Central valedictorian credits success to hard work, dedication

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Brayden Finley

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


This year’s Central valedictorian, Brayden Finley, is a self-described perfectionist, overtly dedicated and heavily involved. The climax of his four years in high school is owed, as he explained, not just to his overall intelligence, which he deemed secondary to achieving this accomplishment, but more to his level of hard work and commitment to learning. 


The humble Finley believes it takes more than grades and test scores, even going so far as to acknowledge fellow classmates who were “more talented in several other subjects.” This result rests on something else, and it is an honor that, for Finley, highlights the fact he was “dedicated and worked hard regardless” of where and how he performed in the classroom.


But his perfectionist nature wouldn’t allow him to give less than his best effort, and that effort meant “striving for good academics.”


Finley’s hard work also allowed him to be involved in sports and fine arts activities almost too numerous to mention. It was these activities Finley said were “probably the most memorable aspect of my high school career.” 


The impressive list includes cross country for four years, basketball for two years, track for four years, baseball for four years, the fall play for one year, the spring musical for three years, large group speech for three years, individual speech for two years, FFA for one year, NHS for three years and the compost team for two years. 


Being involved, according to Finley, is one of the best things you can do in high school because “it allows you to make friends from not only your school but the surrounding communities, make life-long memories and learn lessons and skills that will stick with you forever.” 


“I don’t think there will ever be a time where I will regret participating in any of these activities because of the things that I have taken away from each one of them. I will definitely miss the camaraderie within the activities as well as the simple part of being able to be a part of a team with those I have grown up with my entire life,” Finley added. 


In fact, one of Finley’s only regrets is not getting involved sooner with the fine arts program, which played a “huge part” in his high school experience. It’s also one of the things he will miss most after graduation. 


One thing he won’t miss is math, which is his least favorite subject. 


“My brain just cannot grasp any of the concepts and I literally just hate it so much,” Finely said. 


Aside from that, Finley did enjoy English, because it was the most natural of subjects. Current events and history were the most interesting, and Spanish challenged him the most. 


Another challenge for Finley was time management, given all of his commitments like school, sports, homework, fine arts, a regular job and trying to maintain a social life. 


“It all gets kind of stressful,” he said, before adding, “however, I still think I did a pretty good job.”


As Finley navigated all the classes, activities and real world responsibilities, he learned a few things along the way. One of those was not taking anything in life for granted because nothing is guaranteed. 


Finley noted several life altering or changing events that taught him this lesson during the last four years at Central, beginning his freshman year, when a classmate was lost a month before the new school year officially began. 


“It was a huge slap in the face that life is a precious thing and we truly need to live in every moment like it’s our last,” he said. 


This was followed by a shortened sophomore year due to COVID-19 and all the difficulties that came with it. During his junior year, Finley broke his wrist the night before the conference track meet. The injury prevented him from participating in the “most important meets of the year” and removed any chance of playing baseball. And before he knew it, his senior year had arrived, leaving him with one last chance to do everything he wanted to do, and despite the loss of things, the experiences remained valuable. 


“Although all of these experiences were far from ideal, they definitely taught me way more than any textbook ever could,” Finley said. 


The idea of not taking life for granted, which clearly resonated, is also the basis for his commencement speech.


Of course, for all the hard work and life lessons, Finley is indebted to the role models in his life for instilling such ethics and helping him overcome adversity. Among this group are, first and foremost, his parents, as well as Central teachers and coaches like Ms. Gritzner, Mr. Zurbriggen and Mark and Martha Bauder. 


“All of these people have played such a big role in my high school career, and I will forever look upon these people in amazement of their dedication and their hard work that has not only made me who I am today, but many of my fellow peers as well,” Finley said.


With high school almost over, Finley turns toward the future, which includes attending Iowa State University, where he will continue to explore and keep his options open. He noted he plans on entering the pre-law track, but also wants to possibly minor in English or Spanish, or even entrepreneurship and criminal justice. Regardless of the route he takes along the way, Finley stated the “ultimate goal is to get to law school and be a lawyer.” 


The hard work, it seems, never ends, and while this is an individual accomplishment, Finley knows he didn’t get here on his own. 


“My thanks goes out to my parents for supporting and helping me throughout the last four years, and a special thanks to all of my teachers who have taught me everything I know and have gone out of their way to allow me to achieve all that I have today. Without my teachers and the rest of the Central administration, I would not be able to call myself valedictorian, so thank you!” he said.

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