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Schools name valedictorians and salutatorians

Press Release
June 8, 2019
Contact:  Todd Hagans
            Chief Communications Officer
            Office:  (704) 866-6118
            Cell:      (704) 718-0279

Gaston high schools name valedictorians and salutatorians

Gastonia, N.C. – Gaston County Schools has 22 students in the Class of 2019 who have achieved valedictorian or salutatorian honors.  Each valedictorian and salutatorian were recognized during high school graduation.

The senior with the highest weighted grade point average (GPA) is selected valedictorian and the senior with the second-highest weighted GPA is chosen salutatorian.

Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker said, “We are pleased to recognize and honor 22 seniors in the Class of 2019 as our valedictorians and salutatorians – we are very proud of these outstanding students.”

Dr. Booker continued, “On behalf of the Board of Education, we congratulate our valedictorians and salutatorians in the Class of 2019 for maintaining an impressive academic record during their educational career, and we thank them for being excellent leaders and role models at school and in our community.  We are confident that these high-achieving students will continue to be successful in everything they choose to do.” 

Listed below are the valedictorians and salutatorians for the 11 high schools and biography information about each student.

Ashbrook High School

Valedictorian:  Luke Shuler

  • Parents: Quintin and Valerie Shuler
  • College Plans: N.C. State University to major in nuclear engineering; plans to pursue a career in nuclear engineering. 
  • Accolades: Commissioners School of Excellence, junior marshal; captain of the varsity tennis team; U.S. Marine Corps Distinguished Athlete Award; completed the Gaston College Associate of Arts college transfer pathway with 33 credit hours.

 Salutatorian:  Zachary Fargher

  • Parent: Susan Tallent    
  • College Plans: Brown University to major in environmental engineering; plans a career in working to create better forms of renewable energy sources.
  • Accolades: Full tuition scholarship to attend Brown University; Gaston Gazette Star Student; captain of the junior varsity soccer and varsity swim teams; chief marshal; voted by his peers as “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Bessemer City High School

Valedictorian:  Henrry Novoa Polanco  

  • Parent: Zandra Gonzalez                      
  • College Plans: Gaston College and transfer to UNC-Charlotte to major in nursing. 
  • Accolades: Gaston Gazette Star Student; Principal’s Award; varsity boys soccer team; National Technical Honor Society; Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification; Whetstone Masonic Lodge Scholarship; Bessemer City First Wesleyan Scholarship; Junior Heart Board Scholarship. 

Salutatorian:  Ladameion Samuel Butler  

  • Parents: Renee Gamble and Kyle Sellers                    
  • College Plans: UNC-Charlotte to major in electrical engineering.     
  • Accolades: Gaston Gazette Best and Brightest; chief junior marshal; member of the Beta Club, student government, varsity boys basketball team, and captain of the soccer team; Albert G. Myers Scholarship; E.R. and Lillian B. Dimmette Scholarship.   

Cherryville High School

 Valedictorian:  Chase Abernathy              

  • Parents: Amy Heavner and Kevin Abernathy              
  • College Plans: Campbell University to major in pre-pharmacy.         
  • Accolades: Gaston Gazette Star Student; Campbell University Presidential Scholarship; Cherryville Rotary Club Scholarship; various local and college-specific scholarships. 

 Salutatorian: Jace Brittain           

  • Parents: Kelvin and Linda Brittain                  
  • College Plans: Maryville College to major in computer science.
  • Accolades: Gaston Gazette Best and Brightest; Cherryville High School Harrelson Scholarship; various academic and athletic college-specific scholarships; signed to play football at Maryville College.

Stuart W. Cramer High School

 Valedictorian:  Payton Grace Dyksterhouse                     

  • Parents: Andy Dyksterhouse and Kelly Dyksterhouse            
  • College Plans: Wake Forest University (major is undecided).           
  • Accolades: Gaston Gazette Best and Brightest; N.C. Governor’s School; chief junior marshal; National Honor Society secretary; varsity soccer team captain. 

Salutatorian:  Jessica Lorene Medlin                   

  • Parents: Chris Medlin and Page Medlin                      
  • College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in political science; plans to attend law school.
  • Accolades: National Honor Society; NewGen Peacebuilder Award; junior marshal; N.C. Coaches Association Scholarship; varsity chorus member.              

East Gaston High School 

Valedictorian:  John Edward Bedard 

  • Parents: Edward and Diane Bedard
  • College Plans: N.C. State University to double major in chemical engineering and pulp and paper engineering.
  • Accolades: Co-recipient of the Male Scholar Athlete of the Year Award; Albert G. Myers Scholarship; N.C. State Pulp and Paper Engineering Scholarship; all-conference wrestling for three years. 

 Salutatorian:  Adam McBee Poole             

  • Parents: Bobby and Leslie Poole         
  • College Plans: Clemson University to major in business.
  • Accolades: Co-recipient of the Male Scholar Athlete of the Year Award; completed every AP (Advanced Placement) history course offered at East Gaston; Clemson University Out-of-State Scholarship and Clemson University Charles Sydney Henriquez Scholarship. 

Forestview High School

 Valedictorian:  Rebecca Ann Cloninger

  • Parents: Brian and Teresa Cloninger               
  • College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major biochemistry and minor in Spanish.
  • Accolades: Three-sport athlete: cross country, swimming, and soccer; captain of cross country and soccer teams; co-leader of the Backpack Weekend Food Program; UNC-Chapel Hill Merit Scholarship; John Hunsucker Scholarship; Academic Athlete of the Year; U.S. Marine Corps Academic Excellence Award.  

 Salutatorian:  Taylor Justice          

  • Parents: Jason Justice and Elizabeth Justice
  • College Plans: The Ohio State University (Honors College) to major in molecular genetics and/or microbiology and minor in German; plans to become a doctor or surgeon.
  • Accolades: National Buckeye Scholarship; Maximus Scholarship; Charlotte Buckeye Alumni Scholarship; AP (Advanced Placement) Scholar with Distinction; Salem College Book Awards; German club.

Gaston Early College High School

 Valedictorian:  James Logan Abee

  • Parents: James Abee and Paula Abee
  • College Plans: Western Carolina University to major in chemistry; plans to attend medical school at New York University or Johns Hopkins University.
  • Accolades: Gaston College Distinguished Graduate for Associate of Science; Gaston College graduation marshal; Gaston Gazette Star Student; Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award; Hero of Chemistry Award; Einstein Award.

 Salutatorian:  Kyra Rhyne

  • Parent: Timothy Rhyne                        
  • College Plans: Western Carolina University to major in integrated health sciences with a pre-medicine concentration; plans to attend medical school.
  • Accolades: Gaston College Distinguished Graduate for Associate of Arts; Albert G. Myers Scholarship; Wayne F. Shovelin Scholarship; Principal’s Award; Western Carolina University Honors College Distinguished Applicant.  

Highland School of Technology

Valedictorian:  Karlie Noelle Nielson

  • Parents: David and Dawn Nielson
  • College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in biochemistry.
  • Accolades: Gaston Gazette Star Student; senior class president; Future Business Leaders of America; Beta Club, varsity volleyball and national club volleyball teams – Most Valuable Player, defensive player of the year, all-conference, and scholar-athlete awards; merit-based scholarships from UNC-Chapel Hill, Florida State University, and University of South Carolina.

Salutatorian:  Daniel Oakes Friday

  • Parents: Todd and Dana Friday
  • College Plans: N.C. State University (Park Scholar) to major in civil engineering.
  • Accolades: Beta Club president; Technology Student Association vice president; Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council; Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council; captain of tennis and soccer teams; Summer Ventures in Science and Math Catalyst Award; N.C. Undergraduate Research and Creative Symposium; National Merit finalist; Charlotte Observer All-Star Scholar; Gaston Gazette Best and Brightest Scholarship; National Beta Club Hannah Leitner Scholarship.  

 Hunter Huss High School

 Valedictorian:  Marcus Ardean Mauney 

  • Parents: Antonio and Kimberly Mauney                     
  • College Plans: Yale University to major in biology; plans to become a conservation scientist.             
  • Accolades: Albert G. Myers Scholarship; senior class president; Beta Club vice president; GCAEOP (Gaston County Association of Educational Office Professionals) Scholarship; all-conference in football.

 Salutatorian:  Bryan Anthony Martinez 

  • Parents: Virginia Bermudez and Alejandro Martinez
  • College Plans: Wake Forest University to major in computer science; plans to become a software engineer. 
  • Accolades: N.C. Governor’s School; Beta Club treasurer; Wake Forest University Magnolia Scholar; AP (Advanced Placement) European History Award.

North Gaston High School

Valedictorian:  Daphne Martinez-Cruz    

  • Parents: David Martinez-Quevedo and Ines Cruz-Hernandez                         
  • College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in psychology and biology and minor in neuroscience; plans to attend physician assistant school and pursue a healthcare career specializing in pediatric surgery. 
  • Accolades: UNC-Chapel Hill full tuition scholarship; Female Scholar-Athlete Award; U.S. Marine Corps Scholastic Excellence Award; National Honor Society; National Technical Honor Society.

 Salutatorian:  Nga Sze Chan          

  • Parents: Wai Ho Chan and Mei Yung Ngai                 
  • College Plans: Appalachian State University to major in theater design/technology; plans to pursue a career in set design for theater and working in film and other productions.
  • Accolades: Semper Fidelis and John Philip Sousa Award for Musicianship; drum major for North Gaston marching band; National Honor Society; National Technical Honor Society.

South Point High School

Valedictorian:  Gracie Smith          

  • Parents: Nathan Smith and Levacy Smith       
  • College Plans: University of South Carolina (Honors College) to major in biological sciences; plans to attend medical school to become a pediatric oncologist and work at a children’s cancer institute.     
  • Accolades: Gaston Gazette Star Student; Charlotte Observer All-Star Scholar; Albert G. Myers Scholarship; Jarman Family Scholarship; University of South Carolina Superlative Scholarship.

Salutatorian:  Claire Mitchell  

  • Parents: Brian Mitchell and Lucy Mitchell
  • College Plans: Dartmouth College to major in computer science and environmental science; plans to become a wildlife conservationist.
  • Accolades: National AP (Advanced Placement) Scholar; N.C. Governor’s School; N.C. Governor’s Page; Dartmouth College scholarships totaling $50,000 per year; U.S. Presidential Volunteer Service Award for service as a Discovery Place science leadership apprentice.