By Debbie Adams
William Byrd High School recognized the accomplishments of the Class of 2023 at the Senior Honors Banquet on April 24. The ceremony and dinner were held in the William Byrd High School annex gymnasium.
WBHS Principal Tammy Newcomb welcomed the students and their parents; dinner was served, and then the awards and recognitions began, distributed by Newcomb and Assistant Principals Marcee Cook, Travis Anderson, and Phillip Martin.
The highlight of the honors ceremony– the naming of the Best All Around Female and Best All Around Male for the WBHS Class of 2023– comes at the end of the evening. This year’s winners were Bethany Beecher and Justin Patrick.
The first recognition of the evening on April 24 was for the Top Terrier, Justin Patrick. The Top Terrier is nominated by students, elected by the faculty, and awarded to the senior who best exemplifies the qualities of integrity, loyalty, courage of character, and who serves as a role model for everyone. This person values education as well as the traditions of the school. The Top Terrier is named on the first day of school each fall.
Newcomb next presented the Blue Ridge Academic Awards to Case Crawford, Emma Gordon, Sophia Chrisley, Maci Glass, and Ella Ashworth, who have the highest GPA’s and the most awarded school letters in the Class of 2023.
Olivia Hurd and Dustin Richards were named as the 2023 William Byrd B’Nai Brith winners. These awards are given each year to a male and female winner from among 19 schools in the Roanoke Valley. It is viewed locally as the area “Heisman trophy” of high school awards. The student-athletes are judged differently than most awards of this kind. The award is weighted 40-percent on athletic success, 40-percent on academic success and 20 percent on community service. Hurd and Richards will compete with the other 19 schools for the prestigious award.
Newcomb next honored the 2023 Dog Pound leaders, Madeline Simmons and Dylan Hughes. Each year the senior class nominates and votes for two students to lead the award-winning school spirit, rowdy–but fun, student section known as the Dog Pound.
Coveted Department Awards were also presented. Each department selects an outstanding senior who maintains good academic standards in the department, displays good character, and contributes constructively to the class, department, and school. They are recommended by teachers and determined by a consensus vote by the teachers of that department. The names of the department award recipients are kept secret until the night of the banquet.
Department Award recipients for 2023 include:
- Art: Lily Kroese
- Band: Latriva Pierce
- Business: Hayden Thomas
- Choir: Magdalene Rusinak
- Drama: Adrian Nunez
- English: Reagan Booth
- Family and Consumer Science (FACs): Makayla Collins
- French: Elijah Dillon
- Latin: Sophia Chrisley
- Marketing: Sydney Haddox
- Math: Thomas McGregor
- Physical Education: Devin Foutz
- Science: Bailey Warden
- Social Studies: Matan Morse
- Spanish: Latriva Pierce
- Yearbook: Sydney Haddox and Madison Burks
According to William Byrd Assistant Principal Marcee Cook, “Best All Around” is a “coveted honor based first on academic success, and second on who best represents good character and investment in their school and community. These young people have also participated in a variety of academic and extracurricular activities and the selections are determined by a faculty nomination and vote.”
Each year these two awards are presented by members representing organizations active in the Vinton community—the Vinton Breakfast Lion’s Club and the GFWC Vinton Woman’s Club–who graciously award each winner a $250 scholarship.
Vicki Newburn, secretary of the Vinton Women’s Club, presented the Best All Around Female Award to Bethany Beecher.
“Presenting this award has been a main focus of our club for many years,” Newburn said. “We work to raise funds to be able to see the smiles of happiness each year.”
“This young lady has been involved in a variety of school activities and volunteer work, and she has work experience beginning as a 14-year-old until now. She has worked hard in many clubs such as the FCA, Leo Club, Outdoor Club, and BETA Club. She has found time to run cross country and play lacrosse serving as the team captain since 2021. This year she served as FCA Club president and in 2022 she attended Girl’s State at Longwood University. She volunteers at Vertical Church, Friendship House, and has helped with fundraisers and recycling through the Leo Club.”
“Her work experience includes babysitting, serving on the kitchen staff at Camp Bethel, and working at Copperman Farm, operating machinery and caring for the animals.”
“I have no idea how this young lady found time to attend school, much less to be this shining star.”
Vinton Breakfast Lions Club president Hal Mabe introduced Justin Patrick as Best All Around Male for the Class of 2023.
“This individual has strong leadership qualities developed over his life experiences including serving in his church, winning awards in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and running his own small business,” Mabe said before revealing the winner’s name. “He has served in the SCA helping with various events. He has also stayed busy by serving on Junior Council and the student yearbook.”
“Church is important to him and his family and he gives of his time there also by serving as a student leader; he traveled to the Dominican Republic to help with a construction project for a school and also helped prepare a house for a family through the Friendship Ministry in downtown Roanoke. He and his family volunteer at Straight Street to provide dinners for local teens.”
“This individual will most likely head in the direction of a communications career as he has already worked in media production at his church, with the Rail Yard Dawgs, the Salem Red Sox, and for events at the Berglund Center. To add to that, he does the same for the William Byrd Terrier TV.”
“This young man doesn’t skip any effort on his grades while being busy in the community. He has a 4.5 GPA at the Governor’s STEM Academy, a 4.11 GPA at William Byrd High School, and a 4.0 GPA at Virginia Western Community College.”
“This young man is a Top Terrier in so many ways and he can shoot the material with his camera, edit the story, and present it to the masses, and maybe while wearing the Dog Pound Terrier Mascot costume.”
Candidates for Valedictorian were announced at the banquet. Valedictorians have achieved a cumulative GPA of 4.0 or higher during their high school years. In recognition of that accomplishment, the students were presented with their Valedictorian Stole to be worn at graduation, their Valedictorian Certificate, and an Honor Graduate gold tassel. This year all of the valedictorians are also BETA Club members and received a BETA Club pin. If they completed the required 10 volunteer hours, they also received a BETA Club cord. (Starred * names also received Advanced Studies Diploma pins.)
Class of 2023 valedictorians include Ella Ashworth*, Bethany Beecher*, Casi Carawan*, Sophia Chrisley*, Brandon Clark,* Jason Cox*, Case Crawford*, Taylor Davis*, Kara Defibaugh*, Reagan Dillard*, Kristianna Fitzgerald*, Maci Glass*, Emma Gordon*, Sydney Haddox*, Breanna Hodges*, Olivia Hurd*, Kathryn Johnson*, Ashton Kanode, Carsyn Kotz*, Jakob Kroese*, Lily Kroese*, Sage Kushman*, Tina Lin*, Alejandro Lopez, Anne Martin*, Thomas McGregor*, Martina Mihelcic*, Holly Mills*, Harley Morgan*, Matan Morse*, Maggie Parkhurst*, Dominic Pascoe*, Justin Patrick*, Kristen Patrick*, Latriva Pierce*, Magdalene Rusinak*, Kenna Sarver*, Julie Sattah*, Pari Shah*, Madeline Simmons*, Kathryn Toney*, Xavier Vaughn*, Bailey Warden*, and Madeleine Wolters-Argenio*.
Those receiving BETA Club cords for completing volunteer hours were Ella Ashworth*, Bethany Beecher*, Casi Carawan*, Sophia Chrisley*, Brandon Clark,* Jason Cox*,Taylor Davis*, Kara Defibaugh*, Reagan Dillard*, Kristianna Fitzgerald*, Maci Glass*, Breanna Hodges*, Olivia Hurd*, Ashton Kanode, Carsyn Kotz*, Lily Kroese*, Tina Lin*, Alejandro Lopez, Anne Martin*, Martina Mihelcic*, Holly Mills*, Harley Morgan*, Matan Morse*, Maggie Parkhurst*, Justin Patrick*, Kristen Patrick*, Latriva Pierce*, Magadelene Rusinak*, Julie Sattah*, Pari Shah*, Madeline Simmons*, Kathryn Toney*, and Madeleine Wolters-Argenio*.
Distinguished Honor Graduates with GPA’s of 3.5 or higher were also recognized and presented with an Honor Graduate Gold Tassel. (Starred * names also received Advanced Studies Diploma pins.)
Distinguished Honor Graduates for 2023 include Addisyn Ackley, Dillon Anderson*, Jacob Archambo*, Landon Barber*, Aleyah Basham*, Mikayla Belanger*, Dakota Bell*, Makayla Bell*, Jacob Blevins*, Reagan Booth*, Nathaniel Bowles, Carter Bray*, Madison Burks*, Cadin Byrd*, Alex Coffey*, Makayla Collins*, Kyle Colvin*, Melissa Cruz-Quiroz*, Katelyn Davis, Paige Davis*, Jacob Dickerson*, Elijah Dillon*, Bailey Dollberg*, Jonathan Farmer*, Samuel Ferris*,Summer Garmon*, Ricardo Gaspar-Cabrera*, Tabitha Giles, Clayton Gilmore*, Madison Gray*, Anthony Harris*, Shane Heldenbrand*, Daniel Hiemstra, Dylan Hughes*, Hannah Johnson*, Victoria Johnson*, Logan Jones, Peyton Leftwich*, Cayden Litchford, Olivia Lyles*, Colin Murtaugh*, Alexis Nelms, Alice Palmer*, Zachary Palmer*, McKenna Paradis*, Katelin Patrick*, Brooklyn Peters*, Corinna Pittenger*, Trace Poindexter, Jackson Powell, Kiefer Rea, Caley Riley, Tanner Sarver, Kaiden Schuder*, Garrett Sexton*, Krenar Sinani*, Tymothy Spradlin, Nicolette Stiltner*, Abigail Stoehr*, Bryce Sutphin, Caleb Thompson*, Haleigh Vaughan*, Grayson Webb*, Aiden Williams, Sydney Wintz*, Madison Wright*, and Collin Young*.
Distinguished Honor Graduates who are members of the BETA Club were also recognized, including Aleyah Basham* (pin and cord), Mikayla Belanger*(pin and cord), Jacob Blevins*, Reagan Booth*, Madison Burks*(pin and cord), Makayla Collins*(pin and cord), Melissa Cruz-Quiroz*, Elijah Dillon*(pin and cord), Bailey Dollberg*, Summer Garmon* (pin and cord), Ricardo Gaspar-Cabrera*, Dylan Hughes*(pin and cord), Hannah Johnson*(pin and cord), Victoria Johnson*(pin and cord), Colin Murtaugh*, McKenna Paradis*, Corinna Pittenger*, Kiefer Rea (pin and cord), Kaiden Schuder*, Nicolette Stiltner*(pin and cord), Caleb Thompson*, Haleigh Vaughan*(pin and cord), and Collin Young*(pin and cord).
The Best All Around Male and Female awards were presented at the end of the evening. Each year the awards are presented by members representing organizations active in the community—the Breakfast Lions Club of Vinton and the GFWC Woman’s Club of Vinton. Winners were awarded a $250 scholarship.
Each Distinguished Honor Graduate was asked to create a “Senior Board” with their pictures and accomplishments, which were then displayed in the gym.
The 2023 Senior Honors Banquet was organized and facilitated by Senior Sponsor Hannah Prater, art teacher Alicia Spangler, and members of the WBHS Guidance Department.
The meal, which was served to about 300 students and guests, was catered by Sal’s and served by cadets from the William Byrd High School Navy National Defense Cadet Corps.