From left to right, front row: River Ridge HS Valedictorian Hailey Martin; Creekview HS Salutatorian Emily McGhee and Valedictorian Samantha Motley, River Ridge HS Salutatorian Carson Clements, Woodstock HS Valedictorian Alex Hegman; Cherokee HS Valedictorian Morgan Feltham and Salutatorian Adam Nichols; and back row: Sequoyah HS Salutatorian Brae Davies, Etowah HS Salutatorian Tori Ridgeway and Valedictorian Riley McCready; Sequoyah HS Valedictorian Natasha Ambriz and Woodstock HS Salutatorian Johnny Vaughan.
The Cherokee County School District and School Board celebrated the Class of 2019 Valedictorians and Salutatorians at its 19th Annual Scholar Recognition Banquet.
The evening at the Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo Educational Services Facility auditorium on Wednesday 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 made many sacrifices to reach this level of success, and we’re so proud of you,” Dr. Hightower told the top graduates. “As you’ll hear tonight, while your teachers have challenged you and inspired you, you did the same for them.”
The students and teachers each made a short speech, often punctuated by tears, laughs and hugs. The Superintendent and School Board then presented each student with an iPad, $50 gift card and plaque, and each teacher with a plaque and $100 gift card.
The dinner was made possible by a donation from Presenting Sponsor, LGE Community Credit Union, which additionally presented each student with an iPad cover and each teacher with a Yeti tumbler. Chris Leggett, CEO/President of LGE Community Credit Union, shared sponsor remarks during the program.
“You are ready to make your mark in the world,” Mr. Leggett told the top graduates. “You are ready to make history.”
The gifts presented to students and teachers were made possible by donations from: Platinum Sponsors, Polk County Public Service and Poole’s Insulation Company; Gold Sponsors, NOVA Engineering & Environmental and Traditions Turf Management, Inc.; Silver Sponsors, Gumdrop Books and True Natural Gas.
CHEROKEE HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Morgan Feltham
College and career plans: Berry College to study animal science and pursue a career as a large animal veterinarian.
Honored teacher: Heather Smith of Cherokee HS. “No matter what, she’s always been there for me… reminding me and everyone else to do our best.”
In her teacher’s words: “Morgan is never content to do what she’s done before. She wants to do better.”
Salutatorian Adam Nichols
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study mechanical engineering.
Honored teacher: Eric Jones of Cherokee HS. “He is very special. He made such a rigorous and difficult class (AP Calculus) so doable. He is truly an asset to Cherokee High School.”
In his teacher’s words: “It’s been a humbling experience having Adam in my class. He is an amalgamation of all the qualities you want to have in a great student. I’m incredibly proud of him.”
CREEKVIEW HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Samantha Motley
College and career plans: University of Georgia to study political science and then pursue a law degree and career as a civil rights attorney.
Honored teacher: Drew Lawson of Creekview HS. “He is perhaps the best teacher I’ve ever had in my education. I cannot be more grateful for all he has done for me.”
In her teacher’s words: “Sam doesn’t really care about praise or accolades. She does care about making this world a better place… and I know she will do even more on a greater level to make the world a better and more caring place.”
Salutatorian Emily McGhee
College and career plans: University of Georgia to study chemistry and then pursue a medical degree.
Honored teacher: Jason Hardin of Creekview HS. “Even though AP Chemistry was the hardest class I’d ever had in my life, he made it fun. Thank you for being thoughtful, kind and funny.”
In her teacher’s words: “She’s the brightest student I’ve ever had. What makes it even more impressive is the patience she has and the grace she carries herself with. She’s remarkable.”
ETOWAH HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Riley McCready
College and career plans: Baylor University to study biology and then pursue a medical degree for a career in orthopedics
Honored teacher: Tina Parmar of Etowah HS. “She truly cares about each and every one of her students.”
In her teacher’s words: “I’m going to remember Riley forever. She probably taught me more than I taught her… it’s an honor to have taught her.”
Salutatorian Tori Ridgeway
College and career plans: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Honored teacher: Amanda Massey of Etowah HS, who served as her coach, Student Government advisor “and my backbone this year.” “I can always go to see her for advice or for someone to listen to me.”
In her teacher’s words: “Tori is amazing. Thank you for being such a concrete reminder of why I do what I do.”
RIVER RIDGE HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Hailey Martin
College and career plans: Georgia Tech as a Stamps Scholar to study public policy and then pursue a law degree and a career as a prosecutor or role with a government agency.
Honored teacher: Ansley Sand of River Ridge HS. “She encouraged me and always has been a steady counselor for me.”
In her teacher’s words: “Hailey has changed my life and how I teach for the better. She’s one of the most hard-working and diligent students I’ve known.”
Salutatorian Carson Clements
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study earth and atmospheric sciences to pursue a career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Honored teacher: Tracey Beyer of River Ridge HS. “She shaped me beyond any teacher in my education. I’m incredibly honored to have her here tonight.”
In his teacher’s words: “He’s quietly the courage in the classroom. He gives others support and shows them what they can be and what they can try. It’s been a privilege to teach him.”
SEQUOYAH HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Natasha Ambriz
College and career plans: Yale University as a Gates Scholar to study political science and environmental studies and then pursue a law degree and a career in law and political office.
Honored teacher: Dr. Wendy Roberts of Sequoyah HS. “She believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
In her teacher’s words: “Natasha is a natural born leader. A woman of substance can make a life anywhere – and she is a woman of substance.”
Salutatorian Brae Davies
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study neuroscience and then pursue a medical degree.
Honored teacher: Andy Oberlies of Sequoyah HS. “He always made me dive deeper and ask ‘why?’ – and ‘why?’ is such an important question. He’s taught me to seek the ‘why?’”
In her teacher’s words: “We definitely push each other. I was blessed to teach her for three years and get to see her grow.”
WOODSTOCK HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Alex Hegman
College and career plans: Mississippi State University to study animal science and pursue a career as a veterinarian
Honored teacher: Samantha Barber of Carmel ES. “She taught me learning could be fun. She’s always been there for me – she’s my safety net.”
In her teacher’s words: “Alex learns from her mistakes… serves with her heart… and always stays true to who she is. She strives to be the best Alex she can be.”
Salutatorian Johnny Vaughan
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study chemical and biomolecular engineering to pursue a career in pharmaceutical research.
Honored teacher: Brandi Miller of Woodstock MS. “She is like my second mom. She always helps me through the hard times in life. She has always been there for me.”
In his teacher’s words: “Johnny always stood out. He was the one – he was always on point. He has helped me more than he probably knows.”