La Jolla High School honors top seniors
Three students are being honored this year as La Jolla High School’s best of the best: Maxwell Coy, Paige Olson and Brandon Roberts.
That designation is reserved for students who graduate “with the highest cumulative grade-point average out of their entire senior class,” according to the San Diego Unified School District website.
“Each year the district takes the top 1 percent of kids,” said La Jolla High Principal Chuck Podhorsky. “At our school, it’s typically three or four kids, especially if there are ties for GPA.”
The three who earned the top spots this year “represent the absolute best of our school and community,” Podhorsky said. “They are all well-rounded future leaders and students who truly embody the spirit of La Jolla High School.”
Traditionally, the district sponsors a celebration at SeaWorld for its valedictorians and salutatorians, but no formal event is planned this year due to coronavirus-related restrictions.
Nonetheless, Coy, Olson and Roberts “have worked hard for this day and should be commended for their perseverance and commitment to excellence,” Podhorsky said. “I know they are destined for great futures. The entire community should be so proud of them and our entire graduation class of 2020.”
Coy said earning the valedictorian title wasn’t a goal he had throughout high school but was a result of challenging himself after advice from his sixth-grade math teacher at Muirlands Middle School, who told him academic success is based on overcoming challenges.
“He warned us that even if we’re coasting now, we’re eventually going to hit a wall in school where we can’t coast anymore,” Coy said. “Whether we’re able to overcome this barrier is going to decide how far we can go in academics.”
Coy said he spent high school pushing himself to “hit the wall.”
“By the end of junior year, I had taken more weighted classes than anyone else in my grade,” he said. “I happened upon valedictorian status along the way.”
Coy ended his high school career with a 4.86 GPA and plans to attend UC Berkeley in the fall to study astrophysics.
“I immediately fell in love with the subject” after taking a course in his sophomore year at LJHS, he said.
For Olson, earning the rank of salutatorian was unexpected. “It’s really nice,” she said. “As a freshman and sophomore, I didn’t really realize the classes I was taking were heavily weighted compared to my peers. I didn’t see this coming.”
Olson said her success is due to her “always [taking] classes that I was interested in. My teachers were pretty good, and they helped me stay motivated.”
Motivation is something Olson seems to come by naturally. “I’m more self-motivated; studying was up to me,” she said. She finished her senior year with a 4.85 GPA.
With high school complete, Olson plans to attend Stanford University in the fall and study human biology, but she noted she might change to a “science, technology and society major that sounds exciting.”
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Olson said she’s “really interested in epidemiology now and previewed a couple of classes that had to do with virology. I’m hoping a lot of people will see what’s happening and be motivated to study that.”
Of being an LJHS salutatorian, Olson said “to have this recognition at the end of my senior year is really nice. All that hard work has paid off.”
Roberts said earning a spot in the top 1 percent of his senior class was a surprise. “I didn’t really realize that I had a high enough GPA for that,” he said. “It’s exciting to know the work that I’ve done has gotten me that.”
Roberts said the primary focus of his studies was interest, not grades. “I really took classes that I found interesting. I happened to do well enough and took enough classes that gave me a high enough GPA.”
Roberts now looks forward to earning a computer engineering degree from UC San Diego. The future Triton isn’t “certain exactly what I’ll do with that,” but he hopes it will lead to a solid job.
Roberts has some advice for future valedictorian or salutatorian hopefuls: “GPA is not necessarily something to take a class for. Just take a class because you want to learn about it.”◆
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