Caddell, Blankenship pen the perfect high school ending

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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Successful Students

SUCCESSFUL STUDENTS – Paradise salutatorian Faith Blankenship and valedictorian Avery Caddell will graduate at the top of their class a month after they both medaled in state UIL academics. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Avery Caddell is keeping his valedictorian speech a secret, just in case.

“Since I’m going first, I just tell him if he has any good ideas I’m going to copy him and tell everyone he copied me,” Paradise salutatorian Faith Blankenship joked. “I’m just going to read yours. I guess you could read mine, but I’m going to make it sound purposefully dumb.”

The two are comfortable with teasing each other because they’ve been together at the top of the class for a while. They even moved to Paradise the same year, in sixth grade, and some of their teachers have been with them just as long, which, at least in Blankenship’s case, makes it hard to graduate.

“You develop so many relationships. That’s why I’m sad to graduate, because I love so many of my teachers,” she said. “It’s going to be hard not to be taught by them.”

They both named Denver McMurry as a teacher who’s had a big impact on their lives.

“He’s a very genuine person,” Caddell said. “He’s not afraid to be who he is.”

“Mr. McMurry makes you work for your grade,” Blankenship added. “His is one of the only classes where if you get a 95 you truly knew 95 percent of the information.”

The two also named their UIL coaches, Megayla O’Rear and Karen Bohmfalk, as teachers they really enjoyed.

“I love Ms. Bohmfalk,” Blankenship said. “You can always tell she likes her job.”

Both Caddell and Blankenship placed in UIL state journalism events in April – Caddell won headline writing and Blankenship got third in feature writing. But when they’re thinking back on their favorite extracurricular activities in high school, neither talk about UIL academics.

Blankenship said she most enjoyed one act play.

“You have to have the dedication to go there every day and learn all of your stuff, but it’s also a lot of fun,” she said. “You also learn how to be more confident.”

Caddell picked athletics as his favorite activity.

“It helped me not completely become immersed in being a stereotypical nerd, and I met a lot of people I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” he said.

Caddell will attend college at Texas Tech University, where he plans to take the pre-med route. Blankenship recently decided on the University of Texas in Austin, where she wants to major in business and marketing. She hopes to one day work at a non-profit.

They both had parting advice to offer younger students, and much like their graduation speeches, they jokingly stole each other’s ideas.

“Build relationships with your teachers, and I don’t mean like being a kiss-up. Be genuinely nice, not to just teachers but to everyone around you,” Caddell said. “Make sure you don’t take everything as a too-serious competition.”

Then he turned to Blankenship.

“Did I take all three of your things?”

“Yes! I was like, ‘I have three, and he’ll take one,'” Blankenship said. “OK, just print my answer first – I was going to say that school is important but the most important thing is how you treat other people.”


Eragon, The Maze Runner

Paradise valedictorian Avery Caddell chose “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini as his favorite novel, noting the author was only 15 when he wrote it, then waited several years before writing the sequel.

“Age doesn’t have to determine anything,” Caddell said. “You can stick with something and become successful.

“Also, mainly it has dragons.”

Paradise salutatorian Faith Blankenship picked out “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner.

“I just picked the first book I found that I liked,” Blankenship said. “I will say, every person I know who’s at the top of their class has read a lot.”

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