Victory Life Academy announced Rachel Acker and Isaiah Whetstone as its valedictorian and salutatorian.

Officials named Acker valedictorian after she finished the year with a 3.8 grade point average and said she plans to attend Sam Houston State University where she will study speech pathology.

“I’m excited to graduate because I want to do what I have always wanted to do, which is speech pathology,” Acker said. “Being able to finally start those steps into the next phase would be wonderful … Giving the speech will be quite an honor because, to be honest, I didn’t think I would ever be valedictorian mostly because I’ve had some struggles in some subjects and some how I pulled through. Some of the stuff in some of my speech will have to do with experiences I have had and how they helped me learn.”

Acker, the daughter of Jessica Acker and Leeland Acker, said she was homeschooled before coming to VLA and believes the small, close-knit community on the VLA campus helped her grow as a student and a person. During her two years at VLA she participated in 4-H, theater, yearbook and the robotics team.

“I’ve always had a desire to help people in anyway I can,” Acker said. “I wanted to teach special ed., but I’m more of a one-on-one person so I knew I could not handle a big class. Going through 4-H and learning how to use my voice and speak up. That is when I got interested in speech pathology.”

 Despite facing off for the academy’s highest academic honor, Acker and Whetstone did not let the competition get to them and, instead, held firm to the idea of remaining friends and let the chips fall where they may.

“It just happened and we went with the flow,” Whetstone said. “We were both encouraging to each other and it doesn’t really matter who gets what because we’re all supportive.”

Whetstone, the son of Trish and Phil Whetsone, said he plans to attend Howard Payne University and continue working in theater. He graduated with a 3.7 Should he fall short of becoming the next Hollywood or Broadway star, Whetstone said he teaching theater or going into ministry are options he has considered. He plans to use some of his theatrical skills while speaking before hundreds during graduation later this month.

“I am a big theater person so I’m used to being in front of people,” Whetstone said. “That’s what I’m going to major in in college. It’s going to be interesting. I have seen other people go through and give their salutatorian and valedictorian speeches. Some of them have been very emotional. Mine will be a little emotional and I will try not to cry. I think I will impart some of my feelings and experiences to people and give them a whole new light to what happens.”

Both Whetstone and Acker feel they grew as students and people while attending VLA and hope to take the lessons they learned and apply them to the professional field.

“It’s almost like a family,” Acker said. “You can go to each other and express your concerns, whether it’s things in school or happening in your home life and being able to interact with all of the grades. The little ones tend to be like little sibling.”