There’s little question who’s going to be Valedictorian for the Hobbs High School Class of 2023.
The real competition — as of earlier this month before the final rankings were determined Thursday — two HHS seniors who had a shot at second place. Josiah Matthews held a bit of an edge in grade point average over his nearest competition, Falyn Lackey, both in the shadow of the 2023 top student Arwen Ching.
It was no surprise late last week, then, when Arwen was confirmed as Valedictorian. Josiah held onto his second-place ranking in the Class of ’23 once finals grades were computed and announced for the title of Salutatorian.
“I’ve been ranked first in my class since … freshman year,” Arwen told the News-Sun recently. “It’s been super exciting.”
Arwen said, even as a freshman, she couldn’t imagine she’d finish her high school career as Valedictorian. “I thought, ‘Oh, no. That will never happen.’
“Then it happened freshman year and I never moved (from the top class ranking). It was shocking. My parents were proud and happy when they found out but it was never something I expected.”
Falyn, too, said she was surprised to find out she was ranked third in the class with a chance at moving up to the second-place spot. She’s already gone through one graduation this year, matriculating with the Class of 2023 at New Mexico Junior College on May 6 with dual associates of arts and sciences degrees.
And Josiah, who’s pretty much been solidly ranked second by GPA before final exams, moved into the spot last year, he said. That initial ranking bump was surprise, he said.
“My family is really proud of me,” Josiah said. “They expect big things. For the past two years I’ve been pushing.
After graduation, Arwen plans to attend the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., to major in biochemistry with a minor in biological anthropology, she said, with plans to become a pediatric endocrinologist.
Arwen is well aware of the work pediatricians do every day, she said. She said she’d undergone eight separate hip surgeries before she was four years old. And in 2016, a the age of 11, she was introduced to the medical specialty she plans to pursue after being diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, she said.
“I’ve been surrounded by doctors my entire life,” Arwen said. “My endocrinologist really inspired me. I want to help people the way she helped me.
“And I love the television show ‘Bones.’ That’s why I’m interested in biological anthropology.”
Falyn, too, has her probable future planned out, again based on her interaction with a medical professional when she was younger. She’ll be transferring her credits from NJMC to Western New Mexico University in Silver City with her eventual goal to study orthodontics.
“I got braces when I was 12,” Falyn said. “I fell in love with my doctors and the people who took care of me.
“I decided I wanted to give back because I saw how much it changed my life, boosted my confidence level. I decided I wanted to be able to do that for someone else.”
Josiah has been accepted in the Honors Technical program at Texas Tech in Lubbock. He’s interested in technical applications in engineering and computer science, he said. But that wasn’t always Josiah’s goal, though it was somewhat related when he was younger, he said.
“When I was a kid I dreamed of being the first pastor in space,” Josiah said. “I wanted to be an engineer and youth pastor in space. On the moon, probably.
“I’m still interested in the technical, mathematical fields. But now it’s about basic engineering and computer science (focused on) augmented reality — kind of like virtual reality but the next step up.”
Josiah hasn’t decided where — or if — he will pursue a post graduate degree yet. His eventual goal is to work in the tech sector, ideally at a start-up company, perhaps in Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas, he said.
Arwen and Josiah both participated in academic competition teams during high school, and Josiah was active on the praise team and choir at Hobbs United Methodist Church. Falyn has been the top-ranked player on the HHS varsity golf team for the past two years, with several district championships and state tournament appearances under her belt.