McKown, Schell headline Class of 2023

Five Class of 2023 seniors finished with a perfect 5.0 GPA during their time at Rider.

After the district’s tiebreaker was put into place, Maverick McKown was named the valedictorian and Amberly Schell was the salutatorian. Prasi Desai, Carsen Watson and Truc Tran were the other three who were tied at the top.

“This has been a recognition of the hard work we’ve put out over the past four years, not just me, but everyone else who’s right there,” McKown said. “There’s not been that much of a difference between everyone in the top ten.”

Julie Johnson, the college and career counselor, helped break the tie between the top five.

“We recalculate GPA’s, and then we take everybody who has a tie and if they are tied for valedictorian and salutatorian, we put them through this tie breaker,” Johnson said. “We look at AP English 4, and if all five of them have that class on our campus, we look at those individual grades and go off of whatever they had.”

Both McKown and Schell have been heavily involved in multiple UIL competitions and music-related activities over the past four years while also working jobs.

McKown will be competing this week at the UIL science competition and is a favorite to win, but he finds music as a way to destress.

“Orchestra has been a great way to relax. I enjoy making music and working with other people, and it’s just a time you get to relax and hang out with people,” McKown said. “It’s doing something you don’t normally get the time to do every day.”

Schell isn’t only a star student, she’s also been an important part of the choir, where she has earned all-state honors the past three years, including first chair as a sophomore.

“Choir has been the fun class that I’ve taken throughout high school, it’s been my emotional support sort of,” Schell said. “And because of my musical bias, I’d have to say Ms. (Melanie) Coons has been a big inspiration to me, just how she’s always honest with her feelings, and always encourages us.”

Juggling school and home life can be a tough ride for the majority of students, much less ones in as many AP classes and UIL competitions as Schell. Despite this, she manages it rather well.

“I just got a job this year, so it hasn’t been too bad balancing work and school,” Schell said. “I do have two early release periods and that’s usually when I do most of my homework because that’s the time of day that I have.”

McKown has found the perfect balance to stay devoted to his school and personal life.

“I make sure I get my work done when I’m at school. I get as much done as possible, in the little free time I have at school,” McKown said. “It’s easier to just get your work done then, and when you’re at home you can focus on the stuff that’s going on there.”

McKown will be heading to the California Institute of Technology next year majoring in physics, while Schell is going to Brigham Young University in Utah and will be taking general and music classes.

McKown knows that staying dedicated to greatness is the most important step in achieving your goals, even if it doesn’t go as planned.

“Finding internal motivation has been really important. If you want to do something, tell yourself you’re going to do it,” he said. “If you can follow through with it, your plan to do it, it doesn’t matter if you achieve your goal in the end, following through will get you places.”

Alexandra Hamaker, Andrew Menden, Adam Greiger and Matthew White tied for sixth, while Hayden Nguyen was 10th.

“It was pretty close, because out of the top 10, the lowest was a 4.93, and the highest was a 5.0, so that’s pretty good,” Johnson said.