Success of Renfro, Anderson no mystery

By David Talley | Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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One for the Books

ONE FOR THE BOOKS – Chico valedictorian Whitney Renfro and salutatorian Alan Anderson topped the class of 2017. Renfro will head west to Lubbock Christian University this fall, while Anderson will head east to Denton. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

For Chico High School salutatorian Alan Anderson, the classroom just doesn’t present a challenge anymore.

Anderson said he’s usually able to glean all the needed information from a topic within the first lecture. The rest of the week is repetitive, with one exception – jazz band.

“It’s a challenge to try to keep up and go past what you can really do,” Anderson said of playing in the group. “It’s trying to excel at something that’s hard. Because all the other classes are easy, and boring because they’re easy. It’s the same thing for a week and you get how to do it in the first day.

“You have to know a little about everything to understand music.”

Anderson picked up his clarinet in sixth grade and hasn’t put it down since, learning to play alto and tenor saxophone, flute and piano throughout his young musical career. He’ll take his talent to the University of North Texas this fall, where he plans to study jazz and music education.

For valedictorian Whitney Renfro, it was an experience outside the school walls that shaped her plans for college and beyond. Renfro plans to attend Lubbock Christian University to study social work.

“I’ve always had the heart of a servant and wanted to help people,” she said. “I took a mission trip to Ecuador and that kind of cemented my want to do social work because I want to work with kids who don’t have everything and I want to help their lives.”

Renfro and Anderson agreed their favorite courses are the ones that challenge them the most. For Anderson, it’s jazz band. For Renfro, it’s calculus.

“I’ve never really been challenged in math, and it’s the first time it’s been a little hard,” she said.

While Renfro’s always had an inkling she’d end up valedictorian, Anderson said he wasn’t sure about his ranking until final numbers were released.

“I always knew [Renfro] was going to be the top,” he joked. “I was third until the final semester, and I got moved up to second. I had no idea I was going to be salutatorian. It was sort of a surprise to me because the kid in front of me is super smart. I never thought I would pass him. It was just something in the back of my mind, like, ‘Maybe if I keep working hard and doing everything then I’ll pass him,’ but it was just in the back of my mind because he knows everything. It comes to him so easily in English and math. I’ve always struggled with it.”

Anderson said he’s often at his best when he’s faced with a challenge.

“It motivates me because some people are like, ‘you ‘re only a senior in high school. You can’t play like that coming out of some place so small. You can’t get into UNT for music.’ It’s been a motivator,” he said. “I want to not only be at UNT, I want to be able to play the music and start writing my own.”

Both students are involved in numerous extracurricular activities, and Anderson recommended that next year’s seniors stay busy and work hard.

“Even though it looks hard, just persevere,” he said. “Keep your head up and actually listen to what your elders tell you about doing scholarships. Don’t put off anything. Do it early and then you can relax instead of frantically running around.”

Renfro also offered advice for new graduating class: “Don’t slack off your senior year. Don’t get senioritis.”


Charlie Parker Omnibook, Clockwork Angel

Whitney Renfro’s favorite book, “Clockwork Angel: is part of a series set in Victorian England. She’s loved the books since sixth grade. “There these people who are half angel and half human and they slay demons kind of underneath the notice of the world,” she said. “They just keep the world a safe place. I’ve always loved the Victorian era, and I love fantasy as a genre.”

Alan Anderson’s current favorite book is the “Charlie Parker Omnibook,” an arrangement of the jazz great’s best pieces.
“I love playing and creating these beautiful sounds,” he said. “Then I got to a point where everything was easy. I just recently got into this stuff and it’s a challenge. It gets really hard really fast.”

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