Gatewood Schools announced the 2021 valedictorian and salutatorian during graduation on May 8.
This year’s valedictorian is Matthew Phillips, and the salutatorian is Olivia Bassett.
The Eatonton Messenger reached out to both students to get to know them better.
Phillips is headed to University of Georgia to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biology on the pre-med track.
“I plan to attend medical school and one day become a cardiothoracic surgeon,” Phillips said of his long-term goals.
Phillips has always been interested in science, medicine and helping others, he said.
“I know I have many years of school left in my life, but I believe I have the dedication necessary to achieve my goals,” Phillips said. “I’ve had a peaceful start here in Eatonton, but I am prepared to thrive in a more tumultuous environment.”
Phillips has attended Gatewood since K-3 and has many happy memories of the school. He recalled the Christmas play as a highlight each year during lower school.
“As for high school, of course every football championship we won was likely the highlight of that year,” he said. “Seeing my classmates out on the field made me so proud of what my class could accomplish.”
Throughout middle school and most of high school, Phillips participated in cross country. The only year he did not participate was senior year, because he wanted to focus on college applications and have some downtime before leaving for university.
“I attempted to play tennis my junior year, but it got cancelled due to COVID,” Phillips said. “So I saw it as a sign it wasn’t for me. Still, I practiced and even attended a tennis camp the summer before, so I remember the time fondly.”
Phillips has picked up playing piano, and says he hopes to expand on it in college.
Bassett is headed for the University of Georgia to major in forestry. Eventually she would like to work in management or conservation.
“My dream is to work for a national park and eventually educate for 4-H in my retirement,” Bassett said.
Bassett has attended Gatewood since fourth grade and has loved being there.
“I’m very honored to represent Gatewood’s class of 2021 as the salutatorian,” Bassett said. “And I’m very thankful for all the memories made!”
During her time at Gatewood, Bassett was a member of the softball, basketball and soccer teams. She was also in Anchor Club, Interact Club and FCA.
“My favorite memory from sports this year was getting to visit the beach with my soccer team for playoffs,” Bassett said. “[And] one of my favorite high school memories was from mock homecoming court this year. It was so fun being dressed funny and performing for the entire school.”
Bassett said she will also never forget seeing the high school football team win state at Mercer for the last three seasons.
Bassett plans to continue her hobbies such as soccer, painting and crafting as she transitions into college.