With graduation approaching next month, Wylie High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian are thankful for individuals that provided them support throughout their last four years.
Ronald “Caleb” Smitheart, the Class of 2023 valedictorian, and Sereen Elkhalid, the salutatorian, said friends and family were integral in helping them navigate through the rigors of academics and extracurricular activities in high school.
“I made really good friends starting at the beginning of last year,” Caleb said. “Through there, being able to take my mind off of homework was [a way to] better balance my work and social life.”
Caleb also wanted to thank Michelle Bellamy, one of his teachers in each of his four high school years.
Sereen said her family, friends from extracurriculars, and a myriad of teachers were her main support system.
“I think, this time, I’ve been reflecting on things,” Sereen said. “I’ve realized how important teachers are, how they shape interests.”
Additionally, both students have had different experiences when it came to understanding their place in the class rankings. Although the salutatorian announcement has been made, Sereen said she has been very private about grades throughout high school.
She has known about her place near the top of the class since the start of her sophomore year, but said the pressure was not always welcome because it created certain expectations.
“I didn’t like knowing all that time because I felt like I had a lot more pressure,” Sereen said. “When you’re under pressure, you don’t do things as well as you’d want to compared to doing things the way you want to.”
Caleb said his experience was slightly different as he steadily increased his ranking within the graduating class, eventually being named valedictorian. Initially, it was a way to measure his academic growth and progression, but there was also a delayed satisfaction to knowing his efforts paid off.
“It didn’t feel like I was being rewarded for my efforts for the first three years of high school,” Caleb said. “Nothing happened, it was just seeing the number go up. For a while, that was enough on its own because I always liked looking cool with my friends but there was no reward.”
Eventually, he received accolades in the form of scholarships and awards.
“It’s difficult feeling the satisfaction of that all at once,” Caleb said. “It was being withheld and then all at once, it was, ‘here are your rewards.’”
To continue his education, Caleb said he plans to attend the University of Texas-Dallas where he will study software engineering. He also plans to take some electrical engineering classes because he has a passion for it.
Sereen plans to attend Oklahoma State University to double major in environmental science and music performance. In college, she said that she is excited for opportunities to combine coursework and areas of personal interest.
“I have some interesting opportunities like a research scholarship, so I’ll be able to do freshmen research,” Sereen said. “It’s pretty open-ended, so as long as it kind of deals with your major, you can study what you want. I’m hoping to tie all my interests into that.”
Caleb said he is keen on the independence he will have because of his educational costs being fully funded by a scholarship.
“I’m going to be self-sufficient with the scholarship,” Caleb said. “I’m excited to be independent and to be taking classes that are related to the things that I’m interested in.”
In high school, Caleb said he was involved in some extracurricular activities, such as National Honor Society, but that he always enjoyed taking apart and restoring electronics. Recently, he worked on an old Nintendo Game Boy that he discovered. He also said he enjoys coding in his free time.
While academics were rigorous, he found that he would stay up late to allow himself time for finishing assignments and leisure. Caleb also said asking questions was important because it helped him understand his high school coursework better.
“Asking for help is important. I feel people don’t do it enough,” Caleb said. “I don’t do this as much as I should but asking for help is the number one thing because that’s what teachers are there for.”
Sereen said that she also had a rigorous schedule being involved in band as president and euphonium section leader, National Honor Society and working on her Girl Scout Gold Award.
Along with speeches from both Caleb and Sereen, members of Wylie High’s Class of 2023 will walk the stage at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 27, at the Credit Union of Texas Event Center in Allen.
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