Competition started early

Published 12:27 am Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stephen Caton is Andalusia’s valedictorian and Samantha Hill is Andalusia’s salutatorian.

When Samantha Hill enrolled in Andalusia High School as a freshman, Stephen Caton soon figured out that she was his competition.

Caton had decided as an elementary school student he wanted to be valedictorian, just like his mother, who was the Class of ’85 valedictorian in Florala.

“Once Samantha moved in, I had to step it up,” he said, adding that a teacher even pointed it out to him.

Hill, who moved to Andalusia from Hernando, Miss., a suburb of Memphis, didn’t realize she was competing with Caton until their sophomore year.

“I was focused on getting settled,” she said. “I wasn’t clued in until 10th grade.”

The close friends were named AHS’s valedictorian and salutatorian. Caton, the valedictorian, is headed to Auburn to pursue a pharmacy degree. Hill, the salutatorian, will enroll in the University of Alabama in the fall as a biology major with a long-term goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist.

Caton said he chose pharmacy because he likes chemistry and anatomy classes. He also likes the idea of helping people with their prescriptions, and that the field is very open, with employment opportunities in many locations.

Hill said two things shaped her career decision. First, as a resident of a Memphis suburb, she knew many students who were former patients of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Secondly, a 10th grade anatomy class, coupled with science classes she took at the University of Alabama, helped her to see the potential.

Both agreed that reaching academic goals requires setting priorities and managing one’s time.

“You have to think short term vs. long term,” Caton said. “You have to make sure you organize everything, determine the main priority at that moment, and work from there.”

It’s obvious from their lists of accomplishments that they managed priorities well.

Caton was the drum major this year, Key Club president, and editor of Memolusia. He also was SGA vice president, and a member of the Literary Club, Peer Helpers, FBLA, FCCLA, French Club, DECA, Usher Club, and an ambassador for the City of Andalusia.

Hill has served as SGA treasurer and parliamentarian; is the senior class poet, was colorguard captain this year, design editor of Memolusia, and a member of DECA, French Club, Peer Helpers, Literary Club, Usher Club, and Diamond Dolls. She was twice chosen a member of the homecoming court, and was captain of her school’s Relay for Life team. She also works part-time at Samurai Japanese Steak House.

“I’m not really sure now how I did all of that,” she said. “A lot of is SGA’s heavy in the fall, and I didn’t work a lot in the fall. Spring I work a lot, and it’s timing. Ms. Roxanne (Lee) has been really, really awesome working with my schedule around tests and big things going on. That’s a big part of it.”

Both have already earned college credits – Caton through LBW’s dual enrollment program; Hill through the University of Alabama’s Capstone Honors Program.

Caton, who scored a 29 on the ACT, earned a Spirit of Auburn scholarship, which is based on academics, and was awarded the Ashley Williams Memorial Foundation scholarship.

Hill earned a full-tuition University of Alabama presidential scholarship, an alumni heritage, renewable $1,000 scholarship; the National Wild Turkey Federation scholarship; and the $1,000 Robin Park Memorial scholarship. She also was the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce’s student of the year.

Asked if they planned to watch the Iron Bowl together as students of rival schools, Hill said, “Oh, we could totally do that.”

Caton added, “I think we’ll have one big, crazy class reunion.”

Caton is the son of Jackie and Todd Caton. Hill’s parents are Kerry and Sharron Hill.