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A proud dad is determined to ensure that a change in school policy won't keep his son from being recognized as valedictorian.
Gary Allmon paid an undisclosed amount for a digital billboard that normally costs $1,800 along U.S. Highway 264 in Wake County, North Carolina, congratulating his son, Josh, after East Wake High School adopted a policy that no longer names a class valedictorian.
"Congratulations Josh Allmon,'' the billboard reads. "You will always be our valedictorian. East Wake Class of 2018."
The school transitioned to the Latin honors system this year, designating top students as summa cum laude or magna cum laude, while doing away with individual rankings.
"East Wake High School and Wake County Public School Board may not recognize Josh's hard work but we will,'' Gary Allmon wrote on Facebook.
The policy was initially adopted in 2016 because school officials felt it would better recognize students who missed being named valedictorian or salutatorian by mere decimal places in their grade-point average, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
The Allmon family told NBC affiliate WRAL that Josh's 5.31 grade-point average was the highest of the 270 students in East Wake's class of 2018. He also played two sports and was involved in multiple extra-curricular activities.
"I just wanted to show my son there are people out there that really are proud of you, of what (he) did and accomplished,'' Gary Allmon told WRAL.
Josh hopes the billboard sends more of a message than just acknowledging his accomplishment.
"For those commenting, the billboard stood for more than my recognition,'' he wrote on Twitter. "It was a public statement, geared towards an increased public awareness on the negative effects that come with such policies. High achieving students have their reputations undermined by them.
"It’s impossible to compete on the national stage when your accomplishments are limited by the system you have no choice but to come through. New policies are aimed at making everyone feel as if they achieved equally; this is simply not the case. Some people simple (sic) work harder."
Gary Allmon paid for the billboard to be up for 10 days until June 12, which is the day of East Wake's graduation ceremony.
Josh told WRAL that he plans to study chemical engineering and paper science engineering when he attends North Carolina State in the fall.
The Wake County change continues a nationwide trend toward eliminating valedictorians. The National Association of Secondary School Principals reported last year that about half of all high schools no longer report class rank.
The change has drawn a mixed reaction, from those upset it rewards the "everyone gets a medal" mentality and hurts college acceptances, to others feeling it relieves some of the relentless pressure to achieve.
Some schools have selected more than one valedictorian rather than eliminating the honor. A school in Oregon named 21 students valedictorian this year, while a district in Ohio named 222 valedictorians in 2015.
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