Fayette’s top graduates ready for the future

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The 2019 Fayette County public school valedictorians are, seated from left, Grace Mallon, Whitewater High; Kayla Anderson, Fayette County High; Sarah Dorr, Starr’s Mill High; Mark Ni, McIntosh High; and Sarah Anne Sorme, Sandy Creek High. The 2019 Fayette County salutatorians, standing from left, are Khusbu Patel, Whitewater High; Blythe Terry, Starr’s Mill High; Samuel Liu, McIntosh High; and Ariz Jebien Simon Sayson, Sandy Creek High. Not pictured is Fayette County High Salutatorian Erick Benitez-Ramos. Photo/Ben Nelms.
The 2019 Fayette County public school valedictorians are, seated from left, Grace Mallon, Whitewater High; Kayla Anderson, Fayette County High; Sarah Dorr, Starr’s Mill High; Mark Ni, McIntosh High; and Sarah Anne Sorme, Sandy Creek High. The 2019 Fayette County salutatorians, standing from left, are Khusbu Patel, Whitewater High; Blythe Terry, Starr’s Mill High; Samuel Liu, McIntosh High; and Ariz Jebien Simon Sayson, Sandy Creek High. Not pictured is Fayette County High Salutatorian Erick Benitez-Ramos. Photo/Ben Nelms.

The 2018-2019 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 public 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.

Kayla Anderson

Valedictorian, Fayette County High

The Fayette County High School Valedictorian for 2019 Kayla Anderson, daughter of Christine and Joel Smith.

Kayla will graduate with a 4.255 grade point average and will attend the University of Notre Dame with a major in biology.

Kayla responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

“I want to give a speech about the future and encourage my peers to keep moving forward towards their goals. Every single person has an important purpose in life and I want to convey this during my speech as well,” Kayla said.

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as valedictorian when you started high school?

Kayla Anderson.
Kayla Anderson.

“No, I didn’t think I would be valedictorian. Being valedictorian was never my goal as a freshman, and back then I didn’t think I would be able to achieve becoming the valedictorian since I wasn’t very confident in my abilities. Thanks to many people in my life and hard work however, I was able to become valedictorian. Once I did, I decided I might as well work hard to keep the spot and not let my efforts and other people’s efforts to encourage me go to waste,” Kayla explained.

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

“Being valedictorian doesn’t make me feel entirely special, but it makes me seriously happy that my hard work paid off and I could make a lot of people close to me proud. I can end my senior year pretty content,” said Kayla.

Erick Benitez-Ramos

Salutatorian, Fayette County High

Erick Benitez-Ramos
Erick Benitez-Ramos

The 2019 Fayette County High School Salutatorian is Erick Benitez-Ramos, son of Alma Ramos.

Erick will graduate with a 4.235 grade point average and will attend Georgia Tech with a major in computer science.

Erick responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

“The importance of being uncomfortable.”

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as salutatorian when you started high school?

“At the beginning of freshman year, I couldn’t have imagined being named the salutatorian of my class,” said Erick. “I’ve never believed myself to be particularly ‘smarter’ than anyone else so being name salutatorian wasn’t something I thought I could achieve.”

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

“My parents have been through a lot to give my siblings and I the opportunities that we have,” Erick said. “Both of them left Mexico when they were younger and have worked extremely hard to get to where they are today. So, to me, being named salutatorian means I will be able to honor them and show that I am grateful for all the sacrifices they have made for my siblings and I.”

Grace Mallon

Whitewater High Salutatorian Khusbu Patel (L) and Valedictorian Grace Mallon. Photo / Ben Nelms.
Whitewater High Salutatorian Khusbu Patel (L) and Valedictorian Grace Mallon. Photo / Ben Nelms.

Valedictorian, Whitewater

The 2019 Whitewater High School Valedictorian is Grace Mallon, daughter of Valerie and Phil Mallon.

Grace will graduate with a 4.314 grade point average and will attend Georgia Tech with a major in industrial systems engineering.

Grace responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

“I will focus on the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone, because during high school I have found that trying new things and meeting new people is the best way to get the most out of life,” Grace explained.

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as valedictorian when you started high school?

“I knew I had a strong chance because I have held the number 1 class ranking my entire high school career, but I was never sure how ‘far ahead’ I was compared to the salutatorian,” said Grace. “While it was not completely unexpected, it was definitely a relief to be officially named valedictorian.”

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

“I have worked so incredibly hard throughout high school. I completed every homework assignment whether the teacher was going to check it or not. I did every extra credit project and I studied for every assessment,” said Grace. “It was difficult at times to continue working hard when people around me were getting the same or even better grades than I was without doing all of the work, so being named valedictorian is an honor that proves all of my dedication and perseverance was worth it and paid off in the end.”

Khusbu Patel

Salutatorian, Whitewater

The 2019 Whitewater High School Salutatorian is Khusbu Patel, daughter of Jaymin and Darshita Patel.

Khusbu will graduate with a 4.138 grade point average and will attend Georgia Tech with a major in computer science.

Khusbu responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

“I would like to reflect on the past and how everything and everyone in it has shaped us to be the people we are today,” said Khusbu.

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as salutatorian when you started high school?

“When I started high school I didn’t even know what a salutatorian was,” Khusbu said. “My rank was the last thing on my mind, as I was just trying to figure out how to manage high school and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

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

“It is honor to be recognized for what I have accomplished in high school academically. It’s a nice title,” said Khusbu.

Mark Ni

Valedictorian, McIntosh

McIntosh High Valedictorian Mark Ni, left, and Salutatorian Samuel Liu. Photo / Ben Nelms.
McIntosh High Valedictorian Mark Ni, left, and Salutatorian Samuel Liu. Photo / Ben Nelms.

The 2019 McIntosh High School Valedictorian is Mark Ni, son of Xiaoyan Guo and Qing Ni.

Mark is planning to attend Georgia Tech with a major in computer science.

Mark responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

“I won’t go too deep into my personal philosophies. I just want to mainly thank everyone and encourage everyone to reconsider ourselves as a class,” Mark said.

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as valedictorian when you started high school?

“I didn’t really think about it going into high school. I remember it being a small shock the second semester of freshman year when people at the top of our class began to compare class ranks like crazy,” Mark noted.

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

“It’s a great honor, and I’m grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way,” said Mark.

Samuel Liu

Salutatorian, McIntosh

The 2019 McIntosh High School Salutatorian is Samuel Liu, son of Ping Min and Hongwei Liu.

Samuel will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average and will attend Georgia Tech with a major in biomedical engineering.

Samuel responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

Samuel said his commencement speech will center on, “The moments in life that you truly remember and cherish.”

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as salutatorian when you started high school?

“Well, I don’t know about that. But I do know that I never thought I’d be valedictorian. I’ve known (McIntosh High Valedictorian Mark Ni) since I moved to Georgia in 2nd grade, so I’ve witnessed his genius firsthand,” said Samuel. “There was no possibility he wouldn’t be the valedictorian by the time we graduated. Salutatorian was the absolute highest I could have possibly ranked, and even then it was ambitious to think about it back then.”

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

“It means a lot but at the same time nothing at all. I am by absolutely no means the ‘second smartest person in the grade,’” Samuel explained. “There are so many brilliant young minds that are far more talented and hard-working than me, but I just so happened to amass some slightly higher grades so they gave me this title. It’s obviously a huge honor to be able to represent the class of 2019, but I know that this honor doesn’t mean everything.”

Sarah Anne Sorme

Valedictorian, Sandy Creek

Sandy Creek High Valedictorian Sarah Anne Sorme, left, and Salutatorian Ariz Jebien Simon Sayson. Photo / Ben Nelms.
Sandy Creek High Valedictorian Sarah Anne Sorme, left, and Salutatorian Ariz Jebien Simon Sayson. Photo / Ben Nelms.

The 2019 Sandy Creek High School Valedictorian is Sarah Anne Sorme, daughter of Sheila and Olle Sorme.

Sarah Anne will graduate with a 4.235 grade point average and will attend Georgia Tech with a major in neuroscience.

Sarah Anne responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

Sarah Anne said her commencement speech will center on, “The importance of striving for a life of significance rather than one of success.”

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as valedictorian when you started high school?

“I did consider the possibility, but I knew that I was surrounded by many other intelligent, driven students who were also capable of earning the title,” Sarah Anne noted.

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

“I feel extremely honored to represent Sandy Creek’s extraordinary Class of 2019, filled with talented writers, passionate scientists and skilled problem solvers,” Sarah Anne said. “I believe that this achievement embodies not only my hard work but also that of my peers whose encouragement, study sessions and support have aided me invaluably throughout my school career.”

Ariz Jabien Simon Sayson

Salutatorian, Sandy Creek

The 2019 Sandy Creek High School Salutatorian is Ariz Jebien Simon Sayson, son of Marissa Byas and stepfather Albert Byas.

Ariz will graduate with a 4.163 grade point average and will attend Georgia Tech with a major in biology.

Ariz responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

“I want to reflect on the student body’s personal growth throughout the past four years of high school, as well as remind them of the impact that our generation will have in society in the near future,” Ariz said.

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as salutatorian when you started high school?

“Becoming the salutatorian of my class was not in my radar at all. During my first semester of high school, my primary goal was to get at least a 95 on all of my classes so that I could freely choose which three subjects I would want to exempt for finals week, said Ariz. “I guess having that type of mindset significantly helped in raising and solidifying my class rank.”

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

I feel beyond honored to receive the title of salutatorian for my graduating class,” Ariz said. “It feels exceptionally rewarding and humbling to know that my efforts and academic endeavors throughout the past four years have amounted to this title. To me, this simply means that I am capable of achieving what I set my mind to. But of course, I cannot fully accept this honor without saying thanks to my parents, teachers and friends who have all provided me with so much help and support along my high school career.”

Sarah Dorr

Valedictorian, Starr’s Mill

Starr’s Mill High Salutatorian Blythe Terry, left, and Valedictorian Sarah Dorr. Photo / Ben Nelms.
Starr’s Mill High Salutatorian Blythe Terry, left, and Valedictorian Sarah Dorr. Photo / Ben Nelms.

The 2019 Starr’s Mill High School Valedictorian is Sarah Dorr, daughter of Davis and Crystal Dorr.

Sarah will graduate with a 4.235 grade point average and will attend the University of Georgia with a major in public relations.

Sarah responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

“I want to relay to my graduating class the importance of balance. As everyone begins their own journey beyond Starr’s Mill, many new opportunities, outlooks, choices and pressures will arise,” Sarah said. “It’s so crucial that we take advantage of what life throws our way, but it’s just as important we stay grounded in who we are to ensure we can truly thrive. It’s a balancing act between self-exploration and self-affirmation.”

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as valedictorian when you started high school?

“Being named the valedictorian of Starr’s Mill had always been a dream of mine, but little did I think it would become a reality,” said Sarah. “For me, the stem of my academic success came from my love of learning, not from the desire to be at the top of my class. Because of this mentality, I went on about high school taking advantage of all the academic and artistic opportunities I could, and succeeded due to my passion for such subjects as history and chorus. The high ranking was simply as result of this dedication.”

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

“Being named valedictorian for the Starr’s Mill Class of 2019 validates all the hard work and long hours I have put in to succeed in any endeavor I put my mind to,” Sarah explained. “I feel I serve as an example to others of someone that breaks the mold of the stereotypical valedictorian. To be in this position, you don’t have to be consumed in textbooks and practice problems, you don’t even have to be the most naturally intelligent. I believe I am where I am today due to my raw determination, not my raw talent. It sounds so incredibly cliche, but high achievement truly does come from hard work. I feel my story proves it true.”

Blythe Terry

Salutatorian, Starr’s Mill

The 2019 Starr’s Mill High School Salutatorian is Blythe Terry, daughter of Valerie Wilkinson.

Blythe will graduate with a 4.27 grade point average and will attend Wellesley College with a major in economics and anthropology.

Blythe responded to the following questions:

What will be the key message of your commencement speech?

Blythe explained that the focus of her commencement speech will be, “The importance of being open-minded and working together in future endeavors.”

Did you ever think that you would represent your class as salutatorian when you started high school?

“My sister was a high achiever in high school, but I always thought of myself as separated from her in that way. I was sure I didn’t have the analytical intelligence that she did,” said Blythe. “However, I think that came from a mindset that being at the top of the class comes exclusively from your own dedication, when in reality for me it also came from the support of my parents and my friends.”

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

“I’m proud to be able to represent my school,” Blythe said. “Being named salutatorian has given me an opportunity to reflect on the high school experience and the role of my generation in society.”

5 COMMENTS

    • Hi Brewster – I use the first person plural possessive pronoun to refer to all citizens of the United States. It doesn’t matter how the person originally came here whether by an overland Arctic route thousands of years ago, a sailing ship 200 years ago, or an airplane 2 years ago. I’m just glad that we have very bright students regardless of gender and ethnicity. It merely disproves a certain narrative that is promulgated by a leader who sees “fine people” wearing swastikas and advocating their own ethnic supremacy.

  1. Congratulations to all of these fine scholars! It is interesting that no Caucasian males excelled to the height of academic achievement at any of the county schools. Perhaps keeping America great (since it never lost that distinction) will need to be accomplished with the intellect supplied by women and people who immigrate to our shores. Or does that upset the narrative?