HANNIBAL – As Hannibal High School seniors graduate this Friday, they can look up to two Hannibal alumni and childhood friends – Liam Mason and Olivia Cacchione, class of 2015.
Out of just less than 80 students at Hannibal High School and about 300 students at Elmira College, the pair of friends had the two highest grade point averages in their graduating class – in 2015 and this year.
When they graduated from high school four years ago, Cacchione was Valedictorian and Mason was Salutatorian. They delivered their graduation speech together.
When they graduated from Elmira College last month, Mason was Valedictorian and Cacchione was Salutatorian.
The two became best friends in second grade when Mason’s mother babysat Cacchione in the mornings before school. They connected through a combination of their talents and created comic books together on the bus to and from school.
Cacchione drew the characters and Mason wrote the stories all throughout middle school.
They expanded on these talents going into college. Cacchione majored in marketing and economics and kept going with her art by making it her minor.
Mason continued his knack for writing while majoring in English and psychology with a minor in classical studies.
Cacchione said they had always had a friendly competition up through high school but stopped in college because they only took a few classes together for the Honors program. These classes prompted several conversations when they ate breakfast together, Cacchione said.
“We were able to expand each other’s horizons on different topics and stuff so it was a really cool experience in college,” Cacchione said.
Cacchione almost went to another college and had even put down a deposit when she learned that Elmira offered her a tuition-free education through their scholarship for valedictorians and salutatorians. Mason also received this scholarship.
“We both liked the idea of going to college together to be a little more comfortable trying to meet new people; we’d have at least one person there that we knew,” Mason told Oswego County Today in a recent interview. “We remained friends throughout. She became best friends with my girlfriend and a lot of my other friends so we remained in a tight-knit friend group.”
While at college, Cacchione participated in Circle K, a community service-based organization.
She also took part in Enactus, a global organization for students to use business principles to create a better world. She directed an entrepreneurship expo for businesses from the Southern Tier and Northern Pennsylvania.
During her senior year she directed a dance marathon; an event that lasted for 12 hours and raised $11,600 for Children’s Miracle Network at their local hospital.
She also won first place for her 5 feet by 4 feet painting in the senior art show at Elmira.
Cacchione said she likes to try something new each year to challenge herself. This year, it was modern dancing.
She also studied abroad twice. During her freshman year, she studied island ecology in the Bahamas. Last spring, she traveled to Bulgaria, Romania and Greece to study architecture, culture and the arts of Western Europe.
Mason also spent some of his time at college volunteering at animal shelters and holding food drives through the Red Cross club. He was vice president for three honor societies as well.
Although there was not enough participation to get it going, Mason tried to restart Elmira’s student newspaper.
Both said they were surprised to hear their class rankings.
They had gotten separate emails from the Registrar’s Office asking them to go in to talk about something, but neither thought it would be to tell them they had gotten valedictorian and salutatorian.
The news was supposed to be a surprise to be unveiled at graduation when he was invited to go up on stage to deliver his valedictorian speech.
Mason said he overheard a friend in front of him during graduation say to another friend it would be funny if he had gotten one of the two rankings again.
“A few seconds later they announced I was valedictorian, so he turned around and gave me a look of surprise as I was walking up. So that was pretty funny,” Mason said.
Mason said he had figured Cacchione would have beat him again, but he must have taken one more class with a 4.0 that boosted him ahead by a very small margin. His overall GPA was 3.981 out of 4.0.
“We were within a thousandth of a point away from each other,” Mason said. “It was so close, we would have ended up having two valedictorians tied.”
Mason also won the 2019 Kathlene Anott Watters ‘65 Prize, which recognizes his academic success and passion for the humanities.
Cacchione is currently in the job searching process and wants to start building experience in the workforce and hopes to go back to school to expand her education on copywriting and intellectual property in the future.
Mason has plans to attend Binghamton University in the fall to get his Masters degree in English. He hopes to either go into publications or earn his doctorate to become a professor in English.
“I really want to take the time to thank both Hannibal High School and Elmira College, the professors and teachers,” Cacchione said. “I definitely needed support and guidance of people who believed in me, from my professors to my advisors, in both cases, high school and college … I do really appreciate my professors and my parents as well.”