Kingman, Kingman Academy, Lee Williams valedictorians headed for college

KINGMAN – A new wave of academic achievers has finished high school and is slowly getting ready for the shift to college life.

The 2017 top graduates from Kingman, Kingman Academy and Lee Williams high schools – all 18-year-old women – briefly shared their future plans, greatest memories and words of advice for their underclassmen.

In order to earn the valedictorian title, these students had to earn and keep a cumulative 4.0 GPA throughout their four years in high school.

Participation in sports, clubs, community service and other extracurricular activities don’t count toward the title, but can give students a leading edge when they drop anchor in the real world.

Kingman High School

Savanna Voss had a 4.3 GPA.

She plans on enrolling in University of Arizona to major in nutritional sciences, gradually working toward a doctorate in pharmaceutical studies.

“That’s my ultimate goal,” she said.

Voss was a member of the KHS girls’ basketball team all four years of high school. Despite taking time off her junior and senior year due to injuries, her most memorable experience was being part of the frosh, junior varsity and varsity teams.

“We had a great program with Danny Gonzales when he was coach. Things changed when we got a new coach, but we got over it and finished the season pretty good,” she said.

Voss said participation is key for those following in her footsteps.

“I wish I would’ve been more involved my freshman and sophomore years,” she said. “And (also) done more than play basketball. (Maybe) get involved in more clubs.”

She also wished she would’ve diversified her academic resume.

“I wasn’t interested at all in medicine my freshman and sophomore year,” Voss said. “I could’ve taken something else earlier and maybe realized I like other subjects.”

Kingman Academy High School

KAHS had three equal achievers.

Victoria Depner, Kirsten Lewis and Kaitlyn Smith all scored a 4.0 GPA. All three attended KAHS for the duration high school.

Depner plans on attending Arizona State University to major in pre-veterinarian studies and minor in Spanish.

She cited her junior prom was her most memorable experience.

“All my friends were there and it was a really good time,” she said.

Advice for future grads?

“Be yourself,” she said. “In the end, that’s all that matters.”

Lewis is headed to Northern Arizona University to major in biomedical science. After that, it’s off to a yet undesignated medical school to become a pediatric surgeon.

Her most memorable experience was taking a senior trip to Disneyland with the KAHS cheer squad.

“I had been to Disneyland before,” she said. “But not with the team.”

What does she want those following in her footsteps to carry on?

“Be involved in high school. So you experience more of high school and don’t regret not doing it,” she said.

Smith plans on sailing a smoother – and possibly cheaper – course through college.

She’ll begin at Mohave Community College to lock down an associate degree in biology and geology, and hopes to unearth a paleontology degree at NAU.

Smith’s most memorable event was yet to come as of graduation practice Wednesday morning.

“I’m looking forward to giving my speech tonight,” said the admitted introvert. “I’m nervous, but I think it will work.”

Smith’s advice to lower classmen was to avoid stress and stay confident.

“Everything works itself out,” she said. “Have faith and take pride in your achievements.”

Lee Williams High School

Dakotah Gerlach, 18, has been a LWHS Cambridge student for four years and has a GPA of 4.559.

The Cambridge program allowed her to complete career and college readiness classes, which could’ve bought her an early graduation to attend MCC and eventually a university, but she stuck around to complete more college credits while still hanging out with her high school friends.

Gerlach has been accepted to NAU to study dental hygiene in the fall, and hopes to one day become an orthodontist.

Most of her greatest memories stem from her community service with the National Honor Society. NHS helps and organizes local charity events such as food drives (for both humans and animals), school supply drives as well as global outreach programs.

“The big takeaway is, not only do you learn how to be a better person, but also help others become better people,” Gerlach said. “And also how to give back to the community.”

She urges her peers to never give up.

“Always stay motivated and dedicated,” she said. “There are always moments that will seem impossible, but as long as you power through, results will come.”