More than 250 sophomores, juniors and/or seniors enjoyed the sweeter side of getting good grades during an ice cream social Friday at Culpeper County High School.

The school’s annual Academic Awards party featured an array of toppings and flavors for the first time following a similar reward last year and special assemblies before that. “Assembly or ice cream party?” Principal Daniel Soderholm asked as he filled bowls with the frozen treat.

“Ice cream party!” was almost always the response at the fun gathering of the school’s top students.

At the beginning of each school year, CCHS distributes academic letters and certificates to returning students who earned all A’s and B’s the year before and were enrolled in at least six credit courses. Qualifying pupils also got a Blue Devil magnet. Last year, the school gave out ice cream sandwiches and other wrapped novelties.

“So we thought: Why not do ice cream sundaes? Let the kids make them – it becomes more of a social event,” Soderholm said. “They get to celebrate with one another their academic success.”

An announcement over the intercom Friday morning made the party known to the entire school as the winning students—around 22 percent of the entire student body of 1,166 pupils—streamed into the cafeteria.

“When we make the announcement, the kids throughout the school hear that we’re celebrating – this is our primary job – academic excellence so we get to celebrate that,” the principal said.

Sisters Shakira and Tiara Tomoney were both invited to partake.

“I got all A’s,” said Tiara, a 10th grader. “This year, I’m taking Honors History.”

Asked why it’s important to get good grades, she replied, “I just want to be accomplished in life and be successful and get to college.”

Her older sister, Shakira, is in 11th grade. She got A’s and B’s last year taking all honors classes.

“It’s important for me to get good grades because I want to be a good role model, of course,” she said, adding, “It’s important to be smart. Some people think it’s embarrassing but I don’t think so, and I want to make money. I want to be in the medical field and I know that I’m going to college.”

Sophomore Crystal Yowell smiled broadly as she showed off her academic letter – a yellow ‘C’ for Culpeper. She got all A’s in her freshman year at CCHS. Getting good grades helps her learn better, Yowell said. She acknowledged it’s not always easy.

“I have a hard time with math,” Yowell said.

Starting her second year of high school, the student already knew her desired career path.

“As I get older, I want to be a nurse like my mom,” Yowell said.

As pop music played in the background, the students chattered and laughed, reveling in a job well done.

For CCHS Senior Joseph Prince, getting good grades is serious business. He said he has a 4.3 grade point average with the highest possible being 4.5, possible to achieve with Advanced Placement classes and dual enrollment at Germanna Community College.

When he graduates high school in 2020, Prince will have completed 10 AP classes, entering college with most of his 101 classes already done.

“There’s a lot of social pressure to get into the hardest schools,” he said, noting he’s applying early to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “I want to major in biology, do med school.”

Principal Soderholm, who in recent years earned a doctorate degree from Old Dominion University, reiterated academic achievement is the ultimate goal at CCHS.

“When we celebrate our honor roll students, we are celebrating success in multiple disciplines and a high level of consistency and commitment by our students, families, and staff. We know that academic success can transfer to success in many other aspects of life,” he said.

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