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Q&A with the Class of 2019 Co-Valedictorians

Luke McClanahan and Faith Elder reflect on their time at CAC, the people who have inspired them and their hopes for the future.


Luke McClanahan (University of Arkansas)

University of Arkansas Honors College Fellow, National Merit Finalist, three-time Arkansas All-Region Choir member, two-time Arkansas All-State Choir member, Student Council president

What grade were you in when you started at CAC?
Kindergarten, but not all my years have been consecutive. I was homeschooled for a few years in elementary school before coming back for the 6th grade.

What is one experience/story that sums up your time at CAC?
Reed Wallace shoving an entire piece of pizza in his mouth. On multiple occasions.

Fine Arts has been a large part of your experience at CAC. You often speak highly of Mr. Travis Kaye and the experiences you’ve had with him in choir, you achieved Choir All-State status for two years in a row, played in a student-led band, performed in musicals, wrote/recorded multiple songs and instrumental samples on your own time, and created the infamous Video Announcements. Why, do you think, you were drawn to take part in so many different creative endeavors? What about CAC’s environment allowed you to explore these projects?
When I started homeschooling in the 3rd grade, my mom enrolled me in piano lessons; that was our tradeoff. Around 8th grade, I started with a new piano teacher. I learned a ton from her, and I developed a set of fundamental music skills that I could realistically use. I could also transfer them. I used money from my job to buy other instrumental components of a band as I taught myself to play them. Because of the position that I was in as Student Council president and the relationships that I had established with the administration, a project like Video Announcements could come to life. Those musical skills I had honed for nearly a decade gave me the freedom to write and record my own music for the series. A project like Video Announcement that might be lost in the size of a large school became a shared, communal experience at CAC.

You were also an active member of the Science Olympiad team. Can you briefly describe its rise to success? (The team is much bigger now than it was just a few years ago!) Why was Science Olympiad so valuable to you as a student?
The chapel announcement each year for Science Olympiad was always one that I disregarded; surely that was for somebody else. In the 10th grade, I went to the meeting, grabbed a few sign-up forms, and convinced my skeptical friends that it would be fun to try it. We worked incredibly hard for the state competition, in which we placed 3rd. Our junior and senior years were spent maintaining our place in the state top 3. The program is going strong again; I’d love to see them make it to nationals in the future.

What influenced your decision to run for STUCO president your senior year?
At the suggestion of former Student Council sponsor Mrs. Lev, I had been serving in officer positions for the past two years. I knew I wanted to continue that, and I wanted to serve in a position with the capacity for meaningful influence. As president, I knew I would have to speak more, organize more, and do more, but those were responsibilities I wanted.

What is one lesson you learned in this position of leadership?
Problems come up constantly. Being able to take responsibility for both your own mistakes and the mistakes of others is crucial. Mr. Collier repeatedly told me the same phrase in these difficult situations, “welcome to leadership.”

What is one thing you learned about CAC and its student body in this position?
People are very supportive. If you will put yourself out there, make new friends, and be friendly to everyone, they will reciprocate that friendliness. I am immensely grateful for the kind spirit of the student body and the support they showed me this year.

In what ways did CAC and its teachers influence your faith?
It doesn’t always take a devotional-style message to deliver a crucial spiritual lesson. Some of the most important lessons that I’ve learned have come from Coach Sullivan’s informal advice.

We are so proud of all that you’ve accomplished and are excited to watch you flourish in your next step at the University of Arkansas. What will you miss the most about CAC? And what are you most looking forward to after graduation?
I’m going to miss my lunch table. I got to spend lunch with my closest school friends every day for 6 years. I’ll miss that daily experience when we all go our separate ways.

After graduation, I’m excited for 3 months of rest. I’ll be working full time, but that is my main responsibility this summer. The time I spend when I’m not working will be very relaxing.

Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Thank you to Mr. Kaye for being one of my closest friends. I learned so much from you.
Thank you to Reed Wallace for being the best friend I could ask for and helping me get through life thus far.
Thank you to Mr. Schramm for the extraordinary effort you put into making your classes and Science Olympiad great.
Thank you to Mom and Dad. Thank you for all that you’ve done in raising me and providing for me.


Faith Elder (University of Southern California)

National Merit Finalist, volleyball All-Conference and All-State, bowling All-Conference, Mu Alpha Theta president, Beta Club Vice President, National Honor Society

What grade were you in when you started at CAC?
7th grade

What is one experience/story that sums up your time at CAC?
Being on the bowling team is one experience that sums up my time at CAC. There was a really fun atmosphere at the practices and matches, so I think the sense of family CAC is known for was evident on the team. Also, I was able to bond with Mrs. Penrod, who doubles as the coach and school counselor, and that relationship is an example of the close bonds CAC students have with their teachers.

You were an active member of the Science Olympiad team. Can you briefly describe its rise to success? (The team is much bigger now than it was just a few years ago!) Why was Science Olympiad so valuable to you as a student?
I think Science Olympiad’s growth and success can be attributed to the attitude this year’s seniors have taken towards it throughout the years. Since there were several good friendships between us, we had fun with it, and I think that attracted many other students. Thus, the team could gain the members it needed to move up the ranks to eventually place second at the state tournament. It was a valuable activity to participate in as a student because not only did I learn a lot about science but I also bonded with Mr. Schramm and learned in an environment that was much more fun than a traditional classroom setting.

You’re active in the concert/music scene and are pursuing a Music Industry degree at the University of Southern California that will focus on management details. Can you pinpoint a time in your life when you realized the power and importance of music?
I realized the power and importance of music in 7th or 8th grade. I was at a strange point in my life when I didn’t know who I was and felt lost and trapped. I downloaded the iHeart Radio app one day, and I started listening to 90s Rock and PopRock stations because that’s the type of music my mom played in the car and immediately loved the songs. I felt like I connected with the music, and it helped me discover myself. Ever since then, listening to music and going to concerts have been the things that make me happiest and make me feel complete. 

In your opinion, what makes music worth creating and enjoying?
I think music is important because, as in my case, it can make people feel like they belong and can be an outlet for creativity or whatever emotions someone feels. I also believe it can bring people together because no matter someone’s background or beliefs, they can find common ground in the fact that everyone enjoys music.

What are you hoping to discover about the music industry, yourself and music in general in the next four years?
Through the music industry, I’m hoping to become a more cultured person. On a practical level, I am excited to learn more about how music is made and the beginning to end process of discovering an artist, negotiating record deals, creating songs, booking shows, and so forth because I find that extremely interesting. When I’m in the industry and working with all sorts of creative people, I hope to grow by becoming aware of different backgrounds and life stories. I think the more diversity you experience, the more understanding you become, so I hope by interacting with different cultures and lifestyles I will become a more well-rounded person.

In what ways did CAC and its teachers influence your faith?
The biggest way I grew in my faith at CAC was through observing how open everyone is with their beliefs and struggles. The teachers at school were always very open with their Christianity, so I learned that whatever you believe, it is okay and important to express those beliefs. Also, since many chapels consisted of people sharing their journeys, I learned that it doesn’t make you a bad person if you struggle with your beliefs; it is just part of the process that will most likely make you stronger in the end.

We are so proud of all that you’ve accomplished and are excited to watch you flourish in your next step at USC. What will you miss the most about CAC? And what are you most looking forward to after graduation?
The thing I’ll miss most about CAC is the closeness of everyone. My class has come a long way since 7th grade, and now, I think everyone accepts each other for who we are. I’ll miss the sense of comfort and belonging that comes with that acceptance. Although I am nervous and scared to leave that comfort of CAC, I am also excited to move to Los Angeles to experience a whole new world. I’ve always been intrigued by other cultures and different people, and there’s not really a better place to be exposed to all of those things than LA.

Is there anyone you would like to thank?
I would like to thank my family for always being supportive. Obviously, studying music business isn’t the most conventional route to take after high school, but my family has always been unconditionally supportive of me and has allowed me to make my own choices, which has given me the confidence and support system I need to follow my dreams. My friends at school, specifically Faith Carter, Madi Workman, and Tess Williams, have also played a big part in my journey. They like the same music as me, so I have been able to grow in that aspect of myself and eventually discover what I want to do in life thanks to them. They’ve always been there for me and loved me through my six years at CAC, so those friendships have been indescribably helpful in making it through high school.