Meet Two High School Valedictorians

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In this graduation season, Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson checks in with two valedictorians.

Johileny Meran Alamonte of Brooklyn, New York, has had to overcome numerous obstacles to complete high school, including cerebral palsy, her family's homelessness and her mother's death, and she is looking forward to the future.

Mathew Barfuss, of Bancroft, Idaho, had 14 students in his graduating class, and will be working in the mines this summer with his father before heading to a junior college next year.

Interview Highlights: Mathew Barfuss

On his college plans

"Next year I'll be wrestling for Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. I'm pretty excited for that... My previous principle actually set me up and was talking with me on wanting to wrestle and he suggested going to junior college to really get kick started because that's where the universities recruit."

On his plans hopes for the future

"I'm looking to go into engineering and maybe return to somewhere in this area... I'd like to accomplish working in one of these plants or as an engineer who is designing things and improving things and come back and support everything that I've participated so other kids can have a good time."

On his advice for high school students

"I'd like to encourage them to stay on your grades. The difference between and B- and a B+ can mean the difference between no scholarship and $15,000 scholarship."

On his summer job at Monsanto Mine in Soda Springs, Idaho

"I subcontract for mine three and I'll probably be doing some labor work and working on machines and things like that. It's a graveyard shift so I'll be up all night... actually I just got off this morning at 6 a.m."

Interview Highlights: Johileny Meran Alamonte

On beating the odds and overcoming high school's obstacles

"I think that many of us have been beating the odds in a way and I think that the only way to continue on beating the odds is to continue on with your life whether that's education or something else."

"I always had a desire of doing better for myself and to excel in all expectations because many people have very low expectations or none at all for me and that's not what I had for myself. So for me, my journey has been proving to people, not proving but demonstrating that there's more to me than just my disability."

On how living in a homeless shelter motivated her to work hard

"It has been one of the factors that has pushed me to do better. I felt that for me it was like I was going to be able to have a better future and not end up in the same situation I was in at that moment."

On leaving high school

"I'm going to miss a lot of my teachers and my friends and the kind of support that I have gotten from high school. And the learning experience - because it has been a learning experience. But to be honest, this was just one part of it. There's more to come. I'm excited to see what the future brings ahead."

On her college plans

"I actually got some exciting news yesterday. I thought that I would be going to Stony Brook University, but yesterday afternoon I was pulled off the NYU waitlist. I was ecstatic. It was the best news of the year. I couldn't handle myself. So now I'll be attending NYU for the fall, and I know it's going to be a hard year because it will be something new, but I'm looking forward to anything that comes ahead."

"I'll be majoring in biology because I'm interested I'm going to the medical field. I would like to become a pediatric oncologist, but I also want to keep an open mind to anything that comes along the road."

On her advice to high school students

"Don't give up and beat the odds because in the end that's all that matters. What matters is not giving up. It doesn't matter how long it takes to get to your final destination or to reach your dreams, it just matters that you don't give up while getting there."


  • Johileny Meran Alamonte, valedictorian at Juan Morel Campos Secondary School in Brooklyn.
  • Mathew Barfuss, valedictorian at North Gem High School in Bancroft, Idaho.

This segment aired on June 2, 2015.


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