Final grades are still in play, but ask those in the running who will be valedictorian of the Amherst Steele High School Class of 2018 and they’ll say it’s Andrew Vontell.
“I remember as a sophomore I was sixth. I was really surprised when my name started to be thrown around as first in the class,” he told the News-Times.
Anything could still happen as tests are graded and Vontell has friendly competition from classmates Abigail Hershner, Tyler Kovach, Abby Jones, and Nathan Moore.
The group’s GPAs start around 4.3 and stretch up from there.
What’s interesting is that none of the top five students are losing any sleep over who will win the honor. They say they’re all going to good schools regardless of who speaks as valedictorian at graduation on Saturday, May 26.
“People make jokes about the race. We laugh. There really isn’t a race,” said Moore.
Vontell described the Class of 2018 as relaxed. Overall, the teens on the cusp of adulthood who will receive their diplomas this year aren’t too high-strung; they’re mostly responsible and down-to-earth, he said.
Asked what wisdom he has to pass on to the underclassmen at Steele, Vontell said his parents taught him to always finish what you start.
Others said it’s important to balance academic success with fun.
“I feel like, don’t stress out about school too much. Figure out how to have some fun while still doing your work,” said Moore.
“I recommend that if you want to be successful, obviously hard work is involved. But you can’t put all your energy into it. You still have to have fun and do what you want to do in life,” Hershner agreed.
Abigail Hershner will attend Ohio Northern University to study biology on a pre-medicine track. While her parents are optometrists, she has not settled yet on a medical specialty. Hershner said she’s always liked science and math — “Just being able to communicate with people in general. I also really like labs, so I could go into research.” She is also involved with volunteer work for local Catholic charities. Since age nine, she helped make and serve meals to those in need.
Tyler Kovach will attend Kent State University to study finance or economics. He’s interested in the stock market, “the high-risk, high reward aspect of it. It’s a 24-7 job and you’re always on your feet,” he said. Kovach said he envisions working as a stock broker or financial planner. At Steele, he’s been a track and cross country captain and said coach Rob Glatz’s guidance challenged him and helped him grow both on and off the track.
Abby Jones will attend the University of Akron to study chemical engineering. “I know I really liked math. When I took chemistry here, I really liked it too so I wanted a career that used both of them,” she said. While she considered pharmacy as a career, chemical engineering will open doors to fields such as food production and the energy industry. Jones said working at Dairy Queen in Amherst Township helped her outgrow extreme shyness. She also plays the trumpet in the Amherst Marching Comets.
Nathan Moore will attend Ohio State University to study chemical engineering. He enjoys problem-solving and said he is leaning toward a career in the energy industry. “It’s something that’s definitely important today and we’re in a wave of transition for what we do with our energy and where we get our energy from, so it poses a lot of opportunities,” he said. Moore is president of the student council at Steele and credited advisor Russ Marty with providing opportunities to grow as a leader. He is also senior class president. Most of his time outside the classroom, though, has been spent in the water — Moore has been a swimmer since age four and said coach Mary Bartek taught him a lot about character, hard work, and appreciating your team.
Andrew Vontell will attend Ohio State University to study biochemistry. His dream job is to research diseases that affect families, such as Parkinson’s. “I remember learning about the effects of Alzheimer’s and how it destroys lives,” he said. Vontell ran for the Comets during cross country and track seasons and said it fostered competitiveness, sportsmanship, and leadership skills. He also helped coach the junior high indoor track team over the winter and enjoyed watching the younger kids train and grow.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.