After applying for schools and scholarships, finishing finals and Regents exams and saying farewell to the people they've known for most of their lives, high school seniors across the county are ready to move above and beyond.
Chautauqua Lake Central School co-valedictorians Eve Elizabeth Taft and Emilie Kristie were cordial about sharing the title. Taft is still considered the valedictorian for Ripley Central School even though students from Ripley in grades 7-12 were tuitioned into Chautauqua Lake this year for the first time.
Taft is attending Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn. with a possible double major in English and education.
P-J photo by Daniel Swanson
She said she has a "passion for words" and enjoys novels by the likes of George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling.
"I'm a big fantasy and poetry nut," she said. "I thought about getting into screen writing, which is why I've also thought about minoring in theater."
As for the Midwest, Taft said she's looking forward to making a new home there.
"The twin cities are young and vibrant and liberal," Taft said. "That's definitely what I'm looking for."
She added that her experience at Chautauqua Lake Central School wasn't the easiest transition.
"I will always be a Ripley Eagle at heart," Taft said. "I did, however, meet some good people and I will always remember this year."
Co-Valedictorian Emilie Christie will attend John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. She has enrolled in a five-year pre-master's and business administration program and an undergraduate program in international business with language and culture.
"I'm so excited," Christie said, adding that she enjoys learning about other cultures through travel. "I like seeing how words connect to one another through different languages, and the business side of it is practical for anything."
She traveled to Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy and Greece through programs with Chautauqua Lake, and said the international scene is what she's looking for.
While she recognizes the transition was difficult for students from Ripley, Christie hopes it will be easier for incoming classes, and said she formed some of her best friendships with students from Ripley.
Southwestern Central School Valedictorian Jordan Powers is attending Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. and is running for the school's track and field team.
He plans to major in biology and pre-med, and hopes to become a pathologist after graduation.
"I've always been interested in science and biology and I figured that would be a good career," Powers said. "I didn't know what I wanted to do until I was maybe 15, but I took all of the AP science courses our school offered."
He said he knew Bucknell was the right fit upon his first visit to the university.
"I enjoyed the campus, coaches and programs Bucknell offers," he said.
As for saying goodbye to Southwestern, he said he will miss his teachers and the friends to whom he has grown close.
Maple Grove High School Valedictorian Christina Walter said she is most interested in mathematics and science, and will pursue one of the two at Princeton University in the fall.
Walter has been recognized for her outstanding performance in track and field and was a three-time state champion throughout her years at Maple Grove.
"I like the track program there, and I liked the location and the campus," Walter said. "Plus, it's obviously a really good school."
She cited both of her parents as inspirational influences, along with Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix.
Corey Wefing, another Maple Grove graduate, is attending Edinboro University with a scholarship to run for the school's track and cross country teams.
"I chose Edinboro because historically their running program has been really great, and when I went there and visited I felt like it was the place for me," he said. "I felt right at home."
Wefing plans to major in business marketing and advertising, and said he wants to pursue a career in which social skills are vital for success.
"I'm a very social person, and I feel I could use my social skills to meet new people, make relationships and use that in the marketing aspect," he said, concluding that his dream job would be to work for a major sports company like Nike or Adidas.
Jamestown High School graduate Rishi Gupta is attending the University of Pittsburgh in August to pursue a major in biology or neuroscience with hopes for a career in health care.
"I visited there quite a bit and my sister is a senior there, so I was pretty comfortable with it," Gupta said. "I like the area and they have some good science programs."
In terms of his career of choice, he said he wants to help people.
"I think health care puts you in a good position to do that," he said.
Earlier in June, Gupta hosted a fundraiser for the Child Advocacy Program at St. Luke's Episcopal Church and raised more than $1,000 to help children who have been traumatized by abuse.
"I decided this year that once schoolwork kind of calmed down, I would do something for them," he said. "I thought it went pretty well."
Gupta and his classmate Kirstie Hanson both ranked in the top ten of this year's graduating class.
Hanson plans to attend Roanoke College in Salem, Va. to focus on a future in exercise science.
"My main goal is to become a trainer," she said, adding that she eventually wants to own her own gym. "A few years ago I got into fitness and taking care of myself, and it became such a way of life that I want to be able to expand upon it and spread the word of its value throughout society."
Of Roanoke, she said opportunities to become involved on campus are endless, and that the school immediately felt like home the first time she visited.
"It's absolutely gorgeous and the scenery took my breath away," Hanson said.
She concluded that she will miss Jamestown High School and the support system it provided her with.
"Now, it's like starting over again and meeting new people and trying to forge your away along," she said. "Jamestown has a great support team for everything you want to pursue, whether it's easy or hard."