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Dylan Swisher: Portal Middle High School Valedictorian

Dylan Swisher, 17, the son of Pete Swisher and Michelle Cannon, is the valedictorian of Portal Middle High School.  He considers Portal a small, safe haven, where he was privileged to attend pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade and build close friendships. 

“I’m not the smartest student,” Dylan said. “I just maybe worked harder. Honestly, my best friend, Craig Fleming, could have been valedictorian. He’s going to be a cardiologist!  He’s definitely smarter than me. 

“My parents are over the moon. They pushed me because they knew that I could do it. I’d also like to give a special thank you to my great grandmother Joan Brannen.”

Dylan is humble, but he has a strong focus on academics.  Except for seventh grade, he received the highest grade point average award for sixth through twelfth grades.

“If I had to give advice to other students who want to be valedictorian, I’d tell them to forget how hard it is and focus on how great the success will be.  High school is as easy as it gets.  It only gets harder from here, so work hard.”

Dylan was a dual-enrolled student at Georgia Southern University during his junior and senior years of high school. He plans to remain close to home and even live at home while he pursues a degree in computer science at GA Southern.

“I was able to start on my non-core courses this year. I’ve always been interested in computers. As a valedictorian I was accepted to the University of Georgia. I didn’t apply, but I do hope to possibly transfer there.”

Dylan’s going to miss the small environment of Portal. He’s enjoyed Beta Club and especially the golf team.

“Golf is probably the most fun that I’ve ever had.  I want to give a big shout out to our coach, Mr. Joe Bettinger.”

There are other faculty members whom Dylan remembers fondly like Huey Williams, who was his business pathway teacher, his Chemistry teacher, Clinton Thornberg, and Dennis Moore, his math teacher.

“I want to thank the teachers that I’ve been graced with throughout by school career,” Dylan remarked during his valedictory speech at Portal Middle High’s graduation ceremony.

His Chemistry teacher remembers Dylan as a confident student.

“One of my teaching techniques is trying to instill confidence in the students and get them to trust in themselves,” said Thornberg. “We work out many chemistry problems on the board, and when students give me answers, occasionally I will ask things like, ‘are you sure this is correct?’ or something similar which causes them to falter and have doubt. Usually their answers are correct, and I use their hesitation or answer reversal as a teaching moment for life lessons about self-confidence and standing by your convictions.  This did not work on Dylan. He never faltered when I tested his resolve. He would argue his points with confidence in a mature and civil manner. I immediately took notice of such a young person who was self-assured and willing to debate his stance while maintaining a sense of propriety.  Dylan has the potential to achieve great things and his future boundless.“

Dylan’s math teacher also found him to be an excellent student who was engaged and motivated to learn.

“He was always willing to help his classmates,” said Moore.  “On the lighter side, Dylan is also a die-hard New England Patriots fan, so with myself being a die-hard Atlanta Falcons fan, I will not miss the constant 28 to 3 Super Bowl reminders!”

Dylan told his fellow graduates at their graduation, “To some it might not seem like such a big deal, but I believe we’ve accomplished something remarkable. I want to acknowledge how lucky we are to have had a normal graduation.  The 2020 graduates of Portal along with millions around the world did not have that opportunity.”

It’s clear that Dylan values the friendships he’s developed and wants to maintain those bonds.

 “A lot of my best friends are going to GA Southern too, and I’m looking forward to progressing forward to this next stage of his life.”

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