Peter Larsen photo/SJHS

Valedictorian says SJHS knows how to 'stick together'

by Josh O'Kane - Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal

SAINT JOHN - It was a tight race all the way until the end to become Saint John High School's valedictorian.

"Until we were actually doing the numerical (grade) calculations, and doing it twice to make sure we were right, we weren't sure who the valedictorian would be," said Barry Harbinson, outgoing principal of the school.

Rebecca McBriarty emerged as the winning contender for the position, and had the honour to speak at Monday night's graduation ceremony.

The valedictorian said she and her fellow graduates had faculty, family and friends to thank for getting to the stage that evening, before she spoke of the unity the schools' students had.

"Here's to a school that can stick together when times get rough," she said.

"This year we have supported our troops together and have grieved the heroic loss of Private David Greenslade together. We have helped save a university, we have tried to give our strength to another high school when it faced tragedy, and we have given our love and support to a fellow Greyhound in need. So here's to us.

"We did it. But our task now is to keep doing."

Greenslade was a 2004 graduate of Saint John High who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on April 8, 2007. His parents, Donnie and Laurie Greenslade, presented the inaugural Pte. David Greenslade Memorial Bursary, worth $1,500, at Monday's ceremony.

McBriarty, whose favourite classes were biology and math, plans to attend UNB Fredericton in the fall to take a science degree, and hopes to eventually become a pediatrician.

She was a little disappointed when she found out she wasn't the only valedictorian aiming to be a pediatrician in the region.

"This sounds so lame, because two of the other valedictorians wanted to be pediatricians too, but I really want to be a pediatrician," McBriarty prior to her graduation.

"Stop stealing my dreams," she joked.

McBriarty is also a graduate of the International Baccalaureate diploma program, which allows students to take enhanced course loads throughout high school to receive university credits for certain courses.

That program, she said, gave her a step ahead.

It also helped her out when it came to scholarships. The valedictorian is the recipient of UNB's prestigious Beaverbrook Scholarship, which, combined with other scholarships from UNB, is starting her off with more than $50,000 to go to the school. She's also a Canada Millennium Scholarship recipient.

Principal Harbinson says he's been aware of McBriarty's presence throughout her four years of school, but said she really began to shine when she became an outspoken proponent of saving UNB Saint John after last September's post-secondary education report that recommended converting the campus into a polytechnic institution.

He had kind words to say of her.

"She's an excellent role model for our students," he said. "She's a very bubbly individual and just a sweetheart."

On top of receiving the highest marks in her class, McBriarty has been involved in the school's musicals and choir, swimming and skiing teams, as well as its Christmas parade float team and Club Hope.

mcbriarty.jpg - Saint John High School valedictorian Rebecca McBriarty, second from right, with principal Barry Harbinson, right, and her parents, James and Tina McBriarty. - Taken by Peter Larsen