It was a gathering of many of the top high school academic achievers and students recognized for their community involvement.
Thursday night at Roanoke Lodge No. 197, B.P.O. Elks, the 41st annual Valedictorian Scholarship Night honored nearly 200 valedictorians from 17 high schools throughout the region.
Highlighting the evening were nine $1,000 scholarships awarded by the Elks at the local and state levels to students from those 17 schools.
Scholarship winners included Hunter Bohon (William Byrd), Kristen Bryant (Franklin County), Kersten Conrad (Hidden Valley), Shayom Debopadhaya (Salem), Justice Forster (Glenvar), Tristin Lamb (Franklin County), Nick Mills (Cave Spring), Elizabeth Stocker (Northside) and Raaga Umesha Vullikanti (Blacksburg).
Keynote speaker Beth Doughty, Executive Director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, gave suggestions to those in attendance to learn to speak in public, supplement their academics with other pursuits and get comfortable with making their own decisions as they move forward from high school life.
Dave Ross, Chairman of the Elks Scholarship Committee, noted the Valedictorian Night is one of the longest running award nights in the region for graduating high school seniors.
“This is very satisfying,” Ross, who has been associated with picking the scholarship winners for 25 years, noted before Thursday night’s presentations. “Many scholarships center solely around athletics, but the Elks scholarship winners and the valedictorians you see here tonight have achieved the highest honor because of what these young men and women have obviously done academic-wise for four years in the classroom, but also because they were involved in various aspects of the community.”
“Looking back at all the winners over the years, many have gone on to very successful professional careers and being noted for their high character and integrity in the community.”
Bryant, one of the nine scholarship winners, was all smiles as she talked about attending Longwood University this fall.
“I was very surprised when I heard the news,” she said. “I received a vocational scholarship from Franklin County High School, but everything like this helps a lot.”
Bryant, who has been a part of the Franklin County High School football playback television production team for 3 years and its director this past fall, has plans to major in liberal studies with a concentration in elementary education to become a teacher. She had a 3.89 GPA at Franklin County.
Mills echoed Bryant’s sentiments on receiving his award.
“This is a very special honor for me and a big help in attending Hampden-Sydney College,” Mills pointed out. “Members of my family had gone to Hampden-Sydney and I had my sights on going there for a long time. I plan on majoring in business and economics.”
Mills attained a 3.65 GPA at Cave Spring.
The valedictorians and scholarship winners represented high schools that included Cave Spring, Craig County, Faith Christian, Franklin County, Glenvar, Hidden Valley, James River, Lord Botetourt, North Cross, Northside, Patrick Henry, Roanoke Catholic, Roanoke Valley Christian School, Salem, Staunton River, William, Byrd and William Fleming.