GRADUATION 2019: Top Wildcats have sterling resumes
Andrews – Ariah Brown and Eric Maennle have been in school together in town for 14 years.
As their childhood journey comes to an end this month, the two of them have collectively claimed nearly every elite honor and title one can earn as a high schooler – which means they will be giving a lot of speeches in the coming weeks.
Brown, who is Andrews’ valedictorian for 2019, has work left to do on speeches for baccalaureate and graduation, but she already has a general idea of her message.
“I just want to thank everyone in our class for being there through the highs and the lows,” she said. “I’m glad we did it all together. We really do have a family.”
Brown did not set out to be at the top of her class specifically, but she has always put a lot into her studies.
“It was something that I worked for, but it wasn’t like the end-all, be-all,” she said. “The recognition is nice to show that I worked hard, but the main thing is to do your best.”
Brown also is student body president, the top vocational student and earned the Levine Scholarship at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, which is a four-year full ride.
“That kind of made my decision for me,” she said. “It made it easy.”
Brown took part in Andrews’ Magic on Main Christmas Parade as well as volunteering at the Special Olympics, among other community efforts. She plans to study in a pre-med program to become a doctor or dentist for her career.
The Charlotte shooting on April 30 resonated deeply in western North Carolina, as student hero Riley Howell of Waynesville received full military honors for saving his classmates’ lives in the tragic incident.
“Charlotte is a very strong community,” Brown said. “A lot of the students there are commuters, but you would be surprised by the sense of community and family there. The campus is huge, but it feels homey. You wouldn’t think that with 30,000 students, but it really does. I’m sure they will come back stronger than ever.”
Maennle is staying closer to home at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.
“I just knew I wanted to go there, and that’s where I think I will be happy,” he said. “I know a lot of people who are going there, so that will help to have friends there I can go to.”
Maennle – the senior class president, 2019 prom king and a participant in Fellowship of Christian Athletes – has made a name for himself academically as well.
“It was in the back of my mind to work hard and stay focused, and it just happened,” he said of earning the title of Class of 2019 salutatorian.
Maennle participated in a variety of sports for the Wildcats, including football, basketball and golf. Injuries slowed him throughout his high school career, during which he showed some flashes of brilliance.
“I am very passionate about sports, and although I had some adversity, I wouldn’t have it any different way,” he said.
Maennle will seek to help those who have faced similar adversity as he pursues a career in physical therapy.
“I’ve had a lot of experience around it and have a strong passion there,” he said, adding that he hopes to earn a doctorate degree.
Maennle said he is further along in his speeches than Brown claimed to be, earning a bit of ribbing from his longtime classmate.
“I’m just trying to figure out how to thank everybody,” he said. “It will be an honor to see everyone out there on that field for the last time.”