Being valedictorian is a family affair

Published 9:48 am Friday, June 20, 2014

COURTLAND—Southampton Academy’s valedictorian Rachel White did a little bit of everything in high school.

Rachel White holds up her valedictorian medal in the library. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Rachel White holds up her valedictorian medal in the library. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

The 18-year-old maintained top grades in school, was a member of several clubs, the scholastic bowl, Beta Club, book club, SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) to name a few, and she was also a varsity cheerleader and tennis player.

“The scholastic bowl was definitely one of my favorites,” she said. “It was mostly history questions, and I really like history. When I would know the answer, it was a really good feeling. And when I didn’t, I’d have to figure out why I did not know this.”

That’s not to say she didn’t enjoy the other activities, as the book club was really fun.

“The librarian did the book club, and I really like her,” she said. “She is fun and she always picked good books for you. They are young readers books, and I know they are probably not great books, but they are just interesting. And I love books.”

She was also vying for becoming valedictorian and finished with a 4.1 GPA. It wasn’t really aimed at her fellow classmates, but more so her brothers. One had been a valedictorian in the Northampton County school system in North Carolina, while the other had been a salutatorian.

“I am a little competitive,” she said with a laugh. “No one was really pressuring me to be one, but I don’t know, if you can do it, I figured why not be the best you can be?”

White, from Pendleton, North Carolina, transferred to Southampton Academy in the 6th grade.

“I liked it here,” she said. “I mean, it was a rough transition at first. I don’t think anyone likes change — I certainly don’t.”

She said the school was close-knit, though.

“You knew everyone and everyone knew you,” she said. “You felt like people wanted to talk to you.”

Coming from a small school does worry her a little, though, as she gets ready to transition to college. In the fall, she will attend East Carolina University in Greenville.

She’s thinking about majoring in psychology, though she admits that she really enjoys history as well.

“I had a job shadowing a psychologist over the summer, and I thought that was interesting,” she said.

Her hesitation with history is that the main thing you can do with it is teach, and she isn’t sure that she wants to be a teacher, but she’s definitely looking forward to taking some history classes in college.

“History is really cool,” White said. “I like learning it backwards because you can see how one thing affects another. And the people — they are really interesting.”

She said one of her favorites was Andrew Jackson, who she wrote a report on in AP U.S. History. She also enjoyed the course.

Going off is going to be tough, but she’s also excited about the opportunity to learn to live on her own and to meet new friends.

“I’m going to miss my parents, miss home, and I’m definitely going to miss my cats because I love them,” she said. “Change is hard for me, but I feel like I have to go through it.”

It does help that she’s already got a classmate who is going to school at ECU, and one of her fellow graduates will also go there.

When she’s not studying, she liked to help out at her church, particularly with leading the youth groups. For fun, she likes to go to the beach, watch movies, read and sleep, but she emphasized going outside.

“The Meherrin river is behind our house,” she said. “I really like to go out and kayak and fish on it.”

While at SA, White also tried her hand at being a student athlete. First, she joined the cheerleading squad her freshman year.

“I felt like I needed to do something,” she said. “I tried soccer, but that didn’t really work for me. But with cheerleading, I tried it out one time and I really liked it a lot. It was really fun, and it challenges you more than people think.”

And then during her sophomore year, she again wanted to try to do something new, and that was tennis.

“It is really great trying something for the first time and then you realize that you can do it,” she said. “It was great seeing myself get better with it. Once I got the hang of it, I was kind of like, ‘OK, I really like this sport.’”

Doing everything she could do on campus occasionally led to challenges.

“Sometimes I was up way late at night because I had to keep up with my grades,” she said. “But, you always find time. You have to time manage and you pick what you need to do over going to see a movie or whatever. You have to figure out what is more important to you.”

Her parents were helpful.

“Sometimes I was rushing my parents, like, ‘We have to get home quicker, we can’t stop and eat at this place,’” she said. “I like eating more than everyone else in my family, but we had to get home because I had stuff to get done for tomorrow. School was always number one.

“My parents were never pushing me to be anything,” she continued. “They knew I could do anything. They were just supportive.”