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Meet Poland’s Class of 2020 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Congratulations to Valedictorian Emily Walther and Salutatorian Leah Basel


 Portrait of two female students behind a green background. White letters on top of the image say: Emily Walther, Leah Basel


Emily, 17, earned a 97.87 grade point average and will graduate with 33.5 credits. She will receive an advanced Regents diploma with a mastery in math and science. Leah, 18, earned a 97.64 grade point average and will graduate with 30.5 credits. She will receive an advanced Regents diploma with a mastery in science. 

Emily Walther


During her time at Poland Central School District, Emily was a member of drama club, Mathletes, National Honor Society, science club, Spanish club and student council.

Emily currently serves as treasurer for the Class of 2020 and drama club, secretary for student council and Vice-President of Spanish club. Her extraordinary math skills come as no surprise to her peers and teachers; Emily is the recipient of the highest grade medals in algebra, chemistry and pre-calculus.

Emily’s talents also extend outside of the classroom. She is a forward for the high school varsity basketball team and enjoys crafting and baking in her spare time.

As she reflects on her academic accomplishments, she credits her success to hard work and dedication.

“I pushed myself to succeed and do well and didn’t let myself off the hook for getting bad grades. Instead, I would study for harder classes,” she said. “My parents are also very supportive; they helped me by encouraging me to do well in school.”

Emily would like to encourage future Poland graduates to seize every opportunity.

“You never know what you're going to miss out on,” she said, noting that she wishes she joined drama club earlier.  “It’s better to do everything than nothing at all.”

Emily says that she is looking forward to addressing her peers before they turn their tassels and begin their next chapter.

“I’m a little anxious, but mostly excited.”

After graduation, Emily will attend St. Fisher College in Rochester where she will major in biology. She then intends to continue her education in graduate school. While there’s no saying where the future could take her, Emily has an interest in working as a physical therapist. 


Leah Basel

A devotee to her school and local communities, Leah is a member of drama club, Envirothon, National Honor Society, Mathletes, Rotary Interact Club and Varsity Club. As a participant in the Regional Program of Excellence, she interned at the Women's Health Center in Utica and Bassett Healthcare in Herkimer.

Leah currently serves as the President of both Student Council and the Class of 2020. She is also the backstage manager/secretary of drama club and captain of the soccer and indoor/outdoor track teams.

As athletic as she is academic, Leah is known for her talent as a runner, soccer player, dog whisperer and Rubik's Cube master. But out of everything she’s known for, she says that being named salutatorian is what stands out most of all.

“I’ve put a lot of work in and out of the classroom to be academically successful, and being named salutatorian means a lot to me.”

Leah encourages fellow Poland Tornados to make the most of their high school experience.

“As students, you always hear ‘it flies by,’ and it truly does,” she said. “Don’t take your time for granted; you can’t relive high school.”

After graduation, Leah will attend Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, where she will major in biology. There, she will trade in her Poland orange and blue for buff and blue, and compete for the Hamilton Continentals on the women’s soccer team.  Leah’s goal is to pursue a career in the medical field. 

“These two hard working students have accomplished so much and have taken advantage of all that Poland has to offer,” Pre-K-12 Principal Gregory Cuthbertson said.  “We’re so proud of them and look forward to seeing how they make their mark on the world.”