UPPER MARLBORO – Camelot by Martin’s was filled to the brim Monday night with the best and brightest Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has to offer. The valedictorian and salutatorians from more than 20 high schools, vocational schools and night schools came out in their best attire to be recognized at the annual dinner […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Camelot by Martin’s was filled to the brim Monday night with the best and brightest Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has to offer.
The valedictorian and salutatorians from more than 20 high schools, vocational schools and night schools came out in their best attire to be recognized at the annual dinner in their honor. The night featured speeches from Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell and Board of Education Chair Segun Eubanks, music from Suitland High School students and personal attention to each honoree as their bios were read by emcee Dave Zahren.
“I look forward to this more than anything,” Zahren said to the students gathered. “Because you are the elite. You are our best products, here tonight.”
The event celebrated the more than 50 students who each found their own way to the top spots in their class. This year’s crop of vals and sals included mothers, part-time workers, students who have overcome obstacles and sickness, and those who just put their nose to the grindstone and kept pushing forward.
Andrew Alia, the salutatorian for Tall Oaks High school, is one of those who just kept on pushing.
“I worked really hard for this,” he said. “It was a tough road, but my hard work paid off.”
Zahren joked that Alia’s teachers had to heavily convince him to attend the ceremony at all, and Alia admitted he is a humble person who doesn’t like attention. But that does not hide his list of accolades and achievements.
Alia took numerous Advanced Placement classes while maintaining dual enrollment classes. He participated in the student government, college summit and was a peer mentor. He plans to attend the University of Maryland-Baltimore County to study biomedical engineering before becoming a pharmacist.
“It was hard, but when the going gets tough, you’ve got to push through. You’ve got to finish,” he said.
He also noted that the caliber of students gathered in the room has pushed him to want to be a star student as he moves forward into college, and said they are pushing him to “try my hardest to keep up with them.”
That was something a number of students mentioned – being inspired by the students around them.
Almost every student had accolades and accomplishments to their name. Some noteworthy honors included 5.0 grade point averages, full-ride scholarships, prestigious scholarship awards and recognition of amazing citizenship.
In addition, Zahren noted that nearly a quarter of the PGCPS elite gathered at the ceremony chose the University of Maryland for their future educational endeavors. Other universities of choice included Howard University, Stanford, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, West Point and many more.
For Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS, these students are just the tip of the iceberg of great and amazing things going on in the school system. He noted the rising graduation rate in the school district.
“I can’t believe how proud the parents must be because I know how proud I am to see you here tonight,” he said. “I want to congratulate the valedictorians and salutatorians in the room tonight. Your hard work, your time on task, your stick-to-it-ness, your diligence and your commitment have not gone unnoticed.”
Crossland High School Valedictorian Grace Jackson also noted the impressiveness of the students surrounding her and said, though some people may look down on Prince George’s County, the people and students here have a lot to offer. And that was showcased at the dinner.
“I really think that it says a lot about PG County,” she said. “Some people may look down on us, but I really think this county is full of excellence. Full of excellent students, full of intelligence and a lot more.”
Jackson herself is perhaps an example of that excellence. She was a Posse Scholarship semifinalist, is in the International Baccalaureate program, and has been given a number of awards for outstanding academic achievement and scholarship.
“I am so excited. I love school but I need a break,” she said about her upcoming graduation.
Jackson will attend Hampton University in the fall where she will study psychology and plans to eventually become a lawyer.
Suitland’s valedictorian, Joshua Brown, also racked up his fair share of accolades, including obtaining a 5.0 grade point average while playing football. He, too, was a Posse Scholarship semifinalist, but also earned scholarships and recognition from a number of other organizations as well.
“I’m very appreciative of this opportunity and I’d like to thank God,” Brown said. “There was a lot of nights that I fell asleep doing homework and I’d have to wake up before the bus came to finish my homework.”
Brown’s schedule included not only vigorous classes and football but also peer mentoring, STEM club, chess club, yearbook and the student newspaper.
“It was a challenge for me my ninth and 10th grade years, but I decided I wanted to face my fears and get more involved in the community. So, I became determined to not back away from any challenges,” he said.
The University of Maryland-College Park will be Brown’s future academic home, and he will attend on full-ride scholarship.
Zahren noted, before the ceremony was over, that each of the honored students should be proud of the work they have done and their titles, which he said will “follow you forever.” He also said each should say thank you to their educators before leaving high school.
“I hope, too, that before you get caught up in this graduation swirl, you take time to thank your teachers, administrators and counselors who made a difference in your life,” he said. “An email is fine, a tweet or a posting is okay, but if you write them a heartfelt note – it will mean everything and they will long cherish it.”