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Before 17-year-old Tyler Orr became valedictorian of Berkeley Springs High School in West Virginia, he had already moved five times.
Orr is now living with a legal guardian until he goes to the University of Virginia this fall, where he plans to major in chemistry.
He already knows he will go to medical school, telling Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson, “I want to go into preventative medicine and cardiology.”
On how he became valedictorian, Orr says, “I was fully committed to my school work. I knew that I had to be to attend college because there wasn’t any money for me to do so otherwise.”
On how he achieved the rank of valedictorian
“I was fully committed to my school work. I knew that I had to be to be to attend college, because there wasn’t any money for me to do so otherwise. So I was relying on scholarships. And I got my class rankings at the beginning of my sophomore year and found out that I was the first in my class, which was a complete surprise. I had worked hard, but I didn’t realize I had worked that hard. And from there, it was just a commitment that became just a small goal of mine, kind of a subset of my larger goal of getting a post-secondary education.”
On what drove him to succeed
“Once I came to Berkeley Springs, I kind of — it became known within my school that, after I was first in my class — and from there I was motivated a lot by my educators and my peers. I mean, that was a big part of it. Through middle school and elementary school, I got average grades, but it was really once I got to high school — the motivation that came from my peers and educators.”
On what he would tell his younger self
“If I could go back and tell myself something it middle school, it would have been to have more fun in high school. I was committed to my schoolwork and I did well, but I really didn’t have the experiences that a lot of my friends had during high school until my senior year, and that was in part because I stressed a lot about being able to have a post-secondary education. So if I could go back, that would be the one thing I would tell myself.”
Note: This is the last of our three interviews with valedictorians this week. See our interview with Leilanie Martinez, 17, of South Gate High School in Los Angeles county here, and our interview with Jordan Thomas, 17, of University High School in Newark, New Jersey, here.