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Cherokee's Top Graduating Seniors Honored for Academic Success

The top two students in the senior classes at each of the county's six high schools were recognized at the school district's annual Scholar Recognition Banquet.

The Cherokee County School District and school board members on Tuesday honored the valedictorians and salutatorians of the class of 2013 during its 13th annual Scholar Recognition Banquet.

The banquet, held at the Woodmont Golf & Country Club, 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 Cherokee County School Board, and each student received an Apple iPad, $50 gift card, plaque and handcrafted commemorative mug.

Each teacher received a plaque and $100 gift card.  The gifts were made possible by donations from event sponsors.

This year's valedictorians and salutatorians are:

Etowah High School           

  • Valedictorian Madison Miracle
  • Salutatorian Ahila Manivannan
  • Teacher for Valedictorian: Rebecca Schwartz
  • Teacher for Salutatorian: Dr. Claudia Larrotta

River Ridge High School     

  • Valedictorian Raj Patel
  • Salutatorian Ian Donn
  • Teacher for Valedictorian: Matt Bohon
  • Teacher for Salutatorian: Chris Akins

Woodstock High School     

  • Valedictorian Sara Graf
  • Salutatorian Joshua Chang
  • Teacher for Valedictorian: John Bell
  • Teacher for Salutatorian: Loretta Cameron

Sequoyah High School       

  • Valedictorian Margaret Hartman
  • Salutatorian Anna King
  • Teacher for Valedictorian: Andy Kohler
  • Teacher for Salutatorian: Allison Webb

Cherokee High School        

  • Valedictorian Jebb Ricketts
  • Salutatorian Taylor Wilson
  • Teacher for Valedictorian: Dan Gagnon
  • Teacher for Salutatorian: Jay Huller

Creekview High School      

  • Valedictorian Victoria Cochran
  • Salutatorian Kasey Perrin
  • Teacher for Valedictorian: Henry Oglesby
  • Teacher for Salutatorian: Cleve Ard

Each student spoke about his or her college and career plans and had the opportunity to recognize the teacher who had the greatest impact on their educational experience.  The honored teachers spoke about their students. 

Cherokee Valedictorian Jebb Ricketts will study economics at Emory University, and honored economics and history teacher Dan Gagnon, who he thanked for his lessons and sense of humor. 

“He’s one of those students who made me a better teacher,” Gagnon said.  

Cherokee Salutatorian Taylor Wilson will pursue a degree in chemistry and Russian at Vanderbilt University on her path to a career as a doctor. She recognized Spanish teacher Jay Huller, who gave her the “confidence to carry on a conversation in another language.” 

“She is going to grow up to be a fantastic woman,” Huller said. 

Creekview Valedictorian Victoria Cochran is headed to Harvard University to study chemistry and thanked Henry Oglesby, who in addition to being her math teacher, also served as sponsor for the math team and Beta Club during her participation in both groups. 

Oglesby praised Victoria for her success, not only in academics, but also in athletics and other extra-curricular activities, adding she’s such a good student, (that) “I usually check my answer key against hers.” 

Creekview Salutatorian Kasey Perrin, who plans to study English at Georgia College & State University and work as a writer, honored history and psychology teacher Cleve Ard. 

“He showed me what it means to be a great teacher,” she said. 

“It wasn’t about getting credit,” Ard added of Kasey’s academic diligence. “It was about getting more knowledge.” 

Etowah Valedictorian Madison Miracle will major in pre-med at the University of Georgia with a career planned in neuroscience.

She thanked history and sociology teacher Rebecca Schwartz for not only teaching her “classroom lessons, but also life lessons.” 

“She’s very humble about her accomplishments – maybe too humble,” Schwartz said of Madison, praising her for being genuine, compassionate and a role model. 

Etowah Salutatorian Ahila Manivannan has been accepted into the MedStart Program at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she will major in nutrition or biology to prepare for a career as an ophthalmologist.

Spanish teacher Dr. Claudia Larrotta, she said, taught her the value of learning a new language.

“This is the greatest honor you can have as a teacher,” Dr. Larrotta said of being selected by Ahila. “She has touched my life.” 

River Ridge's first-ever valedictorian, Raj Patel, and salutatorian, Ian Donn, were honored at the event, and both are headed to Georgia Tech. 

Raj, who will major in electrical/computer engineering, recognized math teacher Matt Bohon: “In his classroom, I felt immersed in all the knowledge he has to give." 

When Raj was an underclassmen, Bohon said he sit in on Raj’s math classes “just to watch some good math,” as he already was impressed by the young man who would be his future student. 

Ian, who will major in computer science to prepare for a career in robotics, thanked teacher Chris Akins for teaching him science and making it fun. 

“Every year you’ve been a challenge to me,” Akins told Ian. “You would think of questions I’d never thought of before.”

Sequoyah Valedictorian Margaret Hartman is headed to Harvard College to study biology and play on its basketball team.

She plans to pursue a career as a pediatric or neonatal surgeon and honored math teacher Andy Kohler, who she praised for his devotion to students in class and beyond, adding that he would come to her games to cheer for her. 

“She’s one of those students who doesn’t stop learning,” Mr. Kohler said, noting that Maggie also is one of the students who showed great care for him after his recent loss of his son. “She’s the leader of a group of students who made life easier for me… through their compassion and thoughts and behavior.” 

Sequoyah Salutatorian Anna King, who will attend Brigham Young University to study biology in preparation for a career in the medical field, thanked Spanish teacher Allison Webb.  “She blows my mind with her knowledge,” Anna said. 

“Anna has the ability to make everyone around her happier,” Ms. Webb said. “She brings blessings to everyone who meets her.” 

Woodstock Valedictorian Sara Graf will study biology at Brown University to pursue a career in medicine.  She honored math teacher John Bell, who is retiring this year, noting she had to “elbow her way in to get to see him” before or after classes because he’s so popular among students. 

“I never cease to be amazed,” Bell said of Sara, who not only “knows more than we do,” but also is a talented athlete and involved student. “When Sara walks into my room, I consider it an honor.”

Woodstock High Salutatorian Joshua Chang is headed to Yale University to study mechanical engineering. His career? 

“Hopefully, I’ll be building stuff," he said.

Joshua thanked math teacher Loretta Cameron for sharing her insights about math – and life. 

“I could always see his wheels turning,” Cameron said of the joy of teaching Joshua.

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