Miami Valley high schools are honoring their top students in the Class of 2018 as valedictorians and salutatorians.
Here’s a sampling of valedictorians from around the region — students headed to local schools like Wright State and Ohio State, and elite, out-of-state universities such as Harvard and UCLA. We asked all local high schools for information on their valedictorians and salutatorians.
Morgan Payne, Stivers
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Morgan Simone Payne plans to attend Miami University to major in speech pathology and audiology. By pursuing her dreams of working in the medical field, Morgan hopes to show other students from Dayton that our city limits are simply a starting line for a world of opportunity. Morgan has been a Superintendent Scholar since the first grade. She is a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. Morgan has also been very active in her church and in the community. Morgan is the youngest child of John and Felicia Payne. Her sister Jordan is also a member of Stivers Class of 2018.
“Morgan is intellectually engaged, she is culturally responsive and she is, above all, grateful,” said Stivers English Department Chairperson Rachael Murdock. “She represents the very best of Dayton Public Schools.”
Matthew Brown, Milton-Union
Matthew is the son of Shawn and Susan Davis-Brown. He has played tennis, performed in his school’s show choir, and is a member of the Quiz Team. He has been the treasurer of his class all four years, as well as being the treasurer of the National Honor Society and Interact Club. He has also been a Freshman Focus Mentor. He volunteered for a U.S. Senatorial race and was selected to be a Teen Ambassador for Mike DeWine. Matthew has also served on the Strategic Planning Committee for his school, and he planned a service trip to Belize each summer. Matthew has received scholarships from multiple universities, but will attend the University of Wisconsin where he intends to study engineering.
Katherine Kohnen, Chaminade Julienne
Katherine Kohnen will be attending the University of Dayton this fall to study biology and psychology on the pre-medical track. Throughout high school, she participated in volleyball, cross country, choir, youth group, student council, the performing arts program, and quiz bowl. Katherine was elected the president of CJ’s National Honor Society for the 2017-2018 school year. She was also a member of the senior capstone group (Got Veggies?) that focused on cutting down food waste in Dayton, and received accolades from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Alliance to End Hunger. Katherine will work as a research assistant at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the Genomics and Applied Technology Laboratory this summer.
Molly Nixon, Greeneview
Molly Paige Nixon, daughter of Joy Scott and Sandy Nixon, is co-valedictorian in the Greeneview High School Class of 2018. Molly receives the Butler Merit Scholarship, the Miami Merit Scholarship, a Diploma with Honors, and the President’s Award for Educational Excellence. Molly plans to attend Butler University and major in health sciences on a pre-med track.
Samantha Jones, Franklin
Samantha will pursue a Chemistry degree at Purdue University. While at Franklin, Samantha was a member of the Theatre and Instrumental Program, participating in marching and pep band. She was also a member the 30+ ACT Club, National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, and Spanish Club.
Cameron Brown, Piqua
Cameron Brown is one of Kimberly and Clayton Brown’s three children. He is valedictorian of the Piqua High School Class of 2018. Throughout his four years at PHS, Cameron has participated in such extracurricular activities as student leadership, cross country, track and field, and National Honor Society; he has served as President of the Class of 2018 for all four years, was selected to attend RYLA and Buckeye Boys State, and was a Piqua Teen Leader his junior year. He is also a National Merit Scholar. Cameron will attend Harvard University and has not declared a major.
Alison Hamant, Northmont
Alison is one of Northmont’s “Top 1 Percent” students. Alison will be heading to UCLA to study International Development Studies. Her goal is to join the Peace Corps and become an International Human Rights Lawyer. She played soccer and was involved with Science Olympiad and she also volunteered at the Dayton Peace Museum and has done volunteer work in the Dominican Republic and Thailand.
Fletcher Durham, Miami Valley Career Technology Center
Fletcher Durham studied Architectural Design at MVCTC and was hired in 2017 at Fullmer’s Landscaping as part of the MVCTC Apprenticeship Program. He will continue his work with Fullmer’s after graduation, making a career as an Assistant Landscape Designer. Durham was involved at MVCTC as a Student Ambassador, was inducted into the National Technical Honor Society, and was the President of the SkillsUSA Chapter Two at MVCTC. He is the son of Phillip and Nancy Durham of Eaton.
Preston Collins, Kettering Fairmont
Preston will attend Miami University in Oxford, majoring in biochemistry, with an eye on a career as a medical geneticist where he can “help others who did not have any say in the medical conditions they were dealt.” Preston served as Fairmont’s Commissioner of Special Projects, is an International Baccalaureate Diploma candidate and served as editor-in-chief of the “Flyer,” Fairmont’s student newspaper. He credits math teacher Katie Johnson for helping him develop a “love of math. She let me go off the rails and be free in class, and through that, I was able to find out what it is I love about math and to develop a real love of learning.”
Madison Robinson, Belmont
Madison will attend Wright State University in the fall, and is undecided on her major. Madison was on the junior and senior board, was a member of the National Honor Society, volunteered at the school blood drives, was a member of Sinclair Educational Talent Search, and participated in Sinclair’s Upward Bound program. Outside of school, she volunteered at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Madison is the daughter of Gretchin Bollinger and will be a first-generation college student.
Andrew Brads, Legacy Christian Academy
Next year, Andrew plans on doing a gap year with SCORE International, studying Spanish and ministering in Costa Rica. After that, he plans on returning to continue his education at Cedarville University. Drew has been a member of National Honor Society, where he served as President. He has served on two mission trips to Costa Rica and has served at Joni and Friends family retreats for the last eight years. Drew Brads is a two-time world champion and six-time national champion for Rubik’s Cube speed solving.
Joey Derrico, Bellbrook
Joey plans to attend The Ohio State University and major in political science with a goal of becoming a civil rights attorney. Joey has taken a rigorous course-load, earning 33 college credits, and he accelerated his coursework in order to graduate one year early. At BHS, he was the president of the Key Club, a member of the Model UN and Partnerships for Success, was involved with Bellbrook Buddies, We the People and a member of the varsity golf team. In addition, Joey attended Buckeye Boys State, where he was nominated and chosen to be one of the U.S. Senate Youth Program Delegates. He was able to visit our nation’s capital as a representative from Ohio. His family members include mom, Cathy, dad, Tony, and sister Lydia.
Shelby Clayton, Warren County Career Center
Clayton studied health science at WCCC and will attend Wright State University to earn a bachelor of science in nursing. She plans a career in the trauma-nursing field. A Springboro resident, she has an interest in sports and is a master instructor at Aqua Tots. She swam on a team in middle school, and has played club soccer from the age of three, through school soccer her freshman and sophomore years. As a part of the health science program, Shelby experienced the workplace environment of surgery and recovery at hospitals. She did clinical rotations as a part of earning her State Tested Nursing Assistant certification. She is a member of the National Technical Honor Society and earned academic college credit in algebra, anatomy, psychology, government, and English.
Ragina Drake, Dunbar
Ragina will be attending North Carolina A&T this fall. While at Dunbar she was a scholar as well as a member of the volleyball team, and a boys basketball team manager. Ragina was a member of the Booker T. Washington chapter of the National Honor Society and on the superintendent’s honors list. In addition, Ragina earned 40 college credits from Sinclair Community College that she will take with her as she pursues her post-secondary education.
Hunter Penkal, Bradford
Hunter is the son of John and Angie Penkal. He has participated in football for 4 years, powerlifting for 4 years and track for 3 years all while maintaining a 3.96 GPA. Hunter was awarded the Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Award. He has been in National Honor Society for 3 years and served as National Honor Society president this past year. After graduation, Hunter plans to attend Hillsdale College and play football.
Michelle Garrison, Centerville
Garrison, daughter of Brian and Joann Garrison, will attend Emory University in the fall and will major in biology. She earned valedictorian honors with a GPA of 4.97. At Centerville High School, she was involved in varsity soccer, lunch buddies, STAND (Stop Tobacco And Nicotine Dependence), BOLD (Building Our Lives Drug-free) and National Honor Society. She also serves as a Sunday school teacher at Incarnation Parish.
Rachel C. Winters, Troy Christian
Winters, the daughter of Mark and Susan Winters, will attend Cedarville University to study pharmaceutical science. She graduates with a 4.475 GPA and a 32 score on the ACT, having earned 28 college credits during high school. Winters played volleyball and basketball at Troy Christian, volunteered at Clubhouse Dreambuilders and on service trips to Nashville and Nicaragua, and worked at the Sno Shack in Troy. Her favorite class was Anatomy and Physiology, and volleyball was her most important activity. “Volleyball taught me dedication of time and energy, how to manage my time with practices and homework, perseverance to develop my skills and eventually play at the varsity level, and how to be a team player and leader.”
Laura Fink, Tippecanoe
Laura is the daughter of Becky and Tom and will attend The Ohio State University as a biology major with the goal to attend medical school and conduct research. Laura says her dream job is to work with Doctors without Borders, a humanitarian organization that treats people where the need is greatest. She says, “Nothing would be more rewarding.” Laura is a Commended National Merit Scholar, Top Scholar, National Honor Society member, and member of the THS Cross Country One Thousand Mile Club. While at Tippecanoe High School, Laura also ran track, wrote for the Inferno literary magazine, participated in the newly-formed We ARE Club, and sang in choir. She says her most memorable high school experience was getting second place with her cross country team at the state meet in 2015. She says, “Nothing felt better than standing on the podium and knowing that all of the hard work that season paid off.”