Hillcrest, Mauldin and Woodmont graduates recognized for achievements as scholars and athletes
Mauldin High School
Arianna Simon – Mauldin High School
Valedictorian and Varsity Golfer
With a GPA of 5.4, Arianna Simon, a native of Simpsonville, South Carolina, was chosen as class valedictorian for Mauldin High School this year. As Arianna stood before the well-spaced crowd at Bon Secours Wellness Arena for her graduation ceremony, she triumphantly declared, “One bad situation will not ruin your life. You can choose to see the situation as a lesson, a challenge, or a new start to the next chapter in life. We have survived everything high school has thrown our way, even a pandemic!” Arianna did not just survive though; she thrived and shined even during this difficult pandemic year.
During her high school years, Arianna excelled in sports as well as academics, having played golf on her school’s team since her freshman year. She thanks her grandfather for nurturing her interest in the sport and says that they developed a close relationship in part because of this mutual interest. Arianna’s sister, who also loves golf, continues to play on the school team. Arianna especially appreciates her sister and her friends on the golf team for encouraging her to improve and to grow as a player.
Highly committed to giving back to others, Arianna has participated in numerous community activities since her middle school years. She has belonged to several societies and clubs while at Mauldin High School including: the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (a mathematics honor society), Key Club, Beta Club, and DECA (a business club which aims to prepare community leaders). Many of these organizations carry with them service requirements, and she loves to volunteer and help whenever possible. Arianna deeply believes that a person can impact their community and make a real difference through such service.
As for the pandemic’s effect on her education, Arianna says that it necessitated making some adjustments. Her biggest challenge was creating her own routine with the online courses and computer instruction. She kept thinking that there was only one year left, and she could get through this if she just kept working at it.
Now that Arianna has graduated from high school, she is really looking forward to this summer. She plans to spend a week and a half vacationing in Hawaii and will also visit her family at a cottage in Michigan. One of her favorite pastimes is going to the lake with her family.
Come fall 2021 though, Arianna will be headed to the Georgia Institute of Technology where she plans to major in business administration with a concentration in finance. Ultimately, she hopes to develop a career as a financial advisor or in investment banking.
With her college being three hours away from home, Arianna realizes that she will miss her friends and family the most. She especially thinks about her mother who has helped her do whatever she puts her mind to do and feels thankful for her positive and loving influence. Arianna also says that she will miss some of the comforts of home when she goes into the “real” world. She expects to do a lot of growing up during her college years and is looking forward to the independence associated with college and beginning a new phase of her life.
Hillcrest High School
Graci Gotchy – Varsity Soccer
It was June 3, 2021, when Graci Gotchy walked across the platform at Bon Secours Wellness Arena to deliver her valedictorian speech for this year’s graduating class at Hillcrest High School. She said that the prospect of giving such a presentation was scary, but she finally decided upon sharing somewhat embarrassing stories that proved everyone could be successful. She has certainly succeeded both academically and athletically during her high school years!
Graci’s family moved from Hickory, North Carolina to this area just in time for her to start kindergarten. She now resides in Simpsonville, South Carolina with her mom, dad, brother, and two Labrador retrievers (one chocolate and one yellow).
With a GPA of 5.375, Graci managed a variety of AP classes but always loved the science ones best. She received a Sirrine Scholarship from Greenville County as well.
An outstanding athlete, Graci played varsity soccer since becoming a freshman and received an award for being the athlete with the highest GPA.
Graci has many other interests. Graci is deeply concerned about our environment and wants to help make things better. She belongs to a club called “Students for Animals and the Environment,” which organizes clean-up activities for trash pickup and supply drives for the animals in Greenville. Since her junior year, Graci has served as a representative on the student council.
Graci also says that the pandemic affected her senior year. She shares that it was a big adjustment doing so many of the classes online and at home. With all the distractions to overcome, it takes self-motivation and discipline to succeed in such a setting.
This summer, Graci will be focusing on working and on seeing her family members before going off to college.
This fall, she plans to attend Clemson University Honors College where she will major in animal and veterinarian science. Her ultimate career goal is to become a veterinarian.
Graci says that she will miss being a part of this community and will especially miss the friends she made on her soccer team and on student council. But looking forward, she knows that going to college means meeting many new people. Also, some of her current friends will be going to Clemson, too! She is especially excited about learning the hand-on stuff in her major at Clemson University.
Graci says that her family inspires her. She especially wants to thank her mom, who has sacrificed much and supported Graci in all her undertakings. Graci is also motivated by the idea of improving the world. Perhaps this explains why her valedictorian speech included these stirring words– “Just keep pressing on no matter what life throws at you. You are more than capable of achieving whatever you set out to do! Everyone has the potential to go out into the world and to change it for the better.”
Woodmont High School
Campbell McCarthy – Varsity Swimming
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Campbell McCarthy moved with her family to Simpsonville, South Carolina when she was two years old. She now resides there with her parents and twin brother Palmer who plans to go to Clemson University next year.
With a GPA of 4.9, Campbell graduated sixteenth in her class at Woodmont High School and belongs to the National Honor Society. She took a wide variety of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes including everything from chemistry and psychology to U.S. and world history during her high school years.
In addition to her academic successes, Campbell was named female athlete of the year during her senior year. She became interested in swimming at the age of five and started swimming on teams in seventh grade. Campbell swam with the high school team since her freshman year. Campbell’s other interests include outside activities such as hiking, biking, and playing tennis.
The pandemic affected Campbell’s high school education as well. She went to school only two days a week until the second semester of her senior year. She says that the plexiglass dividers between students and the mask-wearing made it challenging to talk with others!
This summer, Campbell plans to work at a downtown Simpsonville barbecue restaurant to earn some extra money. She just got back from a fantastic beach trip and will travel to Chicago sometime during July.
Come fall 2021, Campbell plans to attend Gardner Webb University in North Carolina where she will major in nursing. She says that she enjoys interacting with people and moving around a lot. She feels that she would never want a desk job though. Campbell believes that hard work pays off, and she enjoys working hard to achieve a goal.
As she reflects on leaving home for college, Campbell knows she will miss her friends especially since she has known them for most of her life. She will also miss being at home with her family and spending time with the family dog, a cockapoo named Baxter whom she dearly loves. Campbell especially wants to thank her family, teammates, and friends for their help throughout her high school years. She is really looking forward to making new friends, meeting new people, and being on her own.
Campbell’s advice to the rising seniors is this— “Enjoy every moment because it’s over before you know it.” She especially thinks that it is important to spend time with family and friends whenever you have the opportunity.■