Best of the Best: Valedictorian and Salutatorian

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Liz Kenney

Mercy’s adminstration hosted the Catherine McAuley Tea to honor all of this year’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian candidates.

Liz Kenney, Web Editor

From a competitive pool of 16 exceptional students, Shannon Carpenter and Paige Taliaferro have named the Valedictorian and Salutatorians of the Class of 2011.

When administration announced the award Carpenter recalled, “It didn’t register at first. It hit me when Paige was announced.”

Taliaferro, just as pleasantly surprised, agrees. “All I could really do was smile,” she said with a laugh.

Though only two students received these awards, administration hosted a Catherine McAuley Tea in recognition of all the candidates’ accomplishments at Mercy. These candidates include: Kimberly Carson, Hannah Constantakis, Diana Jasser, Kathryn Kemp, Jacqueline Link, Alyson McAdams, Mackenzie Murphy, Lauren Roberts, Meghan Ronayne, Madeline Ross, Elena Vlachos, Emily Walsh, Kaitlynn Wargo, and Samantha Wenson.

To be considered as a Valedictorian or Salutatorian candidate, students must have a 3.95 minimum grade point average. From this bright group, administrators interview and receive an applications from each candidate to review her criteria from other areas, including school leadership, service, writing and speaking ability, and extracurricular involvement.

“It stood out how much this group of finalists spoke of service,” said Mercy Principle Mrs. Carolyn Witte.

Members of the senior class give their input on this decision, voting on who they would want to represent their class as Valedictorian and Salutatorian.

“We thought that we must be doing a lot right as a school because the valedictorians all exemplify Mercy values and I think those nominees are representative of the students at Mercy,” said Mrs. Witte.

Involving herself in a broad-range of activities over her Mercy career, while maintaining a stellar GPA, Carpenter’s title, Valedictorian, is well deserved. As a freshman, Carpenter made the varsity basketball team, which she admits, consumed the bulk of her time and dedication. However, after a series of injuries Carpenter could no longer play the sport she loved. This experience, taught her the most valuable lesson she has learned as a result of her time at Mercy.

“I have learned that you must have perspective,” Carpenter said. She explains that things will not always go as planned. However, everyone must find a way to persevere.

Despite her injury, she displayed her many other talents across a variety of activities including cross country and track. She also grew to love French. She explains that she owes this newfound passion to Madame Campbell and this prompted her to be a French Honor Society officer this past year.

Carpenter and Taliaferro worked side by side this past year as Editor-in-Chief and Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Newsprint.

Like Carpenter, Taliaferro has accomplished much at Mercy. She has been a part of the Human Relations Council for two years, served on the Science Olympiad team since her sophomore year, and has been a member of the Pro-Life club for three years. Taliaferro has also participated in two of Mercy’s sports programs, field hockey for three years and track for two years. She attended the Mercy Leadership Conference this past summer and helped to spearhead the “We Are Mercy” campaign to raise money and awareness for victims of human trafficking.

Both Carpenter and Taliaferro are very involved with service projects and programs.

Carpenter has been involved in Summer in the City and the PBJ outreach ministry. She also joined Mrs. Dennis of Pastoral Team and other Mercy students and staff on the Habitat for Humanity alternative spring break in April.

Taliaferro has also found a passion for service. She volunteers at the Friendship Circle, has traveled on two mission trips in Detroit and Mississippi, worked in the summer as a Teen Service Team at Spring Hill, she finished up her year-long volunteer work at University of Michigan hospital this past winter, has put in countless hours of tutoring, and is a youth group leader at First Presbyterian Church in Plymouth. This summer Taliaferro will partake in a volunteer program in Africa.

Taliaferro hopes to graduate from medical school and work at a hospital somewhere in Latin America. One of Taliaferro’s aspirations is working with the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta, India, for a summer, and she dreams of starting a non-profit organization one day.

Taliaferro awaits her collegiate experience at the University of Michigan with excitement.

“I’m looking forward to get involved in a new community,” she said.

Attending the University of Notre Dame next year, Carpenter can only beam with excitement at the opportunity to attend her dream college.

“It’s the only other place that I know as home,” Carpenter said. Having made frequent visits since her early childhood to the university, Carpenter feels a satisfying connection and appreciation for the school and all that it offers, particularly its strong Catholic tradition.

Like Taliaferro, Carpenter also plans to attend medical school. Though she is not certain of her future career, she hopes to either do medical research or work in surgery.