MONTEREY — Two talented young women have been named top of the Class of 2023 at Highland High School
Megan Hoover has been named valedictorian and Brianna Wimer is salutatorian.
Graduation is still a week away, but Hoover has already begun her new career. “I have two full-time jobs,” she said. “I am a manager at the Monterey Inn and I am a visa specialist.”
Hoover got her first part-time job as soon as she obtained her driver’s license at age 16, but she never let work get in the way of academics. “It was a struggle sometimes,” she said. “But it was a matter of prioritizing and putting work and school above my social life.”
Becoming valedictorian was a long-time goal and runs in the family. Her older sister, Courtney, was HHS valedictorian in 2020.
Math was Hoover’s favorite subject. “It’s the one that came easiest to me,” she said. “Most of my electives I filled up with AP and dual enrollment classes.”
Hotel management was not what Hoover planned to do as she worked through high school. “I had originally planned to go to college for radiology technology.” But when medical professionals began requiring everyone to take the COVID vaccine, Hoover changed her mind. She was already working for Valentina Meehan in Meehan’s primary business, processing visa and passport applications, and working at High’s Restaurant, when she decided to change plans.
“I decided I wanted a more stable full-time job,” Hoover said.
Once she feels stable in the management position, Hoover said she might take some college classes in hospitality and management.
Wimer will also work at the Monterey Inn this summer before heading to college. “I am enrolled in fall classes at East Carolina University in kinesiology,” she said. She chose that school to get her master’s degree and become an occupational therapist.
“I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field and something that really interacted with the patients,” she said. She narrowed down the specifics early in her high school days.
“It was actually an assignment in Mrs. Hylton’s class,” Wimer said. The project was to research a career the students might enjoy, and Wimer knew occupational and physical therapy was beneficial to patients. “I’d seen it with my grandmother a lot,” she said.
“My personal goal was to graduate with a 4.0 GPA,” Wimer said. She did, and picked up salutatorian as well.
Wimer focused on her studies during the school year and raised livestock to sell at the Highland County Fair over the summer, earning money for college.
“I actually have quite a few credits that will transfer to ECU,” Wimer said. Despite Highland’s small size, the school offers a wide range of AP, Governor’s School, and dual enrollment classes online to help students get ahead.
“Self-discipline is such a big thing when it comes to online classes,” Wimer added. “You’re really having to hold your own.”
But the staff at HHS was there to help her with her online classes. She credits Amanda Newcomb for helping with biology and Megan Botkin for coaching her on medical terminology.
Hoover agreed staff and fellow students helped her along the way. “I know I always enjoyed being in Franny (Neil)’s class with all my friends,” she said. “It was kind of like a support system there.”
Since all of Highland’s classes are small, there was plenty of time for individual help.
“I like that with it being small, you got to have more one-on-one time with your teachers,” Hoover said.
Both found support in a small pre-calculus class of just four students taught by Montana Hise.
“All four of us were friends,” Wimer said. “We all have the same mindset for school, so we were able to get our work done and then have time for socializing.”
“We could talk about whatever we needed to, and that was a big support system,” Hoover agreed.
Wimer said her involvement in volleyball and Future Farmers of America club helped prepare her for the future. She particularly enjoyed the FFA national convention trip.
“It’s the aspect of being able to see things that I wouldn’t have been able to, if it wasn’t for FFA,” she said. “I feel like such a big part of coming from such as small community is being able to go out into the world and see that there are more things than just in this small town.”
Wimer’s advice to those students in the grades behind her is simple but profound: “Definitely obtain self-discipline,” which she said applies to school and life in general.
“Don’t take a moment for granted,” is Hoover’s advice. “As soon as you think it’s going to be slow, it speeds up too fast.
“I just thought the school years were going by so slowly, and I could not wait to get to graduation and start working,” Hoover said. “Then, in the blink of an eye, it was all here.”
Highland High School will hold its graduation ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, June 10, in the high school gym.