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Congratulations To The Classes of - 2024


To The Classes of

Many seniors in the area are preparing to turn their tassel and move on to their next phase of life. In anticipation of the upcoming graduation ceremonies, high schools from Montgomery, Toombs, and Wheeler Counties – with the exception of Vidalia High School, which will name its Valedictorian and Salutatorian on Thurs- continued from page

day, May 16 – have designated 2024’s top students.

Montgomery County High School

Montgomery County High School announced the Valedictorian and Salutatorian earlier this year, as Rebecca Hong and Dev Patel earned the honors.

Hong was named the school’s valedictorian after remaining in the top spot of her class every year since she began school. She is the daughter of Sampyo Hong and Deokhyo Kim, and has received numerous awards throughout her high school career, including: Highest GPA of Grade (all four years), “A” Honor Roll (all four years) Distinguished Learner for Georgia Milestones (three years), Top Scoring Team Member of Math Team for RESA contest (junior year), Academic Excellence for Science (sophomore year), Academic Excellence for English (junior year), and the STAR Student Award (senior year). She has been active in the school’s Beta Club, Student Council, the Greater Vidalia Youth Leadership Program, and the Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board.

“I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to receive this honor. I have long dreamed of and strived for this accomplishment since freshman year; as a result, it almost feels surreal,” Hong emphasized. “I would like to thank God first and foremost and then my family, friends, teachers, and lastly classmates for their kind and unwavering support. Without those mentioned, I would never have reached my goals or become the person I am today.”

When asked if she had any advice to underclassmen, she said, “Know that the sky’s the limit, so do not ever settle for anything less. Take advantage of every opportunity and use it to the best. Do not let your background, family, abilities, or even your location dictate what you do and strive for. Dream big, and most of all, trust God because He is the source of wisdom and knowledge.”

Dev Patel is the school’s Salutatorian, with only fractions of a point separating the two top grade point averages. Patel, son of Nima and Kenny Patel, has attended Montgomery County Schools since kindergarten, and has been highly active in school activities, participating on the soccer team for four years, cross country team for two years, and being a member of the school’s Beta Club and Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters for four years. Throughout his time in high school, Patel has earned several honors, including Perfect Attendance and A+ Honor Roll all four years of high school, and succeeding as an Honors and Dual Enrollment student.

He commented on the honor, sharing, “Accomplishing this goal has been an honor and I feel amazed at myself for pushing through and always doing as much as I can to succeed. I would like to thank my parents and teachers for pushing me and helping me to accomplish this goal.” Patel also encouraged underclassmen to always work hard, as they will see progress from this effort.

The Montgomery County High School Class of 2024 will graduate at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 17, at Brogdon Field.

Robert Toombs Christian Academy Robert Toombs Christian Academy announced Cole Masterman-Smith and Caroline Thompson as the 2024 Valedictorian and Salutatorian during High School Honors Night on Tuesday, May 7.

Valedictorian Cole Masterman-Smith has been a student at Robert Toombs Christian Academy for 14 years, and is the son of Caryn and Stephen Masterman- Smith. He has participated in Beta Club, National Honor Society, Leo Club, and more. Masterman-Smith was a member of the State Runner- Up Soccer Team during his sophomore year, was the Region Champion for Spelling in the Literary Competition during his junior and senior years, acted in the Region Champion and Runner-Up One-Act Plays during his sophomore and senior years, and participated as a member of the Region Championship Track Team this year. He served as a Junior Marshal last year, and was recognized for having the highest overall average in his grade during his sophomore and junior years.

“I am very proud to receive such an honor and am glad that I was able to get it. I would like to thank my family and my teachers,” he remarked. He also shared advice to underclassmen, saying, “You should never say that you can’t do something and give up. Instead, you should keep trying until you can do it.”

Salutatorian Caroline Thompson, daughter of Rhett and Susan Thompson, has attended Robert Toombs Christian Academy for the entirety of her academic career. She has participated in Beta Club, National Honor Society, Spirit Cheerleading, Competition Cheerleading, tennis, and track. Thompson also served as the school’s 2023-2024 Student Government Association and Leo Service Club presidents. Throughout her time in high school, Thompson has received many awards, including having the overall highest average during her freshman and senior years, second highest overall average during her sophomore year, Georgia Scholarship of Merit. She also served as a 2023 Junior Marshal.

Thompson reacted to the honor, saying, “I am very blessed and thankful to have been able to continually excel in my academic studies. It is a huge reward for the hard work throughout the years. I would like to thank God for giving me this academic gift; my mother for never giving up or doubting me and always encouraging me no matter the circumstances; my grandmother for always telling me that I could do anything I put my mind to; and all of my teachers who helped me along my journey.”

Her advice to underclassmen was, “Study, even if you really do not want to, and if you don’t, at least fail all the way to make it worth your while. It is not the end of the world if you fail a test or quiz. God’s plan is far better than any one that we can construct.” The seniors at Robert Toombs Christian Academy will officially end their time in high school on Monday, May 20, at 7:30 p.m. at McLendon Field.

Toombs County High School Toombs County High School recently announced Madison Ho and Caley Anna Braddock as the Class of 2024 Valedictorian and Salutatorian.

Madison Ho, daughter of Bieu Tran and Liem Ho, is the valedictorian, and has attended the school for the entirety of her high school career. She has been active in the school’s Beta Club, Memorial Health Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board, Greater Vidalia Youth Leadership, and People’s Bank Student Leadership. Ho has also participated in the school’s Teen Maze demonstration, served as a Georgia ambassador for Teens in the Driver’s Seat, and was the school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter’s vice president.

To say I’m happy is an understatement when words cannot express my bliss after hearing Mrs. Branham declared me Valedictorian for the Class of 2024,” she emphasized. “In addition to the mix of ecstasy and delight, I also felt relief, since it meant I had finished one of my life goals and showed my loved ones the fruit of their sacrifices. Moreover, I felt blessed to have excellent teachers, friends, and supporters who helped me become who I am today, and I continue to strive to be a worthy role model to my peers and siblings.”

Ho continued, “I would like to thank my family, especially my mother, because I couldn’t have gone this far without her love and support. By taking extra shifts and working on holidays, she always put my well-being before her own, and made sure I had what I needed to achieve my dreams.”

When asked if she had any advice to underclassmen, Ho said, “Be serious about what you want academically, but also about what you want socially. Cherish every day, especially your high school years, because you will never get these memories back. Since life is short, never limit or restrict yourself.

Caley Anna Braddock, daughter of Clint and Deidre Braddock, is the school’s salutatorian, and has been attending Toombs County Schools for four years. She has been highly active in school activities throughout high school, including being a Competition, Game Day, and Sideline Cheerleader, and a member of the school’s Beta Club. Braddock has received numerous awards, including Principal’s Honor Roll, academic scholar awards, the highest average in accelerated precalculus, the highest average in accelerated physics, the All-out Cheer Award, and selection as an All-Region Cheerleader.

“I am so grateful to receive this honor and accomplishment. I have worked extremely hard and have been very dedicated to get to this point,” she remarked. “I would like to thank my parents for always believing in me and pushing me to be my best.”

She advised underclassmen, “Always strive to be the best you can be in anything you do. Enjoy high school; it will be over before you know it.”

The Toombs County High School Class of 2024 will turn their tassels at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, at the Pit.

Vidalia Heritage Academy Josey Harrell and John Williams have been named the Valedictorian and Salutatorian for the Vidalia Heritage Academy Class of 2024.

Valedictorian Josey Harrell is the daughter of Stuart and Nancy Harrell. She has attended Vidalia Heritage Academy since she was in the first grade, and has left her mark on the school, participating in the One Act Play, Archery, Harvard Model Congress, and tennis teams her entire high school career, and winning several accolades, including Tennis Region Championship, Tennis State Runner-Up Title, State Champion One Act Play, and National Archery Tournament Competitor. She also won third place in the Literary State Championship for Girls Trio and second place in Duo Interpretation.

“I feel greatly honored to be here. I’ve wanted to be Valedictorian for a long time, so now that I’m here and that high school is ending, it is all a little surreal. Over the years I have always strived for good grades, but I hope, even more than a grade, that I have made a difference for those around me and acted out the love of my Savior,” she emphasized. “There are so many people who have helped me and encouraged me throughout the years. I don’t have room to name them all, but the top two would have to be my mom and dad. They have always been there for me and pushed me to be the best I can be.”

When asked if she had any advice for underclassmen, Harrell said, “Work hard, try your best, and have fun… but most importantly make Jesus Christ the rock you build your life on, and live for Him in all you do.”

John Williams, son of Derek and Heather Williams, took home the second highest honor of the class, and has attended Vidalia Heritage Academy for 10 years. He has participated in several extracurricular activities during his tenure at the school, including the tennis team, Harvard Model Congress, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and National Honor Society.

“Receiving this honor as Salutatorian is deeply fulfilling and humbling,” he remarked. “It’s an acknowledgment of the diligence, commitment, and perseverance I’ve shown throughout my academic career. I feel proud and accomplished knowing that my efforts have paid off. It also serves as a reminder of my increased obligation to set an example for others and to never stop aiming for excellence in every aspect of my life. Overall, receiving the salutatorian title has been an unforgettable experience that inspires me to keep challenging myself and changing the world for the better.”

Williams continued, “I am extremely thankful to everyone who has encouraged and helped me along the way in my academic career. First and foremost, I want to sincerely thank my instructors and mentors for their crucial advice and support, which have helped me shape the course of my education. Their commitment to education has inspired me to set high standards for myself and pursue my objectives firmly. I am also grateful for my family’s everlasting support, love, and sacrifices to make sure I succeed. Throughout my education, their confidence in me has served as a dependable source of support. Additionally, I am thankful to my friends and classmates for their support and collaboration. We have an abundance of experiences and memories together that have enriched my time in high school.”

When asked if he had any advice for underclassmen, Williams commented, “As Salutatorian, I would urge underclassmen to seize every chance they encounter. Engage in demanding classes and explore extracurricular activies that inspire you. Whenever assistance is required, don’t hesitate to seek it out. Remember, achievement isn’t solely measured by grades; it also encompasses individual development and perseverance. Maintain your concentration, nurture your curiosity, and maintain unwavering self-confidence. Your path is uniquely yours. Make it count.”

The Vidalia Heritage Academy Class of 2024 will graduate on Saturday, May 18, at 9 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Vidalia.

Wheeler County High School Haven Griffin and Kayleigh Sanders are the 2024 Wheeler County High School Valedictorian and Salutatorian.

Valedictorian Haven Griffin is the daughter of Chad Griffin and the late Christina Griffin, and the granddaughter of Sharon Griffin. She has spent her entire academic career at Wheeler County Schools, and has participated in the Future Farmers of America, in which she is currently the Vice President and was a member of the 20222023 State Champion Forestry Team. In addition to this, Griffin is also a member of the Beta Club and serves as the club’s President. She has competed in Literary for two years, and participated in the Meadows Hospital Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board and Wheeler County Youth Leadership Class. During her years in high school, Griffin has won multiple writing, English, history, and science awards.

“I honestly just feel nothing but joy, because all of the tears and staying up to study paid off,” she shared about the honor. “I want to thank my Nonnie, Sharon Griffin, because she has been by my side through some of my toughest times, and even though she did not help with my school work, she made sure I was taken care of. She made sure I ate, slept, and had clean clothes, but most of all she loved me even if I was being difficult.”

She advised underclassmen, “Please take care of your mental health. It is so easy for your grades to slip if you are not in a good state of mind.”

Salutatorian Kayleigh Sanders is the daughter of April and Jason Sanders, and has attended Wheeler County Schools for five years. She has been a member of the varsity softball team for three years, and served as the team’s captain for the past two years. Sanders was also given 1st Team All Region honors for softball during her junior and senior years, and was named the offensive MVP last year. In addition to this, she has been a member of the school’s cheerleading squad for two years, and has served on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Future Business Leaders of America leadership teams. Sanders participated in the Future Farmers of America, Beta Club, 1000+ SAT Score Club, and was named the 20232024 Wheeler County High School Homecoming Queen and Miss WCHS by her classmates. She has also received the Hadden Insurance and Coca-Cola Scholarships to help fund her postsecondary education.

“I feel very blessed by the Lord and give him all glory for my life. I couldn’t do it without him by my side,” she said about the honor. “I would like to thank my parents, my best friends, and the amazing teachers and administrators at Wheeler County.”

Her advice to underclassmen was “to set goals and strive for them, to always allow yourself time to work and time to have fun, to keep God first in your life and He will bless you abundantly, and to let God be your strength and your portion.”

The seniors at Wheeler County High School will turn their tassels at the school’s football stadium at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 24.

Vidalia High School will name their 2024 Valedictorian and Salutatorian on Thursday, May 16; those honorees will be recognized in next week’s edition of The Advance.

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