Kamiak’s valedictorian, salutatorian honored by award
Though they had a good idea, this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian at Kamiak High School didn’t know for sure they’d earned the honor until their final high school assembly.
Ryan Vogt was named the Class of 2014’s valedictorian with a 4.265 grade point average, while classmate Yi-Hsin (Chris) Jong was named the salutatorian with a 4.262 GPA during an assembly on Thursday, June 5.
Kamiak’s graduation ceremony was held on Friday, June 6 at the Comcast Arena in Everett.
The pair hold very similar GPA’s, were both active in the school’s Knowledge Bowl club, and were also both named National Merit finalists.
Vogt said though they had a good idea they would earn the honors, it was still wonderful to hear it officially announced.
“I guess I wasn't surprised,” said Vogt of being named the class valedictorian. “We had kind of been tracking it part way through the year, because everyone was interested. But it was still really exciting just to have it be official.”
Because Kamiak keeps the announcement a secret until right before graduation, the pair weren’t required to make a speech at the ceremony on Friday, but Vogt was already selected to talk at the ceremony.
“I'm excited to address my class for the final time,” he said on Thursday, before graduation. “I get a chance to share my story and how it has contributed to how I view life and the grad night party.”
Sarah Flynn, one of the school counselors who has helped Jong through his two years at Kamiak, said he’s been a delight.
“He's been a phenomenal addition, all the feedback has come in that he's a wonderful asset,” she said. “Just really thoughtful and hard working and unbelievably modest.”
Jong plans to attend the University of Washington next fall to study electrical engineering and possibly applied mathematics. He said his advice to underclassmen is to pay attention to peers and learn from them.
“To achieve any goal you have to make some sacrifices and work hard, but I think a really big thing for me was my peers,” he said. “If you can see someone who does something better than you and you learn to appreciate how they do it and learn from that.”
Jong said he played tennis for part of his high school career, and was a member of the robotics team and math club, and stayed busy with activities outside of school.
Vogt’s counselor for the last two years, Alexandria Johns, said she was impressed with what he has accomplished – without much help from her at all.
“Ryan's a great student. He really hasn't needed me very much,” she said, laughing. “He's very independent and is super driven, and I think it's awesome he is able to work this hard and do this much.”
Vogt said his advice to his fellow Knights would be to never be surprised what dedication can do.
“I'd say the position we're in right now doesn't just happen,” said the graduate. “It takes planning and hard work, but ultimately – and I think Chris would agree – grades are not the focus, it’s the symptom of dedicating yourself to learning and advancing yourself.
“I think this is a really big honor, but what I appreciate even more is what I have gotten in my pursuit of doing well in school.”
Vogt was a member of the school’s orchestra all four years, which he said helped him find his place and passion in life. He also participated in the musical this year, as well as the Knowledge Bowl, and played recreational soccer. He also tutors students outside of school.
He said he chose to go to school at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities to study math and physics, largely because he wanted a change.
“A lot of it was that I did want to have a college experience that was new and something different,” he said. “I also got into UW and was seriously considering it up until about two days before I had to make my decision.
“I got good scholarship money from UM that made it possible, being how far away that it is. I also felt that I wanted to get the opportunity to go my own path. I know UW is such an awesome school and so many great things there and I'm sure I'd love it, but I wanted to get my chance to experience something different, both geographically and socially.”
Jong said some of his favorite classes at Kamiak were physics, while outside of orchestra, Vogt said physics and his European history classes were his favorites.
Both graduates said they know things will be changing dramatically going forward and will miss the friendships and community they’ve built.
“You do a lot of growing up in high school, and I think it's difficult to leave it behind,” said Jong.
“I don't think we'll ever be able to replace the experiences we've had with the friends here,” said Vogt.