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July 21, 2018

Mexico Valedictorian, Salutatorian Reflect On Experiences


MEXICO – History has repeated itself for Mexico High School seniors Ashton Ariola and Angel Newcombe.

Mexico High School’s Class of 2018 valedictorian and salutatorian Ashton Ariola and Angel Newcombe are ready to walk across the graduation stage on June 22.

Mexico High School’s Class of 2018 valedictorian and salutatorian Ashton Ariola and Angel Newcombe are ready to walk across the graduation stage on June 22.

While the pair was named the top two students of their eighth grade class at Mexico Middle School; four years later they also landed at the top of the Mexico High School Class of 2018 in their respective valedictorian and salutatorian posts.

“It’s something I’ve always strived for,” Ariola said, as she reflected on the work it took to achieve an overall weighted grade point average of 101.5.

Newcombe, however, said she hadn’t stopped to realize how close she was to obtaining the salutatorian status. She hadn’t necessarily aimed to become second in her class.

“it was about never settling” that afforded her an overall weighted grade point average of 100.1.

Ariola said her type-A personality always required putting forth her best effort, no matter how difficult an academic course had been.

Her parents, James and Shelly Ariola, have been her biggest influence because they reassured her things would turn out well even if they weren’t perfect.

Teachers, such as Christina Scales and Shannon Bigelow have been some of her biggest influences because they, too, have pushed her to new limits.

Support beyond academics is what Newcombe said drew her to Lt. Col. John Freda and band teacher Brian Carnes; added support made her more determined to success.

Her journey to the top of her class didn’t come without challenges, as the self-proclaimed math lover met her match with Advanced Placement Calculus.

“I did a lot of things I didn’t think I’d be able to,” she said.

Drive, work ethic and sacrifice helped Ariola pull through her favorite class of Advanced Placement Biology.

Being the top student of the Class of 2018, she said, involved the equity of studies, school spirit and socialization.

She had been a member of the varsity soccer, indoor and outdoor track teams and participated in club soccer, German club, German honor society, math honor society, National Honor Society, was the Class of 2018 president, a volunteer in a kindergarten classroom and she worked at Behling Orchards each fall.

Newcombe’s experience reflected much of Ariola’s, except she remained committed to musical ensembles and earned both all-county and all-state status. She also was a member of the JROTC color guard, fitness team and drill team. She also has about 200 hours of community service throughout her high school career.

Newcombe said she was proud to receive several academic awards throughout her time at Mexico High School and was particularly honored to be named the music student of the year in 10th grade and receive the American Association of Teachers of French awards both her junior and senior years.

She also received a few scholarships, as had Ariola.

Most proud of her athletic accomplishments and the U.S. Air Force award for excellence in math and science during her junior year, Ariola said she is honored to call herself a Tiger.

Time management has been the key for both students to stay on track.

“It’s about personal drive,” Newcombe said. “Do your best and don’t doubt yourself.”

“You are capable of so much more than you believe,” Ariola offered as advice for underclassmen.

While they have both enjoyed staying busy studying at Mexico, both Ariola and Newcombe said they are excited to continue their educational journey beyond their soon-to-be alma mater.

Ariola will major in biochemistry and minor in German at Hobart and William Smith College, and has aimed to eventually attend graduate school and possibly become a researcher.

Newcombe, however, plans to attend LeMoyne in the fall to work toward a dual degree nursing program with St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. Her ultimate goal is to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Ariola said she would like to thank her sisters, Alexa and Adria, other family members and friends for all of their support, while Newcombe offered praise for her friends and family, including brothers Jesse and Billy, for helping her reach her dreams.

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