Fayette's 2014 class gets ready for graduation

The 2013-2014 school year in Fayette County has come to a close. And with the end of the school year, it is time to take a look at the valedictorians and salutatorians at each of Fayette’s five high schools.

Each of the valedictorians and salutatorians were asked a number of questions by the school system. Several of those questions and their responses are included below.

The Fayette County High School valedictorian is Menaka Reddy, daughter of Narem Reddy and Boey Kheem Tan.

Menaka will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average and will attend Dartmouth College with a major in chemistry and economics.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“My debate coach, Kahlilah Pagan, would tell me ‘Failure is inevitable, but your picture of success is what matters; comparing yourself to people around you will never help you be the best you can be.’ This piece of advice followed me throughout high school. Not only did it help calm and motivate me during debate, but it also impacted the way I viewed myself in both academic and social aspects of my life,” Menaka said.

What does the honor of being named valedictorian mean to you?

“It means the world to me. To be granted the honor of representing a high school with such an advanced academic background and a talented, close-knit student body is a privilege I will cherish,” said Menaka.

What is your favorite high school memory?

Menaka said her favorite memory, “was the opportunity to bond with my class over activities like Tailgate and Flynn’s Fanatics. The fact that our senior class can always come together and enjoy our time with each other is a powerful feeling.”

The Fayette County High School salutatorian is Casey Patterson, daughter of Glenn and Sharon Patterson.

Casey will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average and will attend the University of North Georgia with a major in business and a minor in Spanish.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“The best advice I received in high school was from my mom. She never wanted me to stress out too much about grades or extra-curricular activities. She told me to always remember that she’d be proud of me as long as I was doing my best and to never push myself so hard that I was miserable. This advice helped me to not get frustrated or overwhelmed with everything that I was doing and to focus on simply doing my best instead of trying to be perfect,” Casey said.

What does the honor of being named salutatorian mean to you?

“I’m just honored that I made it here in the end and I’m grateful to all the people who helped and supported me along the way,” said Casey. “I love to see the smiles from my friends and family when they tell me that they are proud of me. It means so much to know that my hard work these past four years has paid off.”

What is your favorite high school memory?

“I have many high school memories, but a big one that stands out in my mind is Junior Marshal week. Those of us with the highest ranks got to exempt all of our exams and help out with graduation the last week of school during junior year,” Casey said. “I remember flying around with textbook carts delivering books to teachers, running all over the football field to help set things up for graduation and doing all sorts of other tasks. It was so much fun getting out of class to help teachers and be with the seniors as they graduated. Being a Junior Marshal was an experience I will never forget.”

The McIntosh High School valedictorian is Jacob Wilson, son of Rachael and Andrew Wilson.

Jacob is graduating with a 4.16 grade point average and will be attending the University of Georgia with a major in computer science.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“I suppose some of the greatest and most beneficial pieces of advice given to me have leaked from the depths of my subconscious over the course of several years. One of the greatest pieces of advice to emerge is that no matter what you’re working on, put your entire being into it, no matter how seemingly dull or meaningless,” Jacob said. “The only real reason I’m able to succeed in the various subjects of high school is because I’m able to convince myself that whatever I’m doing is my passion that requires hours of concentration to perfect.”

What does the honor of being named valedictorian mean to you?

“It represents a sense of recognition for the innumerable hours, blood, sweat and tears that have gone into every one of my classes since freshman year,” said Jacob.

What is your favorite high school memory?

“My favorite high school memory is without a doubt the summer I spent with my closest friend in Canada,” said Jacob. “We would spend our days drifting along the vast lakes in a paddle boat, and, haunted by the ambient coo of distant loons, our nights around a never-ending monopoly game.”

McIntosh this year has two salutatorians. One of those is Airyn Nash, daughter of Sophia and Chauncy Nash.

Airyn graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and will attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with majors in French and engineering psychology.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“Mrs. Kearney, my 10th grade gifted world literature teacher, told me not to stress about school or to worry about the grades I receive. Even though this sounds contradictory to what is constantly drilled into our heads, it truly helped me to relax and not get so upset over scores because scores do not define me as a student nor my intellect,” Airyn explained.

What does the honor of being named salutatorian mean to you?

“The honor of being salutatorian in my opinion, means that I am a representative of the values that McIntosh strives to instill in its students regardless of intelligence. As salutatorian, I am an example of someone who dedicates much effort to their work; perseveres to fully understand a subject; works ethically; and gets as much help and extra credit as possible even when it is not necessary. I have also followed school rules and actively participated in school events and activities. These are positive characteristics that should be reflective of the salutatorian. Of course, the status of salutatorian also honors me for achieving academic excellence and caring about my work. It lets people recognize how much above and beyond a student must work to receive this honor,” Airyn said.

What is your favorite high school memory?

“I am not sure I have a favorite high school memory. The past four years seem a blur of collective memories and emotions,” Airyn said. “I enjoyed being asked to the prom and I had fun at all my marching band adventures and track meets. And of course, I loved all the A’s on my projects and tests, but there truly isn’t one memory that stands out as being my favorite.”

The second salutatorian from McIntosh High School is Sue Liang, daughter of Tom Liang and Yiingli Zhang.

Sue graduated with a 4.316 grade point average and will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a major in neuroscience.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“Advice within society makes for an interesting study: it’s given freely by the owner and spread onward in seemingly concentric circles to future owners and future heeders. I am a part of this process, as have been most of my teachers, friends, cohorts, and parents,” said Sue. “Among the most memorable advice is Ms. Kearney’s ‘Follow your bliss’e life motto, a statement made to show happiness and exploration that does not need to follow the norm, only a personalized identity. And perhaps I have taken this motto and adapted it to create my own concentric circles of ideas, ranging from introspection to existentialism. And above all of these ideas lies the key concept that my journey in life contains copious quantities of mistakes and successes that I relish for because of a continuing delta, or process, which in turn is what truly matters the most, above all destination.”

What does the honor of being named salutatorian mean to you?

“Being salutatorian has a broad interpretation field, ranging from high work ethic to luck and wondrous procrastination skills to intense bursts of energy. I think that this entire spectrum encompasses the means and process by which I became salutatorian, and I think that the lingering message it leaves personally is the importance of enjoying a journey and instead of valuing this title, the need to move forward and continue searching for the connections between humanity and nature and disciplines,” Sue said.

What is your favorite high school memory?

“Perhaps the fact that I cannot remember one from the top of my head is both a pro and a con. I’ll assume that I have too many to choose a specific favorite high school memory, but lunches in the courtyard with friends under Bradford pear trees that no longer stink has been an enjoyable time period,”Sue said.

The Sandy Creek High School valedictorian is Savannah Eichhorn, daughter of Oscar and Laura Eichhorn.

Savannah graduated with a 4.267 grade point average and will attend Mercer University with a major in biology.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“My mom has continuously reinforced the importance of work ethic throughout my entire life and has many times advised me that work ethic is just as important as aptitude. She taught me that God gave me talents and abilities, but what I do with them is up to me. She has always encouraged me to fully apply myself and do my best, whether the pursuit is schoolwork or singing in the choir. This advice has helped define who I am. When I am committed to something, I do not back down and I work to fulfill my obligations to the best of my abilities,” said Savannah.

What does the honor of being named valedictorian mean to you?

“Being recognized as valedictorian means a great deal to me because it is a reward I have earned through my commitment to always do my best,” said Savannah. “I could never settle for halfway completing the tasks assigned to me in school, and sometimes I had to make trade-offs with other things I wanted to do (like sleep!) in order to get the grades I wanted. I always strive to work my hardest in managing everything life throws at me and being happy with myself is really what is most important. Becoming the valedictorian just came as an extra bonus!”

What is your favorite high school memory?

“My favorite high school memory was attending the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program last summer. I was surround by others who, like me, had a yearning to learn above and beyond what their high schools could teach them about their respective subject. When placed in groups with other math majors who had stronger mathematical backgrounds, I was challenged to develop new cognitive skills that allowed for me to gain a greater understanding of complex mathematical topics,” Savannah said. “I met many peers who share my interest in conducting research that will benefit others. In addition to classroom learning, GHP was a personal growth experience. I received a taste of being away from home and living in a dormitory and had tons of fun and hang- time with new people, some of whom became close friends.”

The Sandy Creek High School salutatorian is Sarah Estrada, daughter of John and Karen Estrada.

Sarah graduated with a 4.0/4.2 grade point average and will attend Mercer University with a major in biology.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“My tenth grade world history teacher, Dr. Pattiz, once said during one of his class presentations that in order to reach your goals, you must first believe that you have the power within yourself to accomplish them,” said Sarah. “People who start something with a negative attitude will never achieve success because without believing in yourself, you will not dig deep enough to find the potential lying inside you.”

What does the honor of being named salutatorian mean to you?

“It is a very big honor to be named salutatorian because I know now that all my hard work over the last few years has paid off,” Sarah said.

What is your favorite high school memory?

“My favorite high school memory is the Disney trip our cross country team took earlier this year. It was a lot of fun and I loved spending time with the amazing people and coaches on the team,” said Sarah.

The Starr’s Mill High School valedictorian is Vivian Nguyen, daughter of Hoang and Laura Nguyen.

Vivian graduated with a 4.262 grade point average and will attend Stanford University with majors in math and theoretical physics.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“The best advice I received was from my mom. She always says that we don’t have to fear failure, but instead, we should fear passivity or inactivity. If we fail due to lack of preparation or tenacity, we have to live with the knowledge that the outcome could have been different, but if we do all that we can from the beginning, there are no regrets,” Vivian explained.

What does the honor of being named valedictorian mean to you?

“The honor of being valedictorian means a lot to me because it symbolizes the culmination of more than just my own efforts. My friends and family and the teachers and faculty at Starr’s Mill are the people who have supported me along every step of the way, and I have them to thank what I’ve achieved,” said Vivian.

What is your favorite high school memory?

“My high school experience has been completely unforgettable, and it isn’t just one memory that makes the past four years so remarkable. It is the confluence of the group projects, the class activities, and the competitive events that unites the class of 2018. All the memories that we share with one another come together to form the most beautiful page in the scrapbook of our lives,” said Vivian.

The Starr’s Mill High School salutatorian is Julia Oden, daughter of Jan and Dave Oden.

Julia graduated with a 4.17 grade point average and will attend the University of Georgia. Her major is undecided.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“My most valuable pieces of advice came from the teachers who told me to ‘stop trying so hard,’ to take more breaks from my academic life and that grades didn’t matter nearly as much as I thought they did,” explained Julia. “I wish I had actually listened to them.”

What does the honor of being named salutatorian mean to you?

“I am so honored to be able to represent my incredibly talented class, but I cannot pretend that I feel no remorse for striving to remain in this position. I wish I had spent my high school years learning for the sake of intellectual growth, rather than for the accumulation of ‘perfect grades,’” said Julia.

What is your favorite high school memory?

“I never know how to answer these kinds of questions. There are way too many to count!” said Julia.

The Whitewater High School valedictorian is Bonnie Hester, daughter of Tim and Virginia Guy Hester.

Bonnie graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and will attend the University of Georgia with a major in journalism.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“The best advice I received in high school was from my mother, who told me to take life one day at a time (actually she tells me this pretty often!). This advice reminds me (when I am at my most stressed) to relax and remember that, as much as I might think that the thing that’s stressing me at the moment is the end of the world, it really isn’t, because life will go on, and all I have to do is focus on getting through today and stop worrying, because everything will work itself out in the end,” Bonnie said.

What does the honor of being named valedictorian mean to you?

“Although being named valedictorian has been a great honor for me, I have tried not to focus on it too much, as in my mind it is most important to know that I have done my personal best; as long as I feel I have done so, I am satisfied with whatever I receive,” Bonnie explained. “It has therefore been very humbling to be named valedictorian because I was not aiming for it consciously, it just came as a result of the hard work I put into doing the best that I felt I could do.”

What is your favorite high school memory?

“One of my favorite memories is a summer trip that some of my friends and I took to Universal Studios in Florida. I’ll never forget the fun we had running around the parks by day, riding our favorites over and over and eating far more junk food than we should have, and exploring Orlando and having movie marathons by night,” Bonnie said.

The Whitewater High School salutatorian is Austin Dill, son of Glenn and Annette Dill.

Austin graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and will attend Georgia Tech with a major in mechanical engineering.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in high school and who gave you this advice? How did it help?

“My mother advised me to learn for the joy of it and that success will come from that enjoyment,” Austin explained. “It has helped me keep grades in perspective and focus on learning instead of competition.”

What does the honor of being named salutatorian mean to you?

“It means that the hard work of all my family and teachers has paid off in my education,” Austin said.

What is your favorite high school memory?

“After a band Large Group Performance Evaluation our band director, Mr. Jean, told us that our playing had been a highlight of his career as an educator,” said Austin. “It had been a moment we had worked for months to create and it was so rewarding to know that it had been a success.”

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