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Eastern’s Class of 2023 actually has 11 “Top 10 students” – including several standout athletes

Eastern High School’s Class of 2023 actually has 11 “Top 10 students” due to an apparent tie in their grades.

Eight of the top students in Eastern High School’s graduating class of 2023 also played sports for the Eagles – including several standouts – and two, Benjamin Salvatore and William Ratcliffe, III, were selected as superintendent’s Award of Excellence winners earlier this year.

Each of the Top 11 students in Eastern’s Class of 2023 is planning to attend college this fall.

Three will enroll in the state’s flagship public university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; three are headed to N.C. State University; two will be attending the College of William & Mary.

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Valedictorian Rocio Rosa, 18, is the daughter of Indu Rosa and Raul Rosa of Mebane. In addition to earning her high school diploma last month, Rosa also graduated with an associate’s degree from Alamance Community College.

Rosa will attend Vanderbilt University, where she plans on studying molecular and cellular biology. She has received a QuestBridge National Match Scholarship worth more than $200,000 and a Chick-fil-A leadership scholarship for $2,500.

Rosa tells The Alamance News that her most memorable experiences as a student at Eastern High School were the “bus rides to tennis matches and soccer games with my best friends.”
Her extracurricular activities included serving as a tennis coach; playing tennis; and being a member of the Eagles’ cross country and swim teams, in addition to playing piano.

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Salutatorian Karsyn Johnson, 17, is the daughter of Ashley and Christopher Atiles of Mebane. Like valedictorian Rosa, Johnson graduated from Eastern last month with both her high school diploma and an associate’s degree from ACC.

Johnson will head next month to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for which she has received multiple scholarships, including: a Rick Palmer Memorial Scholarship ($1,100); Hinton James Masonic Scholarship ($1,000); Hawaii Pacific Presidential Scholarship – $60,000; and a UNCCH Spring Forward ($1,000), among numerous other scholarships.

Johnson says her favorite class at Eastern was Advanced Placement Calculus, which she describes as “extremely difficult but also extremely rewarding.”

“My most memorable experience in high school was the redemption win in the state championship for soccer,” Johnson adds. “[We were] runner-ups in 2022, and CHAMPS in 2023!”

She was a goalkeeper for the undefeated soccer team and kicker for the Eagles’ football team, in addition to playing basketball and participating in the National Honor Society, student council, and club soccer.

“I had perfect attendance my entire high school career!” Johnson excitedly tells the newspaper.

Rounding out the top 11 students at Eastern are, in alphabetical order:

Kyler Gonzalez, 17, is the daughter of Regina and Javier Gonzalez of Burlington. She will head to Raleigh next month to attend North Carolina State University, where she’s planning on majoring in Zoology. Gonzalez has received several scholarships from N.C. State, including a Dean’s Academic Scholarship ($4,000) and a Jerry S. and Harriet F. Worley Scholarship ($4,000).

Gonzalez says her most memorable experiences at Eastern involved “dancing in the rain during a Friday night football game halftime show.”

During her spare time, Gonzalez has volunteered at the Burlington Animal Shelter and also worked for the city of Mebane.

Audrey Hupman, 18, is the daughter of Mac and Sonya Hupman of Mebane.
Hupman is also planning to attend Carolina this fall, where she plans to major in exercise. She says her favorite class at Eastern was calculus and her most memorable experience was winning the girls’ state soccer championship last month.

In addition to soccer, Hupman was also a member of the Eagles’ swimming, cross country, and tennis teams.

Evan Leonard, 18, who’s the son of James and Tina Leonard of Mebane, plans to attend Appalachian State University for which he has received a $5,145 Pell Grant; an Appalachian College Opportunity Grant ($2,000); and a McMurry & Lyall Scholarship ($1,000).

Leonard says his favorite experience in high school was taking classes online during the statewide school shutdown, which for ABSS lasted from March 2020 until March 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to his high school diploma, Leonard will have 38 college credit hours already under his belt when he steps on the App State campus in Boone next month, he tells the newspaper.

Corbin Mace, 18, who’s the son of Brenda and Brian Mace of Mebane, is planning to head to Raleigh next month to attend N.C. State, where he will major in general engineering.

Mace says his favorite experience at Eastern High School was traveling to New York City to perform with the school’s marching band. In addition to playing in the marching band, Mace also played for the Eagles’ lacrosse team.

William Ratliffe, III, 18, is the son of Marlys Ratliffe and William Ratliffe, Jr. of Mebane. Ratliffe was a standout sprinter for the Eagles, winning the 55-meter race in the state championship indoor track and field meet earlier this year.

Ratliffe plans to head to Chapel Hill next month, where he says he “will be majoring in statistics and analytics as a member of the Honors Carolina scholarship program.”
In addition to indoor and outdoor track and field, Ratliffe was a member of the
Chick-fil-A leadership academy; National Honor Society; math national honor society; environmental club; and Eastern’s Envirothon team.

Ratliffe was also selected as an ABSS Superintendent’s Award of Excellence winner earlier this year.

Benjamin Salvatore, 19, who’s the son of Dawn and Ben Salvatore of Mebane, was also selected earlier this year as a Superintendent’s Award of Excellence.
Salvatore will be attending N.C. State University.

His extracurricular activities at Eastern included: cross country; indoor/outdoor track; Key Club; student council; Interact Club; and National Honor Society.

Owen Sawyer, 18, who’s the son of Laurie Sawyer and Scott Sawyer of Mebane, will attend Wake Forest University. He has received multiple scholarships, which include a Wake Forest Brown Scholarship ($7,000), as well as financial aid awards worth $150,000.

Sawyer says his most memorable experience at Eastern was “the trip to Havelock for football playoffs my freshman year where Eastern won and half the school went and went crazy when we scored.”

In addition to football, Sawyer has been a member of the Eagles’ soccer, swim, and lacrosse teams; National Honor Society; and DECA Club (formerly known as the Distributive Education Clubs of America, the organization prepares future entrepreneurs for careers in business, finance, and marketing).

MacKenzie Webber, 18, is the daughter of Andi and Bob Webber of Mebane. She plans to attend the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in order to study psychology.
Webber says her favorite class at Eastern High School was Calculus BC with Ryan Byrd and her most memorable experience was winning the state championship in girls’ soccer last month.

In addition to playing varsity soccer throughout all four years of high school, Webber was also a varsity swimmer for all four years. She was named Academic All-Conference all four years of high school and an All-Conference soccer player during her sophomore, junior, and senior years, Webber tells the newspaper.

Molly Widderich, 17, is the daughter of Amy and Kevin Widderich of Mebane. She also will be attending the College of William & Mary, for which she has received an athletic scholarship worth $150,000.

Like Webber and several other top students in Eastern High School’s Class of 2023, Widderich says her favorite class in high school was Calculus with Ryan Byrd.

Widderich played varsity soccer and was on the varsity swim team, as well as playing club soccer; was a member of the student council and National Honor Society at Eastern High School.

Along with her teammate Webber, Widderich also says the most exciting experience during her time at Eastern was capturing the Class 3-A girls’ state soccer championship, with a 4-0 win vs. South Point, last month.

Read about the achievements and plans of other “top ten” students at:



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