Valedictorian four-figure GPA athlete

Graduating seniors says she will miss ‘diverse’ class
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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While Bear River High School announced it had a record number of 29 valedictorians this year, there is one student who stands out among the best of the best. Caitlin Billingham is the school’s top student with a 4.272 grade point average she earned while swimming on the varsity team, playing basketball for the Bruins and participating in the Future Farmers of America. The modest 17-year-old, however, quickly gives credit to those who have helped her and highlights the talents of her classmates. She said she had no idea she was the top student until her counselor informed her shortly after winter break this year. “I was so shocked,” Billingham said. “I’m not sure I deserve it. There are so many amazing kids in my class.” Billingham was able to maintain her grades while actively competing in various sports and groups. She also challenged herself academically with a variety of higher-level courses including the hardest class she says she’s ever taken — advanced placement physics. “It about killed me,” Billingham said of the class. But she did make it through the course and says now she is glad she challenged herself. Billingham will continue to challenge herself this fall when she starts classes at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. She plans to major in biology to build a base education for a career in medicine, a profession in which many of her family members are involved. She said she hopes to work in pediatrics because she loves being around kids. “It’s my favorite thing,” Billingham said of spending time with children. Since the age of 5, Billingham has been a swimmer. She said she loves the sport because it has both the individual competition mixed with team camaraderie. “I’m not the most talented swimmer but I just love being out there and enjoying it,” Billingham said. Billingham said she also learned an important life skill when she competed in speaking and debate competitions with the school’s Future Farmers of America team. “It has taught me so much about being confident in myself,” Billingham said. “It has completely trained me to speak publicly and I think by far has prepared me the most for the future.” When Billingham looks back at her first day as a freshman at the Lake of the Pines-area high school, she said she remembers it as a very “nerve-wracking” day. Today, she says the feeling that she is ending her high school career is “bittersweet.” “It’s crazy to think that I’m graduating,” Billingham said. Billingham will address her class during a speech at graduation Friday. She said she will talk about memorable moments for her class as well as facing change. She said she is confident her graduating class will accomplish “so much” as they grow up. “I think the most important thing about high school for me was just figuring out my passion and I think for all seniors in our class it was about figuring out more about ourselves and what kind of people we want to be,” Billingham said. “What I’ll miss the most is just being a part of a class that’s so diverse and amazing.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment.