Two vals, sal for HVA

Hardin Valley Academy ends the 2024 year with two valedicatorians, David Hart and Samara Stewart, who tied with their 4.696 grade-point average. Salutatorian is Luke Daniel.

“I was surprised,” Hart recalled upon hearing of his designation. For the senior, “It means I had the highest GPA and my hard work had paid off.”

At HVA, Hart, son of Julie and Jason Hart, is involved in soccer, Tennessee Student Association and National Honor Society. He also was honored as a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

After graduating Wednesday, May 22, he plans to attend Texas A&M University in College Station to study mechanical engineering.

Looking back over the years, Hart said William Michael Shaffer and Braden Salsbury most inspired him.


Stewart said she was “completely shocked” to hear the news she was chosen.

“I had no idea that I was even in the running, so I was not expecting it at all,” she said. “I still cannot believe it.”

For Stewart, being chosen as one of the valedictorians means “that you can surprise yourself and do anything as long as you put your mind to it and try.

“It means more than anything to be chosen, and it reminds me that even though it can be tough, there is always light at the end of the tunnel if you just keep going and don’t give up,” she added.

At HVA, Stewart was involved in the Student Council executive board, National Honors Society and HOSA. She also is part of the clinical internship program.

Last year Stewart was in FCCLA, as well, and volunteered as a soccer coach for 5- to 8-year-old girls for two seasons through AYSO.

Outside of clubs, she works about 25 hours a week in retail. 

Stewart has earned the Class of 2024 Excellence in English Award, Excellence in Science Award, Pythagoras Excellence in Honors Algebra 2, Pythagoras Excellence in SDC Pre-Calculus, Health Science Academy Student of the Month and Health Science Academy Award. 

“My career goal is to be a nurse practitioner,” Stewart said. “I love helping people and want to provide them comfort and light during their tough times.

“I have also experienced a lot of health issues that led to feeling poorly and frustration in trying to find the answers,” she added. “I want to help people who are in the same boat that I once was in and show them that they are not alone.

“After experiencing all my health issues and seeing my family and friends also have some, I became curious about how the human body works and what happens to cause the health problems we have experienced.”

Specifically, “I want to help diagnose people and decide treatment plans, but I don’t want to go through as much schooling as doctors have to. So, with all of that in mind, I landed on my goal of becoming a nurse practitioner,” Stewart said.

As such, “After high school, I plan to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville under the nursing major,” she said. “After that, I hope to continue my education in a nurse practitioner graduate program.”

Looking back at HVA, “It was definitely tough, but I had a lot of great times as well,” Stewart said.

“I think a key part of getting through high school is having people around you who help you succeed,” she added. “I have friends that push me to keep going when I want to give up, who help me study and answer any questions I may have, who give me confidence when I am nervous about a test and are there for anything I may need.

“My best friend, in particular, played a big role in helping me find my path, supporting me through thick and thin and constantly encouraging me.”

Not to be left out, “I also had a few teachers and a counselor who always offered to help and constantly reminded me that I am stronger and smarter than I realize,” she said. “I guess those people are my inspiration in a way because I never would have ended up where I am without them.”


Daniel recalled he was “extremely happy to have earned this honor.

“It means I worked hard throughout high school, and I’m proud to be recognized by my school for my hard work,” added the son of BJ and Amy Daniel.

He plans to attend Northeastern University and major in computer science and business administration.

Looking back at his years at HVA, Daniel said, “I think that high school is an important time in my life, but I hope that the next 20 amount to be infinitely more fun.”

Considering who inspired him the most, Daniel said his dad was his biggest inspiration.