ROD GUAJARDO / The Natchez Democrat — Vidalia High School senior Jacob Wilkinson graduated as the valedictorian of his class last week. The Vidalia native wasn’t expecting to receive the top spot among his classmates, but said the announcement was a pleasant surprise. Wilkinson will attend Louisiana Tech in the fall to study chemical engineering.
ROD GUAJARDO / The Natchez Democrat — Vidalia High School senior Jacob Wilkinson graduated as the valedictorian of his class last week. The Vidalia native wasn’t expecting to receive the top spot among his classmates, but said the announcement was a pleasant surprise. Wilkinson will attend Louisiana Tech in the fall to study chemical engineering.

Vidalia High valedictorian happy to be at top of class

Published 12:05am Wednesday, May 21, 2014

VIDALIA — Jacob Wilkinson was pleasantly surprised when he was told he’d be leading the 2014 graduating class of Vidalia High School as valedictorian.

The announcement was mainly a surprise for the VHS senior because of the stiff competition he knew was fighting for the top spot in the class.

“Most of the people in the top five or 10 in our class have all been competing for that spot since ninth grade,” Wilkinson said. “We all get along really well and tease each other about it a lot, but it’s nothing real serious.

“I just figured I would be second or third for sure because of the other people I knew were in the running.”

Wilkinson, 17, said he found out he would be valedictorian when he and his classmates were standing in line for graduation practice at the high school.

“We were all kind of standing there, and the counselor came up and said, ‘You’re going to be No. 1,’” Wilkinson said. “I was kind of surprised, but really happy.”

Then, a wave of other emotions hit Wilkinson as the Vidalia native began thinking about addressing the same people he’s grown up with his whole life at the graduation ceremony.

“I started getting really nervous thinking about that speech,” Wilkinson said, smiling. “It’s just kind of a weird feeling because Vidalia is a pretty small community so some of us have been going to school together since preschool, and now I’m at the top of the class?

“It was just weird to think about.”

For his speech, Wilkinson chose to steer clear from the traditional clichés of the night being the end of one phase of their lives and the beginning of another.

Wilkinson encouraged his fellow classmates to live intentionally and create a legacy by living to serve.

“I never saw a tombstone that said, ‘I wished I had worked more,’” he said during his speech. “They usually say, ‘loving father and husband’ or ‘loving wife and mother.’”

With his graduation speech out the way, Wilkinson said he’s looking forward to enjoying a brief summer vacation before making the move to Ruston to begin attending Louisiana Tech in the fall, where he will study chemical engineering.

The university is one Wilkinson has been visiting since he was little.

“Both my parents graduating from there, and we go just about every year for homecoming and other stuff,” he said. “It’s a really good school.”

Wilkinson said he’s looking forward to the college experience, but could easily see himself returning to Vidalia later in life.

“A couple of my teachers have told me college is the greatest amount of freedom with the least amount of responsibilities you can have,” Wilkinson said, laughing. “I haven’t really planned on what I want to do after college, but I could definitely see myself coming back to Vidalia maybe after living in a bigger city for a while.”

Wilkinson is the son of John and Darla Wilkinson.