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Valedictorian thrived in TC's small-town community

Triton Central High School’s valedictorian waited until two days before his graduation speech was due to start writing it.

“Even though I say in the speech not to procrastinate, I procrastinated a lot on it,” Jared Brown said. “It was due, like May 10 I think, and I did it like May 8 or 9. So a lot of it wasn’t exactly planned from the start. I just kind of started writing, and whatever I felt like saying, I said it.”

He also quoted Spongebob Squarepants and mocked the superintendent’s voice in his speech, which he did because he wanted to entertain his classmates, he said.

“Someone mentioned I should quote Spongebob, and I thought that was a fantastic idea,” he said. “He’s like, ‘If you believe in yourself, and with a tiny pinch of magic, all your dreams will come true.’ I thought it was a good quote to interject in there because it’s Spongebob and it’s funny.”

He also didn’t want his speech to sound like everyone else’s.

“I didn’t really want to say anything incredibly inspirational, because I felt people would just shrug it off, and I kind of left that to the salutatorian, the principal and the superintendent to say those things,” he said.

In reality, the “magic” for Brown that allowed him to finish first was rote memorization and studying with his group of close friends who also finished near the top of their class.

“A lot of it is just learning how to memorize things,” he said. “It’s very simple but very important. A lot of mnemonics really ... like in math, obviously, mnemonics can help with formulas and stuff, but in history class – dates ... easy to learn with mnemonics; people’s names: easy to learn if you make some silly story out of it.”

Brown added that his prior knowledge of class topics also contributed to his success.

“I like just learning about things in general,” he said. “Like in history class, if we’re going over a unit and I already knew the basics about it, that was less that I would have to remember for the test.”

Brown and his friends, including the salutatorian (and one of his closest friends), Johnathan Riggins, studied together to help each other keep their ranks up instead of competing against each other, he said.

In fact, he and his friends teamed up to compete in the 2018 National History Day competition, where students performed skits reenacting historical events. Brown’s team skit – about the Cuban Missile Crisis – advanced to the final round, held in Washington, D.C.

“We chose me as John F. Kennedy because I did a good impression of his voice,” he said.

Brown (who hadn’t been to the nation’s capital before) said he had more fun with his friends in Washington, D.C., looking at the monuments than competing at the National History Competition.

“We went on the first day, and they chose some other group to move on (to the next round), and we were like, ‘Okay, I guess we have the rest of this time to look around D.C.,’” he said.

Brown, a soon-to-be freshman at Ball State University, said he would miss his friends while up in Muncie, especially Riggins.

“I’ve been good friends with him since like eighth grade, when we realized we were top two in the class,” Brown said. “So we started having most of our classes together because we took all of the advanced classes and everything.”

“Every time we had a project, we decided we would help each other so we could stay in the top two,” he said. “And then during tests and stuff we would always study together.”

Brown said they regularly had study sessions at another friend’s house, and both he and Riggins were always there.

“So we tried to guarantee each other’s success, which I thought was really nice,” he said. “I’m very thankful he was cooperative in that.”

Brown will not have Riggins with him as he moves on to Ball State, where he plans on majoring in computer science, participating in the Honors College, and working for the Ball State Digital Corps. Most of his tuition will be covered by scholarships, including a Ball State granted Presidential Scholarship, valued at $20,000, he said.

“People say good things about Ball State,” he said. “It’s not some very hard, thought out process; I just chose it. And when I visited the campus, I was like, ‘This is really nice.’ … I already knew some people that went there, and that was nice.”

One of the people he knows he’s actually in a rock band with. Brown plays bass for the band 4 Below, which he said has performed at Triton Central High School and graduation parties.

Even though he’s looking forward to the independence college has to offer, Brown said he will miss the “tightly knit” community of Triton Central High School.

“I really like the school, and it’s like a small community,” he said. “It’s easy to know everyone. You know everyone’s name and you can probably remember at least one memorable thing about them, or have one good memory with them.”

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