Class of 2023 Valedictorians, Salutatorians Honored
Cherokee County School District’s Class of 2023 Valedictorians and Salutatorians: from left, front row, River Ridge HS Salutatorian Karla Monserrat Cortes, River Ridge HS Co-valedictorian Emily Anna Paulson, Creekview HS Valedictorian Kylie Buchanan, Sequoyah HS Salutatorian Paige Lee Falcomata, Sequoyah HS Valedictorian Julia Allene Sick, River Ridge HS Co-valedictorian Sofia Guadalupe de Lira, Etowah HS Valedictorian Gracye Lamb; back row, Woodstock HS Valedictorian Casen Stiber, i-Grad Virtual Academy Valedictorian Jackson Wesley Deas, Cherokee HS Salutatorian Riley Oliver, Cherokee HS Valedictorian Braden Reece Flournoy, Creekview HS Salutatorian Carson Heath, Woodstock HS Salutatorian Salman Aziz and Etowah HS Salutatorian Ty Phillips. Not pictured: i-Grad Virtual Academy Salutatorian Elijah J. Jordan.
Cherokee County School District’s Class of 2023 Outstanding Teachers as selected by Valedictorians and Salutatorians: from left, front row, Carla Thornton of Cherokee HS, Jason Hardin of Creekview HS, Autumn Hamilton of i-Grad Virtual Academy, Adrienne Taylor of River Ridge HS, Jacqueline Vance of Woodstock HS, Megan Curtis of Sequoyah HS, Margo Kemmerer of Etowah HS; back row, Jay Huller of Cherokee HS, Joy Schumacher of River Ridge HS, Amanda Fuder of Creekview HS, Tracye Bulger of River Ridge HS, Alissa McDonough of Creekland MS (selected by i-Grad student), Dr. Cathy Murphy of Sequoyah HS, Josh Sailers of Woodstock HS and John Murnan of Etowah HS.
The Cherokee County School District and School Board celebrated the Class of 2023 Valedictorians and Salutatorians at its 23rd Annual Scholar Recognition Banquet.
The special event on Wednesday evening was attended by the Scholars and their parents; the teacher each Scholar chose as the most influential in his or her education; CCSD’s high school Principals; the Superintendent of Schools and members of his senior staff; and the School Board.
“I fondly remember my top students, who, like you, delighted in learning and in pushing themselves to learn more and do better each day,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “The most successful people possess that trait, and they never let go of it … they’re always learning and always striving to do their best.”
The students and teachers each shared a brief speech, and Dr. Hightower presented each student with an iPad, $50 gift card and plaque, and each teacher with a plaque and $100 gift card.
The remarks by students shared a common theme: their teachers took time to care about them as individuals and encouraged them to succeed in school and life. As Sequoyah High School valedictorian Julia Sick put it: “the kind of teacher you only get once in a lifetime.”
The teachers’ remarks similarly mirrored each other, as they described students who exceeded much more than their academic expectations. Creekview High School teacher Jason Hardin summed this up when describing valedictorian Kylie Buchanan, “The common theme I hear from teachers is ‘she gives us hope.’”
The dinner and gifts were made possible by donations from Presenting Sponsors, LGE Community Credit Union and the Cherokee County Educational Foundation; and Silver Sponsor, Center Cut Catering. LGE additionally presented each student with an iPad cover and each teacher with a journaling set.
“Your success not only reflects your personal accomplishments, but also inspires and motivates others around you,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said, who in her remarks also congratulated students’ parents on their shared success with their children. “The world needs your unique talents, ideas and contributions, and I’m excited to watch where your talents and determination will take you.”
CHEROKEE HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Braden Reece Flournoy
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study computer science, with plans to work in computer devices and artificial intelligence
Honored Teacher Carla Thornton
In his teacher’s words: “He is remarkable in all ways. I know he is going to be successful in whatever he chooses to do.”
Salutatorian Riley Oliver
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study computer science, with plans to work in programming or hardware development
Honored Teacher Jay Huller
In his teacher’s words: “He always was listening,” then, after holding up a sign with a number 0 on it, “And this is the number of students I’ve taught who have been just like him.”
CREEKVIEW HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Kylie Buchanan
College and career plans: University of Alabama to study science and business
Honored Teacher Jason Hardin
In her teacher’s words: “Every time you think of Kylie the word ‘greatness’ comes to mind: greatness as a student … greatness as a friend … greatness as a person.”
Salutatorian Carson Heath
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study mechanical engineering, with plans to work as a biomechanical engineer focused on designing prosthetics.
Honored Teacher Amanda Fuder
In his teacher’s words: “He’s an amazing student, but what I admire most is his kindness. His kindness is a shining example of his character and leadership.”
ETOWAH HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Gracye Lamb
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study aerospace engineering
Honored Teacher Margo Kemmerer
In her teacher’s words: “I’m amazed by her drive and determination. I’m so inspired by her and her tenacity. She doesn’t give up.”
Salutatorian Ty Phillips
College and career plans: University of Georgia to study biology, with plans to continue onto medical school
Honored Teacher John Murnan
In his teacher’s words: “He’s somebody who’s willing to be the leader and the person willing to help a teammate. He made our class better.”
i-GRAD VIRTUAL ACADEMY
Valedictorian Jackson Wesley Deas
College and career plans: To enter the workforce
Honored Teacher Alissa McDonough
In his teacher’s words: “Jackson forges his own unique path in this world. Not only is he brilliant, but he’s hysterical and responsible beyond his years.”
Salutatorian Elijah J. Jordan
College and career plans: Chattahoochee Technical College to study electrical engineering
Honored Teacher Autumn Hamilton
In his teacher’s words: “Elijah went above and beyond what was asked of him. He knows his education is a path to a better future.”
RIVER RIDGE HIGH SCHOOL
Co-valedictorian Sofia Guadalupe de Lira
College and career plans: Notre Dame University to study political science and pre-law
Honored Teacher Tracye Bulger
In her teacher’s words: “She is an enigma to me. As cliché as it is, she makes me want to be a better person.”
Co-valedictorian Emily Anna Paulson
College and career plans: University of Georgia to study economics
Honored Teacher Adrienne Taylor
In her teacher’s words: “Your impact extends far beyond the classroom. You’ve been a beacon of leadership in our school community.”
Salutatorian Karla Monserrat Cortes
College and career plans: Yale University to study ethics, politics and economics
Honored Teacher Joy Schumacher
In her teacher’s words: “She’s brilliant. Her character, her kindness – I’m so proud of everything she does.”
SEQUOYAH HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Julia Allene Sick
College and career plans: University of Alabama to study accounting
Honored Teacher Megan Curtis
In her teacher’s words: “Julia approaches learning with enthusiasm and curiosity and the confidence that comes with believing all is worth the attempt. I have no doubt she will change the world around her for the better.”
Salutatorian Paige Lee Falcomata
College and career plans: University of Alabama to study accounting and statistics
Honored Teacher Dr. Cathy Murphy
In her teacher’s words: “The empathy she has for others, even strangers, and the loyalty she has to her friends is inspiring. Her intellectual curiosity is one of her traits that sets her apart from her peers.”
WOODSTOCK HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian Casen Stiber
College and career plans: After a gap year he will spend teaching in El Salvador, Casen will attend the University of Georgia to study pure mathematics and philosophy. After college, he plans to serve in the Peace Corps and then teach and conduct math research.
Honored Teacher Jacqueline Vance
In his teacher’s words: “He’s a passionate kid. He’s a quiet observer. He knows who he is.”
Salutatorian Salman Aziz
College and career plans: Georgia Tech to study neuroscience, with plans to continue onto medical school and work as a physician.
Honored Teacher Josh Sailers
In his teacher’s words: “He has an unmatched work ethic and intellectual brilliance. He’s genuine, down to earth and has a humble confidence.