CCSD Honors Class of 2014 Valedictorians, Salutatorians
The Cherokee County School District’s Class of 2014 Valedictorians and Salutatorians are, from left to right, front row: Sequoyah HS Valedictorian Rachel Weaver and Salutatorian Sydney Webb; Creekview HS Salutatorian Riley Jenkins and Valedictorian Lori Estes; River Ridge HS Valedictorian Maggie O’Bryant and Salutatorian Zoe Moore; back row: Cherokee HS Valedictorian Olivia Nechvatal and Salutatorian Miguel Tuberquia; Etowah HS Salutatorian David Morrison and Valedictorian Christopher Yoo; and Woodstock HS Salutatorian Rachel Steppe and Valedictorian Samuel Mixon.
The Cherokee County School District and School Board honored the Class of 2014 Valedictorians and Salutatorians during the 14th Annual Scholar Recognition Banquet on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at Woodmont Golf & Country Club. The banquet featured speeches by the honorees and their favorite teachers, the presentation of gifts and a buffet dinner. The students and teachers were congratulated by the School Board, and each student received an iPad, $50 gift card and plaque. Each teacher received a plaque and $100 gift card. “Just by hearing you speak tonight, we know the future is safe in your hands,” Deputy Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower told the honorees at the banquet’s conclusion. “We’re extremely proud of you.”
The dinner and gifts were made possible by donations from sponsors: Platinum: Manley, Spangler & Smith; Northside Hospital-Cherokee, Poole’s Insulation Co. and Woodmont Golf and Country Club; Gold: Brown & Brown Insurance of Georgia, KRH Architects Inc., NOVA Engineering and Traditions Turf Management Inc.; and Silver: AngelTrax Bus Video, Follett, Knox Pest Control, Morse Communications, The Travel Store Inc. and True Natural Gas.
The honorees and their favorite teachers are:
Cherokee High School
Valedictorian Olivia Nechvatal
Salutatorian Miguel Tuberquia
Teacher for Valedictorian: Dan Gagnon
Teacher for Salutatorian: Garrick Cheyne
Olivia, who will attend the University of Georgia to pursue a pharmacy degree, has earned scholarships from the school’s Alpha Club, the Service League and a UGA Charter Scholarship. She honored Mr. Gagnon for his support and for being a “really cool guy.”
“I’d like to thank Olivia,” Mr. Gagnon said, “for pushing me in ways very few students ever have.”
Miguel, who will study pre-medicine at UGA in his quest to become a psychiatrist, has earned Coca-Cola First Generation and Zell Mill Scholarships.
“When you get to this level, it’s easy for parents and teachers to stop pushing you, but Mr. Cheyne always pushes me hard,” Miguel said. “He’s an inspiration to me and all of his students.”
Mr. Cheyne, the band director, in his remarks praised Miguel for his early and continued support of the school’s band program.
“When you see us, remember this young man really built our whole program,” Mr. Cheyne said.
Creekview High School
Valedictorian Lori Estes
Salutatorian Riley Jenkins
Teacher for Valedictorian: Wendy McCarron
Teacher for Salutatorian: Cleve Ard
Lori, who will attend UGA to study for a career in the math or science fields, recognized Ms. McCarron as “an incredible mentor and friend.”
Ms. McCarron said that she hopes her 4-year-old daughter grows up to be like Lori, noting that not only is she a valedictorian, but also lettered in two sports and was elected Homecoming Queen.
“The fact they look up to a valedictorian this way says the world about her… and our school,” Ms. McCarron said.
Riley, who will study genetics and business at UGA to prepare for medical school and future ownership of her own dermatology practice, earned scholarships from organizations including the National Beta Club, Sawnee EMC, Service League of Cherokee County and Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill.
She chose Mr. Ard for his teaching skills and ability to make every student feel special.
“She stands out in my mind so much because she is so kind-hearted,” Mr. Ard said of Riley, noting not only is she the school’s STAR Student and Student Delegate to the School Board, but she also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and the Friends Club supporting special needs classmates.
Etowah High School
Valedictorian Christopher Yoo
Salutatorian David Morrison
Teacher for Valedictorian: Rebecca Schwartz
Teacher for Salutatorian: Dr. Michelle Barthlow
Chris, who will study computer science and business at Cornell University, showed his wit by congratulating the crowd of “genius students, genius parents and genius teachers,” before honoring Ms. Schwartz. She earned his admiration, Chris said, for what she taught him “inside and outside the classroom.”
Ms. Schwartz praised Chris for his leadership in the classroom, noting he “never hesitated to ask a question” to ensure he and classmates mastered material, and in the school, sharing a story of how he let children at Relay for Life pelt him with hundreds of water balloons to raise funds for the cause.
David, who will study chemical or bio-medical engineering at Georgia Tech to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical or oil and gas industry, earned scholarships from organizations including Aramark Education, Etowah HS PTSA and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.
Dr. Barthlow, he said, “most importantly, makes herself available to students and works to effect positive change in the school.”
She praised David for his “great character and great promise,” adding he not only earns accolades such as National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta, but also volunteers to share his love of math with students at nearby Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy.
River Ridge High School
Valedictorian Maggie O’Bryant
Salutatorian Zoe Moore
Teacher for Valedictorian: Keara Rubin
Teacher for Salutatorian: Keara Rubin
Maggie O’Bryant, who will study electrical engineering at Georgia Tech, earned Aramark Education, Kimberly-Clark Foundation Bright Futures and Zell Miller Scholarships.
Both she and Zoe selected the same teacher to honor: media specialist Keara Rubin.
Ms. Rubin praised Maggie for changing her life and the school itself: “Her passion for reading, music and drama has helped shape the landscape of River Ridge High School.”
Zoe, who will study English education at the University of North Georgia to follow in Ms. Rubin’s footsteps as a media specialist and teacher, earned Kohl’s Cares and Zell Miller Scholarships.
“Ms. Rubin didn’t teach me like a teacher in chemistry or math… she taught me about life,” Zoe said, noting that many students at the school call Ms. Rubin “mom,” as she’s like a second mother to them.
Ms. Rubin presented Zoe with a ceremonial “key to the library.”
“Zoe has made the library her home,” Ms. Rubin said, noting Zoe has had her hands on each one of its 16,000 books -- at least once. “This is your key… and you’re always welcome home.”
Sequoyah High School
Valedictorian Rachel Weaver
Salutatorian Sydney Webb
Teacher for Valedictorian: Allison Webb
Teacher for Salutatorian: Andy Kohler
Rachel, who will study international business and affairs at UGA, thanked Ms. Webb for encouraging her and showing her how foreign language is the path to many different careers.
“She’s the best kind of teacher you can have,” Rachel said.
Ms. Webb listed Rachel’s many talents, from her success in sports to her ability to win her classmates over.
“Rachel is never afraid to ask questions or to make mistakes, and she doesn’t let making mistakes keep her from moving out of her comfort zone,” she said.
Sydney, who will study finance and pre-law at Georgia Tech on her path to earning a law degree, earned the university’s Presidential Scholarship.
She had “heard all the scary stories” about Mr. Kohler’s challenging math classes, but said he not only proved to be a great teacher, but also an encourager, who “pulled her out of her shell.”
Sydney, Mr. Kohler said, is “determined to learn and overcome struggles… and the real leaders come out when the sailing gets tough.”
Woodstock High School
Valedictorian Samuel Mixon
Salutatorian Rachel Steppe
Teacher for Valedictorian: Rhonda Cowart
Teacher for Salutatorian: Joshua Sailers
Sam, who will study computer science at Clemson University and pursue a career in public service, is a National Merit Scholar and was named the Cherokee County STAR Student for earning the highest SAT score in the county.
He honored Ms. Cowart for her ability to both educate and inspire her students.
“Wherever he goes, he will go with dignity,” she said, adding (with a laugh) that when he’s elected U.S. Senator or President of the United States that she would be available to serve as an advisor. “Sam is one of the greatest students I’ve ever had as far as intellectual prowess. He has the potential to be a great statesman.”
Rachel, who will study mechanical or petroleum engineering at Georgia Tech, is a National Merit, Shell Oil Company and Zell Miller Scholarship winner and earned the Class of 2014’s only perfect ACT score.
Mr. Sailers, she said, connects with students by speaking their language – like using Mario Kart to teach economics.
Rachel, he said, brings to every room she enters “a smile and a story,” and this happiness is an uncommon trait among her peers that makes her special.
“The whole world is open to you… you can do everything,” he said.