- Gaston County Schools
Seniors earn academic, perfect attendance honors
Seniors earn top academic, perfect attendance distinctions
Gastonia, N.C. – Gaston County Schools has 22 students in the Class of 2020 who have achieved the top academic distinction of valedictorian or salutatorian. Additionally, one senior in the Class of 2020 has earned the distinction of 13 years of perfect attendance.
▪ Valedictorian and Salutatorian Information
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.
“We are proud to recognize and honor 22 seniors in the Class of 2020 as our valedictorians and salutatorians,” said Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker.
“These outstanding students have maintained an impressive academic record during their educational career in addition to 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 for each student.
Ashbrook High School
Valedictorian: David Buckner
▪ College Plans: UNC-Charlotte to major in public health and health systems management; plans to pursue a career as an obstetrician and gynecologist.
▪ Accolades: UNC-Charlotte Levine Scholar; Commissioners School of Excellence; Summer Ventures; junior marshal; completed the Gaston College Associate of Science degree with 61 college credit hours.
Salutatorian: Elaina James
▪ College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in pre-law and/or journalism; plans to pursue a career in civil and human rights law.
▪ Accolades: Concert choir for four years; served as freshman, sophomore, and junior class president and National Honor Society president; member of volleyball team; chief junior marshal; completed 21 college credit hours through the Career and College Promise program at Gaston College.
Bessemer City High School
Valedictorian: Kyerstin Morgan Ashay Cooper
▪ College Plans: UNC-Charlotte to major in nursing; plans to pursue a career as a nurse anesthetist.
▪ Accolades: Gaston Gazette Best and Brightest; chief junior marshal; highest average in pre-calculus honors; Commissioners School of Excellence; Yellow Jacket Coaches Award.
Salutatorian: Savannah Reese LaCount
▪ College Plans: Cleveland Community College to major in nursing; plans to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner.
▪ Accolades: Softball scholarship from Cleveland Community College; Bessemer City High School Class of 1969 Scholarship; Gaston Gazette Star Student; highest average in Advanced Placement (AP) biology and AP United States history.
Cherryville High School
Valedictorian: Avery Grace Walker
▪ College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in nursing; plans to pursue a career in pediatric or geriatric nursing.
▪ Accolades: Gaston Gazette Star Student and Best and Brightest; State Employees Credit Union Scholarship; numerous outstanding subject awards at Cherryville High School.
Salutatorian: Juliana Leigh Vollmer
▪ College Plans: University of Pennsylvania to major in biochemistry and biophysics; plans to attend medical school to obtain an M.D. and Ph.D. in pathology and work with the Doctors Without Borders program.
▪ Accolades: University of Pennsylvania and Wake Forest University merit scholarships; 2018 National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award; nominated for the Academies at Harvard; numerous outstanding subject awards at Cherryville High School.
Stuart W. Cramer High School
Valedictorian: Carol Grealis
▪ College Plans: University of Mississippi to major in nursing on a pre-pharmacy track; plans to pursue a career as a specialized nurse or pharmacist.
▪ Accolades: Gaston Gazette Star Student; National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes president; chief junior marshal; University of Mississippi merit and valedictorian scholarships.
Salutatorian: Micah Jenkins
▪ College Plans: UNC-Charlotte to major in mechanical engineering with a concentration in biomedical; plans to pursue a career in designing and creating prosthetics.
▪ Accolades: junior marshal; member of the National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society; UNC-Charlotte Chancellor’s Scholarship and S-STEM Engineering Academy Pathways Scholarship from UNC-Charlotte’s Lee College of Engineering; completed one year of college transfer credits through the Career and College Promise program at Gaston College.
East Gaston High School
Valedictorian: Kaitlyn Marie Mesimer
▪ College Plans: Appalachian State University to major in exercise science.
▪ Accolades: State Employees Credit Union “People Helping People” Scholarship; Gaston Gazette Best and Brightest; dance team member for four years and co-captain her senior year.
Salutatorian: Ariana Marqui Stephenson
▪ College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in biology and music on a pre-medicine track.
▪ Accolades: UNC-Chapel Hill Music Department Scholarship and Jimmie Norris Scholarship; John Phillip Sousa Band Award recognizing her outstanding musicianship and dedication as drum major for the marching band.
Forestview High School
Valedictorian: Nicole Bolton
▪ College Plans: Duke University to major in political science and public policy; plans to attend law school and pursue a career as a human rights, environmental, or immigration lawyer.
▪ Accolades: Benjamin N. Duke Scholar; University of Chicago Presidential Scholar; University of Virginia Echols Scholar; Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar with Distinction.
Salutatorian: Sophia Jurs
▪ College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill (major is undecided); plans to pursue a career as a dermatologist or veterinarian.
▪ Accolades: Vice president of Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council; 2019 Female Athlete of the Year Award; member of the varsity soccer, tennis, and basketball teams; senior class president; 2019 homecoming queen.
Gaston Early College High School
Valedictorian: Shane Carter Fogarty
▪ College Plans: N.C. State University College of Design to major in architecture; plans to pursue a career as an accredited architect and own an architecture firm.
▪ Accolades: Gaston College Outstanding Graduate Award; first place award (physical science category) at the Gaston Regional Science and Engineering Fair; N.C. School of Science and Math certificate of completion with a concentration in material science and engineering; highest academic average award in 10 high school classes; won awards for product pitch, graphic identity, and finance projects; State Employees Credit Union “People Helping People” Scholarship; N.C. Association of County Agricultural Agents Youth Scholarship.
Salutatorian: Reed Martin
▪ College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in biology; plans to attend medical school.
▪ Accolades: Eagle Scout; volunteer trip to Madagascar through the Projects Abroad program; ROTC scholarship.
Highland School of Technology
Valedictorian: Urael Eliam Mussie
▪ College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in biochemistry and public health; plans to pursue a career as a doctor and entrepreneur in global health.
▪ Accolades: UNC-Chapel Hill Morehead-Cain Scholar; Gaston Gazette Star Student; student body president; RamHOST student ambassador; Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) summer program at Princeton University; Albert G. Myers Scholarship; University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University merit scholarships.
Salutatorian: Morgan Rae Harper
▪ College Plans: N.C. State University to major in international business – business administration and business management.
▪ Accolades: President of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America); RamHOST student ambassador; actively involved in the Powder Puff, Relay for Life, Pink Toilet, and Winter Warmth Drive community service projects/fundraisers; Schiele Museum volunteer; scholar-athlete.
Hunter Huss High School
Valedictorian: Henry Harris Taylor
▪ College Plans: UNC-Chapel Hill to major in biology; plans to pursue a career as a dentist, veterinarian, or pharmacist.
▪ Accolades: Senior class president; Beta Club president; chief junior marshal; Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council; Commissioners School of Excellence.
Salutatorian: Preston Lee Teague
▪ College Plans: Appalachian State University to major in exercise science; plans to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant.
▪ Accolades: Appalachian State University Excellence Scholarship; junior marshal; National Honor Society; Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History Student of the Year; AP English 11 highest average award.
North Gaston High School
Valedictorian: Erin Medlock
▪ College Plans: N.C. State University to major in animal science.
▪ Accolades: North Gaston Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year; Gaston County Promise Scholarship; U.S. Marine Corps Award for Scholastic Excellence; National Honor Society; National Technical Honor Society; chief junior marshal.
Salutatorian: Savannah Baldwin
▪ College Plans: Western Carolina University to major in biology and integrated health science.
▪ Accolades: Gaston Gazette Best and Brightest; student body vice president; Western Carolina University Athletic Scholarship (softball); North Gaston’s Stephen Trudnak Memorial Award; Gaston County Promise Scholarship; National Honor Society; National Technical Honor Society; junior marshal.
South Point High School
Valedictorian: Mollie Elizabeth Lund
▪ College Plans: Elon University to major in English and environmental studies; plans to pursue a career as a journalist who specializes in researching and reporting about the effects of environmental injustice.
▪ Accolades: National Honor Society; Beta Club; chamber choir for two years; Model United Nations for four years; Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar Award; Elon University Presidential Scholarship.
Salutatorian: Kevin Grant Li
▪ College Plans: Columbia University to major in economics and applied mathematics; plans to pursue a career in researching the economics of education.
▪ Accolades: Captain of the varsity swim team; National Honor Society vice president; Model United Nations president; Gaston Gazette Star Student and Best and Brightest.
▪ Perfect Attendance Information
Each year, the Board of Education honors graduating seniors who achieve perfect attendance for either 12 years or 13 years. One senior in the Gaston County Schools Class of 2020 earned 13 years of perfect attendance for her entire school career (kindergarten through twelfth grade).
Taylor Neely of Forestview High School achieved 13 years of perfect attendance. She plans to attend North Carolina A&T State University to major in kinesiology. She will receive a perfect attendance plaque from the Board of Education in recognition of her outstanding accomplishment.