Vals and sals to take the spotlight

The Lakewood valedictorians and salutatorians, who will each give a speech at graduation, talk about their journey to this point and what’s next.



Senior Maya Rish, left, the traditional valedictorian, and senior Diamond Brown, the traditional salutatorian, pose for a photo at the senior picnic.


The class of 2022 valedictorians and salutatorians for the traditional and the Center for Advanced Technologies (CAT) programs are Maya Rish, traditional valedictorian; Diamond Brown, traditional salutatorian; Brian Tran, CAT valedictorian; and Jackson Culbreth, CAT salutatorian. These four have all had different paths to lead them to who they are today and all of them have different and impressive goals for the future.

As graduation approaches and these four students take the spotlight, SNN asked each student to talk about what their journeys were like.

Maya Rish – traditional valedictorian

Rish said she plans to go to New College of Florida in Sarasota and major in classics. Her reaction to the news of her earning the title of valedictorian was one of surprise. “I was really shocked. I was not expecting to be valedictorian. I actually thought that I was third in my class,” she said. She said her experiences at Lakewood have helped her learn strong communication skills and helped her grow. Rish said she is excited for the future and to see what it holds. “I cared a lot about my schoolwork because I knew that I wanted to have options when it came to college and I didn’t settle for anything less than what I knew I was capable of,” she said.

Diamond Brown – traditional salutatorian

Brown is looking to follow in her late mother’s footsteps and pursue a career as a doctor, specifically becoming an OBGYN. “She passed away when I was young, and I just wanted to follow in her footsteps and become something powerful, and medical fit and it will make a difference,” she said. This title has meant a lot to Brown. “As a kid, I always said I want to be No. 1, but second is something that everybody doesn’t achieve,” she said. Brown said she put a lot of effort into school and it paid off. “I always made it my business to try and get all As or take classes that I knew would help me,” she said. Brown will be attending Florida Atlantic University in the fall.

Brian Tran, CAT valedictorian

Tran will continue his education at Florida Polytechnic University and work toward a career in the cybersecurity field. “I guess just since I was little, I liked doing technology and recently with the news of cyber-attacks, I want to help out,’’ he said. Tran has wanted to be valedictorian since he was a child. “I’m really proud of (achieving valedictorian). It means that I’ve worked hard, and I’ve done what I have to do. … I did the work. I understand knowledge,” he said.

Jackson Culbreth, CAT salutatorian

Culbreth said he wants to study computer science at the University of Florida. Culbreth was excited by the plethora of options this field could provide him. “(Getting this title) was just a lot of hard work and dedication,” he said. Culbreth started to fully dedicate himself to his education and grades when he was in 11th grade. “I realized I could be at the top. I started taking more AP classes, taking a lot of advanced courses, which decreased the time I could spend on extracurricular activities. … It was a lot of hard work,” he said.

– SNN staff writer SOPHIA MOHRMAN contributed to this story.

From left, Jackson Culbreth and Brian Tran shoot confetti poppers in front of Lakewood High School on Feb. 25. Tran was named Center for Advanced Technologies valedictorian while Culbreth was named CAT salutatorian. (EMMA COLLINS)