By Judith Roberts
Simsboro High School’s two valedictorians, William Cole and Lauren Vernon, worked to overcome obstacles to achieve their academic goals and were able to celebrate their success by focus and determination.
Vernon, the daughter of Lawrence and Latisha Vernon, said finding out she was valedictorian was the best feeling ever.
“For as long as I can remember, that has always been a goal of mine,” Vernon said. “It was great to be able to stand in front of my fellow classmates to give helpful advice for the future. It’s also always nice to be recognized for all the hard work that was put into achieving the goal. I will always remember the feeling of walking in with my medal and feeling proud of myself for all I have done.”
Cole said finding out he was named valedictorian felt like an award for four years of overcoming immense obstacles.
“My family was incredibly excited and couldn’t stop telling me how proud of me they were since I was the first Valedictorian in my entire family,” he said.
Cole said he credited a lot of his success to his teachers, particularly Reaghan Norred, his sophomore science teacher, and Felicia Dunbar, his sophomore geometry teacher.
“Both of these wonderful ladies showed me how fulfilling teaching could be,” he said. “No matter what they faced in the classroom, the continued on, business as usual, and persevered.”
Vernon said she was forever grateful for the education she had learned from Simsboro High School.
“There have been so many teachers that have inspired and encouraged me,” she said. “There are a list of people who have just been so impactful in so many ways. Just to name a few I have been continuously encouraged and inspired by Mrs. Lacey Holcomb, Mr. Jordan Blachier, Mrs. Shana Simms, Mrs. Tracey King, Ms. Carly Sproule, and Ms. Kaitlyn Mercer. This is just a small list of people who have been with me through every step of my education journey.”
Vernon said she plans to attend Northwestern State University and major in pre-med so she can study to become a pediatrician.
“I will miss the environment from SHS. I’ve been going there ever since pre-k and the amount of connections I created with other students and the faculty is just so special. It was just like another home to me and I will most being around such amazing people every day,” she said. “I’m looking forward to putting my self out there meeting new people and experiencing new things.”
Cole plans to stay in Ruston and attend Louisiana Tech as he majors in mathematics.
“I always liked Algebra 1 and 2 because I found it incredibly satisfying to work through these complex problems, simplifying them to reach a simple conclusion,” he said. “I can’t wait to start college. It’s such an exacting time for change and growth that really only happens once in your life.”
He added that he hoped future SHS students would be encouraged by his story.
“I would tell future valedictorians that all of their hard work will truly pay off,” he said. “I think that students should make the most of high school. We only go through high school once.”
Vernon said she advised students keep striving toward their goals, no matter what.
“There are going to be people that try to tear you down. There are going to be situations and obstacles that try to get in the way,” Vernon said. “As long as you continue to look ahead and focus on the dreams and goals that you want to achieve, you can do anything.”