Top of Class: A history of celebrating academic excellence

Top of Class: A history of celebrating academic excellence
The Top of Class event is held every year on the lawn of the JCJC President’s House to recognize valedictorians and salutatorians for all their hard work. (Photo source: WDAM)

PINE BELT (WDAM) - For more than 30 years, WDAM has partnered with Pine Belt educators to spotlight the academic achievements of Valedictorians and Salutatorians, or the "Top of Class," from 17 counties and about 50 high schools.

The event began in 1985 on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi with Deposit Guaranty Bank and Adcock Pool and Spa as the first sponsors of the televised academic recognition program. The half-hour program aired twice and was heavily promoted on WDAM.

In 1997, Jones County Junior College became the lead sponsor of the Top of Class program, transforming the show into a special event.

Over the last 10 years, the use of technology, including email, web pages and social media, was introduced to further highlight the Top of Class. Three years ago, the format of the TV show changed from a 30-minute program to 25, one-minute video segments which air every weekday for five weeks during News 7 Sunrise. These segments, featuring the Valedictorians and Salutatorians from two-high schools, are also seen by a much larger audience now. The videos are posted on the Top of Class web page and are available for downloading to share on social media or to create a digital memory.

One thing that has remained constant through the years is the traditional "Hat Toss" with students lining up in their graduation year on the lawn, or gymnasium if there was inclement weather.

WDAM is proud to continue its 22-year partnership with Jones County Junior College featuring the “Top of Class,” which is a truly unique program in South Mississippi!

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