Number one priorities

2017 valedictorian and top 10 twin sister share strategies for success


Nicole Genrich

Twins Hope and Holden Bentley hold two of top 10 spots for the Class of 2017.

Shock shot through senior Holden Bentley.

It didn’t seem possible, but there it was.

Right in front of him on the Naviance website.

The number one.

Out of 322 students, Holden was number one.

I discovered I was valedictorian first semester I was here. I came here sophomore year,” Holden said. “It was always a dream of mine to be at the top of my class, and never until then did I think I was capable of doing it.”

Though Holden achieved his goal of valedictorian, the prestigious ranking did not come without challenges.

“The pressure can be pretty high most of the time,” Holden said. “Most of my competitors are pretty intelligent as well, and no one knows how close they are to me in the GPA race. You can’t slow down for a second, or else someone more determined will pass you. Today, I don’t feel as much pressure since I’ve maintained the rank for quite a long time, but it still motivates me to score high.”

Along with these pressures, Holden must uphold the duties that come with the title of National Honor Society (NHS) president. Junior and NHS historian Meredith Ehlmann has experienced Holden’s work ethic first hand through the society, and they have also grown from co-leaders to friends.

“Holden works really hard at school and I can tell that he’s earned his valedictorian status,” junior Meredith Ehlmann said. “As I got to work with him more, I realized how funny he is and how humble he is. When I first met him, I thought he’d be super obsessed with school, but I learned that he’s a great person and friend.”

Holden also took seven AP classes this year, and despite this daunting number, Holden said his day is similar to any other AP student’s day.

I think it’s pretty typical to what most kids who are taking a ton of AP classes have,” Holden said. “Most kids taking a ton of AP classes will have five hours of homework a night. So I think it’s pretty typical to what most of those kids are doing.”

Holden’s secret to success, and the way he was able to manage his many AP classes, was to be fully invested in school work and eliminate all distractions.

“Eliminate desire to do something else besides work,” Holden said. “If you have a desire in the back of your head to play video games or go be with your friends or something like that, then it’s going to make it a lot harder to study for an extended period of time.”

This hard work is a shared trait among the other top ranked students, Holden said.

“I recognize that, in reality, the top 10 kids and I are all at the same academic level,” Holden said. “We’ve all worked pretty hard to get where we are in the class rank.”

Among these other high ranking students is Holden’s twin sister, Hope, who also achieved her rank through a strong work ethic.

“I’m number 6 right now,” Hope said. “Prioritizing what you need to study for and planning ahead and kind of consistently working every night [is crucial]. You can’t just decide to study the night before a test.”

Hope said she is proud of her brother, and there is “no jealousy at all.” She and the rest of her class will watch Holden give a speech at graduation, which he said he is “honored to give.”

“I think I definitely don’t want the message to be specifically about me,” Holden said. “I want it to be about individualism, prioritizing what you want to pursue rather than what a collective group would want to pursue.”

Holden and Hope will both attend the University of Texas at Austin this fall. Hope will major in public health, and Holden will major in biomedical engineering.