Top three leading Davie High Class of 2017

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ashton Mann, 18, is the valedictorian of the last class to graduate from Davie High’s current campus, carrying on a family tradition. Her uncle was valedictorian of his graduating class at Davie, and her mom is a DHS grad.

“It’s really special because the whole county is coming together and everyone is moving to the new high school. This school has been celebrated this year, and it’s been nice to be a part of that,” she said.

In a few months, Mann will be a part of something much bigger, the freshman class at the University of Virginia, where she plans to major in business and follow a pre-med track as part of a five-year MBA-MD program.

Mann is the daughter of Suzanne and John Mann and sister of Alexis, who is a rising sophomore at Davie. She grew up in Advance. She calls herself “a huge sports fan,” mainly college basketball. She applied to UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State University and the University of Virginia and was accepted to all three, but ultimately chose Virginia because, among other things, she fell in love with the campus while on a tour there.

While at Davie, Mann was a Dancing Boot for four years, and was in Young Life, serving as student leader the past two years. She and a friend co-founded the Ronald McDonald Club last year.

“I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald house in Winston-Salem, cooking and cleaning the rooms, and I really liked what they were doing there, taking care of the families of the patients.”

Mann was also a member of the National Honor Society and the Stand Club, where she served as president. She has been a member of Clemmons Moravian Church for over 14 years.

Two of her favorite classes were environmental science, taught by James Dobbins, who she said speaks to her every time he sees her in the hallway, even if she isn’t in any of his classes, and calculus, with Teresa Barnhardt.

“She did a good job teaching it and made it enjoyable,” Mann said.

She also appreciates the help she received from teacher Yvette Shore in founding the Ronald McDonald Club.

Days away from walking the stage, giving a speech and turning her tassel, Mann reflects on the drive that has helped propel her to the position as the top student of the 2017 graduating class.

“My drive is mainly internal. I’ve just always wanted to achieve the most I can, but my parents have also always encouraged me and believed in me.”

Salutatorian Heath Slabach is ready and excited to start another phase of his life. The 18-year-old son of the late Angie Slabach,  and Gary Slabach and stepson of Nicole Slabach, will attend NC State University to major in business administration and finance. “I’m not sure what I will do with the degree. I’m just excited to get down there.”

Second of the top three graduates, Slabach played basketball all four years at Davie, is a member of the National Honor Society, and has led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has been active in the youth group at Hillsdale United Methodist Church.

A strong family history has surrounded Slabach, both in church and at school. His late mom, Angie, who died from cancer in 2013, helped form Hillsdale United Methodist and was a standout basketball player at Davie and later a teacher and coach there. His grandfather, Ben Browder, was in the first class of Davie graduates who began high school there and went all the way through. Two siblings, Lake and Allie, graduated from Davie. Emma, his sister, will be a junior, and Presley Jones, his step-sister, will be a freshman, both at the new high school in the fall. (He has two other step-siblings, twins Peyton and Patterson Jones, who are in college.)

Slabach said it is “definitely cool to be in the last graduating class” at the current campus and notes he scored the last two points for Davie in the gym during the senior night basketball game. “That’s something to look back on and smile about,” he said.

Slabach credits his mom’s resiliency during her three-year battle with cancer with helping him stay strong and realize it is possible to make the best of any situation. She and his dad, he said, encouraged him to never be complacent.

“I wasn’t one of those kids who got special awards for making As because my Dad expected me to make As. I’m thankful for that. I’ve always been encouraged and strengthened to do my best in everything.”

Number three of the top three graduates, Jordan Smith will leave her identical twin for the first time in her life, as she heads to NC State University in the fall, to study environmental science. Twin Delaney will be just up the highway, at UNC-Chapel Hill. “It’s weird to think about not being with Delaney but it will be good for us to have our own experiences,” Smith said.

Daughter of Jen and Bob Smith, and sister of Mallory, who is 15, Smith said she may pursue a career in environmental policy or possibly meteorology. At Davie, she was a member of the Student Government Association, where she was event chair this year, National Honor Society, Science Club, and Young Life.

Smith is a member of Hillsdale United Methodist Church and has also done Big Brothers Big Sisters for four years. For the past two years, she has been a “sister” to Carly, who she said she will miss when she goes to school.

The decision to major in environmental science was partly fueled by teacher James Dobbins, who Smith had as a freshman for earth science and again as a senior for AP environmental science. He has also been her homeroom teacher.

Smith said she also enjoyed teachers Lauren Rieth for art (“She let me be myself and do what I love and not try to put me in a box”), Allison Fender for AP literature and Donna Dunn for English and Leadership but her favorite teacher by far is one she never had, her mom, who is in her first year teaching Spanish at Davie.

“I wasn’t sure at first about having her teaching in the same school where I was, but it’s been great, and I think Mom has really enjoyed getting to see Delaney and me during the day.”

Smith credits her parents for motivation and God for helping her better herself, but said she is a person who just “hates failure. Why make a B when you can make an A?”

Being in the last class to graduate from the old campus is “bittersweet” for Smith, who said it will be sad when she returns to the campus to see many of the buildings where she had class torn down, but added, “I am very honored to be third in general and in the last class to graduate from here.”