Battle for the rank: Senior Fyn Neeley named valedictorian after 4-year pursuit of title


He looked down at the pass in his hand. Mrs. Tims wanted to see him, and he knew exactly why. It seemed like the last four years of his life were embodied in that little white piece of paper. There would be no more back and forth. No more one, two, one, two. He held onto the pass tightly, his mind racing. Did I make it? 

Since freshman year, senior Fyn Neeley has been in between the first and second rank of his class. Now, the final result was in. Neeley was number one. He was the valedictorian, officially.

“It was very nerve-wracking because we were in Physics and I got a note to the office, and no one else got a note,” Neeley said. “So I was wondering what it could be. Was I first, was I second? So I went after class and she sat me down and was like, ‘You made it.’”

It all started when he saw his rank for the first time in freshman year. After that, it was history.

“I took some high school credits in middle school, so I think that kind of helped a little bit with when our rank first dropped,” Neeley said. “When I got my first one, I was number one. That inspired me to keep it. I kinda just wanted to stay there because it’d be sad if I dropped after that.”

Neeley’s brother, Sy, was the valedictorian of his class in 2020. Neeley was inspired by the legacy his brother left for him.

“Sy was definitely a motivator because I thought it would be pretty cool if we both got the same achievement,” Neeley said. “He’s been supportive throughout my journey of classes and helping me pick courses.”

However, Neeley’s academic career differed from his brother’s. When Sy started high school, his rank was in the teens and he worked up from there.

“It was kind of hard getting it first and then having to maintain rather than coming up like Sy did,” Neeley said. “In the very last cycle he got to first whereas I started at one and then I dropped once or twice to two, so it was kind of a precarious situation. There was a little bit of pressure, but I knew that everything would still work out if I didn’t get it.”

While handling the stress of learning and doing well in comprehensive courses, Neeley said he learned life lessons about time management. 

“In junior year, I had six APs and an OnRamps course, so it was a lot of homework and I had to learn not to procrastinate a lot because weekends were the only time I could do stuff,” Neeley said. “On weekends I work as a server at Blue Jasmine Thai Kitchen and hang out with people, but on weekdays I usually try to keep a clear schedule so I can get everything done.”

But some things were too important to sacrifice. Instead, Neeley came up with a way to balance his schoolwork with the non-negotiables of his social life during the week.

“Sunday night was my big project night so I wouldn’t have to do it during the week,” Neeley said. “Because I do like to go to all my Bible studies and community events, so I kind of have to get stuff done the week before because of that.”

Neeley plans to take the same work ethic and skills he learned throughout the last four years to TCU with him this fall. 

“I want to keep up my academic record in college for sure,” Neeley said. “I have to maintain a certain GPA for my scholarships, so high school has helped me to learn how I can maintain all my work and still have a life, and actually learn from what I’m doing as well.”