Valedictorians: Symbolizing the Highest Academic Achievement


Wearing her white cap and gown, Cindy Luong smiles for the photo as she represents the Class of ‘22 for graduation.

Shiyra Barrientos, Editor

In previous years, only one student had the opportunity to wear a gown symbolizing the highest academic achievement amongst the rest of their class. A part of bearing the title is the responsibility of delivering a valedictory address to their peers, along with the friends and family that they bring to graduation. 

“There aren’t many opportunities in life to be able to give out a personal message to a large audience, so this is definitely a proud moment where I can congratulate my graduating class and also leave the audience with some advice, some words, some sentimental message that they can think about at least the next five minutes after my speech ends,” said senior Cindy Luong.

The tradition of having the top student deliver a speech at graduation remains. This year’s speech will be given by Cindy Luong, voicing her thoughts on what the white cap and gown and the opportunity to deliver a speech mean to her.

“I did not work hard all these years, just to give that speech, just to wear that cap and gown. Like I was in freshman year, in my head, thinking, ‘I am going to do all this stuff just so I can wear that white cap and gown, just so I can give that speech.’ That wasn’t what I was thinking,” Luong said.

Luong also shares how rewarding it feels for her to give a speech in front of a crowd, leaving them with advice and something to think about after graduation. She hopes to express how proud she is of her graduating class through her words.

“Being able to give the speech I feel like it’s rewarding on my part in the sense that, you know, like I said before, there aren’t many opportunities to be able to talk in front of a large crowd and give them advice, or like, just be able to speak your truth, you know what I mean? So, I feel like that’s going to be a really rewarding moment where I’m just going to be able to see off my graduating class who I am very very proud of, and being able to express how proud I am of them. Because, I know that some of them, they might not feel proud of themselves in particular, or they may have family members that aren’t too proud of them, or they just haven’t had someone tell them, that you know, they are proud of them for graduating. And if I can just, be able to help one person, or give them something to think about, or make them feel good for their achievements, then that’s quite rewarding,” said Luong.

And as many more students show strong, academic promise throughout the years, the school-wide system has found a way to be more inclusive to others who also excel in their studies. Now, to receive a white cap and gown, a student must obtain a total GPA of 4.0 and above in all four years of high school, where their final grade is determined at the end of the first semester of their senior year, allowing them to join a bigger class of high achievers.

“When I got my white gown, I wasn’t sure I was going to get it because I wasn’t sure of what the requirements are so it was definitely like a small surprise, knowing that I had a white gown. It gave me a message saying that I did what I needed to do all my high school years. It showed me some type of, ‘Congratulations, you made it through. All of the hard work you put in now has some type of fruit to bear.’ I would say it was one of those special moments that you have once you see all the hard work you put in and once you see the end result,” said senior Julio Mata.

Mata has dedicated his high school career to pursuing and accomplishing his musical endeavors. He has put together an ensemble his sophomore year, served as an honor band member in SCSBOA playing the principal flute in a symphonic band, was a part of the Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra (CYMO), and has accomplished much more. With his record, Mata shares his thoughts on how the white cap and gown served as a good representation of all his hard work over the past four years.

“I definitely think it’s a good representation of all the hard work because, the people who usually end up getting the white gowns are some who, usually try to go above and beyond. You see them all over the place. You see them in clubs, you see them in activities, you see them in sports, and on top of that, they sustain over a 4.0 GPA. And, you know, being a part of those groups, it just shows the kind of people they were surrounded, and it shows what La Sierra is really made of,” said senior Julio Mata. After a pause, he continues, “I think it’s definitely a good representation of our academic achievement, just because it shows how much work and effort we put into it. Specifically those who take AP classes, I mean, we spend hours and hours on getting work done, and we spend hours and hours studying just to take this one test, and you know, we’re not even sure if we’re going to get the credit. But, for some of us, that’s not really what matters. What matters for some of us is that we’re just trying to challenge ourselves, grow as you push yourself to the next limit so I think it’s a great representation of all that hard work that we all put into our school for our past four years,” Mata concluded.