Life of a Valedictorian

By Emily Hulbert

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be valedictorian? Have the best overall average in your class? I was lucky enough to sit down with Chandler McMillan, Long Beach High School’s valedictorian of 2014. Chandler and I talked about being valedictorian, her college choice and what she does in her down time. I am sure this will give an interesting insight on what it takes to be THE valedictorian.

Chandler knew she wanted to be valedictorian when she was in eighth grade. Her science teacher told her, “My bets are on you for valedictorian.” At that point, Chandler did not know what a valedictorian was. Her teacher informed her that the valedictorian is the person with the highest grade point average in a graduating class. This conversation sparked Chandler’s interest, but inside she always had that desire to do well in school. Her grandparents never had an opportunity to receive a solid education. They worked hard to come to America and provide her with the opportunity to go to school. This gracious sacrifice motivated Chandler. “I wanted to take advantage of the resources they worked so hard to give me.” Even with the desire to do well, Chandler still had a part of her that wanted to know that she was number one.

When Chandler found out that she was valedictorian, she was sitting in the computer room doing a project for her AP Government class. She suspected that she was a contender for valedictorian but still was not sure because the competition was fierce. Suddenly, she heard We have eight very special announcements, starting with the valedictorian and the salutatorian…. She wanted this for years and the moment that always seemed so far in the future was finally here.

Chandler McMillan was announced over the speaker, and Chandler instantly started to cry. Congratulatory hugs were coming at her from every direction. Chandler shared her joy in calling her mom, but all she could say was, “Mom, I got it.” Her mom was so proud of her, telling everyon at her job the good news. “To have my dream finally come true, it was probably one of the best days of my life.”

As valedictorian, Chandler has an expectation from her peers and teachers to do well.  “People have this vision of me that I still have to maintain my grades and do very well.” Chandler’s motivation to do well helps her focus and maintain stable grades throughout the year. Of course, we cannot forget a huge part of being valedictorian, the graduation speech. Chandler is writing her speech about the transition from high school to college and how to take the experiences from high school and apply them to life.

Chandler had a wide range of colleges to choose from for next fall. With colleges like Yale and Princeton knocking at the door, Chandler had a big decision to make. Finally, Chandler chose Duke University. She recieved a full scholarship, which had an impact on why she chose Duke over all the other colleges. Duke has great academics and a lot of school spirit; a benefit for Chandler who is actively involved in the Long Beach High School Marching Band. “The presence and atmosphere of the college was non-pretentious, open and relatable.” In college, Chandler wants to be a math major but still follow a pre-med track. She hopes to have a career in surgery, healing burns and cleft lips.

With regard to school work, Chandler uses memorization to help her get good grades. She memorizes notes and then reads them back to herself to make sure she understands. Also, Chandler recommends the use of review books to study. Most importantly, Chandler believes that going to teachers after school or during free periods really does help. “You receive much more individualized attention when you are one on one with the teacher.”

According to Chandler, two essentials will help you become successful in school: stay in classes that you like and participate in extracurricular activities. Do not conform your schedule just to get a high GPA. Electives are important too. Take classes that you enjoy to even out the stressful classes. Even Chandler said, “I could be better at managing my time. That is probably why I get so stressed.” Managing time is a key aspect to not feeling pressure about school work.

Extracurricular activities are also equally important. Colleges are looking for students who are well rounded in academics and extracurriculars. Chandler’s extracurriculars consist of marching band, select choir, jazz ensemble, and pit orchestra. She is also in future physician club at the hospital as volunteered at the pharmacy. Chandler’s extracurriculars shaped the person that she is today. “It’s no fun just sitting around and studying all the time. You need to give yourself a break and find activities that provide you with a release and allow you to relax.”

Chandler likes to relax and enjoy her down time, just like anyone else. For starters, Chandler loves to bake because it helps her de-stress from a hard day. She bakes deserts, from cookies to pies. Although Chandler is not into sports, she loves to work out her brain by doing crossword puzzles and reading. Surprisingly, Chandler has a passion for T.V and film. “I don’t know how I got valedictorian because all I do is watch T.V.” Among her favorites are Jeopardy and Disney movies. Like any other teenager, Chandler especially loves to spend time making memories with her friends before they go off to college.

What Chandler will miss most from Long Beach High School are the teachers. “I have such strong relationships with my teachers. They are mentors to me.” She gets help from them not only with education, but with personal problems too. Chandler will also miss the music department. A drum major for two years, Chandler likes to hang around the music department and be a leading part of the marching band. Marching band is her family and she hopes to continue it when she leaves for Duke.

Despite the fact that her high school career is winding down, Chandler is off to bigger and more challenging college adventures. She will have success at this next level and we wish her the best. Follow your drive, dedication and determination to a successful career at Duke University.

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