Santiago’s 2022-23 Valedictorians and Salutatorians


Tina Ngo, Shark Story Editor and Publicist

With the year ending, Santiago’s valedictorians and salutatorians have been announced. Santiago’s valedictorians are Audrey Wang and Lorelai Tang and the salutatorians are Taylor Aguinaldo, Ryan Chavez, Rogers Matthews, and Nathan Gomez. Unfortunately, Lorelai Tang, Rogers Matthews, and Nathan Gomez because they were unable to meet for an interview. Let’s meet some of them! 

Everyone wants to know what it takes to be your school’s valedictorian. One of Santiago’s valedictorians and salutatorians Audrey Wang, Taylor Aguinaldo, and Ryan Chavez can surely tell you. 

What did it take to become Valedictorian, and did you think this would happen?

Audrey replies, “It was always a long-term dream of mine, and it definitely took many hours of studying. It also helped to be familiar with the resources that are available to us, like dual enrollment courses and AP prep materials.”

She knew who she was and strived to get it. 

Taylor ecstatically says, “It took lots of time management and prioritization to become a salutatorian. There were times when I was unsure if I could handle the amount of academic load, but I felt I took advantage of every opportunity to raise my GPA. Honestly, I was not sure I would become a salutatorian because I know the top students in my graduating class are some of the smartest, most motivated people I know and there were no limitations as to how far they’d go to achieve their goals.”

So don’t be afraid to reach out to people to reach your goals; some people aren’t always sure where they’ll end up, but make sure to use your resources!

Ryan also states, “…the most impactful factor in obtaining Salutatorian would definitely be my time management.” But it wasn’t always that easy because he even went in depth as to why he quit track during his Junior year of high school, so if you’re feeling like everyone is ahead of the curve, it’s not always the case. He further explains, “…when senior year came around I came to realize that the reason for my struggle was not my heavy workload but my lack of time management…Achieving this honor is something that I never imagined but am incredibly grateful for as it feels that the years I spent working hard are finally being rewarded“. 

Teachers always talk about time management, and it’s a valuable tool, I mean, Santiago’s top class is saying it, so it must account for something. 

Let’s dive into their high school memories as we send them to college!

What’s a funny memory from high school that has stuck with you?

Taylor replies, “A funny memory from high school was participating in Mr. and Mrs. SHS with my boyfriend, Matthew. It was out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed playing games like Family Feud and a baby food challenge with him.”

Honestly, props to Taylor because everyone knows how hard it can be to really step out of your comfort zone. This shows that the top of the class can have fun and an outside life despite the stigma. 

What did you regret in high school, and what didn’t you regret?

Ryan was fortunate not to have many regrets throughout high school, but “if I had to list one, it would be not taking advantage of the many clubs on campus sooner. All these groups were made available to me during my first club rush, yet it wasn’t until last year that I joined a few and participated in them.” He further states how he never regretted joining the cross-country team. He says, “I was never the fastest athlete on the team, but that wasn’t what it was all about. The lessons I learned under Coach Etheridge translated beyond the race course and into the classroom. I was taught the importance of persistence and grit.” And honestly, sometimes it’s all about your passions, so being the best at something won’t always teach you important life lessons. 

Lastly, hearing some advice from our very own valedictorian and salutatorians. 

Any advice to those still in high school pushing to achieve?

Audrey says, “One of the most important things about getting through high school is figuring out how to balance work and relaxation. So, find a time management strategy that works for you. Sometimes little habits, like planning the day ahead of time or using a to-do list app, can help a lot. Also, join clubs that you are interested in! Regardless of your grade, it’s never too late to get involved. Being a part of clubs on campus is an integral part of the high school experience and can help you meet super cool people”. And she wishes the rest of Santiago nothing but the best of luck. 

Ryan adds, “Try it all, and don’t base your success on the person you once were or others around you. What matters most is who you are now. You must take each year as a clean slate from the one prior, good or bad. Your teachers now have no idea about the student you once were, or the challenges you’ve faced so ensure that you take every opportunity to prove yourself and achieve success. Remember that the successes or failures you had in the past do not dictate who you are now. Base your improvement on the person you were last week, not last year. Focus on the moment at hand and make short-term improvements, for these tiny steps will lead to greater successes than you could have ever imagined.”

Taylor finalizes, “Know what you want. By this, I mean understanding what you want to accomplish and how you envision your definition of success. By doing this, you will naturally prioritize what is important to you and be motivated when times get hard since you are working towards what you desire for yourself.”

As we are saying our final goodbyes to the Senior class, it’s safe to say that the class of 2023 will always be with those who will still stay here. Audrey Wang, Taylor Aguinaldo, and Ryan Chavez have taken the time out of their busy schedules to interview me, and I couldn’t be happier and more proud of them! Best of luck to all of them and the rest of Santiago.