July 11, 2008

Best friends: Cathedral High School co-valedictorians share special bond

After they delivered their commencement speech together in May at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Elizabeth Flood, left, and Tori Schopper posed for a photo with Cathedral principal David Worland. (Submitted photo)

After they delivered their commencement speech together in May at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Elizabeth Flood, left, and Tori Schopper posed for a photo with Cathedral principal David Worland. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

BROWNSBURG—Ever since the third grade, Elizabeth Flood and Tori Schopper have had the kind of friendship that most people seek—a friendship where they have always been able to count on each other, where they have done nearly everything together.

They both attended St. Malachy School in Brownsburg, playing volleyball and basketball on the school’s teams in the Catholic Youth Organization program.

They were teammates for five years on a soccer club team, an experience they enjoyed as much as the after-practice visits to Arby’s, where they often shared a laugh and an order of French fries.

And during their four years at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, they always knew they could turn to each other when they needed help with homework, encouragement as they played sports, and all the other things—listening, caring, laughing together, just being there—that a best friend does.

Yet, Tori and Elizabeth—who still dressed up on Halloween and went trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods in their senior year—never imagined that their high school graduation on May 18 would connect them in another special way: as co-valedictorians of the Cathedral Class of 2008.

The special bond of sharing the top rank in their class of 314 graduates doesn’t end there. The best friends who wrote and delivered their speech together at commencement will both attend the University of Notre Dame. Both 18, they also share the dream of becoming doctors.

“Our friendship is just natural and easy,” Tori said as the two friends sat next to each other in a coffee shop in Brownsburg, the same place where they wrote their graduation speech.

“We’ve never fought,” Elizabeth added. “She’s funny, supportive and she hasn’t gotten sick of me yet. Her moral foundations are strong, which is another thing I respect. There’s a high level of trust between us.”

“Elizabeth is very clever and very creative,” Tori said. “She always has something new or funny to say. She’s very real and down-to-earth. We complement each other well.”

Just consider the way they approached academics at Cathedral, where the Class of 2008 came from 69 grade schools and middle schools.

“It’s kind of a fun, underdog story,” Elizabeth said. “Our graduating class at St. Malachy had 40 kids in it. I don’t think I would have ever achieved valedictorian honors if it wasn’t for Tori. It was a healthy, challenging relationship. She wasn’t going to leave me behind, and I wasn’t going to leave her behind.”

“We pull each other along,” Tori said. “We help each other. We never resent each other. We almost expect the other to be the best. There’s not a better way to end high school than to be at the top of your class with your best friend.”

They excelled outside the classroom, too. Tori was a captain of the girls’ soccer team at Cathedral that won the state championship in 2007. Elizabeth starred in track and cross country, a long-distance runner who was part of Cathedral’s

third-place finish in the girls’ cross country state championship in her freshman year.

“One of the reasons they’re such good friends is that they have similar goals and similar values,” said Denise Farrell, vice principal for academic affairs at Cathedral. “It’s one of those relationships that they bring out the best in each other. They were so involved in school activities and community activities of giving back, and they were outstanding scholars. You don’t often get those three things together in a student.”

Elizabeth and Tori also made a difference to their fellow students, Farrell said.

“They’re the epitome of what collaboration is,” Farrell said. “They would go to study sessions and help each other and other kids in their class. They benefited from it, and others benefited from them.”

That theme echoed through the speech they gave together at graduation. In their speech, they used a quotation from their chemistry teacher, Howard Fogel, who had offered this advice to his students: “Wherever you go, take someone with you. You always take someone with you.”

Tori and Elizabeth know the wisdom of that advice. They expect their friendship to last far into the future.

“We have enough respect for each other to allow each other to grow and change without abandoning them,” Elizabeth said. “She’s always been there for me, and I believe she always will be there for me.”

Tori nodded in agreement.

“We have so many connections and so many reasons to stay in touch,” Tori said. “I don’t see anything happening to our friendship. We’ve seen each other for 11 years, and we’ve never gotten sick of each other.”

She paused and noted, “I can’t remember a time before her.” †

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