Swansboro High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian for the Class of 2020 are products of the Swansboro school system. Both Courtney Varela, valedictorian, and Danielle Chadwick, salutatorian, have attended Swansboro area schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“The Swansboro High School community is proud of Courtney and Danielle, our valedictorian and salutatorian,” said Helen Gross, SHS principal. “They are a wonderful representation of the Class of 2020 and exemplify what it means to be a Swansboro Pirate. Their teachers and classmates would echo my sentiments as both ladies are described as dedicated, respectful, friendly and kind. Those qualities are complemented by their scholarly performance in all of their classes and in their service to the Swansboro community.

“It has been an honor to serve as their principal and we look forward to watching their continued successes in college and beyond.”

Courtney Michelle Varela, 18, is the daughter of Rosalvina Varela and Corey Varela. The family lives in the Ivy Ridge neighborhood.

Verala attended Sand Ridge Elementary and Swansboro Middle before attending Swansboro High School.

Though she doesn’t list any honor societies, clubs or sports among her high school years, the valedictorian did earn the AP Scholar Award, was named a Microsoft Excel and Access Certified Specialist and was a Sponsors for Academic Talent Scholar, which is worth a $1,000 scholarship. She is also the recipient of an SNCO Wives Club scholarship in the amount of $1,000.

Verala lists history as her favorite subject at SHS.

“(We) can always learn from the past,” she said.

No one teacher at Swansboro High is her favorite, Verala said.

“Each of my teachers had an influence on my education and my enrichment as an individual, so I am unable to place one teacher to be superior to another when I have learned so much from every one of them,” she explained.

Verala said being chosen to assist in orientation for the 2019-20 school year was significant.

“At the start of my senior year, I participated as a Marshall in the open house by guiding new students and familiar friends to classrooms and different hallways,” she explained. “It was my job to hand out flyers with the map of the school and welcome students. This was a memorable moment for me while at SHS because it reminded me of my first time walking those hallways. I looked around and saw some puzzled faces that read, ‘Yes … I’m a freshman,’ and the families nodding their heads but pointing in different directions to where they suggested they should go. I would walk up to them and tell them where they needed to go. It was nostalgic and bittersweet since I knew that this was the last time, I would have to roam those halls. However, it was refreshing to help fellow students and show them the way.”

Verala has taken a philosophical approach to being forced off campus for much of her senior year due to efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19

“I am thankful that I am healthy and that I can continue to work with my teachers to finish my senior year,” Verals said. She added that she is just glad she can complete my senior year, “since we have the technology to stay in contact and continue our courses.”

Following graduation, she plans to attend college with an eye toward a career in the medical field.

“I am currently completing my associate degree in the nursing pathway, since I want to take my first steps in the workforce as a registered nurse,” Verala said.

She has chosen to pursue a career in medicine because it allows her to help people.

“I have a strong sense of respect for others and a strong disdain for suffering,” Verala said. “For that reason, I want to help others. I must add that my choice to dive into health care also stemmed from my interest in my science classes as I began to understand the human body.”

Danielle Chadwick, 18, is the daughter of Scott and Donna Chadwick. They live in the Oyster Bay neighborhood.

Chadwick attended Swansboro Elementary and Swansboro Middle before reaching Swansboro High.

The salutatorian is a member of the National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society and Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society. She is a member of Interact Club, serving as treasurer in 12th grade; the Student Council for four years; class treasurer all four years; a Student 2 Student member for four years, serving as volunteer coordinator and president as a senior; HOSA member for four years, serving as Secretary in 11th grade and as president as a senior; and a member of Unified Sports.

Chadwick was a member of the Pirates soccer team for four years. She served as an N.C. Senate Page in 2018, attended N.C. School of Science and Mathematics Summer Venture and the Governor’s of North Carolina for Mathematic.

She is the recipient of the Goodnight Scholarship worth $82,000; a Sponsors for Academic Talent recipient, worth $500; and a Golden LEAF Scholarship recipient, worth $12,000.

Chadwick lists chemistry as her favorite subject, and Jessica Burch, chemistry teacher and Interact Club advisor, as having been a big influence during her years sat SHS.

“Her passion for teaching, chemistry and service translates in everything she does, both inside and outside of the classroom,” Chadwick said of Burch. “She gave me the confidence to major in a chemistry field in college and always treated me like a young woman rather than a kid. I have a high amount of respect for her and am extremely grateful for all that she has done for me as well as all of her other students. I believe that my peers share the same sentiments about Mrs. Burch as I do.”

Her involvement in HOSA allowed her to meet a number of students who shared her interests, she said.

“I was a member of HOSA all four years of high school,” Chadwick said. “It is a club for students interested in a career in the health field. One of the advisors, Leslie Dick, was incredibly supportive and dedicated to the club, its members and myself. One of the highlights every year was the HOSA State Leadership Conference. For a few days, we would spend time with like-minded peers and friends with similar goals and partake in some healthy competition. I made many memories as a member of HOSA, gained many friends and learned valuable lessons. I will miss practicing with my event team, bus rides and all the laughs we shared.”

Like Verala, the valedictorian, Chadwick is thankful a plan was in place to allow her to finish her senior year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is very unfortunate and sad that I will not get to experience many of the major parts of high school and senior year,” Chadwick admitted. “However, I could not be more grateful for the way my teachers and the faculty at SHS handled the situation. Even when it became clear that many things would be canceled and we would not be returning to school, all of the faculty stayed involved in the lives of the graduating seniors. I am disheartened that I have missed out on my last soccer season and prom. My teammates and the parents of seniors have done many amazing things to make up for what we are all losing. Though we will not have a traditional graduation, it does not make the accomplishment any less. I will miss the normal days and practices with my classmates, teachers, teammates, and coaches more than anything.”

Chadwick will attend North Carolina State University and plans to major in biochemistry.

“After I complete my undergrad I plan to attend graduate school,” she said. “As of now, I want to earn my Doctor of Physical Therapy and work as a pediatric physical therapist. I have always known that I wanted to enter the health field. Physical therapists help others and are constantly learning every day on the job.”

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

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