Acknowledging Honor Graduates

Seniors celebrate top 10% accomplishment


Kailey Sledge

As graduation nears, valedictorian Sarah Lalani prepares to set off confetti for a photo shoot. Lalani plans to pursue a career in medicine.

The long nights of studying and continuous days of homework over the past 12 years were acknowledged recently at the Oak auditorium in celebration of seniors graduating in the top 10% of their class.

“This is a ceremony where we honor our top 10 percent and their families for all of their hard work,” Assistant Principal Frances Ditta said.

Out of the 869 students in the Class of 2021, 87 seniors have been gifted a medal for their accomplishments according to their cumulative grade point average across all high school courses. The valedictorian’s GPA is 5.7980 as a summa cum laude (top 2%) graduate, magna cum laude (top 5%) and cum laude (top 10%) honor graduates follow after.

“This is important because I spent a lot of time and hard work trying to achieve this goal of being in the top 10% of my class,” senior Keri Le said.

Strict COVID-19 safety protocols were enforced throughout the ceremony which included mandatory masks, limiting guests to two per honor graduate and appropriately spaced seating between families.

“I am excited to be able to celebrate all of our accomplishments and can’t wait for my parents to be able to celebrate with me,” senior Emma Moore said.

The ceremony was headed by Principal Thomas Hensley, who read out the names of the summa cum laude students, and Ditta, who covered the rest of the top 10% in order of increasing rank. During the presentation of the names being called, the students were asked to respond to a question prior about what was one lesson they learned in 2020-21 that they will tell their future children.

“Wear masks and social distance. That’s the one lesson I have learned and will share when I’m older,” senior Minahil Mehdi said.

Guest speaker, history teacher and Oak Teacher of the Year, Brooke Downey presented her speech on “the journey.”

“The theme of my speech is about the journey students have taken – that the journey is worthy of celebrating and cherishing just as much as the success,” Downey said. “This message stood out most to me because as a Klein Oak graduate myself I know what the moment of top 10% means, but the journey of being a Panther and achieving success in a school as amazing as Klein Oak is also incredibly special. I want to encourage our top 10% seniors to remember every moment and value it.”

Though these seniors had to navigate the end of their junior year and senior year during the outbreak of COVID-19, many had been preparing to be in the top 10% since freshman year.

“Throughout my four years of high school, I have always kept my grades up so that I would be in the top 10 percent,” Moore said. “I was just really proud of all my hard work throughout the four years because it hasn’t been easy.”