For the top-ranked students in the 2010 graduating high school classes, good grades were merely byproducts of hard-work, diligence, prioritization skills and extra-curricular involvement.
In reference to Canyon Del Oro High School valedictorian Ebaa Fahad Al-Obeidi, teacher Cymry DeBoucher expressed a common theme among all year's valedictorians, when she said, "There are no challenges she won't take."
In addition to difficult academic schedules, the top students explored and conquered athletics, community service activities, science fair projects and other interests such as photography, hiking and music.
"I've learned to not be afraid to try new things," said Mountain View High School valedictorian Chelsea Quinn. "It's about exploring different areas and not giving up."
Canyon Del Oro High School
In fifth grade, Ebaa Al-Obeidi, 18, was assigned to write an essay on where she thought she would be at the end of high school. "I wrote that I hoped I would be at the top of my class," Al-Obeidi said. Seven years later, she is exactly that.
Al-Obeidi spent the last four years involved with the Science Olympiad club, SARSEF (Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair), Advanced Mathematical Problem Solving club and Orchestra Club.
Additionally, she was president of the National Honors Society and headed a relief run for Haiti, raising about $2,000. Al-Obeidi also interned in a Systematic Bioengineering lab at the University of Arizona during her junior and senior years.
• Future School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Scholarships/Awards: Robert C. Byrd and National Merit Scholar
• Academic Obstacles: Learning to balance different interests (Al-Obeidi was enrolled in two overlapping courses this past year, unable to choose between them).
• Outstanding High School Lesson: How to prioritize
• Cumulative GPA: 4.710
Ironwood Ridge High School
For David Zeng, 18, becoming Ironwood Ridge High School's valedictorian was only a "byproduct" of aiming to attend a good college and consequently doing the work required.
"That, and because I like to give speeches, in a non-narcissistic kind of way," Zeng said.
Zeng served as president of the National Honors Society, as well as vice-president of Model United Nations where he competed at Cornell University, University of California Los-Angeles, and the University of Arizona, earning the award of Outstanding Delegate. Additionally, Zeng was the treasurer of the swim team.
Zeng is planning on pursuing a degree in electrical engineering with a minor in bioengineering.
• Future School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
• Scholarships/Awards: National Merit Scholar, National Achievement scholarship, Flynn Scholar finalist, medaled twice at 5A state swim meets.
• Academic Obstacles: The "graduate student dilemma." When asked to clarify, Zeng said, "I knew I could go out and do something with friends, but then if I went out, I wouldn't be studying."
• Outstanding High School Lesson: "You've got nothing left to lose implies that we actually have something to lose. We never have anything to lose." Zeng added, "The antecedent is the key, what the quote is assuming is we might lose is our reputation or pride, but those shouldn't matter. They are not ours to have."
• Cumulative GPA: 4.844
Mountain View High School
Chelsea Quinn, 18, had straight As in middle school.
"As dumb as it sounds, I thought that was the only grade you were allowed to get," said Quinn. In her sophomore year, when she was made aware she ranked first in her class, she was shocked. "I asked the registrar over and over again if she had looked at the right name. 'Quinn, Chelsea Quinn, are you sure?'" she said, reenacting the conversation.
When assured the registrar had not made a mistake, Quinn decided to see if she could keep that placement for the duration of her high school career.
Quinn stayed occupied in National Honors Society, her church youth group, pursuing photography and playing ultimate frisbee. She plans to pursue the area of East Asian studies, an interest that originated from a trip to Japan two years ago.
• Future School: University of Arizona
• Scholarships/Awards: Wild Cat Excellence, Arizona Board of Regent's High Honors Tuition Scholarship
• Academic Obstacles: AP Economics
• Outstanding High School Lesson: Challenging self, exploring new things
• Cumulative GPA: 4.4778
Marana High School
In addition to being Marana High School's top student, Paige Frahm, 18, has kept busy throughout all four high school years, involved in many clubs and extracurricular activities.
"Everyone knows Paige," said Marana teacher Brian Paradis. "She does everything."
Paige was the varsity tennis team captain, tennis club president, four-year Awana volunteer (a youth mentor program), National Honors Society president, YES club (Youth Empowered for Success) vice-president, Erase president (an anti-sexism and racial prejudice club), Mu Alpha Theta vice-president, Academic Decathlon vice-president, Science Olympiad treasurer and Key Club member.
In addition to Paige making an impact on her high school, high school made an impact on her.
"I'm excited to graduate," said Paige, "but I'll miss high school. The community that high school has, the knowledge that teachers really care, and the ability to do dorky things, like wearing my princess backpack because people know that's just who I am, you don't have that in college."
• Future School: University of Arizona
• Scholarships/Awards: Wild Cat Excellence, Robert C. Byrd scholarship, Comcast Leaders and Achievers, Best Buy scholarship, Tucson Chamber of Commerce award, and acceptance into U of A's Eller College of Business and Honors College.
• Academic Obstacles: AP English Literature
• Outstanding High School Lesson: "As corny as it sounds, never give up. You can always work harder."
• Cumulative GPA: 4.55
Pusch Ridge Christian Academy
Recently returning from assisting her high school win state in tennis, Kelsey Andres, 18, also has a valedictorian speech to prepare.
"I always wanted to work hard," Andres said. "I didn't come in freshman year thinking I was the most brilliant student and deserved to be valedictorian, I just gave it my all."
Andres has been active in school and volunteering as the secretary of National Honors Society, SARSEF participant and in student government.
Pusch Ridge's small environment positively affected the way Andres will remember high school. "My tennis team seemed like a family, and the teachers really had time to invest in us," she said.
Andres plans to earn a degree in business/economics and/or communications.
• Future School: Wheaton College
• Scholarships/Awards: Lion's List, placed third in Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair, United States Army Certificate of Achievement for an outstanding science project, 2009 Regional Ricoh Sustainable Development Award.
• Academic Obstacles: Balancing sports, academics and friends
• Outstanding High School Lesson: "Get to know as many people as you can, even if they might not become your best friend, you have something to learn from them."
• Cumulative GPA: 4.945