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The Mirror

Hard work pays off as Clay takes No. 1 spot

Carlton Clay speaks before the NHS Roots & Wings celebration.

After hard work and dedication to his studies and academics for the past four years of his high school career, Carlton Clay has claimed his spot at the top of his class at No. 1. 

Clay expressed the difficulties he encountered throughout the last four years as he worked to climb to the top.

“Difficult teachers, challenging material, a whole bunch of AP exams, it’s been a lot,” he said.

However, Clay didn’t do it just by the skin of his teeth alone. Alongside him was the support of his friends as they bolstered him through his challenges to gain his success.

“My friends have been an amazing support system, you know. We can study on the phone together, we will go to Panera Bread and study together,” Clay said.  “I knew I could count on them.”

Although being the Valedictorian is a magnificent accomplishment, Clay finds no use for it in his future. Sure, it might have helped him in the college admissions process, but that’s as far as it goes for him.

“People don’t care in the future. They’ll be like ‘Oh, you’re the valedictorian?’ and, if anything, it’s going to hurt me because they’re going to start expecting more,” Clay said. “But once you get past college, high school stuff doesn’t matter, so I don’t think it’ll necessarily help.”

Clay, who also won this year’s Lilly Scholarship, will be attending the University of Notre Dame. He offers a word of advice to all underclassmen and upcoming seniors, expressing that it’s not worth losing themselves or trying to impress teachers for a grade. 

“Work hard, but don’t sacrifice your peace for a grade. If you’re sitting at a B, don’t throw up and slide down walls because you want an A. It’s never that deep, ever,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in that. Also, don’t kiss up to teachers just for a grade either. That’s so embarrassing.”

In his commencement speech, Clay plans to bring the class of 2024 together one last time before they all go their separate ways. In doing so, he hopes to advise them on how to enjoy their future lives and congratulate them on a job well done.

“I’ll be focusing more so on the future like how to get the best out of your future and stuff like that. Kind of like reconnecting with the class for the last time, and honestly just making sure that everybody know how amazing of a job they’ve done over these last four years,” he said.

Finally, Clay wishes all students of Merrillville High School to simply be happy throughout their lives.

“Live, love, laugh everyone. I’m serious, like live, love, laugh. Life is too short to be so caught up in these material things like a grade or a relationship,” he said. “Just be happy. That’s it.”

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