By Anna Maria Gardiner, Raleigh Norris, and Hayley Younginer

In a senior class of 456 students, it’s not a surprise that making it into the top ten of the class is a challenge. Senior Graham Ellis, number four in the class, accepted this his freshman year and has maintained his spot in the top ten ever since.

“I found out during my freshman year around May, when I received a letter from the school inviting me to the top ten breakfast,” Graham said. “I remember feeling like Harry Potter getting his Hogwarts letter; it was great.”

Graham says that maintaining his spot in the top ten has definitely caused some stress, but he has gained experience with work management and a positive outlook on his progress.

“I remember once I started doubling up in subjects and taking a majority of AP’s, I struggled with anxiety because my grades were slowing slipping due to the increased workload and difficulty of the subject material,” he said. “However, it helped to keep in mind that my grades didn’t have to be perfect to still be of considerable rank, so I tried being easy on myself.”

As if this diligent effort to make the best grades possible isn’t enough, Graham is also involved in a number of clubs and extracurricular activities including Student Council, where he serves as president of the entire student body.

“Graham always knows what he is doing and what he wants to happen,” Freshman Edythe Humphrey, a member of Student Council, said.

Graham can also frequently be found on the stage in the auditorium, where he has participated in Drama since his freshman year. His involvement in the arts program has affected his fellow peers.

“School plays just wouldn’t be the same without Graham because he is extremely expressive and can make anyone laugh,” junior Jesse Tompkins said. “Graham is actually the one who convinced me to audition for my first school play, so I will always be thankful for his encouragement and friendship.”

Graham’s involvement in many of the different aspects of the school has stood out to countless teachers, including English teacher James Peyton, who also is Graham’s tennis coach–yes, playing tennis is yet another talent that Graham possesses.

“The thing that is so impressive about Graham is that he is involved in so many different activities, and still does so well in all of them,” Peyton said. “Through everything he does, you know he is not only a profound person, but a good person also.”

These qualities that impress countless students and staff members at Dutch Fork also carry over to activities that Graham does outside of school. Playing bass for the praise band at Riverland Hills Baptist Church is another way that Graham stays involved. Sophomore Lindsay Shealy says that being in a youth group with Graham is both a blessing and a privilege.

“Graham is just a really good leader in general. His heart is always 100% into whatever he does, including his faith,” Lindsay said.

Top ten, student council, drama club, tennis, and youth group–many wonder how Graham can stay sane through the midst of everything he is involved in. Graham says that sometimes, even he questions how he does it.

“I feel overwhelmed practically everyday of my life,” Graham said. “There’s always a moment where I just think, ‘why the heck am I bringing all of this onto myself?’ But mostly, I actually enjoy the work I’m doing in the different areas I’m involved with and the friends I make, so the question often answers itself.”

As Graham continues putting forth his best effort in every aspect of his busy and versatile schedule, his hard work does not go unnoticed. His family constantly supports him and remains amazed at his ability to do so much.

“No parents have ever been more proud of a child than we are of Graham,” mother Cissy Ellis said. “He is and has always been the sweetest, most thoughtful, kind hearted, and intelligent child anyone could ever ask for. We are so very proud of his accomplishments inside the classroom as well as out.”