Mystery and adventure were reasons Emily Bevins elected to enroll in the new Great Crossing High School for her senior year.
It’s appropriate, then, that there were elements of both – and no small measure of healthy deception from her principal – when Bevins learned that she is the Warhawks’ first-ever valedictorian.
Bevins was mid-shift at the Frankfort veterinary office owned and operated by her father, Clint, when she took that call from Joy Lusby.
“She said, ‘Is your mom or dad around?’ I was like, ‘I’m at work, so yes, my dad is here.’ She said, ‘Is there any way we could speak with them privately?’ I’m thinking this is so ominous. So we rushed into an office and got the news,” Bevins said.
“I was definitely not expecting it. I missed her first call. I thought maybe she was calling to tell me I was second place or something.”
Until this year, when the county educated all its nearly 3,000 high school students under one roof, there were valedictorians by the dozen.
“At the start of freshman year, I definitely thought I had a chance to be one of them,” Bevins said. “I never imagined I would be the only one. I looked at the requirements to become one, and it didn’t seem all that hard. Basically it was take six AP (advanced placement) courses, and do well.”
Bevins hit those marks with a flourish, excelling in the law and justice village at Elkhorn Crossing School.
Her upper-level courses included a healthy dose of social studies and history, both United States and European. She also took dual credit (high school and college) classes in each semester of her senior year.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant about it, but it’s definitely always come a little easier to me than to most people,” Bevins said of her academic success. “I don’t think I’m a particularly driven student. I just like to learn.”
There was plenty of learning on the fly in the 2019-20 academic year, even before the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything into unprecedented flux.
Bevins’ free spirit shone through when asked why she embraced a new school to complete this chapter of her life.
“I’m going to be completely honest, The real reason I chose to go to Great Crossing is that we were getting new bathrooms,” Bevins said. “That’s it. I mean, lots of new things, but the bathrooms especially.”
With summer and fall work continuing both inside the school and on the sprawling campus, the journey had an unpredictable vibe from the opening bell.
“As the first class to go through Great Crossing, none of us really knew what we were getting into,” Bevins said. “That was a fun way to experience senior year. We were just as clueless about what was going on as any of the underclassmen.”
In addition to her studies, Bevins bolstered her resume as president of GCHS’ inaugural Beta Club.
It’s a national organization that emphasizes academic achievement, character, leadership and service. The Warhawks’ maiden service project centered around Dover Manor, a local nursing home.
“The older people were so cute and just so happy to see us,: Bevins said. “Our goal this year really was to establish service connections within the community. It’s rewarding to know they will continue those connections in the future.”
Bevins also has excelled on academic team since fourth grade. Students demonstrate their expertise across all scholastic avenues.
“Everyone has a specialty. Mine were language arts and written composition,” Bevins explained. “There are Jeopardy-style questions. There’s a 90-minute, on-demand essay. You read a bunch of books and answer questions.”
The next level of her education, and potentially a career path, came into focus when Bevins attended the Governor’s Scholars Program last summer.
There, she met Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who convinced her to apply to the University of Louisville. As a McConnell Scholar, Bevins will study political science.
“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. (McConnell) kind of mentored me through the process. They don’t guarantee you a job after four years, but that’s definitely seen as part of the program,” Bevins said. “I thought I wanted to be a prosecutor, but I found out that was an elected position, and I don’t want to go into politics.”
Although she loves animals, Bevins also doesn’t think she would care for all the day-to-day challenges of veterinary medicine, either.
Her mom, Margaret, is a teacher.
Keeping her accomplishment a secret from the rest of the family this week was a challenge.
“My grandmother was also valedictorian in high school, so I can already hear her crying,” Bevins said.
Bevins is the only girl out of four children. She acknowledged that just maybe it will prove an advantage in her future endeavors.
“I’m very good at arguing,” Bevins said. “I don’t think I was a difficult student, but I do have a habit of dominating discussions. I get really passionate about things.”
In that respect, delivering her valedictory speech without an audience or any interaction was a challenge. Bevins recorded her words Wednesday morning for Great Crossing’s virtual graduation.
“It was me standing all alone in the auditorium with the people running the camera,” Bevins said. “It’s so weird. It’s definitely an experience I will never forget.
“There is a certain level of disappointment. Like when I wrote my speech, there were pauses where I hoped people might laugh, and instead it’s just awkward silence. It’s just so different than anything anyone has experienced before. In a way, I do think that’s kind of fun.”
Kal Oakes can be reached at email@example.com.