Westland High School will recognize the high academic achievement of its top four students rather than just two this year.

Westland High School will recognize the high academic achievement of its top four students rather than just two this year.

The school is set to hold commencement for the Class of 2008 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, at Veterans Memorial in downtown Columbus, where 325 students will receive their diplomas.

Guidance counselor Christina Shore said it was too close to call when it came to announcing the valedictorian and salutatorian. Four students hold a 4.5 grade-point average and will share the honors. They are Amanda Chhay, Ryan Hamm, Julie Backus and Brittany Sanders.

The grading period that decides the top two was not to end until after ThisWeek's press deadline. Should there be a distinct valedictorian and salutatorian, Shore said, it will be announced at graduation.

Principal Kathy Buckerfield said that this class is focused and its members are supportive of one another.

"They knew what they needed to do to get things done," Buckerfield said. "We've had a great spring. Fifty-four kids will be receiving honors diplomas and that is not an easy accomplishment."

Brittany Sanders, one of the top four, plans to attend Miami University, where she wants to major in mathematics. She has been involved in choir, drama, math club and National Honor Society throughout her high school career.

"I like math and its challenges," she said. "I like having one right answer and one way to get it."

As a student, Sanders said it has been her parents and teachers who have been the driving force behind her successes.

"If I ever had a question about anything, they would do what it took to get it answered," she said.

Julie Backus said she plans to attend Ohio Northern University where she will major in biology.

"I don't want a medical career," she said. "It is just a subject I really like."

Like Sanders, Backus said she owes her parents a debt of gratitude for their support of her endeavors over the last four years. During her high school career, she has participated in band, choir and National Honor Society.

"They keep pushing me," she said of her parents. "They've done everything for me."

Amanda Chhay said she will attend The Ohio State University, where she will major in chemistry and pre-medicine.

"Chemistry is the subject that interests me the most," she said.

Chhay said she credits her parents for pushing her in the right direction. Since neither received a high school diploma, they wanted to see her achieve her high school degree.

"They weren't able to help me with my homework and weren't able to graduate from high school," she said. "They motivated me to take challenges when they couldn't."

Ryan Hamm said he plans to attend Ohio Northern University to major in biology. Hamm has been involved in soccer and tennis during his high school career.

"I want to be a doctor or a teacher," he said. "My parents have been a real inspiration because from day one they told me I was going to college."

For those freshmen who want to succeed, Sanders gives this advice: "Do your homework," she said. "If you do that, you will do well on tests, which will lead to better things."

"Take every opportunity that you can," Backus said. "Any activities you do, put your full self into it."

"Try your best and don't skip school," Chhay said. "You need to be there at school."

Hamm said the best advice is not to be lazy your first year of high school.

"Stay on top of things now, it will get easier later," he said.

The top four students will share the limelight on Tuesday during a combined speech that highlights the accomplishments of the Class of 2008.

csmithwestside@aol.com