Fayette’s 2012 valedictorians, salutatorians discuss journeys

Vals & sals: (front) Sandy Creek Salutatorian Janae Strother; (middle from left) Starr’s Mill Salutatorian Kate Bill, Starr’s Mill Valedictorian Kathryn Clark, Whitewater Valedictorian Katherine Burke, Whitewater Salutatorian Shangrila Parvin; and (top) McIntosh Valedictorian Karen Anderson, McIntosh Salutatorian Amy Thornburg, Fayette County Valedictorian Nicholas Britt and Fayette County Salutatorian Andrew Chow. Not pictured, Sandy Creek Valedictorian Andre Allen. Photo/Ben Nelms.

The 2011-2012 school year in Fayette County has come to a close. And it is time to take a look at the valedictorians and salutatorians at each of Fayette’s five high schools.

The Fayette County High School Valedictorian for 2012 is Nicholas Britt. He is the son of Regenal Britt. The valedictorian graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and will be attending Georgia Tech and majoring in mechanical engineering. Nicholas received the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship and the Zell Miller Scholarship.

Nicholas participated in extra-curricular activities that included jazz band, a debate tournament, a Beta Club book drive and an alcohol prevention convention.

Asked about being named valedictorian and what it meant to him, Nicholas said, “For me, the honor is in what I have to show the younger students in school. People need to believe that honest work is enough to bring success, and that’s hard to believe when so many people that have success these days have acquired it in the wrong way. It’s important for them to know that I didn’t cheat my way to where I am, and I didn’t do anything underhanded to move myself along.

“On the other hand, I also didn’t spend four years in my room with books all over the place,” Nicholas continued. “I hung out with my friends, I watched television, and I slept late just like anyone else. The honor that I have to show for being valedictorian is that I’ve proven myself to be a regular guy; not better or worse than anybody else in the school. I grew up thinking that it was near impossible to be cool and be smart at the same time, and it’s my privilege to show the younger students that it’s not.”

Nicholas said the best advice he received in high school came from a grandfather.

“’Why are you out chasing horses when you don’t have a barn to put them in?’ My grandfather on my mother’s side said that to me in my junior year of high school,” Nicholas said. “It essentially means, ‘Go out and get your education before you start chasing money and girls and other things.’ It’s easier said than done, but it’s a piece of advice that hasn’t failed me yet.”

Fayette County High School Salutatorian Andrew Chow is the son of Peter and Lisa Chow. Andrew graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and will be attending Georgia Tech with a major in computer science. Andrew has received the Zell Miller Scholarship.

While at FCHS, Andrew participated in the National Honor Society and Beta Club, presented at the state science fair and provided computer “Techie” support.

Asked what being named salutatorian meant to him, Andrew said, “ I see it as a perfect achievement for all of my hard work and effort over these past four years. Being the only one of my class with this title makes me even more proud of myself. At the same time, I see this award as a sign of respect I have earned from my peers and teachers. That is something I strive to achieve.    

Andrew said the best advice given to him in high school came from is father.

“My dad has constantly reminded me to avoid procrastination because that type of work habit leads to your workload building up on you,” said Andrew. “It’s funny how this can happen at the most inconvenient times. Managing my assignments/projects with time has kept my work at its best quality, and my work ethic has kept my stress level to a minimum. I’m not saying that high school is easy. My friends always ask me how I have so much free time. The answer is that I finish my work early, so I have free time when they are all stressing over a fast-approaching due date.

The Starr’s Mill High School 2012 Valedictorian is Kathryn Clark, daughter of Dr. Steve and Mary Clark. Kathryn has decided on a biology major but had not decided on a college location at press time.

Kathryn will be receiving the Presidential Scholarship at the University of Georgia, the Zell Miller Scholarship and the Dean Scholarship award at Berry College.

Kathryn’s extra-curricular activities included marching band, jazz band, Musings magazine/Creative Writing Club, Ex Libris book club, National Honor Society, Beta Club, Science Olympiad, Econ Challenge and Starr Ambassadors along with her involvement in a mock trial, as a lab aide and as part of the stage crew for the musical “Zombie Prom.”

“Being named valedictorian is an honor that shows how hard work can pay off,” Kathryn said.

Kathryn said the best advice she got in high school came from her dad.

“My dad always said, ‘Learning is what matters; the grade will follow.’ I took this to heart and developed a view of school based on it – that I’m here to learn, not worry about the grade,” she explained.

The Starr’s Mill High School 2012 Salutatorian is Kate Bill. The daughter of Kim and Darril Bill, Kate graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and will be attending Georgia Tech with a major in business administration.

Kate will receive the Ga. Tech President’s Scholarship and the Ga. Tech College of Management Dean’s Scholarship.

Kate’s extra-curricular activities at SMHS included Beta Club, National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, freshman class president, press secretary and secretary to the Treasury for Business and Innovation at the University of West Georgia’s student government and secretary of the UWG Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honor Society. Kate also started a photography club.

Asked what being named salutatorian means to her, Kate said, “I am enormously honored to have been named salutatorian because there are so many hardworking individuals in my class who have achieved so much in high school and deserve to be recognized as well.”

As for the best advice she received in high school, Kate said that came from her dad.

“My dad has always told me to “be tough.” In elementary school it was a cute and encouraging way to tell me to keep my head up when my feelings got hurt. In high school it became a driving force behind all of the choices I made. It was a way of telling me to stand up for what I believe in and to be strong even when other people are not,” Kate said.

The Sandy Creek High School Valedictorian for 2012 is Andre Allen. The son of Wilford and Mignon Allen, Andre graduated with a 4.0 grade point average.

Andre will be attending Yale University where he will major in ethics, politics and economics.

Andre’s extra-curricular activities at Sandy Creek included Drama Club, French Club, the literary magazine and musical theatre for productions such as “Les Miserables,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Hairspray.”

Asked about being named valedictorian, Andre said, “Being the valedictorian is validation for all the effort and work that has gone into my education since Kindergarten, when I was learning how to read while others had naptime. This is the reward for all the times I went to bed at 4 a.m.; or stayed in on Saturday to study or finish a project; or decided to do my homework instead of watch T.V. But the honor is bestowed not only on me, but my family. My mother and father had everything to do with my success. I do not believe I would have the drive, the willpower, or the ambition that I have today if my mother hadn’t spent long evenings with me in elementary school, endlessly reviewing my reading homework. I am the valedictorian because my family has always supported and guided me.”

And at the top on Andre’s list about the best piece of advice he received in high school was Anthony Pattiz.

“Among the students at Sandy Creek, not many names garner the same amount of respect and fond reminiscence as that of (world history teacher) Dr. Anthony Pattiz. He runs his classroom with an inspiring mix of fervent passion, learned insight, and unparalleled energy. On his board is a quote, ‘What are you prepared to do?’ That question challenged me. It asked me not to consider my past, or be content with my present, but to confront my future,” Andre explained. “I had to ask myself, what is it that I want to accomplish? Am I willing to sacrifice; willing to forsake sleep, a social life, recreation; willing to put aside all else in the pursuit of my goal? Answering that question led to my success in high school and eventual acceptance to Yale.”

The 2012 Sandy Creek High School Salutatorian is Janae Strother. Daughter of Brad Strother, Janae graduated with a 3.929 grade point average. She will be attending Beloit College with a major in Russian.

Janae will be receiving the four-year Presidential Scholarship.

Janae’s extra-curricular activities included National Honor Society,  Japanese Club, Math Team, Academic Bowl, Science Olympiad, Janae said she was most proud of her involvement with our Sandy Creek’s literary magazine, Metamorphosis.

On the honor of being named salutatorian, Janae said, “Right now it means I’m going to speak in front of my whole class and whatever family and friends they bring, but after I get that over with I’m sure the honor will have a more positive meaning to me.”

 The best advice Janae received in high school actually came from a variety of teachers.

“Pretty much every teacher since the beginning of time has said ‘use your agenda,’ so I don’t know who to credit that advice to. I didn’t really heed it until 9th grade, but I’m really glad I did because that way tests and due dates didn’t hit me in the face,” Janae said.

The Whitewater High School 2012 Valedictorian is Katherine Burke. Katherine is the daughter of Linda and Cameron Burke. She graduated with a 99.67 (unweighted) grade point average.

Katherine will be attending the University of Georgia with a major in biological sciences for pre-med. She received a scholarship from Auburn University and hopes to receive the HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships.

Katherine in speaking of her extra-curricular activities said she was a dedicated member of the school’s marching band where she led the flute section and served as squad leader and band captain. She was a member of the Whitewater Student Council, the Whitewater Ambassadors, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Beta Club and Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Asked what being named valedictorian meant to her, Katherine said it meant everything.

“I am so grateful and blessed to be honored with this title. It seems that all my hard work has finally paid off,” she said.

Katherine said the best advice she received in high school came from Carolyn Simons and a speaker named Adam Robinson.

“My 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Simons, always encouraged me to relax and not take my grades too seriously. Also, a speaker by the name of Adam Robinson said that, truthfully, having his name on the Dean’s list in college did not drastically change his life; for in pure essence, his grades were not eternal and would not matter 20 years into the future. With these words of wisdom, I was able to relax and focus on the personal and relational aspects of my life while still balancing my school work. Seeing my accomplishments, relaxing every so often and finding time to enjoy yourself does not hinder what you can accomplish in high school,” Katherine explained.

The 2012 Whitewater High School Salutatorian is Shangrila Parvin, daughter of Shahnaj Parvin and Abdur Rashid.

Shangrila graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and will be attending Emory University with a major in chemistry. She is receiving the Dean’s Scholarship from the University of Miami and the Zell Miller Scholarship.

Shangrila’s extra-curricular activities included Honor Chorus, National Honor Society, peer tutoring, Whitewater Spectacular, BETA Club, HOSA, talent show, Winterguard, French Honor Society, Math Team, children’s choir, all-state chorus, FLAG French Interview, National French Exam, Clemson French Poetry Contest, French Immersion Camp, Drama Club, French Club, Creative Writing Club, Miss Whitewater and the Fayette County Science Fair.

Asked about being named salutatorian, Shangrila said, “Being salutatorian is one of the most prestigious honors one could receive in high school – it is one of the highest honors I personally have received. There is only one valedictorian and one salutatorian from Whitewater; it is not something everyone could be awarded, so being named salutatorian is indeed a significant accomplishment. The salutatorian and the valedictorian serve as leaders, role models, and representatives of their graduating class and their school. I am proud and honored to be representing Whitewater High School as its salutatorian.”

As for the best advice she received in high school, Shangrila said it came from a English teacher.

“When I was in ninth grade, my English teacher Ms. Nix talked to us about getting involved in extracurriculars and community service in addition to keeping up good grades in order to get accepted into excellent colleges. This advice helped me to get accepted into Emory, but it also helped me grow as a person,” Shangrila said. “Volunteering and participating in many different extracurriculars throughout my four years of high school helped me explore different areas that I normally would not have, like French and Drama; these experiences have broadened my horizons and made me more well-rounded.”

The McIntosh High School 2012 Valedictorian is Karen Anderson, daughter of Shawn and Colleen Anderson. Karen graduated with a 4.3 weighted grade point average. She will be attending the University of Chicago and has not decided on a major.

Karen received the University Scholar (University of Chicago) and National Merit Finalist scholarships.

Karen’s extra-curricular activities included Academic Team, Math Team, Science Olympiad, peer tutoring, Symphony Orchestra, Pit Orchestra, National English Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society and National Beta Club.

On the significance of being named valedictorian Karen said, “The title of valedictorian reflects on my grades, not my character, so I try to keep a healthy perspective—my validation has never come from my transcript. Nevertheless, I’m humbled to represent my class.”    

Karen, too, received some good advice in high school.

“’Don’t Panic.’ Thank you, Douglas Adams. Those two words have certainly helped. I’ve learned to channel my stress to competition and curiosity. Had I panicked, my life would have become one of hyperventilation and mangled spiral notebooks,” said Karen.

The 2012 McIntosh High School Salutatorian is Amy Thornburg, daughter of Laura and Kirk Thornburg. Amy graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and will be attending Ga. Tech with a major in business administration.

Amy will be receiving the Zell Miller Scholarship, the National Merit Scholarship and the Ga. Tech Business School Faculty Scholarship.

Amy’s extra-curricular activities included varsity basketball cheerleading, peer tutoring, Concert Band, Beta Club, National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society.

Asked what being named salutatorian meant to her, Amy said, “Being named salutatorian has  given me a sense of pride about my work and academic achievements in high school. It’s a huge  honor to receive such a prestigious title, especially in a competitive school like McIntosh.”

Amy also received good advice during her high school years. That advice came from her mother.

“My mother always told me, ‘Do your personal best; don’t get discouraged or proud by comparing yourself to anyone else.’ This advice helped me focus and not worry about how I measure up, and her advice was especially applicable to class rank,” Amy said.