Chris Young and Jaden Earnest both started their high school careers four years ago with one goal in mind, earn the title Valedictorian. In that time, both competed in three different sports leading to each winning at least one state championship. Both finished their senior year with a cumulative grade point average of a perfect 4.0. And on Wednesday evening, both spoke to their former classmates, family and members of the community in attendance at the White Pine High School graduation for the senior class of 2015.
Yet in the end there could be only one Valedictorian.
“It went to a tiebreaker of who had the better ACT test scores. I knew as soon as I heard that Chris scored a 34 that he had it,” senior Jaden Earnest.
Young, the son of WPHS Principle Adam Young, was awarded the top academic honor of Valedictorian and Earnest was named the Salutatorian, the second highest honor possible based on grades three weeks before the graduation ceremony. Young described his reaction to hearing the news as the sigh of relief that comes from finishing four years of hard work and stress.
“I was satisfied that I achieved my goal I set out for myself freshman year. Both my mom and my aunt had been the Valedictorians of their graduating classes so I felt like there was pressure on me to not let them down. Thankfully I have a competitive fire inside me that drove me the whole time,” Young said
Earnest knows a thing or two about having a competitive fire as well, being named captain on the school’s volleyball, basketball and softball teams in her senior year, all of which made it to the state championship tournament. But despite her acumen for sports and academics, she never viewed the challenge that Young presented as a competition.
“When I was in fifth grade I came and watched my cousin’s graduation and watched the salutatorian and valedictorian give speeches and I just wanted that to be me. Even though I was disappointed in not getting to be the valedictorian I was still really excited to be able to give a speech,” Earnest said. “I knew that being involved with sports would take up a lot of time so I made sure that I had a study hall each year to get my work done and I studied and did homework on the bus rides to and from games.”
Young felt much of the same stress, playing on the boys basketball team, soccer team and being the team leader and state runner-up on the school’s golf team while also finding time to participate in National Honors Society and the school choir.
“There were certainly times when it felt like you I wasn’t going to get everything done but I just pushed through it,” he said.
But while both seniors could relate to each other in the path they took to stand behind the podium Wednesday night, the directions they are headed after they received their diplomas couldn’t be more different.
Earnest said she plans on attending the University of Nevada, Reno to major in Pre-Med. Young will fly to the Philippines in July to live there for two years while he completes his mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After that, he plans on attending Brigham Young University in Provo, UT..