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Valedictorian profile: Proving themselves

Two Rogue River valedictorians say achieving their school’s highest graduating honor wasn’t about topping their classmates
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Savannah Talley, left, and Anna Howard, are Rogue River High School valedictorians, and both want to go into the medical field.

Rogue River High School seniors Anna Howard and Savannah Talley both used the word “proud” to describe how they felt about being named valedictorians of this year’s graduating class, but the two young women who grew up together in this rural community say they didn’t try to attain that level to impress their peers.

Howard, who wants to be a registered nurse, said being at the top of her class “doesn’t make me better than anybody else.”

“It’s just an accomplishment for me, personally,” that instilled in her perseverance and other skills necessary to become a “better, stronger individual,” she said.

Talley, who wants to earn a degree in medical imaging, said while some might believe her only goal in public school was to obtain a 4.0 grade point average, that is not the case.

“I really just wanted to … prove something to myself more than than anything else,” Talley said. “I did it for me and my future.”

Nonetheless, these two young women both marvel at becoming valedictorians.

Howard added she is “glad to do it with Savannah because it’s kind of fun to have a partner.”

Plans after high school

Rogue River’s 2022 valedictorians have more in common than just their title — they both plan to go into the medical field.

For Howard, that means being a registered nurse. She already has been obtaining prerequisite credits at Rogue Community College — where she might get her nursing degree, if not Eastern Oregon University.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” she said. “I have a caring heart, and I want to use it.”

Howard has lived in Rogue River her entire life and wants to “give back to the community that has given me so much.” Exactly which medical facility she wants to work at is not something she has decided.

Talley, meanwhile, wants to be a diagnostic imaging (ultrasound) technician after high school. Like Howard, she’ll garner prerequisite credits at RCC before heading up north to Linn-Benton Community College in Albany to earn an associate’s degree in applied science.

Talley’s interest in ultrasounds is personal. She recalled getting many X-rays and MRIs as a child, due to a malformation. The experience with medical technology was “comforting” to her, she said.

“People were sticking up for me and getting across my needs, and I want to do the same for other people in those circumstances,” Talley said.

A solid friendship

Talley and Howard met in second grade. The two have always been in the same circle of friends.

“We might not talk to each other every single day, but we have a bond that knows that, ‘They are my friend and I can count on them,’” Howard said.

Talley laughed at her friend’s answer, saying Howard has thought of everything she wants to say.

“I always knew that I could count on Anna and come to her if I ever have any problems,” Talley said. “I feel like it’s always been like that through the years.”

Their time together during the week is extended during carpool trips they take two days a week to RCC, where they both study.

“It’s been so helpful having someone else going into the medical field,” Talley said.

Addressing the Class of ’22

Howard and Talley chuckled at the delight of speaking to their classmates June 4, during graduation on the Rogue River Junior/Senior High School football field.

Both are still planning what they will say, but Howard knows she wants to set hers against the backdrop of a group of students who have “been through some struggles,” like virtual learning during the pandemic.

“I’m super proud of the people that I have been able to call my peers. … We’ve all had growth, we’ve all had setbacks, we’ve all overcome challenges — and we’re all going to walk across that stage,” Howard said. “On that day, I want to inspire them to keep going.”

Talley, who will speak alongside the salutatorian, wants to talk not only about how that person inspired her, but how the Class of 2022 shaped her values.

“All of my peers have helped push me to become who I am,” Talley said.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.