By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The moment that one student learns he or she is the top of the class is a very special occasion.
Back in 2013, Millington Central High School’s No. 1 ranked student was Darrell Warberg. He celebrated the moment with friends and family including then fifth grade brother Geoffrey.
“I was thinking, ‘Yeah, Darrell is about to leave the house,” Geoffrey recalled with a laugh.
Fast forward to 2016 and Geoffrey arrives on the MCHS campus as a student.
“I saw his name on the wall,” the younger Warberg said. “I was like ‘This is where it becomes real.’ I made sure my name would be up there with his starting in the fifth grade. When I heard Darrell was No. 1, I said I will be ready before day one.”
Geoffrey set his goal and achieved it. On March 13 it became official when MCHS announced Geoffrey Warberg is the 2020 Valedictorian. Present in the Millington Performing Arts Center were his parents James and Karroll.
Within moments Geoffrey made sure to call his big brother to let him know they share the achievement of being the head of the class.
“It’s been a really good feeling,” Darrell said. “I feel like for the longest time, Geoffrey was just the pipsqueak little… coming behind me. Not because anything was wrong with him, he was just the youngest. Our sister is 14 years older than Geoffrey. So he was a little late to the party.”
Prior to the arrival of Geoffrey December 11, 2001, Lauren, Erik and Darrell roamed the Warberg house.
“I tell everybody, Geoffrey is definitely smarter than I am,” Darrell continued. “ It’s really cool to see him grow. Not just as a student over the years, but through soccer, through church and his relationship with God. He’s become a man, it feels like over night. Geoffrey will say, ‘Yes I have this achievement.’ But he’s not this achievement in a sense. It’s not who he is. He is a hard worker and all those things, but he’s not primarily defined by that.”
James said his son is partially defined by his 31 on the ACT, being a multiple-letterman goalie for the Trojan Soccer team and his accepting a scholarship to attend The University of Memphis.
But James noted the structure established by his wife for all the children allowed the youngest child to find his footing.
“She’s the family hub as far as dinner, healthy debates,” he said. “Geoffrey came seven years after Darrell and he’s the youngest of four. So he had to think out loud, debate early and fight for things.”
Karroll said her youngest child equipped himself with a High Power to navigate his way through the house, school and life.
“To God be the glory, it’s God who blessed us with four amazing children,” she said. “We are blessed, each one of them is gifted and talented in their own special way before God.
“And Geoffrey I can truthfully say is an amalgamation from his siblings, parents and the generations that is still alive,” Karroll added. “It has just been a joy to watch. I am beyond thankful. He has been a joy and to see him achieve things he has set out to do, achieve in sports, and he still had a life. I watched him make decisions and use wise skills.”
Looking to major in mechanical engineering, Geoffrey will take his life skills and knowledge to be in a better position to help others. That’s something he learned from his family and big brother.
“There were multiple role models,” Geoffrey said. “But he was a big one. There was (Seattle Seahawks quarterback) Russell Wilson, my dad, my mom, my grandparents, especially the ones that live just down the street from me. I have different role models for different parts of my life. There are parts of my life like God and how to love people.
“I paid attention to what (Darrell) said,” he added. “When I was young, I saw the parties he would go to. I say parties, Darrell and his friends were nerds.”
Darrell’s idea of a party was friends, Mountain Dew and playing Super Smash Bros.
“It was a little scary for whatever reason I felt a little magnetism to me,” Darrell recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh man this is scary. I hope I’m making the right decisions.’
“Being an honest older brother, when you’re in middle and high school you’re like, ‘Does he really have to come along?’” he continued. “But recently, especially the last couple of years, there has been times I listen to him. Up to about three years ago, if Geoffrey had an opinion, I was like ‘Whatever little brother.’ Now when he will say something, I’m like ‘Hey that’s pretty profound.”
Watching his younger brother mature over the years Darrell said Geoffrey genuinely looks out for others, takes care of those around him and the downtrodden.
“The thing that has impressed me the most has nothing to do with school or graduating first in his class,” he said. “Nothing you would find related to MCHS. Just genuinely his love for the people around him. His love for God.”
Geoffrey said hearing his closest role model make statements like that means a lot.
“Humbling, incredibly humbling to hear him say that,” he said. “My entire life I’ve looked up to Darrell. He’s like the smartest guy in my life. My dad and all the incredible people I’ve looked up to in my life.”
Geoffrey said the foundation at home motivated him to be No. 1 in his class, play sports and get involved in the Millington community.
“It gives you a reason to believe in the community,” he said. “When you see people who are your role models giving back to the community, it makes you want to help in the community. When I see my mom providing for every single kid a lunch and she stays up to 4 o’clock in the morning, that’s dedication. Or I see my dad through the past five or six years stay with the middle school (soccer) program. And Darrell is just amazing.”
Darrell was the child reading the newspaper at the breakfast table. Geoffrey passed on that activity and channeled more of his energy to the soccer field.
Both Warberg boys earned the top spot and represented their class on the big stage.
“It’s a warm fuzzy feeling inside,” Geoffrey said. “The Class of 2020, if they hear the name Warberg, it’s nothing something they’ll associate with bad hopefully. It’s something that people will association with cookies, smart people, soccer. I’m happy that’s the reputation our name has.”
Warberg will be the one giving two speeches on May 29 as part of the 2020 MCHS Commencement at Mooney Boswell Field.
“He’s probably nervous about his speech,” Darrell said. “Maybe not, maybe that was just me. There’s times I wrestled with pride thinking I was getting to big for my britches. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m No. 1!’ It’s OK to celebrate but I think Geoffrey three years ago, or maybe two years ago, his head would have been disproportionally sized for the achievement. Probably what’s going through his mind is, ‘Man this is good but I am excited for what is next.”
Darrell has walked through the path his younger brother is about to travel.
“Advice for graduation?” Darrell said. “Honestly the one thing I would say is write it all down. All the thoughts going through your brain, even what you had for breakfast that morning. It is one of those special days. Looking back at it, it will be fun. It’s good to get some prospective. Enjoy the moment but realize this is not the be all, end all moment of your life.”
Geoffrey has already started to soak in this moment on the big stage as valedictorian.
“What’s going to go through my mind first, ‘Wow, I have to be here for three hours,’” he said. “Then also I guess nervousness. But something soccer has taught me, you can be nervous all the time. But it’s still going to happen. So you might as well just so ‘Ah, and go with it.’”
Karroll said focus, determination and a Higher Power helped her sons share the distinction of valedictorian and much more.
“In their hearts, they each love the Lord,” she concluded. “And that’s a thread they have together as brothers in the Lord. They’re not just brothers. I would say they’re both very diligent. What they’re diligent about might be different. But they really apply themselves to what’s in front of them.”