St. Pius X announces 2021 valedictorian, salutatorian, STAR student


Headhsots courtesy of Lifetouch

Sarah Halbig (left) was name valedictorian, Sophia Ripoll (middle) salutatorian, and Cody Nelson (right) STAR student for the Class of 2021.

Chloe Dierkes, Staff Writer

St. Pius X recently announced its highest academic honors for the Class of 2021, naming senior Sarah Halbig valedictorian, senior Sophia Ripoll salutatorian, and Cody Nelson STAR Student, the award which is given to the senior with the highest SAT score who is among the top 10% in his class

Halbig and Ripoll found out they were the valedictorian and salutatorian before the official announcement following an all-school Mass on the morning of January 29. During their first period class, Principal Edye Simpson asked to see them in her office. 

“I was in the same room as Sarah Halbig, and we were taking a quiz when we got the slips to come to the front office. We kind of had an idea of who it was going to be, so I was pretty nervous, but really excited,” Ripoll said. 

The honor came as a complete surprise to Halbig.

“I was really shocked. I did not think it was going to be me,” she said. “But I was so excited.”

Halbig and Ripoll also said they appreciated the support from classmates and teachers.

“Everyone was so nice the rest of the day and everyone was congratulating me. It was really nice to have everyone so happy for me,” Halbig said. 

They noted that the key to achieving their high GPAs is time management.

Halbig has a busy schedule outside of school. She’s a competitive gymnast and trains four days a week for four hours a day in addition to her schoolwork. 

“I paid attention in class and learned as much during class as I could,” she said.  “It’s important to put effort into what will help your grades and not necessarily just tests, but all of the small things too. I am so grateful to all the teachers and people who have helped me learn how to study and to my classmates for sharing things that could help me study for a test.”

Her advice to students is, “Don’t spend time doing things that don’t matter.” In other words, complete the most important work first before before doing anything else.

In addition to time management, she credits her family for helping her find the motivation to succeed.

“My whole family has always gotten good grades and their good grades pushed me to want to do well in school, so I could get into good colleges,” she said.

Ripoll also keeps herself busy with a variety of extracurriculars.

“I play lacrosse and I am in some clubs. I try to not overwork myself, only doing clubs once a week,” Ripoll said. “I keep up with my work and I take most opportunities for extra credit. I also take a lot of AP classes, which added extra points to my GPA. I feel that I managed my time well for studying.”

Like Halbig, Ripoll also credits her family with helping her succeed.    

“The person who pushed me the most is my sister, 100%. My twin sister Claire helped me so much. We push each other and we would work together because we took a lot of the same classes. We are definitely competitive,” Ripoll said. 

Unlike Halbig and Ripoll, who had to wait until January when first semester grades were finalized to learn of their academic achievements, Nelson found out in December that he was the STAR student,  He chose Ms. Stockard as his STAR teacher, his former English teacher and now French teacher, as the person who influenced him the most in his academic career.

“I picked Ms. Stockard because I’ve had her for all four years at St. Pius. She was my English teacher freshman year and the other years I’ve had her for French. I feel I owe my English skills to her because before I came to her class, I was not very good at English,” Nelson said. 

Besides working hard in school, Nelson attributes his SAT success to preparation.

“My strategy was that I did a lot of test prep,” he said. “I took seven or eight practice tests which was very exhausting, but I guess it paid off,” Nelson said. 

Halbig will be attending the University of Georgia this fall. Ripoll is still deciding, but some of her top picks are Tulane, New York University, and University of Southern California. Nelson said he will most likely attend Georgia Tech.