Some students set a goal to rise to the top of their class early on. Others, like Swainsboro High School’s Samuel White, are reassurance that the unconventional road is possible as well.
He’s 17-years-old and a native of Nashville, Tennessee. However, he was raised in Swainsboro and has walked the halls of Tiger Trail for years.
In White’s own words, he was living a normal life leading up to somewhat surprising news.
“I found out I was valedictorian in the second semester of my sophomore year. Prior to becoming valedictorian, I was not ‘campaigning’ for it. I was living my life as normal, trying my best to get good grades in school. After realizing I was valedictorian, I fought hard to keep my position. At the time, I was ecstatic because I was ranked in the teens my freshman year. The news really came as a surprise. It was never really a goal of mine, but I decided to make it a priority to keep my rank after I earned it,” White explained.
Sure enough, the work was there early on—and it continued to be there in the years that followed. From the time he was a freshman to now just days away from walking across Tiger Field as “Pomp and Circumstance” sounds, he has raked in accomplishment after accomplishment. Some of those include being inducted into Beta, joining the tennis, football, and wrestling teams, and playing in the band. Further, White is a member of the Citizens Bank Student Advisory Board, the eSports team, and Beta, and being named several times to the honor roll while being a dual enrollee at the local state college.
Playing in the band trumps (pun unintended) any other challenge high school presented, and he’s thankful for what the related struggles taught him along the way.
“My greatest challenge in my high school career was playing in the band. I have little natural talent for music and I’m not very good at keeping tempo, so it has been an uphill battle to stay on top of my music. Being in the band has challenged me in a way that regular academic class did not. I never struggled academically, but band is a different story. I believe being in the band strengthened my work ethic and character,” he said, looking back.
On the flip side, being a Swainsboro Tiger has given him innumerable memories to carry with him throughout the remainder of his life.
“I have so many memories. First, ask anyone in Swainsboro. There’s nothing like being a Tiger on a Friday night. My time with the Band of Gold has been one of the greatest experiences, and the marching band is a tight group of kids. We are friends, and we love and support each other. Some of my other favorite experiences are all Beta trips, but the most memorable one is our junior promfest.”
White says he’s equally grateful for the teachers who impacted him as a student. Lindy Sikes, Amanda Freeman, Cindy Riner, Debra Fallin, and Joseph O’Neal all are on the list of those who helped him the most.
As for how he can help other students, White has a few words that he hopes resonates with the right audience.
“If you want to be valedictorian or salutatorian, on one side, you have to do your absolute best from Day 1, but at the same time, you cannot stress about your grades all the time or you will burn out quickly. Do your best, but take the work as it comes. Take as many honors classes as your school has to offer. Honors and dual enrollment classes give you a little bit of a GPA boost. However, make sure you’re ready before you decide to take dual enrollment classes. Those are a lot more rigorous, and you are in a college environment. College professors do not give you any slack. Most of all, remember that life is bigger than just classes and grades. Take time to enjoy what you do. Join clubs, play sports, or volunteer. But most importantly, just be you. You will find your crowd, your group of friends, that accepts you for who you are.”
With graduation right around the corner, White is preparing for the heartache that will come with it: missing friends and teachers as well as closing this chapter as a whole. That said, however, he’s ready to move forward. He’ll attend UGA next, where he plans to co-major in international business and finance with hopes to professionally move into business or corporate law.
He is the son of John and Yelena White, and he has an older brother, John “Vlad” White.