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Bulloch County Valedictorians 2022
Evy Shen

Bulloch Academy: LAUREN MCKINNEY

Lauren McKinney has been a student at Bulloch Academy since she was in kindergarten, and she says her senior year has been the best one so far, full of fun and memories.

McKinney has spent the year focused on her academics, but she’s also had fun with her friends, cheering with them at football and basketball games and hanging out in the halls at school. 

McKinney calls herself a classic Type A personality — she never waits to start an assignment. 

“I do not like to procrastinate. Starting in kindergarten, I have always done my homework right when I got home, so I was done early. I want to know that if I have something to do that it is done promptly and correctly,” she said. “I have continued this habit all the way through school, and it has served me well.”

Lauren McKinney

She says the highlight of her academic career thus far has been being chosen as valedictorian, and as a UGA Merit Scholar. She has also been named an honor graduate, and is part of the National Honor Society. She’s made the Headmaster’s List annually, and was a yearly Scholar Athlete.  She won the Scholar AP Award, was a Georgia Youth Ambassador, and is the recipient of the Zell Miller and UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Science scholarships. She also received a Wesleyan College full scholarship, and won her school’s high school reading award.

McKinney is planning to attend the University of Georgia this fall, and will major in biological sciences on the pre-med track. She picked the school because of its excellent academic programs, and several members of her family have also been Dawgs.

As for going away to college, she says she’s looking forward to meeting new people and rushing a sorority. 

And oh yeah — there’s also that going to medical school thing. She’s looking forward to that as well. 

“I have always wanted to go to medical school because math and science are my favorite subjects, and I have a lot of doctors in my family. I know the impact they can make. My grandfather is an organ donor recipient and without the skill of the doctors that treated him he would not be alive today,” she said. 

McKinney says her parents are her heroes, because “they have always been supportive of me and make sure I have always had everything I need.”

“I also greatly admire Dr. Ruthie Crider, because she is a lady physician who is actively involved in our community and school, an emergency room doctor, and an involved mom of two. She has helped our family many times,” she said. 

When she’s not studying or mapping out her medical career, McKinney says she enjoys being at the beach or by the pool. She also has enjoyed volunteering with the elementary cheer teams at Bulloch Academy,  as well as volunteering with the Vacation Bible School at First United Methodist Church. 

Statesboro: EVY SHEN

 Evy Shen confessed that while she has had the highest grade point average of her class for many years, being valedictorian was never her goal, and that as graduation approached, she was actually surprised to receive her school’s top academic honor.  

She and Minju Kim, Statesboro High’s salutatorian, are friends and actually collaborated on their obligatory graduation speeches.

“We spent three hours brain storming and reflecting,” Shen said. “I remember having good times in school. Learning was always fun and there were teachers that made it fun, particularly Ms. Cody and Ms. Grace at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School and Ms. Starling at William James Middle School.”

While Shen is humble about her accomplishments, which include being named her school’s and Bulloch County’s STAR student, it has been clear to her teachers and others that she would be successful. Over the past 10 years, one could frequently find her name among the winners of a myriad of academic competitions throughout her elementary, middle and high school years.

“My goal was always just to pursue academic excellence, friendships, and to have a good high school experience,” she said.

Evy Shen

The daughter of Min Zhu and Junan Shen, Ph.D, a Georgia Southern University civil engineering professor. Her parents immigrated to America from China 16 years ago. They have made Statesboro their home since Shen was in elementary school. She has an older sister, Julie who lives and works in California, and a younger sister, Erin, who is now a rising sophomore at Statesboro High School.

Shen has been dual-enrolled at Georgia Southern since she was in 10th grade, but she has been accepted at prestigious Stanford University where she’ll continue her studies this fall.  She will be entering the university’s Science, Technology and Society program which consists of a wide range of academic majors centered on society including public policy, medicine, communication, technology and more.

While STEM subjects have been her passion, in 10th grade, Jen Calhoun, her advanced placement language, composition and American literature teacher, whom she later named as her STAR teacher, encouraged her to develop her writing skills, and it proved to be a previously untapped talent.

“Ms. Calhoun has been a really transformative figure in my life,” Shen said during this year’s STAR student and STAR teacher competition.  “I feel like in 10th grade I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was just drifting, kind of, and then she was just always so passionate about the things she was teaching, and it just really compelled me to the things she was talking about.”

While in Calhoun’s AP class, the global COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close that spring. Calhoun provided her students optional online class session during the shutdown, and Shen took advantage of those and her time to cultivate her writing. 

The result was the creation of a new online literary magazine for her high school and her work has been published in 11 national publications, including the Penn Review, the premier literary magazine at the University of Pennsylvania. She was nominated twice for the Governor’s Honors Program in Communication Arts, and she was named a state finalist for the program in 2021. Her work was honored nationally this year by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and she recently won first place for 12th grade writers in the Young Georgia Authors competition at both the Bulloch County and First District RESA levels with her poem, “Undocumented.”

“I’ve come to understand the important roll writing plays in all careers,” Shen said. “And to be a good writer, read more.”

Her mastery of language doesn’t end there. She now speaks three languages: English, Chinese and Japanese. She took JAPN 1002 at Georgia Southern, and participated in the 2020 annual Japanese speech contest, which is organized by the Georgia Association of Teachers of Japanese, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, the Japan-America Society of Georgia, and the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta. She came away with first place in the competition’s high school student category. 

She says her writing is mostly based off of experiences, so the next few months should prove to be a great source of future content as she prepares to move across the country for college.

“I’m looking forward to the many research opportunities and more than 200 clubs that Stanford has,” she says. “Also, moving from a rural to a more urban area that is a hub for technology innovation, there are a lot of tech startups to explore.”

She plans to spend the summer taking walks with her family and playing tennis with friends. Tennis is yet another one of her skills as she and her teammates were region champions the past two years.

“Now that senior year has wound down, it is a welcome change from the intense things,” she said.  “Doing these things is a way to reset myself before leaving for college.”

Trinity Christian: TOMMY DOAN

Ready for a summer of relaxing and enjoying himself before buckling down as a university freshman in the fall, Trinity Christian School valedictorian Tommy Doan just completed a challenging year filled with advanced placement courses. He is ready for the next step, he said. 

Doan plans to follow in his older sister Jenny’s footsteps in becoming a nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner.  With a penchant for math and a strong background in advanced placement challenges, he feels, “God gave me intelligence so I can help other people.” Having compassion for others and seeing how his sister enjoys working in the medical field, he feels it is a good choice for himself. 

Climbing to the top of his class hasn’t been easy, but perseverance and a great support system helped, he said. 

“I thank my parents and sisters for supporting me, and my teachers for helping me understand the subjects,” he said. 

Those subjects include AP calculus, chemistry, physics,  and English and literature. He also excelled in honors chemistry.

Mathematics is his favorite subject.  

“It is easier to understand," he said. “There are rules to go by and you don’t have to be subjective.” 

Tommy Doan

Doan competed on his school’s math team for two years. 

“Tommy is an exceptionally hard-working, generous student with a great sense of humor,” said Donna McKenna, Doan’s math and science teacher. 

The 18-year-old has been a Trinity Christian School student since kindergarten. He plans to remain close to his Statesboro home by attending Georgia Southern University, and majoring in nursing.  

In addition to his older sister, Jenny, he also has a half-sister, Jessica. His parents Tam and Lan Doan are both local business owners. Tam owns the small shopping center that includes Nikkos restaurant, which he previously owned. Lan owns and operates Orchid restaurant, where Tommy often enjoys helping his mother prepare foods, he said. 

“I usually am there on Sundays, helping chop vegetables, (and I) make the soup and shrimp sauce,” he said.  He does a little cooking too, on occasion, but his specialty is sushi. “You could say I am the sushi person” at Orchid, he added. 

When not studying or working with his family, Doan likes to keep himself fit. 

“I like to exercise and stay healthy,” he said.  

Jogging around his home or at Mill Creek Park is one of his favorite activities. 

“I also like to use the exercise machines at the park. They give you a little extra,” he said, adding that he lifts weights at home, but plans to join a gym this summer. 

Doan likes to express his creative side by building and painting model cars and people. The different model kits and bright color schemes reflect his interest in life-size motor vehicles. 

“I like driving,” he said. 

As for the model people, he and his stepfather have built armies of miniatures, designing them with different clothing, weaponry and accessories, then creating scenarios and environments. 

“We created a mountaintop and icebergs,” he said. He also enjoys using his creativity to bring the characters to life. “You get to choose which heads they have, what clothes, guns.” There are model kits available that allow one to create just about any type of person, he added. 

In other free moments Doan enjoys reading, especially science fiction novels. 

About to move from one phase of life to a new one, Doan has some sage advice for younger students approaching their senior year: “Don’t procrastinate on your homework,” he said with a laugh. “And give the glory to God.” 

Doan said he looks forward to enjoying the summer in preparation for college, and hopes to get fully involved with the university experience and join a fraternity. 


Katlyn Brantley, Southeast Bulloch High School’s valedictorian and STAR student, has maintained her class’ highest grade point average since elementary school. She’s been accepted to several universities of her choice, including the University of Georgia, the Honors College at Georgia Southern University, and the University of Alabama, which offered her its Presidential Scholarship, but with a desire to pursue a career in health care, particularly dentistry, she selected Augusta University. 

“I have been accepted to the Dental Scholars Program at Augusta University, and I will be majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology,” Brantley said. “It’s an accelerated seven-year program where I’ll work to complete my bachelor of science degree in three years, bypass the traditional dental school application process, and my fourth year of undergraduate school will be combined with my first year of dental school.”

Brantley was one of only 10 applicants to be accepted to the very prestigious program, which guarantees her admission to the Dental College of Georgia. It will require her to perform community volunteering, dental experience shadowing, research, and university extracurricular activities and service as well as maintaining academic excellence.

The university also awarded her its Katherine Pamplin Scholarship, and she’s received a $1,000 Rotary Club of Statesboro Scholarship, the Southeast Bulloch Academic Scholarship, and the Georgia Health Occupations Student Association’s State Leadership Scholarship, and the Zell Miller Scholarship as valedictorian.

“I’m thankful that my years of hard work have paid off. I’m also very thankful to all of the faculty and staff at SEB and to my parents, Floyd and Kimberly Brantley,” she shared in an interview last week at the school during a quick break from preparing for her drama class’ last stage performance, “Game of Tiaras.” 

She credits her drama teacher, Joni Mock, with building her confidence in public speaking.

“She really forced me to come out of my shell, and there’s nothing like being thrust out on a stage to help with that,” she said.

Mock praises Brantley’s dedication, positive attitude and willingness to take on challenging roles.

Katlyn Brantley

“She was a real pleasure to have in drama class,” Mock said. “Her excellent work ethic and determination to succeed had a positive impact on our class. She is so much more than the valedictorian and STAR student. She is an entertainer, encourager, helper and friend. Considering the challenges and demands of her advanced placement classes, I applaud her for an amazing year, and I have all confidence that she will continue to be amazing and successful.”

Brantley also credits her health occupations teacher, Sharon Pye, with guiding her toward a career in health care.

“No one in my family is in the health care field, but I learned so much by being a member of HOSA and from Mrs. Pye that I know health care is my path,” she said. 

“Katie has been an absolute joy to work with,” Pye said.  “She excelled in the Therapeutic Services Allied Health and Medicine pathway, and as a member of HOSA, in which she competed at the regional, state and national levels. She actually gave an outstanding presentation about dentistry and orthodontics during our Health Careers Fair when she was just in the ninth grade. I am elated but not surprised that she has been accepted into the Professional Scholars program.”

In addition to her teachers, she credits her mother, Dr. Kim Brantley, whom she selected as her STAR teacher, for her success.

“My mom is my rock. She has consistently been a source of inspiration in my life, and she has dedicated herself to encouraging my academic success,” Brantley said of her mom, who is a second grade teacher at Nevils Elementary School and an alumna of SEBHS.

“Her father and I have watched her blossom and transform from an inquisitive, precocious little girl into a kind, caring and resolute young woman,” Kim Brantley said of her daughter during this year’s STAR student competition. “As her parent, I am confident that she will go out into the world and demonstrate all of the good habits and characteristics she has developed through her faith, her upbringing and her academic career.”

Brantley is looking forward to college where she can be around like-minded people who love to learn and find areas to be involved in service. Before she heads to Augusta this fall, this summer you may find her enjoying her favorite pastimes like kayaking on the family’s pond with her Australian shepherds Bandit and Darla, caring for her chickens and listening to classic rock like the Eagles. 


Statesboro STEAM Academy’s 2022 valedictorian has plans for an unusual future career: creating comics. Proficient in English and an avid reader, Abigail Cave has already started writing her own stories. 

Her favorite class is English, but high marks in all classes led her to have the highest grade point average in her class. 

“I love to write, and I love reading,” she said. Science fiction and fantasy novels are high on her list, but “I also like reading comic books,” she said. “They lend a nice visual aspect to a story, and it is nice to be able to see what is happening, the environment. I can see what the characters look like and they seem more real.” 

She reads a lot of different kinds of comics, mostly fantasy or science fiction, she said. 

“It’s fascinating to see how creators will use not only the genre, but the format of the panels to form a compelling story. A favorite of mine, 'Mister Miracle,' uses a consistent format of nine panels per page, each exactly the same and evenly placed, to convey a sense of monotony that the main character experiences in his day-to-day life. In another, 'Batman: Court of Owls,' there’s a section of the book where the reader is forced to actually turn the book around to view the page correctly, which showcases the maddening circumstances of the scene.” 

While some may dismiss a comics as not serious literature, Cave disagrees. 

Abigail Cave

"I think comics as a medium of storytelling have a lot of potential. I’ve grown up reading a lot of them by now, and I can say with confidence that many of them have taught me valuable lessons that made me the person I am today,” she said.  

She has been working with her brother creating comics. 

“I really enjoy writing," she said, which she adds takes up most of her spare time. “My oldest brother Brendan, my co-author/illustrator, and I have been working together on some stories that we’re incredibly passionate about … a sci-fi/fantasy surrounding an alien creature, and the human boy he’s sworn to protect. It’s a project we’ve been workshopping for years, but we’ve recently had to put it on hold due to one of Brendan’s solo comics gaining popularity.” 

She is still working on her own, though. 

“I want to make the kind of story that can make me happy, because if it can make me happy, then surely that would mean someone else out there might need it too,” she said.  

The 18-year-old lived in Stillmore before moving with her family to Statesboro, where she began attending Statesboro STEAM Academy in sixth grade. Her parents are Doy and Jessica Cave. Doy Cave writes for Georgia Southern University Magazine. Abigail has three brothers: Brendan, who graduated last year from Statesboro STEAM; Caleb, who graduates with her this year, and Ethan. 

Cave said she enjoys attending Statesboro STEAM Academy because, “There is a closer community feel. STEAM is pretty different because it focuses on kids being themselves.” 

The school "offers a lot more freedom and chances to discover their (students’) interests,” she said. “Teachers work with students on a more personal basis since there are smaller classes. It is like a tight-knit community.” 

Cave plans to attend Georgia Southern University, then “possibly transfer elsewhere and major in writing and linguistics.” Her dream is to write both novels and comics. 

“Writing takes up most of my spare time; that and hanging with friends and my brothers, playing video games,” she said. 

She offers words of wisdom to others working towards graduation. 

“I am grateful for the people I am surrounded by. I would tell others it is OK to take your time because if you worry too much about the future, you may remain in the present. Be a kid while you can. Life moves faster than you expect,” she said.  

Statesboro STEAM Headmaster Corliss Reese had words of praise for Cave. 

“She has been a super student the entire time she has attended Statesboro STEAM Academy,” he said. “She exemplifies what a leader amongst peers should be. Abigail has always been the calm in the storm and voice of reason for all of those around her. While she has a quiet demeanor, her personality stands out. She is not only intelligent, but she also possesses a quirky wit that brings joy to so many." 

Cave has been involved in various clubs including Beta Club. 

“Being in Beta Club was such a blessing, and I can honestly say that I’ll miss it dearly.” She received many honors awards through school including citizenship award for having over 100 volunteer hours logged from working as a counselor in training for a summer camp.


As a high school freshman Abigail Scarborough made becoming valedictorian her goal. She’s had the highest grade point average of her class since eighth grade, and she’s proud to receive this award for her hard work. She gives thanks both to God and her parents, Brian and Deena Scarborough, for their encouragement and confidence to chase her dreams and never give up.

“After a lot of late nights and weekends studying, I did it, but I’m glad I still took time for friends and activities,” she said in her valedictory address on May 24, during Portal Middle High School’s commencement exercises. 

She’s been active in Portal’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapter, where she served as vice president, the Future Business Leaders of America chapter, Beta Club and the Student Government Council.

“It’s now time for us to grow up and move on to the next part of our lives,” the class president of her senior class told her close-knit group of 49 fellow graduates, most of whom she’s shared experiences with since pre-kindergarten. 

A dual-enrolled student at Georgia Southern during her senior year, Scarborough plans to remain at the local university after graduation, where she’s been accepted into the Honors College. In addition to her Zell Miller Scholarship as a valedictorian, she is also the recipient of a $1,000 Rotary Club Scholarship and a $1,500 scholarship from the Kiwanis Club.

Scarborough is happy for now to still call the house where she grew up near Rocky Ford her home for now.  This will keep her closer to family so that she can still enjoy one of her favorite pastimes, trips to the family’s lake house at Clark Hill.

“People have told me, ‘You’re valedictorian. You could go anywhere,’ but I love my home, so I’m going to Georgia Southern and take my time to explore career opportunities,” she said. 

Abigail Scarborough

She credits her mother, who is Portal’s visual arts and drama teacher and head soccer coach, with being one of the most influential people in her life during her education journey. 

“I have been incredibly blessed to be my daughter's art teacher throughout elementary, middle and high school,” Deena Scarborough said. “Abi-gail has always been a dedicated student in all areas of education including the studio, where she thrived with concepts of composition and perspective, especially when applying graphite. I am tremendously proud of her accomplishments and am looking forward to how God will continue to lead her in the future.”

Scarborough is looking forward to her upcoming college experiences.

“I love the campus, and I’m looking forward to making new friends and playing intermural sports like soccer and flag football, and I’m open to other sports,” she said.

Scarborough has played soccer since she was 4 years old, and in middle and high school she’s been part of helping establish the sport and encouraging fellow students to play at Portal Middle High School. Matt Haddock, the school’s current head boys soccer coach, started a middle school club league at the school nine years ago. From there a co-ed league formed and both Scarborough and her mother have shared Portal’s success over the past seven years. Now an official Georgia High School Association sport at the school, both the boys and girls teams made it to the Elite Eight of the GHSA Class-A soccer championships in 2021, an impressive feat since the school has only had separate teams for boys and girls since 2017.

Memories and friendship bonds like these that she’s collected over the past 14 years in Portal’s schools are treasured.

“Our small town of Portal has blessed us,” Scarborough expressed during graduation ceremonies. “Because it’s a small community, the people become like your second family.”

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