RANDOLPH, NJ- When the race was finished for the top two academic achievement awards for Randolph High School’s Class of 2018 - Valedictorian and Salutatorian, - there were three people still standing.
In an unprecedented first, RHS will have a tie for Salutatorian in 2018, even after the grade point average calculations went down to four decimal points.
What makes the whole situation even more intriguing is that the three young women, Valedictorian Lauren Spencer, and Co-Salutatorians Jenna Sandler and Sydney Jenkins, are all very close friends.
This story will spotlight Valedictorian Lauren Spencer, a follow up story will spotlight the Co-Salutatorians.
“What I love about this most, is I really believe these young ladies were all just as happy for the other one as they are for themselves,” said principal Debbie Iosso. That really speaks a lot about their character and who they truly are.”
Iosso was asked to share some words that come to mind when discussing the three high achieving students.
“Some words that describe them are tenacious and gritty… the word humble comes to mind but I don’t think that even fully capture’s it,” said Iosso. “They all have this quiet strength that is amazing, and the camaraderie among them is impressive. They are amazing role models for all students.”
Even though she got accepted to the honors programs at both Notre Dame and Rutgers, Spencer will embark on a different path than most high school graduates, as she will take a gap year to travel and volunteer abroad before starting college.
Spencer will spend time in Ghana, South Africa, Peru, Nepal, and Thailand, where she will travel with a group of 15 students from all over the world participating in a number of humanitarian projects.
Those projects include building schools in underprivileged areas, working at a daycare for homeless and orphaned children, teaching English in Peru, and working in more primitive type hospitals, which are severely lacking in the technological advances seen here in the US.
When asked about a favorite teacher, Spencer cited Mr. Lonnie her AP capstone teacher... “He truly pushed me to transcend my boundaries intellectually, and constantly think outside the box,” said Spencer. “He never gave me the answer; he always made me come up with it myself.”
Having spent her high school years in the orchestra, the trips to Baltimore and Boston stood out among her most memorable RHS moments.
“As a group we became like one big family with all the time spent together practicing and rehearsing,” said Spencer. “Plus, getting to see amazing sites and world famous musicians’ play on those trips made for some great memories.”
Spencer also discussed her friendship with the co-salutatorians.
“Jenna and Sydney are two of my best friends, and I am so happy they are sharing this with me,” said Spencer. “When I have had doubts about my intellectual ability, they always supported me and told me I was capable of anything… I really appreciated that.”
Jenkins and Sandler described Spencer as ambitious, calling her "someone who works for what she wants, but at the same time is humble."
That type of support came from family as well as other peers, and inspired her to give back to the Randolph community.
“My parents always focused on me and whenever I needed any resources they were there for me,” said Spencer. “That helped influenced me to start my pro bono organization for tutoring; it’s called Building Brighter Futures, and is a free academic development organization for the Randolph community. It started with me offering tutoring at the township library, and now we have a program at the middle school too.
Spencer also discussed how being part of Speech and Debate helped turn her from an introverted person, to someone who has “come out of my shell.”
“It helped me find a voice for topics that I am passionate about advocating for, and not being afraid to share what I believe,” said Spencer.”
As someone who loves to travel and wants to see the world, Spencer also enjoys music and likes to sing, which she cited as something most people do not know about her. She then added, “I also have a Black Belt in Taekwondo; and most people probably don’t know that about me either.”
During her high school years, Spencer took nine AP classes and was a member of four Honor Societies.
Spencer stated her grandfather was her role model and one of her greatest inspirations, and discussed the many writings he left for her. She said she strives to be able to emulate his writing style, and capture the depth of human emotions and move people the way he was able.
Just as most teenagers would say, Spencer said when she leaves the country, she will “Mostly miss my friends, and also my teachers who never give up on me.”
“I won’t be able to talk to them where I will be traveling, and I will miss that Randolph community support.”
However, Spencer acknowledged that being disconnected from technology is going to be liberating.
“It will be good to be present and completely immersed in the environment, living in the moment and not be distracted by technology,” said Spencer. “But when I come back I’m going to immediately text all my friends and check what I missed on Instagram.”
Spencer took a moment to share a special message for her parents.
“I would say to my parents that being a teenager can be rough, and what they’ve done for me these past 18 years I could never be grateful enough for,” said Spencer. They have been unconditionally supportive of me, and the way they have devoted themselves to my upbringing means the world to me.”