The top of Raton High School’s Class of 2013 has many students who are strong academically — so much so that five of them will be valedictorians.
Moriah Daniel, Devon Gutierrez, Marisa McCarty, Tyler Vertovec and Callie Wilson each maintained 4.0-grade point averages throughout their RHS careers and will share valedictorian honors at Friday night’s RHS graduation ceremonies at Tiger Stadium at 7 p.m.
The strong performance of these students is reflective of the overall Class of 2013. Raton High School counselor Lynette Simpson said that 23 of the 72 graduates — almost one-third of the graduating class — has a grade point average of 3.5 or better. “That tells you how many kids are excelling and doing well up here,” she said.
RHS English teacher Tim Keller, who has taught all five students, said he is not surprised at the success of the Class of 2013.
“This has been a wonderful class to teach,” he said. “They are very competitive and each of them is a perfectionist who wants to do things right. For the five who succeeded at reaching the top, and knowing the kids, it’s not surprising.”
The five valedictorians have shared some similar interests throughout their high school careers. Gutierrez and McCarty helped organize Youth Alive, an organization in which members hold group discussions about God and Christianity and plan activities. One of those projects was The 7 Project held last month. It brought speakers who addressed several life issues that teens face. McCarty added the group has previously had several other guest speakers visit the school.
Gutierrez and Daniel were both members of the RHS dance team, which placed second at the Class AAA state spirit competition in March.
“Dance requires a lot of time management and organization,” Gutierrez said. “We have to manage our practices, the games, and our studies.”
Daniel, Vertovec, and Wilson are all involved in 4-H, where the three built friendships among themselves and with other members. Vertovec and Wilson both compete in track — it was Tyler’s first year and Callie’s third — and Vertovec competed in football and tennis.
Vertovec said the 2012 Tiger football season — in which the team went 1-9 — proved a valuable lesson that “everything will not always be peaches and cream, but you have to stay the course, keep working and never give up.”
Wilson, a two-time Class AAA state track meet qualifier, said that “when you build a team, you build support and team unity.”
Meanwhile, the five admit they are all “competitive” and have strived to be the best.
“We have pushed each other ever since middle school,” McCarty said, but despite that competition between the five, “we got along and we became better for it.”
“It gives you the drive to want to do well,” Wilson added.
The five said Keller, Mary Mitchell, Richard Main, and the retired Leo Linsky have been some of the more influential teachers they have had.
“Mr. Linsky really got you to think,” McCarty said. “He encouraged discussion and wasn’t just talking to us.”
“He made us question our beliefs we always took for granted and why we believed that,” Vertovec added.
McCarty said Keller challenges students and “he knows how to be on top of things.” Daniel added, “He’s very structured.”
Vertovec said Main — who he has had as a teacher and football coach — was “always pushing me to get better at sports. But we had him for physics and you’d never think of Mr. Main as a physics teacher.”
“He’s very intelligent,” Daniel added. “He does expect the best out of you.”
As for Mitchell, Wilson smiled, “She can really explain the math.” McCarty and Daniel said Mitchell’s knowledge of the subject has helped the five excel in math.
It’s not just the five valedictorians who pushed each other, but others who finished near the top of the class as well.
“There are at least 13 or 14 in the class with high GPAs and that’s pretty impressive,” Daniel said, with Wilson adding that 15 seniors are taking calculus, “the biggest class in years.”
The five valedictorians have learned to work together and help each other. In their calculus class, Vertovec said, “If one or two of us doesn’t understand something, we can ask each other for help.”
“You know they’ve got it in them,” Daniel said. “That’s been good, because they know you’ve got it in you, too.”
As far as the speeches the valedictorians will give Friday night, Wilson said the five are “thinking individually” about speeches but want to “tie them all together somehow.”
And each valedictorian has different ideas about what she or he wants to do after high school. A look at the five individually:
The daughter of Michael Daniel and Fara Chavez, Moriah plans to attend New Mexico State University and major in biology. She ultimately wants to become a small-animal veterinarian.
“I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 5,” Daniel said. Her grandfather, Truman Smith, owns Mesa Vista Veterinary Hospital, but Daniel said her own love for animals is primarily what drew her interest in veterinary practice.
She said the biggest influence her parents had on her was getting her involved with 4-H. Her father, who currently works as a teacher, previously worked for the Colfax County Extension Office.
“They always pushed me to do my very best, to calm down and don’t be so hard on myself,” she said.
Keller said Daniel is “perhaps more than any of (the five valedictorians), a perfectionist.” He remembered a conversation he had with her about a grade she received on an assignment that was “not as high as she wanted” and realized how much she strived to be the best at anything she did.
“She’ll be the first to tell you she is a perfectionist,” Keller said. “Her work reflects that.”
The daughter of Greg Gutierrez and Christine Cummings, Devon is planning to study computer engineering at NMSU. She is interested in technology and has specific ideas about her future career plans.
“I know I want to work for the government, such as for the FBI or CIA,” she said. “I started researching what they look for and they look at people with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. When I looked at NMSU, they had computer engineering.”
Gutierrez said her father told her “how important it was to get a college education,” something he had a chance at when he got a full-ride scholarship for music but turned down to enter the workforce.
“He has wanted me to fulfill my dreams and not to be stuck in a town without many career opportunities,” Gutierrez said.
She added her parents “encouraged me to work my hardest in school” so she would be prepared for what life is like after graduation.
Keller noted that Gutierrez is the type of student who “sits in the front row” in class. “She is eager and a very fine learner,” he said. “She is very inquisitive, pays close attention and gets that’s how you learn.”
The daughter of David and Cindy McCarty, Marisa will attend Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. She is deciding whether to major in international studies or communications and wants to study teaching English as a second language.
McCarty said she enjoys traveling and has always been interested in foreign countries.
McCarty said her mother was “always reading books” and that kindled her interest in reading and learning more about the world. She said her parents have “had high expectations for me, knowing that I could live up to them.”
“They believed in me more than I did,” McCarty said.
Keller has known McCarty since her freshman year and “I was deeply impressed with her from the beginning.” McCarty is involved in the school’s gifted-and-talented program, in which students are required to take up independent study projects.
“She chose to learn Arabic,” Keller said. “Her progress was just astonishing and showed me how exceptional she is.”
McCarty also served as one of Keller’s teacher’s aides. “There’s nothing I could give her that she couldn’t do,” Keller said.
The son of Tom and Kathy Vertovec, Tyler wants to major in geology or environmental science at the University of New Mexico. He is interested in a career in the outdoors.
“I like being outdoors, so having a job that allows me to be outside” is where he has focused his career goals, Vertovec said.
He said his father has taken him hunting and fishing often, thus encouraging Tyler’s love for the outdoors. Vertovec added the fact that his mother is a teacher and his father was previously a teacher and coach “pushed me to be involved in school and have a good work ethic.”
Keller said Vertovec is a student who can be “deceptive because he keeps a lot in, but when he does come out, he’s at the top of the class.”
He noted Vertovec’s involvement in athletics and said: “stereotypically, you may not expect them to be as great at writing as he is.” But Keller said Vertovec is “sharp-minded and asks great questions.”
The daughter of Troy and Vicki Wilson, Callie will attend NMSU in the fall and study mechanical engineering with a minor in biology. She wants to eventually become a biomechanical engineer.
Wilson said she was inspired by an issue of National Geographic. “There was an article about a biomechanic who built bionic arms and pairs of glass eyes that allowed blind people to see,” she said, and that drew her interest into pursuing such a career.
Callie’s older brothers, Gavin and Riley, were valedictorians of their respective classes. She said her parents have “always been really supportive of us and wanted us to do well…to do our best and try our best. They’d be proud of us as long as we tried our best.”
Keller said the first thing he thinks of about Wilson is her talent for writing. He said he believes any career she pursues should be one that involves a lot of writing, given how strong she is in the subject.
“She’s quiet and she speaks less in class, but she doesn’t miss a thing,” he said. “She speaks less, but her writing is where she shows she’s got it. That’s what has taken her over the top.”
At the Head of their Class
2013’s Top Students
Raton: Moriah Daniel, Devon Gutierrez, Marisa McCarty, Tyler Vertovec and Callie Wilson are the valedictorians. Brannon Trujillo is the salutatorian.
Cimarron: The high school recognizes the top three graduates. Jamie Knox is the superintendent’s honor student. Colleen Eungard is the principal’s honor student. Brianne Willis is the faculty’s honor student.
Des Moines: Dakota Martinez is the valedictorian and Reinda Rivale is the salutatorian.
Maxwell: Patrick Pacheco is the valedictorian and Tianna Connone is the salutatorian.
Springer: The high school recognizes the top five graduates. They are Brittany Baca, Devan Jansen, Cody Kear, Brandi Montoya, and Darren Montoya.
Wagon Mound: Charlene Trujillo is the valedictorian. No other student qualified as salutatorian, which requires a minimum grade point average.
Roy: The valedictorian is Emily Goret. The salutatorian is Tori Mitchell.
Mosquero did not have a graduating senior who qualified for valedictorian or salutatorian honors, which require a minimum grade point average.