic shielding (“Really a great experience.”) with Dr. Wes Lawrence, a professor from Old Dominion University. He hopes that will continue through the summer before heading to the University of Pennsylvania.

“Before I actually visited, I had always been set on Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was my dream since second grade,” he said.

But what changed his mind about that as well as going to West Point was a trip to Philadelphia.

“I met the students. They just love their school and they try to show you around,” said Archer. “On Moving Day, one student pulled me aside and walked me around the campus. That really meant a lot. The people are so active and love the community.”

His own moving date is Aug. 21, and he’s still deciding on a pre-orientation program. There’s also the beach, spending time with friends and “enjoying life as much as possible.”

The plan at the university is to earn a two degrees. One will be a bachelor of science – engineering in computer science and the other a bachelor of arts in cognitive science.

“I want to be in something I enjoy,” he said. “Hopefully, afterward I’ll seek fellowships and maybe try to become a Rhodes Scholar. Why not shoot for the highest?

“I love school. I love learning,” Archer continued. His GPA is roughly calculated at 4.42. “If I can get paid doing both, it’s the best of both worlds.”

Asked about the source of his ambition, Archer thought for a moment.

“I just can’t say no to anything. I will do everything possible to get it into my experience. If I don’t, I’m missing out on what life’s trying offer me. You can never go wrong meeting new people and new experiences.”

Like everyone else, he’s got 24 hours each day to live.

“The difference is how I use those 24 hours.”

Windsor High School will have its graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. today in the gymnasium.