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At the head of the Class of 2009:
Laura Saum, salutatorian

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Laura Saum is graduating from Waccamaw High School today with a record of academics, athletics and leadership.

The only thing she doesn’t do, Saum said, is music.

“I’m tone deaf,” she said.

Regardless, the varsity tennis player and senior class president accepts her diploma knowing she has the second highest GPA, 4.84, and the highest SAT score, 1310, at the school. Saum, 17, also has a academic scholarship to the University of Virginia.

Up until graduation, Saum thought she’d go to Wofford College since she had a full scholarship and was on a wait list at Virginia. However, at the last minute, Virginia told her she was accepted.

Her memory helped her achieve that level of academic success, she said.

“I can pretty much sit in a class and absorb information,” she said.

She didn’t even crack a book before her International Baccalaureate exams this spring.

Still she hesitates to say she’s smart. And, that is what’s great about Saum, Jody Herndon, her International Baccalaureate English teacher, said.

“She is down to earth in spite of her extreme giftedness,” said Herndon. “She is easy-going, friendly and unpretentious.”

Saum’s down-to-earth nature is reflected in how she describes her own talent.

“I think I’m smart in that I don’t have to spend a lot of time studying,” Saum said, “but I see myself as a regular person. I try not to be pushy or a know-it-all about things.”

In addition to Saum’s academic prowess, she played at the No. 5 singles and No. 2 doubles slots on the varsity tennis team, and volunteered at Teach My People and Habitat for Humanity.

“You just learn how to make things work. You find the time for it all,” Saum said.

It is that mature attitude that Herndon admires.

“I have always admired her advanced maturity in comparison to her peers. She carries herself calmly and with grace. She is kind to others, helpful, and efficient in her endeavors. She is a natural leader,” Herndon said.

When she gets to college this fall, Saum said she’d like to get involved in student government again but doesn’t think she’ll play tennis. She’s just looking forward to getting out of her normal environment.

And getting out is what she does each summer.

“I’ve been out and about, did summer camps and took college classes up at Washington and Lee in Virginia,” she said. “I like getting out of my environment.”

This summer she’ll be back in North Carolina working as a camp counselor at Camp Kanuga in Hendersonville. It’s the same camp where she went as a child, Saum said.

As for the future, she has an idea about what she’ll do, but doesn’t want to make permanent plans.

“I’ve learned that they always change,” she said.

So in a static world, Saum would probably major in English, history or government in college, spend a semester abroad, graduate, and then go to Columbia Law School. She dreams of working for a firm in a large city.

“Ideally, in 10 years, I’ll be out of law school, practicing at a bigger firm, getting a little bit of experience and getting my feet wet,” she said.

When her feet have taken all the moisture they can stand, Saum thinks she’d move back to South Carolina to settle down.

Today, as she leaves the Waccamaw stage, she passes the torch to her younger brother, Mitchell.

The youngest Saum is already making his mark.

“He’s the freshman class president,” Laura said.

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