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The Times
  • One family, four valedictorians at Mount Markham High School

  • Vanessa Lynk stressed out about her valedictorian speech all week.

    Just one day before Friday's graduation, with gown and mortar board in tow for rehearsal at Mount Markham High School, she still hadn't gotten it quite right.

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  • Vanessa Lynk stressed out about her valedictorian speech all week.
    Just one day before Friday's graduation, with gown and mortar board in tow for rehearsal at Mount Markham High School, she still hadn't gotten it quite right.
    Vanessa, 17, received a little help from her oldest brother, Braden, who gave his own speech as valedictorian of the class of 2004.
    But she also could have called brother Kevin or big sister Tracey because now that Vanessa graduated, all four of the Lynk children have been the top students in their respective classes.
    Vanessa, who finished with a 96.5 percent grade-point average, said there was some pressure to be the best in her class because her siblings had done so well.
    “You always want to do what your siblings do,” a smiling Vanessa said.
    Heidi, the mother of the athletic and book-smart brood, tried to keep expectations down a little bit with her youngest, but after Tracey was the third child to earn the top spot, the question came up a lot.
    “I kept telling her, 'No, you don't have to (be valedictorian),'” Heidi said. “The first three were very competitive.”
    Vanessa benefited from being four years apart from Tracey, the next youngest.
    Heidi and Thomas weren't strict about grades or their expectations. She said her kids were just driven.
    “I'm extremely proud. I don't feel I had much to do with it,” Heidi said, tearing up. “It's mostly been the pride in themselves to do well.”
    Vanessa, who will attend Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island to study hotel management, agreed that mom and dad weren't overbearing.
    “I never felt that pressure. My parents aren't the strict ones,” she said. “It was more about how they carried themselves and how they taught us to be.”
    Heidi credits athletics for all four of her children's success in school because it gave them structure and kept them out of trouble. Vanessa played soccer, volleyball and softball.
    “I think sports helped them a lot,” said Heidi, who sometimes was one of the few spectators at away games, and occasionally worked as a coach and was a regular in the concession stand.
    “I didn't force them to do (sports),” Heidi said. “(But) they didn't have a lot of down time to get into trouble.”
    Vanessa, who is a self-described perfectionist not known for missing a deadline, still had a speech to finish before Friday's graduation.
    “My speech, I wrote it Tuesday and it wasn't until 9:30 (Wednesday) night I rewrote the whole thing,” Vanessa said. “I keep thinking about what our class was known for. What I wrote about was our mistakes and how we've learned from them.”

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