By Leah Schmalz

Even though Hannah Williams is 17, she demonstrates a maturity and understanding many would consider ahead of her years. As valedictorian of Independence High School, her speech at last Saturday’s graduation ceremony focused on the balance of freedom and responsibility that comes with leaving high school.

“Our graduation is marking…entering a more adult side of the world,” she said. “It’s the beginning of our freedom as people and the beginning of our responsibility as human beings to do something with our lives.” 

Williams is no stranger to responsibility. She ranked first in her class not only as a result of doing well in her classes, but also because of her challenging course load. She took seven AP classes and achieved As in five of them, for a total GPA of 4.87. Despite this, she was still surprised to find out she was valedictorian. “I thought I would be maybe two or three. I was really excited when they called and told me.”

Williams was mostly involved in music growing up, taking piano lessons for over 10 years and participating in choir. “Instead of a sport, I did music,” she said. She combined her passion for music and three semesters of Spanish on a mission trip to the Honduras with her church sophomore year. While there she helped to teach a music class and ministered to orphans.

As for what’s next, Williams plans to attend UNC Wilmington. She’s considered majoring in nursing or education, but says she honestly isn’t sure yet. What she does know is that she has a responsibility to do something with her life—not just to serve her, but to serve others as well.