It was way back in 1961 when Lola Borden was named the valedictorian of Wildwood High School. Little did Borden know that she would start a family tradition that would continue a half a century later.
Borden’s granddaughter Kirby Thornton was named the Wildwood High valedictorian in 2011. Now in 2014, 17-year-old Shelby Thornton is following the footsteps of her older sister and grandmother.
“I’m so proud I could burst!” Borden said.
Kirby Thornton is also proud of her younger sister, but she isn’t surprised.
“I never doubted that Shelby would graduate in the top of her class and be valedictorian,” Kirby said. “Since day one of her freshman year, she worked very hard and always put her schoolwork first. I knew her dedication and work ethic, and I knew that she would be very successful throughout high school.”
Shelby credits her older sister with helping her achieve her goal.
“She graduated as valedictorian and that is when I knew I had to do it too,” Shelby said. “I definitely look up to her.”
According to Principal Christopher Armstrong, while siblings at Wildwood High have been named valedictorians before, of the 108 graduating classes, it’s the first time that a grandmother and her two granddaughters have all earned the honor.
“Having known the family forever, what an exciting accomplishment this is for them,” said Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano. “It does not surprise me in the least, having known Lola and what a wonderful person she is. And to have passed on the mantle of being a valedictorian to her granddaughters speaks volumes of the commitment this family has to education.”
The classroom isn’t the only place Shelby excels in. She also participated in soccer, track, cheerleading, choir and the National Honor Society. Shelby will continue to display her many talents when she attends Rowan University in the Fall, where she plans to major in Psychology and minor in Spanish. Ultimately, she hopes to one day work for the FBI.
“Education is the key to success,” Shelby said. “It gives you a sense of confidence and honor. It gives you purpose. You have to be here so you might as well try your best. It’s all hard work. It’s definitely worth it.”