One aspires to be a businesswoman, the other an engineer. There’s a teacher and a social worker in the mix as well, and they’re all high achievers who have won multiple scholarships and academic — and in some cases, athletic — awards.
Meet the Class of 2014’s valedictorians and salutatorians at Bryan County High School and Richmond Hill High School.
Bryan County High School
Valedictorian: Ansley Avera
Salutatorian: Ashlyn Avera
Background: Parents are Matt and Stacy Avera. Matt, a pastor, is working on his doctorate at Southern Methodist University. Siblings include sister Aliana and brother-in-law Greg Harrison. Alaina graduated Summa Cum Laude from Wesleyan College and is now entering her third year of seminary at Candler School of Theology at Emory. The twins also have a brother, Aaron, and a sister-in-law, Brooke. Aaron recently graduated summa cum laude from Reinhardt.
Ansley will attend Rheinhardt, where she’ll be a math education major. She wants to teach math at a high level.
“I never wanted to teach until this past year,” she said, noting she had an experience in an AP calculus class in which she was able to help her fellow students go over material in a study guide.
“I went up to the board and went through the questions with them, explained how I went through the problem and knew what to do. So many people told me they were able to see where I was coming from and that if I could understand math that well and relate it to my peers I should be a teacher — that’s when I knew it was my calling.”
Ashlyn will attend Georgia Southern, where she will major in sociology focusing on social services. She wants to double minor in Spanish and psychology and plans on becoming a social worker concentrating on family and marriage counseling.
“I love to be able to help and serve others,” she said. “I want to be able to use my passion for helping others. I don’t just want a job, I want a career I can enjoy every single day of my life.
“Helping others in whatever way possible is something I want to do and I know I’ll get benefit from it as well.”
What makes BCHS so special:
“The thing that we loved the most about Bryan County High School was their welcoming and kind spirits,” the twins said in an email. “We moved to BCHS half way through high school. From the moment we arrived, the faculty, administration and students were so welcoming.
“They included us in all the school activities and welcomed the two new girls with open arms. They did everything they could to accommodate our academic needs as transfer students, including online and college courses.
“We will always remember the supportive, kind, and including spirits of everyone at BCHS. It meant the world to us and made the transition so much easier.”
Richmond Hill High School
Valedictorian: Vy Nguyen
Background: Parents are Hung and Trang Nguyen, older sister is Ly Nguyen, now attending Rice University in Houston, Texas. Ly was 2013 valedictorian at RHHS.
What’s next: Vy will attend Rice University, where she’ll study some form of business.
“I’m not quite sure what field I’ll focus on yet,” she said. “I still have to plan that out, but there are so many different fields in business alone that I’d like to work on. Hopefully in the next few years I’ll find that out.”
“I like interacting with people and I’ve always found it interesting. It’s also very versatile, you can go in so many different directions.”
On being named valedictorian:
“I feel extremely honored. When they announced my name I was so surprised when they announced my name I was shaking. Even though I’ve worked so hard for so many years for it, I never realized it could be.”
What makes RHHS so special:
“Having lived here all my life, I’ve grown up with these kids. I’ve known them since the first grade. It’s just really special being able to graduate with the same kids I’ve gone to school and are still close with.
“And Richmond Hill is such a really close community. People I didn’t know came up to me to congratulation me. It’s just such a friendly, close-knit place.”
Robert “Robbie” Hester
Background: Parents are Chip and Kelly Hester. Dad is retired military and works on Fort Stewart. He has an older sister, Kathryn, in her second year at UGA, and a younger sister, Aubrey, 3.
Hester, the STAR student at RHHS, was voted Student of Year at RHHS by the faculty.
He will attend Georgia Tech to pursue degree in engineering.
“I’m not sure which discipline I’ll get into yet. I figure once I get up there and learn some more and look around I’ll be able to figure out what I’m interested in,” he said.
On why he chose engineering:
“First and foremost, I’m good at math and science — that’s where I’ve always been successful. Also, from what I’ve seen, engineering is about problem solving and that’s something that interests me. I like seeing a problem and then evaluating it by looking at options and seeking the best solutions”
What makes RHHS so special:
“I’d say the teachers there. They are always looking for the students to be successful and push themselves to the next level. And it’s always a pretty encouraging atmosphere.
“There’s a healthy competition for grades because everybody wants to be better, but we don’t want anyone to poorly to make ourselves look better.”