Editor's Note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which will appear in Wednesday's print edition: Sherwin Davoud, the valedictorian at Statesboro High School, chose retired Langston Chapel Middle School teacher Kathy Tucker as his STAR teacher. The name of his STAR teacher was incorrect in an article Sunday in the Lifestyles section. The Herald regrets the error.
Bible Baptist Christian
Derek James English
Bible Baptist Christian Academy’s valedictorian Derek English is also the school’s only senior this year, but that doesn’t lessen his excitement.
English, who will be 19 in August, is thrilled to be graduating soon and anxious to serve his country. The Register resident, son of Bobby and Sonya English, plans to follow family tradition by enlisting in the military as a Marine. His father is an Army veteran who fought in the Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm, and his brother is a military police officer with the National Guard.
“I want to keep it in the family,” he said, adding he plans to maintain a military career.
Being the school’s only graduating senior this year “feels great, but it’s a little lonely,” he said.
English said his favorite subjects are history and English, and he participated in basketball and track during his years at Bible Baptist Christian Academy.
He enjoys the outdoors, spending time with his friends, playing baseball, basketball, football, and track running and hurdling events.
Family ties are important to Bulloch Academy valedictorian Ally Cheshire.
The 17-year-old daughter of Robert and Lee Cheshire has attended the Westside Road school since pre-kindergarten. Her father graduated from the school in 1980 and her brother Drew in 2008.
“I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” she said. “It’s like a big family.”
Cheshire spent the last portion of her fourth-grade year and all of fifth grade in Greenville, S.C., before her family returned to Statesboro the next year.
“It made me appreciate Bulloch Academy and realize it was my home,” she said.
The scholar-athlete has won the school’s highest academic award twice in her high school career while maintaining her spots on the tennis and softball teams.
“My parents taught me to always do my best,” she said. “I have never been the kind of person not to be prepared for a test, a quiz, a match or a game.”
Cheshire has thrived in the small-school environment and has participated in many activities, from writing for the school newspaper to fielding ground balls on the softball field to answering ciphering questions for the math team.
“I think, sometimes, people get the wrong idea about Bulloch Academy,” she said. “But when they come out here, they find out that it is nice to have a one-on-one relationship with your teachers and know everyone’s name.”
Still, she is excited about the opportunities that await her at the University of Georgia.
“I am really going to miss it here,” she said. “But I am looking forward to making new friends and living life on my own.”
Cheshire, a recipient of a Zell Miller Scholarship, plans to major in athletic training at UGA.
“I love sports, and the medical field has always fascinated me,” she said. “I would like to be able to work with athletes at the college level.”
When freshmen begin classes at Georgia Southern University in August, Kyle DiCesare will be ahead of many of his peers.
DiCesare, 17, is the valedictorian at Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology, but he spent all of his class time at GSU during his senior year.
“This is the second time he has been here the whole school year,” his mother, Teresa, said.
He has taken several core courses such as English and math classes. He has also taken chemistry and calculus classes in order to move forward with his information technology degree.
“I’m planning to continue at Georgia Southern as an IT major,” DiCesare said.
By taking these dual-enrollment courses, which CCAT calls “Excel classes,” DiCesare will be one step closer to pursuing his goals at GSU. Officially, despite his lack of presence at CCAT this past year, he has been both a high school senior and a college freshman.
Since he and his family moved from Tulsa, Okla., in 2009, he has been interested in math and computers. The smaller atmosphere of CCAT was a choice that he and his parents made based on advancement opportunities that, at the time, other local high schools did not offer, his mother said.
“Are there any experiences that you wouldn’t get here versus at Statesboro High? I don’t think so,” she said.
In his earlier years at CCAT, DiCesare was known to be “quiet and attentive,” according to his former teacher Shelia Nielsen. His teachers at CCAT could see his talents and interests in computers since his first year at the school.
“One of the things I appreciated about Kyle was that he was very technologically minded, that if I ever had any technology problems, he was the one to go to,” Nielsen said.
In addition to participating in summer classes, DiCesare also has a job at GSU's on-campus computer store, something that would appear to be a perfect match for his aspirations. Shortly after his summer college classes start, DiCesare will graduate from CCAT on May 31.
Ryan Rogers is about to take a big step. While transitioning from high school to college is a huge shift for anyone, Rogers will leave the friendly confines of tiny Portal Middle High School to attend the state’s flagship university, the University of Georgia.
“We’re all going to college,” Ryan Rogers, valedictorian and STAR student, said of his close-knit group of friends in a graduating class of 54. “I’m going from what’s probably the smallest public high school in the state to one of its largest universities.”
Rogers is currently undecided on a major.
“Mathematics is my favorite subject, and Mr. (Dennis) Moore is my favorite teacher, but I just haven’t decided on a major,” he said.
Rogers selected Moore as his STAR teacher after he was named Portal Middle High’s STAR student earlier this year. Rogers only took the SAT one time, as a junior, to achieve this equally impressive honor.
“Ryan is a great math student,” Moore said. “When he raised his eyebrows in my first-period class, I knew I better check what I’d written on the board. It’s been an honor to have a student like him.”
Some of Rogers’ friends will remain closer to home after graduation, attending Georgia Southern University or East Georgia College. But while Rogers will take the big leap to UGA, he won’t do it alone. His best friend since second grade, Lane Anderson, will be his roommate in Athens.
Rogers sees this as a great opportunity to experience a larger environment after attending kindergarten through 12th grade at Portal Elementary and Middle High.
“The Portal schools are a close-knit family,” he said. “The staff cares about you, and it’s really a one-on-one learning environment.”
Being selected valedictorian is the culmination of Rogers’ hard work and dedication. His parents, Hope Rogers of Portal and Jeff Rogers of Collins, and his grandparents pushed him to succeed, and he said they are proud of his accomplishments.
Rogers has always been a straight-A student.
“It didn’t just start in high school,” he said. “I’ve always tried to have good study habits and set goals for myself. Being valedictorian is a tremendous achievement.”
Southeast Bulloch High
Emiry Marie Blitch
Southeast Bulloch High School’s Emiry Blitch is a quiet young lady who is more comfortable singing than speaking, but what she shares with her exquisite soprano voice is worth a listen.
She’s one of the state’s most accomplished female vocalists as a member of the Georgia Music Educators Association’s All State Chorus and All State Reading Chorus and of this year’s Region I-AAA Literary champion girls trio and second-place girls soloist.
Music is her passion, and she enjoys many different genres of music. She credits her high school choral teacher, Brent Whitaker, with helping her train vocally and inspiring her to pursue music education as a career. She has received a scholarship from Georgia Southern University’s music department, where she’ll be a student this fall majoring in music education with a choral track.
Whitaker invests a great deal of time helping students like Blitch become musically literate, from basic music theory to advanced sight reading and choral opportunities. Blitch is a member of SEB High’s Advance Chorus, which was invited to sing at the Governor’s Mansion last Christmas.
“Music is fun,” Blitch said. “As a music educator, I want to teach students that whatever you do, do it well, and I hope for some, that will be music.”
Blitch was not surprised to be selected as her school’s valedictorian. In elementary and middle school, she was selected for the school system’s gifted education classes, and while in eighth grade at Southeast Bulloch Middle, she received the coveted Golden Lamp of Knowledge Award for having the school’s highest scholastic average.
“I feel like being valedictorian is what my parents always expected of me,” she said. “My mom has a big box of all my medals. She has kept everything, and she has labeled each one and knows what they’re for.”
The honor didn’t come easy, though. She knew she had peers who were working just as hard as she was.
“I’ve had to work hard to make sure my grades remained high,” she said. “Music and math were my favorite subjects, but English was a struggle for me.”
At Georgia Southern, Blitch hopes to learn yet another musical talent.
“As a vocalist, I understand instruments like the piano, but I’ve never learned to play an instrument,” she said.
She also wants to explore what opportunities the campus offers.
“I’m very excited, and I hope college will bring me more out of my shell,” she said.
Sherwin Cyrus Davoud
If there was one word to describe Sherwin Davoud, it would be sustainability, because of his interest in ecology and renewable energy. He has amassed an incredible amount of research and published work in the area at such a young age.
As a result, the Statesboro High School valedictorian has earned the respect of Georgia Southern University’s assistant professor of mechanical engineering and Allen E. Paulson Chair of Renewable Energy, Dr. Valentin Soloiu.
Statesboro High science teacher Richard McCombs arranged for Davoud to attend one of Soloiu’s classes for research. The professor was unsure about having the young student in his class but quickly realized Davoud could hold his own with graduate-level students.
Once he saw his capabilities, Soloiu invited Davoud to author and present technical conference papers to industry professionals at the SAE International World Congress and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Internal Combustion Engine Fall Technical Conference. These would be major honors for an adult, but it is even rarer for a high school senior to have the ability and confidence to speak as a peer to members of these national and global associations of engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries.
He also recently won first place in GSU’s Undergraduate Research Symposium for his project, “Optimization of Cottonseed Oil Trans esterification and Analysis Abstract.”
Davoud has been a dual-enrolled student at GSU for two years and became a member of the university’s engineering team. The team recently tied with Johns Hopkins University in the ninth annual EPA National People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition (P3) for Sustainability. The team advanced to the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C., and won the American Institute of Chemical Engineers/Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology Award.
The name of their project speaks to the high level of their expertise: “Low Temperature Combustion with Reduced PM and NOx Emissions, Achieved by n-Butanol in-Port Injected in an Omnivorous Diesel Engine.”
What he’s achieved as a college student goes well beyond his middle and high school accomplishments, but they point to what his teachers have always known.
“He is so gifted and talented. I started a robotics team because of him,” said retired Langston Chapel Middle School teacher Kathy Tucker, whom Devoud chose as his STAR teacher. “When he first came to me in sixth grade, he’d skipped a grade, so he was just a baby.”
As a sophomore, he was selected for the Governor’s Honors Program in mathematics. The program is usually reserved for juniors, so he was youngest student in attendance.
As a junior, he qualified for the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair for his project, “Feasibility of Peanut Biodisel in Georgia.” Before that, at the regional level, he received the Excellence in Engineering Award, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Award and the Ricoh Sustainable Development Award.
As a senior, he was selected as a presenter for both the Georgia and National Junior Science & Humanities Symposium for his project, “Optimization of Cottonseed Oil Transesterification and Performance Analysis.”
With such high-level research under his belt, one would think he would pursue renewable energy as a career, but it is just one of his many interests. Davoud plans to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology and major in biomedical engineering instead, then enter medical school and become a doctor.
Charity Ruth Bray
Over the course of four years, Trinity Christian School senior Charity Ruth Bray blazed a trail wrought with academic success.
In doing so, she earned the school’s highest scholastic honor — the title of valedictorian — and is happily following in the footsteps of the people closest to her.
“I guess it sort of runs in the family,” Bray said of the title. “Both of my parents were valedictorian, and my sister was a valedictorian.”
Bray, the daughter of dentists Chip and Sally Young Bray, didn’t set out with a goal of making the title a family affair, she said. But her kin certainly played a part.
“(Becoming valedictorian) was always in the back of my head, but until recently I was never actually pursuing it,” she said. “I have two older sisters, who always knew everything, and I wanted to know what they knew. I have always tried to be like them, so that made me read and learn more. My family has been very encouraging and has been very influential.”
As a high school student, Bray maintained a love for learning that allowed her to become the school’s 2013 STAR Student and earn the Woodman of the World’s American History Award.
She also represented Trinity on the hardwood as a member of the school’s basketball team.
With high school complete, Bray said she is looking forward to the next chapter of her life.
“I am very excited,” she said. “I would love to, one day, be a doctor. But what I am planning to do is attend Georgia Southern University, major in biology and become an orthopedic physician’s assistant.”
“Two years ago, I had hip surgery,” she said. “My surgeon’s physician’s assistant is one of the nicest people that I have ever come across in the medical field, and I realized that I wanted to be like her.”
Bray graduated alongside her classmates during a ceremony at Trinity Christian School Friday. She will enroll for classes at GSU in the fall.