Senior Kendall Wheeler achieved a cumulative GPA of 4.3 and will represent the class of 2012 as its valedictorian. Wheeler will give a speech at graduation in addition to salutatorian Brady Lee and Student Body President Chandler Vargas.
After working towards straight A's for the duration of her high school career, the effort has paid off as Kendall Wheeler earned the title of valedictorian for the class of '12. With the help of online classes she has managed to maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 4.3, placing her at the top of her class.
Though academics reserved high priority over the last four years, Wheeler was involved in many extracurricular activities including drama, Academic Decathlon (AcaDec), California Scholarship Federation (CSF) and yearbook.
Before graduation, The Feather staff has conducted interviews with both Wheeler and the salutatorian Brady Lee in order to gain depth into their accomplishments and hear the advice they offer for their peers.
Fries: How does it feel to be valedictorian?
Wheeler: It's a strange and awesome feeling to be valedictorian. Strange because I never really thought of being valedictorian as an option for me, but awesome because I am glad I'm being recognized for the hard work I put in throughout these four years. I'm so extremely thankful for this and it does mean quite a lot to me.
Fries: Were you working towards receiving this position, or was it unexpected?
Wheeler: I was never aiming to be valedictorian. I saw my class rank on a transcript one year and I was extremely shocked that I was in the top three. Then when I found out I was ranked number two in the class a year later, I started to aim to be valedictorian. I wasn't sure if I would ever get there and I would be satisfied with being the salutatorian, but it happened and, while not completely unexpected, it wasn't something I definitely saw happening.
Fries: Throughout the year you and Salutatorian Brady Lee switched positions, how did that play a role in your second semester work ethic?
Wheeler: As of last semester, I thought I would be salutatorian, so I was going to take a more relaxed approach to this semester. I knew what grades I could get to remain salutatorian and I knew it wouldn't be difficult to achieve those grades. However, when I found out Brady and I switched places, that gave me an extra push in my last semester. Even though I took a more relaxed approach as compared to the first semester this year, I still studied hard to pass each test and final that I had. It was actually really great to have this extra push since senioritis can really set in during the second semester and grades can start to slip. Yet, this gave me the motivation to keep going and keep my grades up.
Fries: With a GPA of 4.3 you branched out to take classes not offered at FC. Why did you choose to take these classes and do you think it helped in your education?
Wheeler: I actually only took one class outside of FC. Last semester, government wouldn't fit in my schedule, so I had to take it online. After talking with Molly Sargent, I decided I could just take Advanced Placement (AP). Even though it would be challenging, I was up for it. I enjoy having a challenging schedule and, while this piled on a whole new level of stress I hadn't experienced yet, I think it was worth it to learn the material on a more challenging level and the fact that I had to constantly dedicate myself to sitting down every day to do work since I didn't have due dates or deadlines. I think this helped a lot in my education because I had to motivate myself and I didn't have a teacher helping me out the entire time. I had to learn to do things on my own and I think this was a great lesson to learn before heading off to college.
Fries: Aside from academic classes, you were involved in AcaDec, CSF, Spanish Club, drama and served as Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook staff. Was being involved in these extra curricular activities ever overwhelming and stressful?
Wheeler: I would be completely lying if I said that being involved in extracurriculars wasn't overwhelming at times. While the clubs weren't necessarily that stressful, the dedication to extracurriculars that were actual classes brought on a whole new level of stress. Our drama productions were at the same time as yearbook deadlines which were near the same time we started to really crack down and study hard for AcaDec. I barely had any time to myself for about three months, let alone any time to study or be with friends. Yet, the experience was great because I met so many different people and I actually enjoyed constantly being busy.
While maintaining above a 4.0, senior Kendall Wheeler was involved in many extracurricular activities including drama, Academic Decathlon and yearbook. Wheeler has decided to attend Oklahoma Christian University in the fall where she will major in Biology.
Fries: At some point every student experiences stress, but do you have any tactics for relieving stress?
Wheeler: My main tactic, as weird as this sounds, is cross stitching. I carry a cross stitch with me everywhere I go. I'm one of those people that can listen in class while doing something else, so I would always cross stitch while listening to lectures. It's just a peaceful thing to sit down for thirty minutes and cross stitch nonstop, knowing you're creating a beautiful picture.
Fries: In order to maintain a GPA as high as yours, you obviously had strong motivation. Do you have any advice for students who struggle with motivation?
Wheeler: I definitely understand the difficulty with finding motivation and constantly pushing yourself to do the best you can in anything you do. I think the easiest way to get motivated and keep the motivation going is to set small goals for yourself in each activity you're involved in. Each goal should be one that isn't impossible to achieve, but just requires a little more work than not doing anything for classes, sports or extracurriculars.
Fries: Was their a specific teacher or mentor that pushed you to reach this point in your education?
Wheeler: The teacher that has really helped me throughout the past couple years is Sargent. I had three classes with her this year and I knew I could always go to her if I needed assistance with anything. There were times when I felt completely overwhelmed and these were the times when she would talk with me, giving me the support I needed to carry on. She has pushed me to reach my full potential more than any other teacher and I appreciate her support throughout high school.
Fries: Have any friends helped you in remaining at the top of your class? How?
Wheeler: My friends have played a huge role in my schooling. Whenever I was extremely busy, I always tried to find time to be with them because having them around me really helped my stress level go down. We're all very dedicated to our school work and so I knew I could always have their support even when I didn't have a lot of time to be with them. We all push each other and help each other out and it's been great to have that support behind me.
Fries: After 13 years in Christian education, why did you chose to attend Oklahoma Christian University?
Wheeler: Ever since I was little I knew I was going to attend Oklahoma Christian University because that's where my dad went and it had always been the number one option for me. After visiting OC, I really fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere. There's still the small school feeling and there's still all the different opportunities to do a variety of activities, which I really like.
Fries: Do you think the environment offered at small Christian schools has helped you throughout your 13 years in education and in what ways?
Wheeler: It has been extremely helpful. With such a small school, I got to know each teacher on a more personal level and I had many opportunities to do different things, forming a variety of friendships along the way. These upsides to a small school really helped me find myself and realize what I love to do and who I want to be.
Fries: Throughout your four years in high school, what was one experience that you will remember long after you graduate?
Wheeler: The one experience I will always remember is the closeness our class had. Any time our class was together whether it be for homecoming float building or senior retreat, we always had a great time. We always found time to joke around with one another, but at the same time we always found a way to grow even closer as brothers and sisters in Christ. I really think that those experiences that I had with my classmates will stick with me forever.
Fries: Do you think you're prepared to leave for college, aside from expected nerves?
"I feel like the teachers I've had and the classes I've taken have prepared me for college and the workload I will experience there. I've realized that everything I've done in high school was in preparation for college and now I can't wait to go into the real world and put all of the things I've learned to good use." --Kendall Wheeler,'12
Wheeler: I do think I'm ready to leave for college. I feel like the teachers I've had and the classes I've taken have prepared me for college and the workload I will experience there. I've realized that everything I've done in high school was in preparation for college and now I can't wait to go into the real world and put all of the things I've learned to good use.
Fries: Now that you've successfully completed your high school career, how would you change it?
Wheeler: I'm not sure if I would change anything. If I had to pick, though, I'd actually take more challenging classes. I've realized I really love to learn and I love the challenge of difficult classes. If I got a chance to change something, I might want to push myself a bit more, either taking more AP classes online or taking college courses.
Fries: What is one lesson you wish you could have known on the first day of freshman year?
Wheeler: I wish someone had told me that I should get involved with everything I possibly could and the minor stress I may feel will be outweighed by the payoff I receive. While everyone may not be good at everything, how will you know unless you try many things? The only way to find out what you love to do and what your passionate about is to try different activities until you find what you love. Once you find what you love whether it be sports, academics, journalism or drama, you can work on honing your talent in that area.
Graduation for the class of 2012 will be held May 24 at 7 p.m. in the Peoples Church sanctuary. A short reception will follow immediately afterwards in the Peoples Church gym.
For an interview with the salutatorian, read the May 24 article Profile on salutatorian: Brady Lee.