For former Hannibal High School valedictorian Olivia Cacchione and salutatorian Liam Mason, their recent college graduation was a remarkable case of déjà vu.
On June 2, the top two students in Hannibal High School’s Class of 2015 once again celebrated commencement as valedictorian and salutatorian together; this time at Elmira College. Dressed in purple caps and gowns – the school color for Hannibal and Elmira -- Mason delivered a speech as the 2019 valedictorian while Cacchione, his longtime friend, was honored as salutatorian.
“Finding out that we were both valedictorian and salutatorian, I don’t think either of us really expected it to happen at Elmira,” Mason said. “We thought there was absolutely no chance it could happen again.”
However, the unthinkable happened and the pair was notified by the college registrar’s office in mid-April of their academic status. This time, it was in a class three times the size of their Hannibal graduating class.
“It’s remarkable,” Cacchione said of the accomplishment. “I’m not quite sure how it happened. I think that we pushed each other a lot and we had a really great community supporting us.”
According to Cacchione, pursuing different majors and being in different courses made it tougher to compare how well they were doing academically. Rather than turning to a GPA competition, the duo relied on their deep-rooted friendship to bolster their college experience.
“Going back to second grade, we were a really good team right from the get-go,” Cacchione said as she recalled being the illustrator to Mason’s comic book writing. “Once we moved onto middle school and high school and grades started to matter, it became a friendly competition pushing each other to do better and get higher grades. In college, it was socially helping each other out and being there for each other. I knew I always has someone who shared similar experiences.”
Mason noted that having a friend like Cacchione has proven beneficial.
“Olivia has been a great friend throughout all of this. Having someone to push me along has been helpful,” he said.
However, when Mason begins his graduate studies in the fall at Binghamton University, he won’t have that friendly push from his lifelong friend. Cacchione, who holds multiple degrees, is currently applying for jobs in business, marketing and related fields, while Mason will pursue a master’s degree in English and psychology.
No matter where they go in life, both agreed that growing up together and attending Hannibal schools will remain with them in everything they do.
“Hannibal developed the best friends and community,” Cacchione said. “The small class sizes and the ability to get involved in anything you were interested in was a big benefit. I made some of my best friends at Hannibal.”