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Class of 2022 Valedictorians and Salutatorians

Class of 2022 CCSD Vals and Sals 5 23 22


Valedictorians and Salutatorians Honored, Along with Chosen Teachers


Vals and Sals


Front row from left:  Woodstock HS Valedictorian Steven Li, Creekview HS Salutatorian Justin Bolsen, Sequoyah HS Valedictorian Alaina Cothran, Cherokee HS Salutatorian Karoline Karl, Cherokee HS Valedictorian Kate Letsinger, and Etowah HS Salutatorian Natalie Calbert.  Back row, from left:  Creekview HS Valedictorian Callahan Pace, Woodstock HS Salutatorian Dillon Lewis Watson, River Ridge HS Valedictorian Carson Portis, Sequoyah HS Salutatorian Wesley Lanter, River Ridge HS Salutatorian Lexie Montfort, Etowah HS Valedictorian Lillian Derenthal

The Cherokee County School District and School Board celebrated the Class of 2022 Valedictorians and Salutatorians at its 22nd  Annual Scholar Recognition Banquet.

The special event on Wednesday evening was attended by the Scholars and their parents; the teacher each Scholar chose as the most influential in his or her education; CCSD’s high school Principals; the Superintendent of Schools and members of his senior staff; and the School Board.

“You’ve all gone above and beyond to finish at the top of your class, but to have persevered and achieved so much through a global pandemic is truly remarkable,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said in his remarks.  “Congratulations – we’re so proud of you.”

The students and teachers each shared a brief speech, and Dr. Hightower presented each student with an iPad, $50 gift card and plaque, and each teacher with a plaque and $100 gift card.

The remarks by students shared common threads, as they praised their teachers for taking a personal interest in them, encouraging them and mentoring them. “Yes he taught me calculus, but he also taught me to be a better person,” said Lexie Montfort, River Ridge HS Salutatorian of her honored teacher, Casey Belli.  “His confidence in me gave me confidence in myself.”

The remarks by teachers also often echoed, as teachers recounted the dedication the students showed to their studies, and their willingness to help other classmates learn and to make their school and community a better place. 

The dinner and gifts were made possible by donations from Presenting Sponsors, LGE Community Credit Union and the Cherokee County Educational Foundation (CCEF); and Silver Sponsor, Center Cut Catering.  LGE additionally presented each student with an iPad cover and each teacher with a journaling set. 


teacher group


Front row from left:  Kristin Witty, SHS; John Murnan, EHS; Donell Osborne, EHS; Brian Carnes, SHS; Jeffrey Anderson, CVHS; Back row, from left: Henry Oglesby, Jr., WHS; Josh Sailers, WHS; Eric Jones, CHS; Casey Belli, RRHS; Janet Baggett, CVHS; Jay Huller, CHS.


Valedictorian Kate Letsinger

College and career plans: Auburn University to study computer engineering

Honored teacher: Eric Jones, AP Calculus teacher

In her teacher’s words: “Kate has to be the best student to ever step foot in my classroom.  She can recall knowledge and apply her understanding with finesse,” Mr. Jones said.  “Kate, it has been an honor and a privilege to be part of your journey—you’ve made me a better educator.”


Salutatorian Karoline Karl

College and career plans: Vanderbilt University to major in English, also considering a pre-med path

Honored teacher: Jay Huller, AP Spanish teacher

In her teacher’s words: “Karoline is driven, committed, focused--- you can apply any attribute in that genre to her,” said Mr. Huller.  “And on the other side is a fun, creative person. She can push herself and also step back and enjoy what life has to offer.  Karoline earns that kind of praise every day.”



Valedictorian Callahan Pace

College and career plans: Georgia Tech, to study economics, followed by graduate school or law school (environmental law)

Honored teacher: Jeffrey Anderson, AP Literature

In his teacher’s words: “Cal is exceptional in all the typical ways you would expect a valedictorian to be,” said Mr. Anderson.  “It’s what drives Cal that makes him atypical.  He is one of most intrinsically motivated students I’ve ever taught.”


Salutatorian Justin Bolsen

College and career plans: Brown University to study international and public affairs

Honored teacher: Janet Baggett, Spanish teacher

In his teacher’s words: “Justin will just speak Spanish whenever he sees me.  He speaks with ease and confidence and has been an absolute pleasure to have in class,” said Ms. Baggett.  “What I really love about him is his unassuming nature, his humility. He is a leader without being overbearing; he is thoughtful and he is kind and I will miss our conversations.”



Valedictorian Lillian Derenthal

College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study biochemistry, pursuing a career in either pediatrics or veterinary medicine

Honored teacher: Donell Osborne, AP Seminar

In her teacher’s words:  “Lillian is very inquisitive and goal-driven,” said Ms. Osborne. “It is truly an honor of mine to work with students like Lillian and watch them grow,”


Salutatorian Natalie Calbert

College and career plans: Georgia Tech, to study aerospace engineering

Honored teacher: John Murnan, science

In her teacher’s words:  “Natalie has motivation, talent and leadership,” said Mr. Murnan, noting she shows these attributes in the classroom and in sports.  “She is not afraid to challenge her teammates to better and they respect her for it.”



Valedictorian Carson Portis

College and career plans: University of Georgia to study biochemistry and molecular biology

Honored teacher: Casey Belli, AP Calculus teacher

In his teacher’s words: “Carson thinks in ways that no one else does,” said Mr. Belli.  “He brings a new light to the room. He wants to make things better.”


Salutatorian Lexie Montfort

College and career plans: University of Georgia to study biosciences, pursue a pharmacy track

Honored teacher: Casey Belli, AP Calculus teacher

In her teacher’s words: “Lexie is a student that anyone would be lucky to have. She is kind to all, and gives everyone a voice to be heard,” said Mr. Belli.  “If my daughter grows up to be half the person you are, I will consider us successful parents.”



Valedictorian Alaina Cothran

College and career plans: Anderson University (SC) to major in biology, considering a career in research

Honored teacher: Kristin Witty, AP Calculus

In her teacher’s words: “Alaina stands out for her kindness to peers and her work ethic,” said Ms. Witty.  “She has a bright aura of positivity every day. Her passion for learning and her positive attitude made it a pleasure to be around her.”


Salutatorian Wesley Lanter

College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study biology on a pre-med track and pursue a medical career in either hematology or oncology

Honored teacher: Brian Carnes, AP Chemistry

In his teacher’s words: “I cannot think of a greater honor as a teacher than to have a student to come and say ‘thanks’ for helping them achieve such great accomplishments--  and Wesley’s accomplishments are numerous,” said Mr. Carnes.  “I taught him during the most challenging times of my teaching career, and I admire his perseverance.  Wesley, we had a good run, but this is just the start of your journey.”



Valedictorian Steven Li

College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study computer science, then graduate school with a focus on artificial intelligence

Honored teacher: Henry Oglesby, Jr., AP Calculus

In his teacher’s words: “Steven I am so proud of you and all you have accomplished,” said Mr. Oglesby.  “You accepted the challenge and your efforts have paid off.  You have a kind heart and a good soul.” 


Salutatorian Dillon Lewis Watson

College and career plans: University of Georgia to pursue dual degrees in biology and chemistry, with minors in computer science and physics, with a career interest in neurosurgery

Honored teacher: Josh Sailers, AP history

In his teacher’s words: “Dillon has an unsatiable love of learning, he is just a fun student,” said Mr. Sailors.  “The way he puts others first, shows respect for faculty, it speaks to the core of his character.  Your character is going to take you very far.”

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