SHS students honored as 2017 valedictorian, co-salutatorians

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) Laney Search, left, is the 2017 Sandpoint High School valedictorian; Abby Kassa, center, and Hannah Fingel, right, are the co-salutatorians. The three friends were excited to learn they would share the honor of addressing their classmates, families and school staff on graduation day.

SANDPOINT — The smell of baked potatoes loaded with all the fixings filled the conference room at Sandpoint High School as three students were honored with a special luncheon Wednesday.

Laney Search, Hannah Fingel and Abby Kassa were joined by their parents and school officials during the luncheon to celebrate their being named valedictorian and salutatorians for the 2017 graduation ceremony. With their respective, unweighted 4.0 GPAs, Search is valedictorian and Fingel and Kassa are co-salutatorians.

"We are very proud of them — their hard work, perseverance, dedication to academics — they are all three great representatives of Sandpoint High School," said SHS Principal Tom Albertson. "We are also very proud of the staff who provided the learning opportunities for these students."

The young ladies said they knew they were in the running, but were excited to learn they all received the honors. 

"This is kind of cool because we have all been friends since middle school," Search said.  

Fingel and Kassa said they have actually been good friends since kindergarten.

The trio said they have not thought much about what they are going to say when it comes time to make their speeches, but with graduation a few months away, they have plenty of time. Also, they plan to work together to write the speeches. Rather than being nervous about making their speeches in front of classmates, families and school staff, the girls are excited about the opportunity.

"It's an accomplishment, so it will be nice to speak in front of people," Kassa said.

"I will probably get nervous right before," added Search.

Not only do the three young ladies have excellent GPAs, but they are involved in sports and other activities. Search plays volleyball and tennis, and Kassa and Fingel play golf.

Beth Dean, SHS administrative assistant, said the trio is so busy, in fact, she had to reschedule the luncheon three times.

"I think that's what makes you guys so successful, too, is being active in other stuff," Dean told the girls.

Search serves on student council as the senior class vice president and Fingel was recently recognized as one of the top students in the country when she was named a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship program.

"I worked really hard in school, so it's really nice to see that it paid off in some, well actually, in a pretty big way for me," Fingel said during a previous interview with the Daily Bee.

Fingel has applied to several colleges, but her first choice of a school is Harvard University. She said she will not hear from Harvard until March 30, but she has been accepted into Biola University and Northeastern University. Kassa plans to attend the University of Portland, and Search also plans to head to Oregon to attend George Fox University in Newberg.

Dean said the luncheon has been an annual event for the past few years to honor the valedictorians and salutatorians, and also as an icebreaker for families who don't already know each other. 

"We really love to put this lunch on for the families of the students," said Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent Shawn Woodward. "Part of it is finding out more about (the students') high school experience — what worked well and what feedback they would give us for the future — and also to celebrate all the time, energy and effort they put into their school to be at the top of the list."

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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