Sam Schepps is this year’s valedictorian and Ashwin Mahadevan is this year’s salutatorian.
Academics play a big part in the lives of Cherokee High School seniors Sam Schepps and Ashwin Mahadevan, but they admit they didn’t enter Cherokee with some unyielding dream of graduating as their class valedictorian or salutatorian.
Yet after four years of hard work, lots of studying and numerous AP Classes, Schepps and Mahadevan now find themselves at the top of the Class of 2018 as they prepare to take the stage at Cherokee’s upcoming commencement ceremony.
Schepps, the Class of 2018’s valedictorian, and Mahadevan, the salutatorian, recently sat down with The Sun to speak about their time at Cherokee and where they see themselves in the future.
When asked about academics, Schepps said he simply always made an effort to set aside enough time to complete high quality schoolwork that reflected the best of his ability — a trait instilled in him by his parents.
“My parents always enforced to me that it was the right thing to do, and that priorities are priorities and that academics always come first,” Schepps said. “Then they encouraged me to keep going and pushing me to challenge myself in taking harder classes.”
Schepps also described Cherokee’s teachers as playing a big role in his success, as well as having access to such a large number of high quality, rigorous classes.
“I’ve been lucky to have a lot of very encouraging teachers while I was here who encouraged me to branch out and think outside the box in terms of what was capable of both inside the classroom and where else that could be applied,” Schepps said.
When not in class, just some of the clubs and activities Schepps could be found include the debate team, student council and serving as co-editor-in-chief with the school newspaper.
Looking toward the future, Schepps plans to attend the University of Central Florida, where he looks to study biomedical science in the hopes of going on to medical school to become a pediatrician.
Schepps said the desire to become a pediatrician dates to numerous trips to the doctor as a child due to chronic ear infections, even though often there wasn’t any treatment available.
“I always knew heading in that I would feel better going out … it was just the sense of warmth and the sense of community I got going in there that made me feel that way, and I wanted to be able to give that feeling back,” Schepps said.
The desire to help others also plays a role in the future of this year’s salutatorian.
Mahadevan plans to head to Princeton University to major in public policy, with a focus on global health, health policy and human rights.
Mahadevan said he chose that area of study after visiting family in India, where his aunt works for a nonprofit organization that provides education for children who live in underprivileged areas.
“Seeing that kind of made me aware of how lucky we have it here, especially in this area in Marlton, and how privileged we are to go to such a school,” Mahadevan said. “That made me realize it was something I wanted to purse in my life and why I would specially major in human rights.”
However, as was the case with Schepps, Mahadevan said his position as salutatorian stems from just working hard throughout high school and always putting his mind toward doing his best in all his classes.
“There’s a feeling when you don’t know what’s going on around you that you’re kind of behind, and I don’t like that feeling,” Mahadevan said. “I like being really aware of what’s happening, and that comes from being educated.”
While Mahadevan said his parents never had to force him into focusing on school, he said his parents do believe strongly in the value of education, so having them as role models in his life also instilled in him the need for academics.
“The main purpose of school is for academics. It’s a place of education, so I always tried to prioritize that before focusing on my activities,” he said.
Just some of those activities include Cherokee’s choir program, performing in the fall and spring shows, a position on student council and also serving as an editor for the school newspaper.
Yet through it all, Mahadevan said he was able to balance both academics and activities, leading to what he describes as the “happy coincidence” of becoming this year’s salutatorian.
“It was a satisfying feeling that all the hard work that I put in throughout the four years of high school had amounted to something,” Mahadevan said.