Breaking Down Valedictorian Demographics

Paul Wei (left) is Highland Park's 2011 valedictorian, and Kevin Yan is the salutatorian. (Staff photo by Joanna England)

When I heard that Paul Wei was this year’s Highland Park valedictorian, I asked myself, “Does an Asian kid finish at the top of the class every year?” That would be an interesting trend, given that only 3.5 percent of the school district is Asian, according to a May 2010 demographics study. So I dug into our archives and found out that the answer to my question is no; it’s just a coincidence that an Asian kid has finished at the top of the class in each of the three years that I’ve been working at this newspaper. I had to go back 11 years to find another. Here are the 21st century’s Highland Park valedictorians:

2011: Paul Wei

2010: Tianen Li

2009: Mengxuan Tang

2008: Kaydee Sloan

2007: Elizabeth Sloan

2006: Spencer Coon

2005: Eliza Crawford

2004: Daniel Stefan

2003: Amanda Luther

2002: Angela Jillson

2001: Cameron Hall

2000: Lisa Zhang

15 thoughts on “Breaking Down Valedictorian Demographics

  • May 27, 2011 at 10:52 am
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    I was talking to a group of senior boys the other night about Paul Wei. They were jokingly saying he is “disgustingly wonderful”. In addition to being brilliant and having the best grades he is good looking, personable, charming, nice to everyone, involved in everything, they all agreed that he is just the best guy in their class hands down in every way. Congrats to Mr. Wei, we’re pround to have have you represent the class of 2011. $KA indeed.

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  • May 27, 2011 at 10:52 am
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    Can you dig a little deeper and list the colleges they attended? Graduate schools?

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  • May 27, 2011 at 11:33 am
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    Are Elizabeth and Kaydee Sloan sisters?
    Where is Paul headed for college? What about Alex Levine?

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  • May 27, 2011 at 11:49 am
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    @ College (and Steve, to some extent): Paul and Kevin are headed to Harvard and Columbia, respectively, and both hope to do a pre-med track.

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  • May 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm
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    @Steve. Alex Levine is a junior. Not yet headed to college.

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  • May 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm
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    Alex Levine is a junior.

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  • May 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm
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    For those who are interested, the valedictorian from 2003, Amanda Luther (my daughter), received a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Computer Science from Stanford, each with distinction, in 2007, and will receive her M.B.A. from Stanford next month.

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  • May 27, 2011 at 9:10 pm
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    Sally, very sweet! What’s next after the MBA? She must be really incredible to have only two years of FT work experience.

    WTG Kevin! I went to Columbia. Awesome school and city.

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  • May 27, 2011 at 9:12 pm
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    Didn’t at least one of the Sloan sisters go to Clemson on a full ride? Or was that Eliza? I seem to remember a recent female valedictorian going there for engineering and a truckload of cash.

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  • May 28, 2011 at 9:39 am
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    I’m so glad to hear such good things about Paul. Sometimes in the past, HPHS valedictorians have been particularly adept at gaming the system (or worse) to punch up their GPAs. Doing away with specific class rank (except for the top two) was a good way to de-emphasize statistics among the best students. It may make it a little easier for some of them to follow their true interests, instead of worrying that taking a particular class could cause them to drop a couple of rungs down the ladder. I only wish Paul and Kevin had the good sense to go to Stanford instead of the schools they chose. [Kidding!] [sort of.]

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  • May 28, 2011 at 1:52 pm
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    In 2001, I was never aware of anyone “gaming the system” for high GPAs. For myself, things simply worked out because I took AP/Honors classes whenever available and was successful in them. I didn’t shy away from band even though it brought down my GPA as a “regular” class. We were never told our class rank until the senior awards day, so it was easy to relax and just be a student, striving for excellence without overt competition. Also, I’d just like to add that I’m proud of my in-state public university education (BA Chemistry, Texas A&M, August 2004).

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  • June 1, 2011 at 9:38 am
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    @Cameron- Although I’m a Texas grad, I commend your decision to stay in state.
    @TB- Granted, I didn’t graduate from HP, but I’ve never heard of the top of the class “gaming the system.” They’re usually at the top b/c they’re smarter and more driven than other students. Without more specifics from you, that sounds a bit like sour grapes.

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