Peterson, McCall reach for the stars

Published 3:35 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2023

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The Calhoun School principal Nicholas Townsend said selecting a valedictorian and salutatorian for a graduating class is not a task that is taken lightly.

“During my tenure as the principal of The Calhoun School over the past 8 years, the valedictorian and salutatorian have had high character traits, possessed strong work ethics, led by example, are determined, self-motivated and goal oriented,” said Townsend. 

The principal, counselor, and other staff work each year together selecting the lead graduates.

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Criteria includes meeting benchmarks for grade point averages (GPA) and consideration of such things as whether the student participates in honors classes or dual enrollment.

Those are definitely traits of valedictorian Cur’Tasia Peterson and salutatorian LaDarrien McCall.

“Cur’Tasia is ambitious and strives for excellence. She works hard towards achieving extraordinary results. She is a leader who motivates others to achieve something new and better,” said The Calhoun School Counselor Rosalyn Warren. 

Peterson hopes her classmates will look back the upon days and years leading to their May 20 graduation. 

“I want us to take a moment to recognize the challenges we faced along the way. I encourage each and every one of you to take the opportunities that are coming your way,” Peterson said to her fellow classmates. “Use your talents and skills to make a difference in this world. I am proud of each and everyone one of you. As we go our separate ways, let us remember the lessons we have learned and the memories we have made, and the friendships we made.”

Warren said McCall is a student who does his best at all times. 

“LaDarrien McCall is dedicated and always puts in sufficient effort, if not more, to produce an excellent output or performance,” Warren said. “He has a desire for extensive knowledge and is a lifelong learner.” 

McCall said he urges classmates to be the best that they can,“I would tell them to go out and become the best versions of themselves that they possibly can. Go chase your dreams and don’t stop until you reach them. Lastly, I would tell them to live by their own standards, not trying to live by someone else’s.”

Looking back over the achievements of the graduating class, Townsend encouraged graduates, “My advice to the senior class is to enjoy the process. We get so entangled in the dream of reaching our goals, we tend to skip over the process. The process is what makes it possible for you to reach your goals. I tell our students to learn how to ‘dance in the rain’, the rain being symbolic of the process.”

Warren also offered advice to graduates. “Dream big and achieve your dreams by working hard to reach your goals in life. Nothing in life just comes to you, you have to want it and work for what you want. With that being said, start working hard, stop complaining, listen and learn, try new things, learn new things to help you grow to become a better person. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done, and make no excuses.”

McCall said he hopes to live like some of the people who inspired him, like history teacher and Coach Ronald Smith, athletic director Coach Nickles Rankins, and his late great grandfather, civil rights activist Charles Smith, Sr.

“[Charles Smith] inspires me because he was brave and had to resolve to go against the status quo and make a difference,” McCall said. “He housed Black Panther Party members. He was also a county commissioner in Lowndes County. A building in Hayneville is named after him, the Charles Smith Sr. Annex”. 

Peterson said she is inspired by family members – her mother, father, and sister.

“They inspire me the most because of the hard work that they do everyday. Watching them sacrifice their time to fulfill my needs throughout the years has been very inspiring to me,” she said. “They put their time and dedication into helping me succeed, and till this day I am so grateful for the things that they have done.” 

Both students plan to continue their education following graduation. Peterson will enroll at Auburn University to pursue a degree in pharmacy. After graduation, McCall will attend Alabama A&M University and study electrical engineering and minor in computer science.