CONYERS — Rockdale County Public Schools recently congratulated the valedictorians and salutatorians of 2018. The RCPS Class of 2018 had more than 1,080 seniors graduating with more than $25 million in scholarship offers. The valedictorians and salutatorians are at the top of that class.
Heritage High School
Name: Tyrell Snagg
Schools: D.L. Sims Elementary School, Edwards Middle School, Heritage High School.
Family: Father Martin Snagg, mother Theresa Snagg, older sister Monique.
Extracurricular Activities: Marching Band (band captain), Jazz Band, Pit Orchestra, National Honor Society (co-president), Beta Club.
Favorite subject: Mathematics.
Awards/Scholarships: Superintendent’s Academic Awards, AP Scholar, Oglethorpe University Presidential Scholarship with Recognition, Springfield Baptist Church Academic Scholarship, HOPE Scholarship, Zell Miller Scholarship.
College: Oglethorpe University.
Intended Major and Career Field: Biomedical Engineering, to become a neurosurgeon.
Memorable Help from a Teacher/Staff Member: “The next step after high school for me is college, but that is no small step! Thankfully, however, my AP Economics teacher, Lancelot Gittens, awarded me a scholarship for having the highest grade average in economics for both semesters. On the journey to higher education, every little bit counts, and I am forever grateful for his generosity.”
Best High School Experience: “The times I will always treasure from high school resides in band. Honestly, I have had many heartwarming experiencing with some of the best people I have ever met. It would take pages to just list the many individuals who have made an impact on my life. Being able to work together with the band members towards a common goal, whether that be for competition or concert, has made all four years I spent in band my best high school experience.”
Advice to Freshmen: “Know what is up ahead and you will be unstoppable! If you do not know what is coming, the people around will. Never be afraid to ask questions or seek support from those you trust.”
Most Proud About: “I am proud to have so many blessings bestowed upon me by God. Both academically and personally, He has shown me new heights and has given me the tools to climb those heights.”
Extra: “Throughout my high school career, I always kept something in mind similar to what Norman Vincent Peale stated: ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.’ I never saw myself as being a leader, but somewhere along the way people noticed my strengths even before I did myself. It was because of their efforts, and not just my own, that I have gotten to where I am today. For this reason, I would like to thank all of my teachers from all my current years of academia for helping to shape who I am today.”
Name: Ronan Matthew Fitzgerald
Schools: Hightower Trail Elementary, Gen. Ray Davis Middle, Heritage High.
Family: Mother Michelle Fitzgerald, father Matthew Fitzgerald; older sister Siobhan Keefe, older brother Seamus, older brother Liam, younger brother Fionn.
Extracurricular activities: Soccer, Cross Country, National Honor Society, Rosetta Society, Teen Court.
Favorite subject: History.
Awards/Scholarships: Rotary STAR Student for HHS, AJC Cup, Aubrae Gunderson Memorial Scholarship, Snapping Shoals EMC Washington Youth Tour Scholarship.
College: Brown University.
Intended Major and Career Field: History, to possibly become a lawyer or history teacher; “We’re going to figure it out.”
Memorable Help from a Teacher/Staff Member: “When I was applying for schools I would go into my school’s career center every day and Mrs. Wilson would help me with my application and I sent emails back and forth with my literature teacher, Dr. Kimble, until my college essay was perfect.”
Best High School Experience: “My best high school experience was when I scored my first goal in soccer and my whole team tackled me and the crowd went wild.”
Advice to Freshmen: “Respect your teachers and pay attention in class and high school will be easier. Be social and find a good solid group of friends.”
Most Proud About: “Coaching an elementary LEGO robotics team at Hightower Trail Elementary with my mom and sending them to regionals for the first time in 12 years.”
Extra: “I wouldn’t be here without my two best friends Paul and Nathaniel or my two best teacher friends Mrs. Morton and Coach Kicklighter. They have all pushed me and made me who I am.”
Rockdale County High School
Name: Lillibeth Pearl Morillo Hunter
Schools: Brentwood Elementary, Barksdale Elementary, C.J. Hicks Elementary, Conyers Middle, Rockdale County High, Rockdale Career Academy, Point University (Dual Enrollment)
Family: Father John Hunter, mother Elizabeth Hunter; older brother Danny.
Extracurricular Activities: Band, Interact Club, Graphic Design Internship (WBL).
Favorite Subject: Math.
Awards/Scholarships: NSHSS, Superintendent’s Academic Award, GeorgiaBEST certified, Georgia Music Educators Association Solo and Ensemble medal, Governor’s Honors Program semi-finalist, Zell Miller Scholarship
College: Kennesaw State University.
Intended Major and Career Field: Game Design and Development
Memorable Help from a Teacher/Staff Member: “Ms. Hardy, Ms. Nishio, and Ms. Thompson helped me cheer up and stopped me from giving up in high school. They each have encouraged me to continue strong and not give up because I came too far.”
Best High School Experience: “Prom. I actually came out of my shell and danced and socialized with people I wouldn’t normally socialize with. I spent the most time with my friends and my prom date.”
Advice to Freshmen: “Take your mental health seriously now because if you don’t, you will let yourself go. This is the worst time to do that.”
Most Proud About: “Becoming class valedictorian.”
Name: Noah Avery Crafts
Schools: Flat Shoals Elementary, Memorial Middle, Rockdale Career Academy, Rockdale County High, Clayton State University (Dual Enrollment), Georgia State University (Dual Enrollment), Georgia Institute of Technology (Dual Enrollment).
Family: Mother Monica Crafts, father Norman Crafts; older sister Morgan, younger brother Nathan.
Extracurricular activities: Language study, violin, shamisen (Japanese stringed instrument), skateboarding.
Favorite Subject: Computer Science/IT.
Awards/Scholarships: Rotary STAR Student, Superintendent’s Academic Award, CompTIA IT Fundamentals certification, GeorgiaBEST certified, top Chemistry student at Georgia State University, NOAA Taking the Pulse of the Planet Award at Rockdale Regional Science and Engineering Fair, National History Day Regional Competition First Place, Zell Miller Scholarship, graduating with 69 college credits (Dual Enrollment). .
College: Georgia Institute of Technology.
Intended Major and Career Field: International Affairs/Computer Science, to work in international diplomacy.
Memorable Help from a Teacher/Staff Member: “Ms. Nelson from Flat Shoals Elementary helped me get all 4s on my report card in her class, so I could convince my parents to get me a pet hedgehog.”
Best High School Experience: “Getting to intern at RCA in the IT pathway.”
Advice to Freshmen: “Don’t be afraid to go out and try new things! Go join a club you’ve never heard of, take some classes you never considered before. Have fun and explore!”
Most Proud About: “The great friends and family that have supported me even when I wanted to take a different path with my high school education.”
Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology
Name: Michelle Nguyen
Schools: Flat Shoals Elementary, Gen. Ray Davis Middle, Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology.
Family: Father Giang Nguyen, mother Le Hong Nguyen.
Extracurricular Activities: Math Team, Research, Piano, Peer Mentoring, National Honor Society, MIT Launch Club President.
Favorite Subject: Calculus.
Awards/Scholarships: Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health an Biotechnology Award, Inspiring Excellence Award, National Association of Biology Teachers Award, UGA Microbiology Dept. Award 2017 & 2018, Regeneron Talent Search, AFCEA Naval High School Science Award 2016 & 2017, chosen for Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, ASTUTIA Competition, Superintendent’s Academic Awards; Math Team Scholarship and Astutia STEAM Scholarship.
College: University of Chicago.
Intended Major and Career Field: Molecular Engineering, eventually to get a MD/PhD.
Memorable Help from a Teacher/Staff Member: “Dr. Garner fueled my passion to learn and created a learning environment that allowed me to thrive. He taught me to stop painting walls and search for a more deeper understanding of the concepts we learn in class.”
Best High School Experience: “Working in the microbiology and cell research labs. Magnet gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion and it made me realize that I want to know- to know the what, why, and how. I want to approach concepts with an interdisciplinary view in order to understand more about how our world is interconnected. It challenged me to continue to think beyond so that we can push the boundaries of our knowledge.”
Advice to Freshmen: “Don’t be afraid to try new things to challenge yourself to grow.”
Most Proud About: Attending Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2017 and 2018.
Extra: “Special thank you to my parents: I wouldn’t be able to be here today if it weren’t for their sacrifices. They taught me to live selflessly so that our world could be a better place for future generations. They encourage my ambitions and when things seem tough to continue to push on and to constantly redefine my limits. Most importantly, my parents provided me with unconditional love and support and for that I am unbelievably grateful and proud to be their daughter.”
Name: Matthew Gabriel York
Schools: Lorraine Elementary, Gen. Ray Davis Middle, Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology
Family: Mother Charlotte York, father Kevin York; younger siblings - Christopher, Zachary, Elizabeth.
Extracurricular Activities: Math Team (captain, Varsity MVP), American Regions Mathematics League, independent mathematical research.
Favorite subject: Math.
Awards/Scholarships: Steve Sigur Award at 2017 GCTM state math tournament, selected for American Regions Mathematics League Georgia Team, Best Use of Engineering Award Georgia Science and Engineering Fair 2016 & 2017, Mu Alpha Theta Paul R Goodey Scholarship, Zell Miller Scholarship.
College: Georgia Institute of Technology.
Intended Major and Career Field: Aerospace Engineering.
Memorable Help from a Teacher/Staff Member: “During my sophomore year, the math team sponsor, Dr. Chuck Garner, asked me to be on the state tournament team despite not being in the top of the math team. He helped me to learn the state tournament and to practice to be at a level that was as good as my fellow state tournament team members.”
Best High School Experience: “Grading the power round that I wrote at the Rockdale Math Competition and handing out the trophies as math team captain to all the kids who had enjoyed our hard work at the competition.”
Advice to Freshmen: “Stay on your work, don’t get behind, and know when to stop working for the night and go to bed. You will hit a point where your work quality is so low, it would just be better to go to bed.”
Most Proud About: “My independent mathematical research and the results it has produced which have not been published before. I do plan to submit my work for publishing.”
Salem High School
Name: Shadaymona Jean Jackson
Family: Grandmother Veronica Jackson, grandfather William Jackson; younger sister Vancey Jackson
Schools: Sandy Springs Middle, North Springs Charter High, Salem High.
Extracurricular Activities: National Beta Club, Interact Club.
Favorite Subject: Science.
Awards/Scholarships: Rotary Senior Award for Art, Superintendent’s Academic Awards, Wellesley Book Award, Zell Miller Scholarship.
College: Georgia Institute of Technology.
Intended Major and Career Field: Biomedical Engineering, “I chose this so I can build prosthetics for people who are challenged. I want to combine the sciences and arts to create something different.”
Memorable Help from a Teacher/Staff Member: “My teacher Tapetress Ford pushed me to apply to college and universities. At one point, I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to stay home. Somebody had to come to me and say you need to do this now, the deadline is close. She did that. And I ended up getting into my favorite college – Georgia Tech.”
Advice to Freshmen: “Freshman year is your foundation. Build it strong!”
Most Proud About: “The friends I have made along the way!”
Extra: “Thank you (aunties) Shanna Jackson and Tasha Matlock!”
Name: Christina Mandzyuk
Family: Mother Lyudmila Mandzyuk; father Aleksandr Mandzyuk; older brother Vlad (2017 SHS salutatorian), younger siblings Angelina, David, Diana.
Schools: Emerson Elementary, Snellville Middle, Edwards Middle, Salem High, Rockdale Career Academy.
Extracurricular Activities: Beta Club, volunteering at health clinics.
Favorite Subject: Health care at RCA.
Awards/Scholarships: Superintendent’s Academic Awards, CNA and EKG Certified, Zell Miller Scholarship.
College: Georgia State University.
Intended Major and Career Field: Nursing, pediatric nursing “I grew up with younger siblings and learned to help take care of kids. My younger brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Seeing how the pediatric nurses and staff take care of him made me fall in love with (pediatric nursing).”
Memorable Help from a Teacher/Staff Member: “I struggled with anxiety throughout all of high school, and my AP Physics teacher Mr. Hagan and Dual Enrollment calculus teacher Mr. Ryan helped me overcome this by always motivating me to be confident. They understood my problem and gave me the best advice. To sum it up, they told me that all I should worry about is doing my best because let’s face it, that test or assignment doesn’t determine how smart I am.”
Best High School Experience: “Making new friends throughout each year of high school. Each friend has shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve been friends with some of them for all four years, and I know we will keep in touch after graduation.”
Advice to Freshmen: “Do your best; freshmen year is where kids mess up their GPA the most. In addition, be involved within your school and community because that’s how long-lasting friendships are built.”
Most Proud About: “I was certified as a nursing assistant and EKG technician at the age of 17.”