Salute to the Class of 2010 May 22, 2010
Yes, we did it
DeKalb schools to graduate 5,997 seniors
Ronald E. McNair, Sr. High school graduates share happy smiles before the start of their May 16 Pre-Commencement Ceremony at Beulah Baptist Church in Decatur.
A Miller Grove graduate receives an hug after their May 16 pre-commencement program at the Lithonia school.
McNair boys gather for a photo before their PreCommencement Exercise.
Tucker High School girls embrace one another before their May 16 Pre-Commencent.
Lithonia High School graduatess stand during their May 16 Pre-Commencement program. The class of 348 seniors is holding its graduation ceremony at Greater Travelers Rest Church on May 22.
May 22, 2010
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The 2010 Graduation Special Section is a publication of CrossRoadsNews Inc., South DeKalb’s award-winning weekly newspaper. Editor / Publisher Jennifer Parker Graphic Design Curtis Parker Reporters Carla Parker Jennifer Ffrench Parker The content, design and concept for CrossRoadsNews is copyrighted and no parts of it should be copied, reproduced or duplicated without the expressed permission of the publisher.
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Countywide, more than 5,992 DeKalb County seniors have been picking up diplomas and certificates of attendance at commencement exercises.
2010 Graduations School Avondale Cedar Grove Chamblee Clarkston Columbia Cross Keys DeKalb Alternative/ Elizabeth Andrews DECA DeKalb School of the Arts Destiny Academy Druid Hills Dunwoody Lakeside Lithonia Margaret Harris Martin L. King, Jr. McNair Miller Grove Redan Southwest DeKalb Stephenson Stone Mountain Towers Tucker
Date Friday, May 21 Saturday, May 22 Friday, May 21 Saturday, May 22 Friday, May 21 Friday, May 21 Thursday, May 20
Time 5 p.m. 10 a.m. 5:30 p.m. 12 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 8 p.m. 2 p.m.
Location Ray of Hope Church Panthersville Stadium North DeKalb Stadium Hallford Stadium Georgia State University Adams Stadium New Beginning Full Gospel Church
Friday, May 21 Friday, May 21 Sunday, May 16 Friday, May 21 Friday, May 21 Saturday, May 22 Saturday, May 22 Friday, May 14 Saturday, May 22 Thursday, May 20 Saturday, May 22 Saturday, May 22 Sunday, May 23 Friday, May 21 Thursday, May 20 Friday, May 21 Saturday, May 22
6 p.m. 7 p.m. 4 p.m. 5 p.m. 5:30 p.m. 10 a.m. 9 a.m. 10 a.m. 2 p.m. 7 p.m. 5 p.m. 10 a.m. 4 p.m. 4:30 p.m. 6 p.m. 8 p.m. 2: p.m.
Porter Sandford Center Avondale Baptist Church Chapel at New Birth Missionary Baptist Civic Center First Baptist Church New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Greater Traveler’s Rest S. Cafeteria Georgia Dome New Birth Missionary Baptist Church New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Georgia Dome New Birth Missionary Baptist Church New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Georgia Dome New Birth Missionary Baptist Church New Birth Missionary Baptist Church
May 22, 2010
“I am very proud of him. He didn’t ask for this. To know that he kept going. I am very proud.”
Columbia magnet student battles illness to graduate with class By Jennifer Ffrench Parker
People who know Cimiyun Benson describe him in superlatives. They use words like “amazing,” “tenacious,” “tough,” and his grand aunt Rose Lummus-Green’s favorite, “miracle child.” The Columbia High magnet senior moves people, and not just because of the obstacles he has overcome. He moves them with his humble and thankful spirit, and his utter determination to graduate with his 2010 classmates. After nine months on his back at Children’s Healthcare at Egleston in 2009 – four of those months in intensive care fighting for his life – Cimiyun was set to walk the aisle with Columbia High’s 287 seniors at their May 21 Graduation Ceremony at Georgia State to collect his diploma. “I came out of the hospital and did what I was supposed to do,” said Cimiyun, who passed the Georgia High School Graduation Test in November, two months after he was out of the hospital. “I deserve to graduate.” He completed his class work as a homebound student and is leaving high school with a 2.5 GPA. “I am a self-motivated person,” he said this week. “If something is trying to keep me from doing something I try to do better.” But by all accounts, 18 year-old Cimiyun, shouldn’t have made it to graduation. In fact, his doctors and parents say, there were times, few expected him to live. His mother Teneshia Benson, said they wanted her to pull the plug on him several times. “I told them no,” she said. “I didn’t receive anything from God saying it was time for my son to go home. I don’t do anything without consulting God first.”
Cimiyun Benson, with his family after his May 13 pre commencement exercise. From left, his sister Tenesia, father Cimiyun and sister Sarina.
With prayers and sheer determination, Cimiyun rebounded. Dr. Paul Parker, the surgeon who operated on him 20 times to repair his perforated intestines, said he would be shocked if someone else, who went through what he did, managed to graduate. “But knowing Cimiyun, I am not surprised,” he said. “He is just amazing.” Parker called Cimiyun tough and said he
inspired his medical team to keep trying in the face of great odds. “Even in his darkest hour, Cimiyun looked at us and said, ‘failure is not an option’,” Parker said. “He inspired us.” When he was scheduled to leave the hospital, Parker said Cimiyun had the biggest going-home party ever thrown at the hospital. “There must have been 50 people there,”
he said. “Everybody came. The doctors came, the nurse, the residents. Everybody was happy for him.” Cimiyun was training for his school’s football team when he took ill in November 2008. The flu-like symptoms that descended on the 10th grader were just the first sign of the trouble to come. He was later diagnosed with the rare autoimmune illness, dermatomycitis, a chronic arthritic disease that afflicts the skin and weakens the muscles. Side effects from the medication he was taking ravished his intestines and cause his lungs and kidneys to fail and thinned his blood so much, his mother said he bled liters of blood. Monica Green Waterman, his graduation coach, said Cimiyun’s determination to graduate with his class was inspiring. “Even against all the obstacles he has faced, he managed to persevere,” she said Thursday. Waterman said his classmates never forgot him while he was away. “They always dropped by the office to ask, ‘how is Cimiyun? When is he coming back?’ He is the school’s baby.” She believes everyone will share in his triumph when he gets his diploma. “I expect him to get a standing ovation,” she said. While his hopes of going to Virginia Tech have been dashed by his illness, Cimiyun, has not given up on being an engineer. He say he is looking at going to a nearby technical school. His mother said that whatever he wants to do, his family will be right there for him. “I am very proud of him,” she said. “He didn’t ask for this. To know that he kept going. I am very proud.”
May 22, 2010
“They are shining examples of what a student-athlete should be.”
DeKalb students make their mark in classroom, on field By Carla Parker
Among DeKalb’s 2010 top students are 23 valedictorians and salutatorians who are both scholars and athletes. The students, who commanded GPAs of 4.0 and above, are also basketball, football and softball players; golfers; swimmers; runners; and tennis players. Most of them are headed to college this fall with academic scholarships or a combination of academic and athletic scholarships and big plans to excel on the field and in the lecture rooms of some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities. The total in scholarships they command was not known at press time, but DeKalb School System officials, who were still tallying the total, expect it to reach into the millions of dollars. In 2009, the DeKalb scholar-athletes got $9.6 million Davynn Brown (left), the 2010 Southwest DeKalb High School (Magnet) in scholarships. Cedar Grove’s valedictorian Jamel valedictorian, poses with members of her team after a game. Dobbs got full scholarships to the U.S. Naval Academy. Davynn Brown, the Southwest DeKalb valedic- should be by representing DeKalb County torian, played softball and is going to Yale University on a Schools Athletics, their schools and comnearly full academic scholarship. munities at a high level of competition Together the group is splitting asunder the old stereo- and by achieving the heights they have in types about jocks and scholars, spending as much time on the classroom,” he said. the ball field as they do on the books. Jamel, a defensive lineman, compiled The 2010 class outdid last year’s class, which had 21 61 tackles, including 16 tackles for a loss scholar-athletes. This year’s group hails from 14 high and four sacks, for the Saints last fall. schools countywide. Seven of them, including five vale“It feels good to receive athletic and Terrance Moore dictorians, participated in two or more sports during the academic scholarships,” he said. academic year. Cross country, track and tennis led the Two of the 23 will be attending Ivy League schools. sports they played, followed by softball, football, golf and Miller Grove salutatorian Terrance Moore, who played basketball. football for the Wolverines, is taking his academic and athRon Sebree, the school system’s athletics director, said letic skills to Harvard. He tallied 10 tackles from his defensive the group stands out. back position. “They are shining examples of what a student-athlete Davynn batted .441 with 14 RBIs and two home runs for
Scholar-athletes 2010 Valedictorians School Student Avondale Kasahu Neselu Cedar Grove Jamel Dobbs Chamblee Magnet Zinan Zhang Cross Keys Carlton Washington Druid Hills Diem-Anh Vo Dunwoody Seth Inman Lakeside Lauren Boden Redan Tolulope Teniola SW DeKalb (Magnet) Davynn Brown SW DeKalb (Resident) Amina Avril Towers Zintiesha McKenzie 2010 Salutatorians School Cedar Grove Chamblee Magnet Clarkston Cross Keys Druid Hills Dunwoody Lakeside Lithonia Miller Grove SW DeKalb (Resident)
Sport(s) cross country/track football swimming football/track tennis cross country/track softball/basketball/golf track softball track cheerleading/tennis
Student Sport(s) Maria Saddler tennis Nazar Bilukha tennis Jintae Alex Seoh cross country Teresa Nguyen tennis Tay Mai baseball Hannah Wichmann cross country Graham Goldberg cross country Allison Boden softball/basketball/golf Stephanie Boden softball/basketball/golf Caroline Bailey volleyball Terrance Moore football Brandon Martin baseball
the Lady Panthers. At Lakeside, triplets Lauren, Stephanie and Allison Boden topped their class academically as valedictorian and co-salutatorians while excelling in softball, basketball and golf. The trio led the Lakeside Lady Viking golf team to the state tournament two consecutive years while winning the DeKalb County Championship at the same time. Avondale’s valedictorian, Kasahu Neselu, is going to Morehouse College with academic and track scholarships. Athletes also swept the top honors at Chamblee Magnet School, Cross Keys, Druid Hills and Dunwoody.
Chris Grier finds a college home is a leader and winColumbia High ner in every aspect School’s Chris Grier, of the word.” will be suiting up to In his senior year, play for Charleston Chris averaged 15 Southern Univerpoints, 5 assists and sity men’s basketball 5 rebounds per game team next fall. but CSU’s coach The 6-foot, Barclay Radebaugh 3-inch guard helped see his full potential his school finish playing under his with a 28-5 record. program. All five losses came “Chris is a highly from USA Today Top recruited wing that 25 teams at various can play multiple potournaments. He is First All- Columbia High School’s Chris Grier is ready to sitions,” Radebaugh said. “Chris is a long Region player and play some college ball. and rangy athlete McDonald’s AllAmerican Nominee, and is also rated a who has wonderful basketball skills.” With Columbia finishing with a #23 in 3-star recruit by Rivals.com. Phil McCray, the school’s men’s bas- the USA Today’s Hoops poll, Radebaugh ketball coach, believe he’s ready for the knows he’s capable of bringing the winning tradition to CSU. next level. “Chris comes from one of the elite high “His passion for the game and work ethic will be an asset to any program in the locker school program in our country and knows room and on the court.” “McCray said. “He how to win,” Radebaugh said.
May 22, 2010
“She said if I didn’t get any scholarships I was going to have to pay for my own education.”
Students garner millions in scholarships to help pay for college By Carla Parker
The scholarship hunt at DeKalb Schools has yielded million of dollars in scholarships for the 2010 graduating class. From information available this week, Redan High School in Stone Mountain was leading the pack with $5.5 million in scholarship offers to its senior class. Redan was followed by Columbia High in Decatur and Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, who have talled $3 million so far. Cedar Grove High in Ellenwood school had offers of just over $2 million, followed by Avondale High with scholarship offers at $1,373,406. Cedar Grove was the only school that had a break down of the scholarship offers to the graduating class available at press time. Through Monday, 17 members of its class had tallied $2,016,432 in athletic and academic scholarships. The awards range from $400 to $950,100 offered to class valedictorian Jamel Dobbs. Cedar Grove Head Counselor Hycine Robinson is impressed by Dobbs’ haul. “I call him the million dollar man,” she said this week. Dobbs, who is going to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD on full academic and athletic scholarships, is estatic. “It made me realize that hard works pays off,” said Dobbs who bettered the $901,300 in scholarships awarded to 2009 valedictorian Dennisa Thomas. Dobbs gets $450,000 from the academy to play football. He was also offered scholarships from Jacksonville State, $52,000; Savannah State, $52,000; Western Carolina,
Jamel Dobbs and his mother Jacquelyn Arnold join Cedar Grove head counselor Hycine Robinson on stage during the school’s Senior Assembly. Jamel was recognized for getting nearly a million dollars in scholarship offers.
$60,000; University of Maryland, $130,000; and Tulane, $200,000. He was also awarded the AKA Scholarship, $500; Delta Scholarship, $400; Sports Champion, $500; and Dooley Award, $5,000. Dobbs said his mother, Jacquelyn Arnold, motivated him to do well in school so he could earn scholarships. “She said if I didn’t get any scholarships I was going to have to pay for my education,” he said, Parris Scott, who was recognized for 12 years of perfect attendance, raked in $34,600
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in scholarship offers. She received $1,100 from the 11 Alive Jr. League, $500 from the Cedar Grove PTSA; Horatio Alger Scholarship, $5,000; Voorhees College Upward Bound Scholar, $4,400; Amvets Fast Web, $8,000; Book Scholarship, $1,000; and the Carol Migner Scholarship, $500. The other 15 students to total of $287,602; Demario Dixon, who received $128,000 in a full ride scholarship to Morehouse College; Willie Favors, a full ride to Wofford College worth $162,230; Erica Flanigan, $4,300 total in scholarships;
Timothy Goolsby, Ray Hill, and Chelsea Johnson who each received $8,000 from Benedict College; Nicole Howard, $8,000 from Tuskegee University; Chelsey Jenkins and Daria Johnson each received $83,000 from Agnes Scott College; Ariel Leonard, $28,000 from Maryville College; Shevika Mitchell, a total of $99,000 in scholarship offers; Maria Saddler, a total of $66,900 in scholarships; Amber Stephens, a total of $41,400 in scholarships; and Brittany Sims, who received $16,000 from the Ronald Simon Scholarship.
May 22, 2010
“It changed my life and I knew I wanted to help people who have the same problem that I had.”
More than 5,992 DeKalb Schools seniors will be receiving their diplomas this weekend at graduati ceremonies in stadiums, churches, hotels and college auditorium. On the next four pages we feature t valedictorians of the 2010 class. These are the top students at each of their schools. They rose to the
Kasahu Neselu worked hard to get to the top of the class at Avondale High. His 4.0 GPA earned him a place among the 2010 valedictorians. “I felt like I deserved it,” said Kasahu, who is headed to Morehouse College in Atlanta this fall on academic and track scholarships. “It feels good to be accepted into a prestigious institute.” Kasahu, who runs track and cross country, said he had been working hard at track since the 9th grade. He said he had a choice between Georgia Tech and Morehouse. “Both schools are great schools, but I like Morehouse better.” Kasahu, an ROTC cadet, the highest ranked, plans to major in civil engineering. – Carla Parker
Triplets dominate top o
Jamel Dobbs paid no attention to the stereotypes of high school athletes. “My goal was to prove that athletes are more than just jocks,” he said. So the football star excelled in both the classroom and the arena. The defensive end and defensive tackle nailed a 4.17 GPA to become valedictorian and received athletic and academic scholarships from the U.S. Naval Academy. He chose the academy because it gave him an offer he could not refuse. “They will pay for medical school and my malpractice insurance,” the future orthopedic surgeon said. Jamel also received a Sport Champions Award and a Dooley Award. – Carla Parker
Lakeside High School valedictorian Lauren Boden is flanked by her sisters and co-salutatorians, Allison program. The triplets are believed to be the first siblings to top a DeKalb County graduating class. The
By Jennifer Ffrench Parker
Jessica Turner has wanted to go to Spelman College since she visited the campus when she was 11 years old. This fall, she will enroll at the Atlanta school. Jessica nabbed the 2010 valedictorian spot at Columbia High School’s Magnet Program with a 4.089. “I like all the tradition at the school and the networking opportunities,” said Jessica, who also fell in love with Spelman’s campus. Jessica, who is a member of Columbia’s track and field team, said she will major in psychology in hopes of becoming a school psychologist. – Carla Parker
Shantae Gorman was treated by a dermatologist for a 6-year acne problem, and since then, she has been a fan of the profession. “It changed my life and I knew I wanted to help people who have the same problem that I had.” Shantae, Columbia’s resident valedictorian with a 4.03 GPA, will attend the University of Georgia to study premed on a HOPE scholarship. The Beta Club and National Honor Society member said she was pleased to accomplish her goal of becoming valedictorian. “It was my short-term goal when I started high school.” – Carla Parker
At Lakeside High School, the Boden triplets – Lauren, Stephanie and Allison – rule. The sisters topped their class as the 2010 valedictorian and co-salutatorians and have been garnering their share of attention for the uniqueness of their accomplishments. Lauren, the oldest by a minute, rose to valedictorian with a 4.28 GPA. Her sisters share the salutatorian honor with 4.23 GPAs. This of course makes their mother, Mary Boden, very proud. “I was thrilled,” she said. “I knew they worked really hard. They were always trying to get all A’s.” Stephanie calls their accomplishments “really exciting.” “It’s just nice that it’s all in the family,” she said. “We are competitive and we try to stay ahead of each, which pushes us to be
successful.” Nobody in the DeKalb School System can remember a time when triplets dominated the top of the class – in the same year – at the same school in the district. Dale Davis, the school system’s spokesman, said it hasn’t happened before in the five years he has been there. “It’s pretty unusual,” he said. “We believe it’s a first but can’t say for sure.” Davis called the sisters’ accomplishments “pretty great.” “It’s something for their family to be proud and for us all to be proud of,” he said. In his 32 years of teaching, Joe Reed, Lakeside High’s principal, said he hasn’t heard of a similar situation. “Four years ago, nobody would have thought it possible,” he said. “After they were here for a couple of years, we said, ‘Hey this could happen.’” Reed called the Boden sisters delight-
May 22, 2010
“I want to help people in some way, whether it’s designing something for the community or something else. I want to solve problems.”
ion the e top
of their classes by earning the highest Grade Point Averages in their school. All of them will speak to their classmates, teachers, parents and relatives and friends during their graduation ceremonies. This fall, they will be headed to Ivy League schools, private universities and state colleges.
of the class at Lakeside
All through high school, Zinan Zhang had one dream – attending Princeton University in New Jersey. This fall, that dream will become a reality for the Chamblee Magnet valedictorian. Zinan, who has a 4.41 GPA, credits his academics and participation in school activities for helping him accomplish his goals. “I do a lot of activities in math and science,” said Zinan, who aspires to be a surgeon. “I placed first at the Georgia State Science Fair.” At Princeton, he plans to follow a premed track and major in molecular biology or economics. Zinan says being valedictorian takes some getting used to. “It feels surreal.” – Carla Parker
Timbreah Mathis has been dreaming of being a doctor for as long as she can remember. This fall she will enroll at Emory University in its medical pre-professional program to study biology. Her ultimate goal is to become a neonatologist. “I love working with children,” said Timbreah, resident co-valedictorian. She shares the top spot with Rebecca Miranda, who also had a 4.0 GPA. Timbreah says she is excited about attending Emory. “It’s a prestigious school and with the hospital on the campus, you have access to a lot of resources.” Timbreah, a member of the National Honor Society, played flute in the marching band. – Carla Parker
Nhan Ai Ta
At Clarkston High, the competition for valedictorian was so stiff, Nhan Ai Ta was surprised when she made it. “A lot of my classmates have a 4.0, so I didn’t know that I had the highest GPA.” Nhan made the cut with a 4.2 GPA, leaving her class with three cosalutatorians. The 17-year-old said she is honored to be at the top of her class. A native of Vietnam, Nhan came to America when she was 4. She will attend Georgia State University on an Honor Scholarship and major in biology. She plans to be a pharmacist. “I think it will be interesting to learn about all the drugs and how they help your body.” – Carla Parker
Shaina Fuller danced her way through the DeKalb School of the Arts, but she will be majoring in civil, mechanical or environmental engineering when she enrolls at Northwestern University this fall. “I want to help people in some way, whether it’s designing something for the community or something else,” she said. “I want to solve problems.” Shaina, who loves math, has a 4.123 GPA and received a full scholarship from the Evanston, Ill.-based private research university. “They’re giving me $52,000 a year. Their engineering program is good, and I am excited about going there.” – Carla Parker
n (at left) and Stephanie, during the procession into their school’s May 16 Pre-Commencement ey plan to attend the same college in Southern California.
ful. “They are involved. They are cooperative. They have a good sense of humor. They work hard,” he said. “We are lucky.” The sisters were actually in the running for co-valedictorians, but Calculus BC, an Advanced Placement course, derailed Stephanie and Allison’s ambitions. Even though the sisters are competitive, their mother said they always study together and help each other with schoolwork. Lauren said she has received straight A’s throughout her entire school career. Her sisters did too, until the calculus debacle. “We are very close and we push each other along,” said Lauren, who admits that her siblings “call me bossy sometimes.” The Bodens are no bookworms. The sisters were standouts in softball, basketball and golf. They were also active in the Honor Society and in the French and Latin clubs. They volunteer at Claremont Presbyterian, where they coach the youth basketball team,
and at Nicholas House and Hands on Atlanta. Stephanie even found time to complete a Girl Scout Gold Award. Allison was the 2007 Golf Freshman County Champion and led her team to become co-champions. In 2009, she won the Region Golf Tournament individually and as part of a team. In March, she tied for first place in the 2010 State Golf Tournament. Stephanie has the eighth-best softball batting average for the state. The sisters are headed to Pomona College in Southern California. Their mom said they fell in the love with the small liberal arts school. “They were looking for a smaller school where they can play softball and golf and have a great academic experience,” she said. Stephanie said they are happy to go off to the same college together. “It will help keep us grounded. And if we need something, we can talk to each other.”
May 22, 2010
“I have been working hard for it, so it feels good.”
The 2010 Valedictorians Lithonia
Martin Luther King Jr.
During these hard economic times, Lithonia valedictorian Joshua Chung wanted to make a smart decision when he was picking a college to attend in the fall. “I picked the University of Georgia because I received HOPE and they are a good school for my major,” he said. Joshua, who plans to major in pre-dentistry in hopes of becoming a dentist, nabbed the 2010 Valedictorian spot at his school with a 4.08 GPA. He has a passion for golf. During his school career, he won numerous academic and other awards including the Korean Leadership Award, Star Student, and the Gold Level award for the Work Ready Assessment Yearbook Staff. – Carla Parker
Attending an Ivy League school with a full ride scholarship was an opportunity that Judy Morales could not pass over. “The prestige of a Ivy League school is big,” she said. Judy, who is Miller Grove High School’s 2010 valedictorian, will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. The 18-year-old, who has 4.03 GPA, says she will major in architecture as an undergrad and then go on to study design in graduate school. Judy, who was also Ms. Miller Grove, said it feels “pretty good” to be valedictorian. “I’ve been working hard for it, so it feels good.” – Carla Parker
At Wynton Jordan’s home, education was job one. Wynton, the Martin Luther King Jr. High 2010 valedictorian, said his father, Anthony, stressed the importance of education. “He said to be successful in life I’ll have to do my best in school, have the best grades,” he said. Wynton did not disappoint. With a 4.05 GPA he will attend Ohio State University on a full scholarship. Wynton, who was a member of King’s varsity basketball team, plans to major in International Business, Finance and Pre-Law. His goal is to become a entertainment manager or attorney. – Carla Parker
When Tolulope Teniola delivers her valedictorian speech to the graduating class at Redan High School on May 22, she will tell her class to always remember the signature moments of Redan High. “Cherish the memories and never forget what Redan taught you,” she said. The future pediatric oncologist rose to the top of her class with a 4.16 GPA. Tolulope was accepted by seven universities but will attend the University of Georgia in the fall to study biology and pre-med. “UGA has everything I’ve been looking for in a school,” she said. “And I like their football team.” – Carla Parker
Ronald McNair Sr.
SW DeKalb (Magnet)
SW DeKalb (Resident)
McNair High School valedictorian Nandi Geiger knows a blessing when she sees one and becoming class valedictorian definitely counts for her. “It’s a blessing,” she said. “It’s an honor to be valedictorian.” The 17-year-old became her school’s top student with a 3.865 GPA. This fall, she will attend Texas Southern University where she plans to major in chemistry with a minor in film. “Helping people is my passion,” she said. Nandi also wants to get a pilot’s license to can fly around the world with ‘Doctors Without Borders’ and film her own documentaries. Nandi, a National Merit Scholar recipient, has received $60,000 in scholarships – Carla Parker
When Davynn Brown got her acceptance letter from Yale University, it fulfilled a lifelong dream. The Southwest DeKalb magnet Valedictorian said the New Haven, Conn., ivy league school “is a really really good school.” “I want to be a judge some day and their law school is the best,” she said When her acceptance letter arrived, she cried – with joy, of course. Ever since, she has bee on “cloud 2010.” Yale gave her $45,000 of the $50,000 she needs to attend the college. lass with a 4.16 GPA. Her mother Alice Swift Brown is happy. “I am very proud of her,” she said. – Jennifer Parker
At Southwest DeKalb High School Amina Avril is known for her athletic prowess. What most people didn’t know, was that she is pretty smart too. She showed them just how much when her 4.15 GPA earned her class Valedictorian for the resident population at the school. “Now my school knows,” she said. She also scored 1930 on the SAT college admission test. Amina, who has the number one Discus throw for the Georgia, is the 2010 Region Champion for Discus and Shot Put. To suceed at both, she had to keep her priorities straight. Amina is headed to Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. with a $48,000 scholarship. – Jennifer Parker
India Kimbro knows that hard work pays off. That’s how she became the 2010 valedictorian at Stephenson High School. She said she worked hard in the class room, kept many late nights and got help from her mother, Jacqueline, with her homework. She and her a 4.12 GPA will be enrolling at the University of Georgia this fall to major in Biology. “I plan on going to graduated school after I receive my bachelors and major in physical therapy,” she said. The Georgia Merit Scholar life’s goal is to pursue a career in sports medicine. India is also co-captain of her school’s Dazzling Diamonds dance team. – Carla Parker
May 22, 2010
“I feel very honored.”
The 2010 Valedictorians Stone Mountain
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Rising to the top of her class made Stone Mountain valedictorian Kim Ba both “proud and happy.” She nabbed the title with a 4.08 GPA and is headed to Mercer University in Macon to study biology. “I want to be a pharmacist,” she said. Kim, who is a Gates Millennium Scholar, said she will tell her fellow classmates to reminisce on all the fun activities they did while in high school when she gives her valedictorian speech. “I will also tell them to thank the teachers and remember what we’ve learned in high school.” – Carla Parker
When she first entered high school, Zintiesha McKenzie has one goal – become class valedictorian. And she did it with a 4.15 GPA. “I’ve been working hard for it since freshman year and it feels great to accomplish that goal,” she said. Zintiesha will attend the University of Georgia in fall and major in animal science. “I always wanted to be a veterinarian,” she said. “I love animals.” Her life’s goal is to open up her own veterinarian practice. Zintiesha, who was named Towers’ Female Athlete of the Year, participated in cheerleading, tennis and swimming. – Carla Parker
Mariam Arshad has held on to a 4.0 GPA since she set foot in Tucker High School. So it was no surprise when she claimed the title of class valedictorian with a 4.28 GPA. This fall, she is headed to Georgia Tech, and says it is a very good feeling to be at the top of her graduating class. “I feel very honored,” she said. Mariam was very active in school with memberships in the Beta Club, the National Honor Society, the Math Club and the Future Engineers at Tucker. – Carla Parker
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May 22, 2010
“He was a great player, a 3.0 GPA kid, who excelled in the classroom, on the football field and in life.”
Student activist motivated to attend school every day By Carla Parker
Parris Scott has never missed a day of school in 12 years. “Rain, sleet, snow, tornado; no matter what, her mother made sure she made it to school,” Hycine Robinson, Cedar Grove’s head counselor, told her surprised classmates during the May 14 Cedar Grove High School Senior Assembly. When Parris ascended the podium for the 12-year perfect attendance record, her class erupted in applause. Parris said she never missed a day of school because she “don’t like to do makeup work.” “If you miss school you still have to do the work later, so I just go to school and do the work there.” She never allowed a mere cold or a runny nose to stop her. She just packed extra tissue. Angie Johnson, her mother, said Parris coped well with minor obstacles. “She got sick one time, but it wasn’t serious,” she said. Last semester, she did have a little scare when she developed a cough and fever during class. “The school thought I had the swine flu, so they put me in an isolated room,” she said with a laugh. Luckily the incident happened on a Friday; she was fine by Monday and back in class.
Cedar Grove graduate Parris Scott picks up her award for 12 years of perfect attendance from head counselor Hycine Robinson during their May 14 Senior Assembly.
Her mother would scheduled Parris’ doctor appointments after school so she would not miss any class assignments. This fall, Parris will attend Georgia Gwinnett College where she plans to major in psychology. “I like helping people,” she said. “I want to give advice and I believe I can give good advice.” Parris already has a reputation for helping people. After finding out that some students couldn’t pay senior fees, she sought out sponsors from the local business com-
munity and raised more than $900 to help them pay their fees and participate in all the graduation activities. For her generosity, she won the 2010 11-Alive Kids Who Care Award from a field of 500. “It was a great experience,” she said. Parris’ little brother, Qortne Teagle, is following in her footsteps. The Cedar Grove Elementary student already has a five-year perfect attendance record. “Hopefully he can make it to 12 years like his sister,” Johnson said.
Towers pays tribute to late senior football player By Carla Parker
On May 13, Jhacobe Campbell should have been receiving honors for his academic achievements in front of his classmates at the Towers High School Seniors Honors Night. But instead, classmates, teachers, coaches and family members were paying tribute to the late high school senior, who drowned May 8 in a Jackson County lake while Jhacobe Campbell on a fishing trip with friends. The sudden death of Jhacobe, an honor student and a Titans cornerback, stunned the Towers family. There were few dry eyes in the audience as classmates, teachers and coaches watched a video tribute to the 19-year-old senior whose bright future was cut short so suddenly two weeks before graduation. Jonathan Sanks, Towers’ former football coach, said Jhacobe had just signed a scholarship to play football at the University of West Alabama. “He was a great player, a 3.0 GPA kid, who excelled in the classroom, on the football field and in life,” he said. “He would compete to the highest level.”
Towers’ former football coach Jonathan Sanks and Corey Harris hold the football jersey of Titans cornerback Jhacobe Campbell, who drowned May 8. His football number has been retired.
Sanks said Jhacobe was a team leader. “Although he was 5 feet 8 and 160 pounds, he was the biggest man on the field because he had a big heart,” he said. “He was the heart and soul of our team. Jhacobe played with passion and he had so much swag.” Jhacobe was a popular guy and loved by all his classmates. Zintiesha McKenzie, class valedictorian, called him a wonderful person. The two were in the same AP British literature class. “He was always playful and joked around,” she said. “If you were sad he would always find a way to make you happy.”
Jhacobe had just proposed to his girlfriend, a fellow senior, on prom night. The couple had a son, 8-month-old Jhacobe Jr., and were planning to move to West Alabama. “He was a great father and he loved his fiancée,” Sanks said. Jhacobe was buried May 14 in his hometown of Folkston, Georgia, where he was a part of Charlton County’s 2006 Class AA championship team. During the tribute, Sanks and the school’s coaching staff retired Jhacobe’s football number. “No other player will wear this No. 24 jersey again,” he said.
May 22, 2010
“Because we know from whence they came, to see them on the high side and going forward, we were elated.”
SWD students are first PTSA scholars Four Southwest DeKalb seniors are headed to college this fall with an extra $500 each. The students – Hillary Jackson, Enoch McKie, Breonna Day and Keon Mitchell – received the first Southwest DeKalb PTSA Scholarships at the group’s May 11 general body meeting at the school. Eighteen students applied for the scholarships and James Waddel, the PTSA’s scholarship committee chairman, said any one of them would have been worthy recipients. “It was a difficult choice,” he said. “The winners were all so well rounded, all were driven, sensational and well deserving of the scholarship.” Students can use their scholarship to help offset expenses while in college. The PTSA plans to make the awards annual. Qualified applicants had to attend Southwest DeKalb for two years and be paid up members of the PTSA. Waddel said the applicants maintain a balance between academics and extra curricula activities. He said many of the students had part time jobs. “How they pull this off within 24 hours and still maintain the grades, I will never understand,” he said. “It is phenomenal.” Hillary will attend Savannah State this fall. Breonna is headed to Agnes Scott College, Keon is going to North Carolina A&T, and Enoch will go to Georgia Tech.
Destiny Academy’s graduates pose for a class picture before their May 16 graduation.
Destiny Academy grads double last years class By Tom Terry III
Destiny Academy of Excellence, DeKalb’s only non-tradtional school for at-risk teens, nearly doubled its graduating class in a year. On May 16, the Ellenwood school handed out diplomas to 27 graduates, up from 15 last year. Byron Johnson, the school’s parent liaison/counselor, said the 14 males and 13 females overcame a lot of adversities to walk across that stage to receive their diplomas and shake hands with school board member Jay Cunningham. More than 500 family members, relatives, friends and supporters packed the chapel at New Birth to witness the momentous occasion. The graduates who ranged in age
from 16 to 21, included a teen father and teen mother with young children, a homeless teen who had been sleeping on friend’s couches, a couple of students who lost the grandfathers who supported them and almost dropped out of school, and a 21-year-old who enrolled when he was 19 and stuck it out to the end. Johnson said that seeing them in cap and gown receiving their hardearned diplomas was heart-warming. He said five or six are on their way to college in the fall. “Because we know from whence they came, to see them on the high side and going forward, we were elated,” he said. “We know they are going to do great things.” The Ellenwood non-traditional
school opened four years ago to serve students who drop out of regular school or are at risk of dropping out. Students are referred by school counselors and the DeKalb County Juvenile Court. At Destiny Academy, they have small classes and customized attention to help them improve their grades and pass the Georgia High School Test. Ben Jakes, the academy’s executive director, said they prepare their seniors for post-secondary education. The school is one of two charter schools in DeKalb, with 387 graduating seniors in 2010. Chamblee Non-traditional High School, with 360 seniors. accounts for the bulk of the graduates. Its graduation ceremony was on May 21 at North DeKalb Stadium.
Chick-fil-A’s Tony Royal doling out $3,000 in Partner scholarships It’s graduation season and that’s Chickfil-A operator Tony Royal’s cue to start dishing out $3,000 in Partners in Service scholarships to six area graduating seniors. The students – Christopher Downing of New Birth Academy; Margaret W. Karanja of Luther Rice Seminary; Alycia Moorman of Beulah Heights University; Alison SandTony Royal erson of Berean Christian Academy; Rhonda Starling of Martin Luther King Jr. High; and Christine St. Jean of Stephenson High – each receive $500 scholarships towards their education. Royal operates two Chick-fil-A stores, on Turner HiIl Road in Lithonia and at the Gallery at South DeKalb in Decatur. He awards the scholarships on behalf of both of his stores. The six high school and college students
won the Chick-fil-A contest at Turner Hill Road and South DeKalb Mall Partners in Service Scholarships for their consistent demonstration of kindness. Royal has awarded 40 Partners in Service Scholarships since 2006. Downing is headed to Albany State University, Starling is going to Clark Atlanta University, and St. Jean will attend Georgia Tech. Royal looks for students who are community-minded for his scholarships. “It is important to serve others well by being kind, considerate and helpful to everyone we meet,” he said. “Chick-fil-A strives to encourage kindness in the communities we serve and believe the Partners in Service Scholarships are a valuable investment toward this goal.” Scholarship recipients are picked by their principals or administrators. They must be accepted by a two- or four-year college, and must write a 250- to 500-word essay on the
importance of serving other students, teachers and staff by being kind, considerate and helpful. Royal also gives each scholar recipient coupons for a Chick-fil-A sandwich for every week of the next school year.
His Partners in Service scholarship program is an extension of Chick-fil-A’s Leadership Scholarship program, which provides $1,000 college scholarships to restaurant employees who exhibit superior character, leadership, work ethic and customer service.
May 22, 2010
Scenes from 2010 Pre-Commencement Exercises
To create a uniform picture, male and female graduates sit on different aisles during Lithonia High School May 16 Pre-Commencement Program in the schoolâ€™s gymnasium at the Lithonia school.
A Lithonia grads gets some help with her cap and gown before start of program.
Redan High Schoolâ€™s graduates share smiles as they await the start of their pre-commencement program.
DeKalb School for the Art graduates line up for their procession.
Some Stephenson High School graduates wait for their program to start.
Lakeside graduates on their way into Oak Grove United Methodist Church for their pre-commencement program.
Pre-Commencement Photos by Jami Ffrench-Parker, Jennifer Ffrench-Parker, Carla Parker and Newburn Reynolds