By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published June 9, 2011
The Georgia Bulletin invited readers to send the names of Catholic students who graduated at the top of their class in 2011 at public high schools in North Georgia. Here are interviews with five outstanding students, who earned the rank of valedictorian or salutatorian in Gainesville, Rome, Alpharetta, McDonough and East Point.
St. Benedict parishioner William Horton is taking a deep breath this summer. Between earning the title of valedictorian at Alpharetta High School and preparing to head to Harvard in the fall, William has a lot on his plate.
But this is nothing new. The son of Aileen and Doug Horton, William is no stranger to staying busy or continuously learning how to manage his time.
In addition to his rigorous academics, which also earned him a National Merit Scholarship, he is active at his parish as a lector, helps with the parish teen program, and has been a choral performer in his parish and high school. He tries to maintain a balance, he says, and not lose perspective.
“It’s not necessarily about accomplishing everything you set out to accomplish. It’s about learning lessons along the way and appreciating everything you learn in the effort,” he said about high school. “I found out there are so many different things to do and so many things I wanted to try.”
Alpharetta High School, which has a student body of more than 1,800, offers a variety of extracurricular activities, including performing arts.
William spent all four years singing in the school’s chorus and participating in drama and musical theater. In his senior year he was president of the choral council. While his career goal isn’t necessarily performing, his love of singing is not something that will fade into the background.
“Singing will always be a part of my life,” he said.
Outside of school, William stays active. For the last two years, he has served as a lector at his family’s home parish of St. Benedict in Duluth. This past year he became one of the core leaders for the teen program, working with others to provide a social and spiritual outlet for other teens. He also sang with the children’s chorus at the parish beginning in third grade and has stayed involved with the group, as singing is obviously something very close to his heart.
In the fall, William will be heading to Cambridge, Mass., to begin his first college term at Harvard University. He is interested in studying history and literature in hopes of one day becoming a college professor himself.
“I’d really like to be a professor,” he said. “I plan on studying a little more beyond my undergraduate years, hopefully getting a Ph.D., and then teaching . . . history or literature.”
“I guess I’ll see which one I like more,” he said with a chuckle.
Alpharetta High School recognized William’s efforts by awarding him the Atlanta Journal Constitution Cup, a recognition given each year to the best all-around student, chosen by the faculty.
“That really meant a lot to me,” he said, adding that the award came as a total surprise during commencement.
William encouraged rising freshmen to have a plan for their high school career, but also to be open to changes along the way. The recent graduate said he was exposed to different perspectives during his time at Alpharetta High School and that has helped him realize the importance of being open to other ways of looking at himself and the world around him.