Atop the Class of 2023: Sumter public school valedictorians say parents their biggest influencers and describe getting through high school in a pandemic


Sumter School District’s three valedictorians for the Class of 2023 all hail from Sumter, survived high school in a pandemic, and each has chosen a worthy career path to help others.

The top seniors from Lakewood, Sumter and Crestwood high schools – Tyraiana Archie, Leila Shuping and David Lundberg, respectively – spoke this week to The Sumter Item on their biggest influencers in life, the difficult path of COVID-19 through their freshman and sophomore years and their immediate plans.

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Lakewood High School senior Tyraiana Archie ranked No. 1 in a class of about 190 students this year with a 5.1 GPA on the weighted scale, which was a little more than a 3.9 on the 4.0 scale. She will enter University of South Carolina in Columbia with an Associate of Arts in tow already after participating in the USC Sumter Early College Program as a junior and senior at Lakewood. That allowed her to get at least 30 hours of prerequisites completed, Archie said.

Her first two years of enjoying high school were somewhat halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and online learning at home. Archie said at times it was hard to have initiative not being in a classroom and described herself as “more of a hands-on learner.”

She said her immediate family – mom, father, stepfather and aunt – and God were her biggest influencers and motivators for success.

“I looked up to them, and I want to make all of them proud,” Archie said. “They did a lot for me growing up, and I want to return the favor eventually after I reach my goals.”

As far as a career, her goal is to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. That is an advanced practice nurse who administers anesthesia for surgery and other medical procedures.

Nursing is her intended college major entering USC, then she plans to work a year as a nurse before pursuing a master’s degree to get in the specialized field, she said.

Archie’s aunt is a nurse and serves as an inspiration, and she also genuinely wants to help people in her future career path.

Her counselor at Lakewood, Marcus Bryan, was also a key influence for Archie as well as high school teachers and Early College professors at USC Sumter, she added.

Personally, the top senior considers herself an “overachiever,” studying until late at night if necessary. Archie says she gets her strong work ethic from her mom, Tiffany Green, who is a banker and has a side business venture also.

As far as outside of school, Archie said she has volunteered and now works this summer as a mentor with the Helping Youth Pursue Excellence community learning center, housed at the M.H. Newton Family Life Center with Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church.

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At Sumter High, Leila Shuping ranked tops in a class of 449 students with a 5.2 GPA on the weighted scale, which was a 4.0 on the traditional scale.

She is also glad that COVID-19 is in the past now, made the best of it with online learning and said it made her more appreciative of the “amazing environment at Sumter High.”

She also said her parents, Lesa and Jeffrey Shuping, were her biggest motivators in life and never pressured her to be No. 1 in the class. Only her mom knew that Shuping was in the running to be the valedictorian and kept it a secret through the years, she said.

“That was my own thing,” Shuping said, “where I wanted to achieve this. They never pressured me and made me feel bad if I didn’t get it or anything. Regardless of whether they knew or not, they just always encouraged me to strive for my best and not perfection.”

She said school comes more naturally to her than unnaturally, but she also was a very hard worker in Sumter’s Advanced Placement (Honors) program. Shuping capitalized on dual enrollment at Central Carolina Technical College and will have 18 credits under her belt come the fall.

She plans to attend either the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, or CCTC next year. If Shuping goes the Central Carolina route to save some money, she said she would transfer to a four-year university after a year or two.

With aspirations to be a middle- and high school biology teacher, she plans to major in biology and minor in education.

Shuping said she and Sumter High Principal Anamaria Sandor had a close relationship and that the leader provided the proper academic and social environment that all students need to achieve in high school.

“Both of these sides – a healthy balance of social life and academic life – are necessary for doing your best in high school,” Shuping said.

As far as extracurricular activities, she noted that she was a “partner” and assisted with the Unified Sports program for special-education students at Sumter High. Those students compete with other Unified Sports programs across the state in Winter and Summer Special Olympics events.

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At Crestwood High, the top senior’s name, David Lundberg, may sound familiar, and it should. His sister, Breanna, was also the school’s valedictorian last year. But it actually does not stop there. Another sister, Krystanna (Acevedo) Rhoads, was Crestwood’s valedictorian in 2014. That’s three valedictorians from the same family at the school, which most likely has to be a Crestwood record because the high school only dates back to the late 1990s in Sumter County.

The youngest Lundberg ranked No. 1 of about 250 students in the Class of 2023 with a 5.3 weighted GPA, which also translates to a 4.0.

He also took advantage of dual enrollment at Central Carolina and will enter Clemson University in the fall with about 24 credit hours.

Lundberg is also glad COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror now after his initial years of high school were dominated by the pandemic and virtual learning.

After lots of student quarantines last year, he said his senior year was his “first normal year for a high school experience.”

He added classroom learning is more “efficient” and “easier” as well, even though he did enjoy the extra time at home as a freshman and sophomore.

Lundberg lists his parents – who are both U.S. Air Force veterans – and family as his top influencers in life.

“My parents pushed me to be the best version of myself every day, and I think that is very important,” he said. “In every aspect of life, you can always improve something. Whether that is your studies or maybe your health or even your social life to some extent, there is always something that I feel like you could just maybe be a little bit better at and make those little improvements over time. They instilled that in me.”

He also noted Crestwood guidance counselor Shirley Nelson was very supportive in helping point him in the right direction toward dual-enrollment courses at CCTC.

Lundberg said school came a little more naturally to him as opposed to his sister Breanna, who was more focused and driven than he was.

He will be joining her at Clemson and plans to major in mechanical engineering and wants to eventually work in environmental engineering, specifically with renewable energy technologies, he said.

As far as extracurricular activities, Lundberg was a member of Crestwood’s National Honor Society and enjoyed the community service projects, he added.

You can read the original article at The Item here.