This pair of Salutatorians earned top honors at Armijo

It was unusual for the message to be communicated by phone call, but the Lawrence Tooley and Liana Wong, Salutatorians for the Class of 2020, were both pleased when Principal Sheila Smith personally called to share the information. “To be honest, it feels unbelievable to see that I’ve come so far in my high school years. It’s like crossing the finish line! said Wong.

“The challenges come when you have to sacrifice your time for other stuff such as hobbies or friends,” Tooley said. “You have to find a balance between school and other activities. And then, once you’ve made the top, you have to stay there which means never letting your grade slip and continuing to work hard.”

Both students sacrificed a lot to achieve this goal. Tooley was on the soccer team at Armijo for three years and played tennis since his freshman year. He still made time to serve as a soccer referee and a tennis coach off campus. He also enjoys swimming. In his spare time, he managed to fit in time for reading, video games and even an occasional game of chess. Earning the second highest-GPA in his class was far from easy. “I can tell you that my math class was by far the hardest for me,” he said.

Wong, an accomplished artist, was also involved in sports. “I’ve been on the Armijo badminton team for all four years and did cross-country in my sophomore year,” she said. She also took on the challenges of many leadership roles. “I take part in Key Club as the VP and am president of the Armijo Art Club and NHS,” she said. Like Tooley, she also found time to be involved off-campus. “I am very dedicated to volunteer work as a Canine Companions for Independence volunteer puppy raiser (for service dogs) and have also been a site leader for the 4-H STEAM program, in which teen volunteers conduct science experiments with kids and introduce them to STEAM. It’s very challenging managing two clubs at once in all honesty, as I would spend lots of time planning for our projects and collaborating with the other officers. But both have emerged as successful clubs that have benefited the local community!” She also enjoys spending time outdoors and traveling. “People do expect a lot from you when you’re at the top! But you have to push aside these expectations to just keep going forward at your own pace, no matter what others may think,” she said. Her senior quote: “They call me Wikipedia because everyone thinks I have the answers.

Both salutatorians are looking at going to a campus for the University of California. Wong plans to travel down to San Diego where she will study to become a structural engineer. Tooley intends to study Business Economics in Los Angeles and plans to start his own company after graduating.

While they approached the position of Salutatorian differently, Wong and Tooley do have some things in common. Both have younger brothers and both see their parents as role models. “They both went to Cambridge which is a very prestigious school in England,” Tooley said. I always had the goal of going to a top university and therefore looked up to them.” For Wong, her parents’ influence came because “they were always there for me and I strive to be a better person for them and for others.  

I have a younger brother coming to Armijo next year so I’m not short of advice,” said Tooley. “I’d say the most important thing is believing in yourself and not giving up. As long as you believe that you can do something, you’re already half way there. The worst thing you can do when striving for something is immediately doubting yourself.”

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