2017 Benet Academy valedictorian hails from Lockport
While students across the country capped off their high school experiences by completing the general education requirements, Lockport resident Kiara Gallagher spoke on behalf of Benet Academy’s 2017 graduating class as its valedictorian at the school’s annual commencement ceremony.
The honor bestowed upon Kiara was met by she and her family with different emotions.
“We don’t rank [students] at Benet,” Kiara said. “I was excited, because I know there is such great intelligence at Benet.”
Kiara credits her academic success thus far to four key factors.
“Besides having the grade-point average and working hard for it, I had the right combination of work ethic and intelligence to accept the honor,” she said.
Kiara’s mother, Kathy Gallagher said seeing her daughter speak at her commencement ceremony as the school’s valedictorian was extremely meaning to her.
“From my perspective, it brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “They don’t rank students at Benet. From her grade-point average, we knew it was a possibility. The reality of it was emotional.”
Throughout her educational career, Kiara largely attended Lockport schools. She later took an entrance examination for enrollment at Benet Academy, and she studied there for four years.
Kathy said Kiara took a chance when she decided to attend Benet Academy, and she owned it.
“She knew no one at Benet,” she said. “She took a big risk. Her gut told her Benet was where she wanted to be.”
Kiara’s father, Kevin Gallagher recounted the speech his daughter delivered at the commencement ceremony and said she shared some wonderful remarks.
“She told the history of where she came from, her roots,” he said. “She came into a new environment, and it was a good story to hear.”
The honor of being valedictorian meant the effort Kiara put into her studies did not go unnoticed, Kathy said.
“I think it’s a nice recognition for her hard work the last four years,” she said. “She’s very focused and dedicated and passionate about her grades.”
Kevin echoed that sentiment.
“I think it was fantastic seeing her go through late nights of studying to make sure she was prepared,” he said. “Also, she played sports—basketball and softball. I was happy to see she got the valedictorian.”
Kiara earned the East Suburban Conference All Conference Award at one point during her stint at Benet Academy.
“The fact that she did softball and maintained the high grade-point average was astonishing,” Kevin said.
Kathy said it’s clear that Kiara is a mix of both she and her husband.
“She has a pretty good combo of both my husband and I,” she said. “We’re driven and tackle whatever comes across our plate. Kiara takes after us in that regard.”
Kevin said he must give credit, in part, to the education Kiara received in Lockport schools for guiding her academic success.
“Coming from Lockport, it says a lot about the schools,” he said. “I think that helped her to do well at Benet.”
Kiara remembers the impact her fourth grade and eighth-grade teacher, Linda Forristall of Kelvin-Grove School, had with regard to her academic success at Benet.
“She pushed me to have the passion I have for learning and learning how to learn,” she said. “She recommended books for me to read. She helped me develop my passion.”
The road to becoming valedictorian was not always smooth sailing, Kiara admitted.
“When I was a freshman at Benet before finals, I broke both my wrists,” she said. “I broke one first and the second later. I went into finals. I could only move the first three fingers of my hand because I wore a cast. I had to learn how to write like that.”
This fall, Kiara is to attend the University of Notre Dame and study within the pre-professional track.
“I’m not quite sure what I’m majoring in,” she said. “I know it’s in the sciences, and I’m veering toward pre-medicine.”
Kiara wants to accomplish a number of feats in her post-graduate life, and said she remains optimistic she will narrow in on a career path.
“I would say, [my goal is to] continue to use my work ethic and passion for people and finding something I’m passionate about and using it to help others,” she said. “I’m not sure what that might look like, that’s what I’m expecting to learn at Notre Dame.”