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Bulloch valedictorians: Heads of the class
Bulloch Countys valedictorians reflect on their high school careers, look to the future
Kimberly Melissa Denton Bulloch Academy - photo by SPECIAL PHOTO

John Marshall
Statesboro High School 

    Even though there was occasional competition, being named valedictorian at Statesboro High School did not come as a surprise to John Marshall.
    “I wasn’t surprised,” said Marshall. “It’s been that way since the 6th grade.”
    School has always been important to Marshall, but he managed to find time to participate in school activities as well. Academically, he was involved with the math team, the science quiz bowl, and the science fair.  In addition to academics, Marshall also ran for the cross-country team, and was a member of the tennis team for three years. Outside of school he enjoys playing the violin.
    Marshall will be attending the University of Georgia in the fall, where he plans to major in Chemistry with a minor in music. He was awarded the Foundation Fellowship scholarship that will provide him with a full-ride to UGA. According to the university’s Web site, the Foundation Fellowship is among the most prestigious scholarships in the United States.
    Following graduation, Marshall plans to attend a music camp at UGA, and also a retreat for Foundation Fellowship recipients.
    Marshall is the son of Tom and Vicky Marshall, and the brother of Thomas Marshall, who is currently a UGA student. Marshall is the first in his family to be valedictorian.   

Ashley Akins
Southeast Bulloch High School

    When Ashley Akins was in elementary school, she first learned what the word valedictorian meant.
    Since that time, she set a goal of finishing first in her class at Southeast Bulloch High School and when she graduates next week, Akins will have succeeded in achieving it.
    “I’m really excited to be valedictorian,” she said. “It means a lot to me.”
    In addition to excelling in her academics, Akins was active in numerous extracurricular activities, including being a member of the Beta Club, Key Club, Relay for Life, volunteer for blood drives and a member of the foreign language club. She is also a part of the school’s debate team that advanced to the national championship competition. Unfortunately for Akins, the competition falls on the same weekend as graduation, so she won’t be able to compete.
    "It's difficult trying to find the time (to do everything)," she said. "There were quite a few days when I'd have to leave (an activity) and go home because I had homework to do. Ultimately, school and homework were the most important things."
    Akins is planning on attending Georgia Southern where she will major in English. Ultimately, she’d like to attend law school and become a lawyer. She’ll be in the University Honors program as well as earning the Sally Hendrix Scholarship from SEB and was named Exchange Club Youth of the Year.
    To be successful in school, Akins had a simple philosophy.
    “You have to be really passionate about learning. Enjoy being at school everyday and enjoy your classmates,” she said. “Learning can be a lot of work, but it can be a lot of fun too.”
    She is the daughter of Eddie and Pattie Akins. She has a brother, Austin, who is finishing his first year at SEB.
Kimberly Melissa Denton
Bulloch Academy

    At the beginning of her senior year, Kimberly Melissa Denton, Bulloch Academy’s valedictorian, had definite plans about the university she would not attend after high school. Emory University, where siblings Daniel and Esta are currently enrolled, was definitely not on her list.
    “I swore at the beginning of the year that I would not go to Emory. But the more I looked at Emory, the more I liked it. Now, I’m counting the days. I’m looking forward to being on campus and making new friends. I am ecstatic.”
    Throughout her years at BA, Denton has been involved in many extracurricular activities. Her favorite activities include volunteer work, sports and clubs.
    “I love volunteering.”
    Along with other Bulloch County high school students, she served on the Understanding Needs in Teens and Youth Advisory Board. She has participated in UNITY since her freshman year in high school. UNITY is a youth development initiative under the Bulloch County Commission on Human Services.
    Denton also loves playing sports. She participated in softball and soccer at BA and received many awards throughout the years, including Scholar Athlete.
    “I will probably get involved with the intramural program in college,” she said.
    During her high school career, she has been very involved in many clubs and organizations, including the Student Council and Beta Club, among many others.
    In addition to her school-related activities, Denton is also a licensed Falconer.
    A lifelong native of Bulloch County, Denton is the 17-year-old daughter of Wendy and Trey Denton of Statesboro.

Stephen Dewayne Mixon
Portal Middle & High School

    Portal Middle & High School Valedictorian Stephen Dewayne Mixon loves his small school. When he started looking for a college, he knew he wanted a college with a small school atmosphere similar to Portal.
    “At a small school, you know all the teachers, and everybody knows you. On the way to class, you talk to everybody. School doesn’t seem like a burden.”
    Mixon chose East Georgia College at the Statesboro Campus because of its small class sizes and small school atmosphere. After completing his core work, he plans to transfer to Georgia Southern University.
    “I know it won’t be like Portal, but I didn’t want to go to such a big school right away. I have talked to other people who have done this, and they were successful. I think the smaller classes at East Georgia will help. This way, I can kind of ease into the bigger school.”
    An avid outdoorsman, Mixon spent more time on hunting and fishing than on school-related extracurricular activities. His school activities were the Future Farmers of America and the Anchor Club.
    “The coaches talked to me about playing baseball and football, but I spent most of my free time hunting and fishing. I didn’t participate in many school activities, but I was on the honor roll all four years.”
    His inspiration through all his years of school was his family.
    “My parents and grandparents always told me to do well in school.”
    Mixon is the 18-year-old son of Darrell and Danielle Mixon. His older brother, Matthew, works for United Parcel Service.   

Anna Mortensen
Charter Conservatory of Liberal Arts & Technology

    Anna Mortensen never set out to become valedictorian of the Charger Conservatory of Liberal Arts and Technology (CCAT), but when she was informed earlier this year she earned the honor, she was pleased.
    "For me it's really special," she said. "There's not that many people in my class, but they're all really bright and smart," she said. "I worked really hard and it's an honor to be valedictorian."
    Mortensen, who plans on attending the University of Georgia in the fall, has already taken some college classes at Georgia Southern, including two she said were among her favorites — trigonometry and social dance.
    She particularly liked her dance class, saying it was something she'd never done before.
    "It was a lot of fun," Mortensen said.
    She's earned the HOPE scholarship and said she's excited about beginning her college career.
    "I think it'll be fun to be on my own and have to figure things out all by myself," she said.
    During her free time, the 18-year-old Mortensen said she likes to ride horses and play piano, which she said takes up a lot of her time.
    And her advice to other students who hope to one day be the top in their class?
    "You just have to work really hard," she said.
    Mortensen is the daughter of Hans and Kathy Mortensen. She has two brothers, Nathan and Ian, and a sister, Emily.

Mary Bray
Trinity Christian School

    Mary Bray never doubted that she would be the valedictorian of her class at Trinity Christian School. Being in the first position since the 7th grade, Bray knew she would receive the honor.
    "It was no surprise to me," Bray said. "I've expected it since the 7th grade."
    Since school is more fun with other activities, Bray played volleyball for two years and was on the math team for six years.
    Bray will be attending Georgia Southern University, where she will major in Spanish.
    "I want to major in Spanish," Bray said. "With that degree I'd like to work as a translator or interpreter for a hospital or wherever it takes me."
    Bray has no special trips planned for the summer, but she traveled to Europe with the juniors and seniors at her school.
    Bray is the daughter of Dr. Cecil and Sally Bray, and being the oldest of two other sisters, she is the first in the family to be honored as valedictorian.

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