The distinction of valedictorian is reserved for those students who have achieved the highest academic distinctions, leadership honors and extracurricular achievements of their graduating class. Teddy Park and Kasey Kemp are being honored as co-valedictorians for the Grand County High School (GCHS) class of 2019. They will be giving separate speeches at the graduation on Thursday, May 30, at 8 p.m.
Park and Kemp have 4.0 GPAs, and they have each maximized their high school offerings in countless and different ways.
Park took many Advanced Placement (AP) courses, even doubling up on English his senior year. He simultaneously took AP Language and AP Literature. AP Language was offered to juniors for the first time this year and Teddy never had the opportunity to take the course.
His teacher in AP Language, Joshua Cameron, said Park “is not the type of student to shy away from challenge.”
“He also is not the type of student who only takes challenging courses because they will help him get into the college of his choice. No — Teddy takes challenging courses because he has a deep intellectual curiosity concerning the world in which he lives,” Cameron said. “Teddy understands that the cure for cancer could come from a discovery in a single blade of grass and, because of that, but also because of who he is, Teddy finds that single blade of grass the most fascinating thing in the universe within that moment in time. Teddy can also high jump higher than he is tall, and that’s pretty cool.”
Kemp took advantage of his school’s offerings, as well.
He did so through a combination of AP courses, concurrent enrollment, and College and Technical Education (CTE) courses like Engineering Principles and Robotics. While taking these challenging courses, Kemp was working as the teaching assistant for Mike Estenson’s math classes at the middle school.
Estenson said of Kemp: “Kasey Kemp is a quietly competent young man who wears a steady smile. He is an amazing student not seeking outside praise and does things to satisfy his own drive. Kasey keeps his accomplishments close to his chest. While working in my middle school math class and taking a full load, Kasey also was taking Calculus 2 at Utah State University in Moab. He got a 98% on the final and I had to ask him about it. This is something any student could brag about, but he kept this private. And boy, can that guy file and make two-sided copies. I am so proud of Kasey Kemp as co-valedictorian and wish him years of growth and success.”
Both graduates are known as STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) “rock stars,” and have tutored their peers in official and unofficial capacities to support those students who struggle in the subjects they excel in.
Kemp and Park also served on student government their senior year, and they both participated in sports throughout high school.
Kemp has been on the tennis and swim teams from ninth to 12th grades, and Park has been on the basketball and track teams throughout high school.
While Kemp and Park are very different, it’s fitting that they share this honor. Both have a love of learning, both are positive and kind, and both are brilliant and both go out of their way to support their peers, educators said.
Dr. Steve Hren, principal at GCHS, said “Teddy and Kasey exemplify what is best in regards to our students at GCHS. They are both stellar examples of individuals with high academic standing and human character.”
Park describes his achievement as “a representation rather than a personal achievement.”
He goes on to explain that “through this distinction, I am able to represent and distinguish the strong qualities and characteristics of the class of 2019.”
Rather than claim the glory, he humbly diffuses the achievement amongst his peers: “I happily and gratefully accept this award with the help from my classmates, adjudicators, family members and teachers at Grand County High School.”
Park, along with his twin brother Kevin, will continue his education at Cornell University in upstate New York with the longterm goal of medicine. Kemp has been accepted into University of Utah’s College of Engineering and is excited to delve into his love of applied mathematics there.
This article was written by Grand County School District educators Joshua Cameron and Alanna Simmons-Cameron.