“When you invest your time, you make a goal and a decision of something that you want to accomplish. Whether it’s make good grades in school, be a good athlete, be a good person, go down and do some community service and help somebody who’s in need, whatever it is you choose to do, you’re investing your time in that.”
— Nick Saban
About a year ago, I wrote about a young man named Harsh Patel, the 2013 valedictorian at Mt. Juliet High School.
I wondered in attending this year’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian Luncheon on Thursday if I would meet someone who would be as fascinating as Harsh (pronounced Hirsh). Instead, I found a few such individuals.
Admitted, I had wanted to meet the first young man for some time after I’d gotten wind of his accomplishments. David Gal-Chis is this year’s valedictorian at Wilson Central High School.
David certainly lived up to his billing. For instance, I always like to ask the aspiring leaders of tomorrow what they happened to make on the ACT. The hope is to someday find one of these young people who scored lower than I on the pre-college measuring stick. Alas, I have yet to say, “21. Ha. In your face.”
Certainly sure of himself, David’s answer to my question was, “32, 33, I can’t remember exactly.” And so my quest continues.
Then I asked him the question I had wanted to ask him for some time. I had to know just how he came to rewriting the 13-year-old school’s alma mater.
“Well the first principal at the school wrote the original alma mater, and I didn’t think it was all that good, so I wrote a new one over the summer. I gave it to them, and they liked it, so it became our alma mater,” he said.
Simple as that, a guy who had nothing better to do over summer break between his junior and senior years but to rewrite his high school’s alma mater.
Now, I’m certainly not going to go into what I was doing during the summer of 1993 in between my junior and senior years for fear of incriminating myself, but I can assure you it wasn’t an accomplishment like that. Only in a few incredibly small circles could you say what I was doing was accomplishing anything, for that matter.
In any case, respect, David. You’ve left your mark.
Then, there’s Katie Pulliam, who with her twin sister, Alex, were both named National Merit Scholars. Katie is the salutatorian at Friendship Christian School. The Pulliam sisters each have a full ride to Vanderbilt University.
Katie wants to study something really cool I couldn’t understand in medicine, and it’s a whole lot easier when you don’t have to pay for it. She’s made her mark.
Then there was this guy at the luncheon Thursday who – amongst all the coats, ties, dresses and skirts – showed up in shorts and a T-shirt. I had to find out this guy’s story.
Come to find out, Elliott Lee, salutatorian at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, had to leave work early from his father’s landscaping company to join his esteemed classmates for the event.
“I went home, took a shower and didn’t really think about it,” he said.
During the conversation, I found out he plans to study civil engineering and return home after graduating from Tennessee Tech University to join his dad in the family business. That’s pretty cool.
And while he’s there, he also plans to check out the bass fishing scene. It appears Tennessee Tech has a team that competes with other universities. In fact, purses have grown significantly on the professional circuit in the past few years.
So when he’s not studying, Elliott is eyeing trips to the river. It’s all part of standing out and, by doing so, Elliott made his mark.
These are but a handful of examples of extraordinary individuals who make up the best of the best in Wilson County graduates.
I only have one bit of advice for our top-of-the-class scholars. Always remember home and how much of a difference you can make when you return. Too many times we lose our best and brightest to that somewhere else out there. We need you right back here in four, six or eight years to be leaders in this community just as you left your schools in that same role.
Oh, and wherever you land, never forget to leave your mark.
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.