The valedictorians and salutatorians for both public and private schools in Houston and Peach counties are a varied bunch of students. Some are members of various clubs and others are members of bands. Each has exceled at his or her respective school to rise to the top of the class.
Heres a look at each schools top two academic achievers.
Houston County High School
Commencement: 6 p.m., Saturday, Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry.
Valedictorian: Will Freeman
Freeman, the son of William and Sheila Freeman and the brother of Sarah and Timothy, was recently selected as a National Merit Finalist for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Freeman is also the STAR Student for Houston County High, the district and region. He has been actively involved with the theater department for all four years, including as vice president of the Thespian Troupe. He was involved in soccer for his first two years of high school and has joined the ensemble his senior year. Freeman is a member of Beta Club, president of the National Honor Society, treasurer of the Tri-M Society and a peer tutor. In addition, he has participated in the Governors Honors Program in chemistry, the Warner Robins Youth Leadership Program, the state Student Advisory Council and the National Student Leadership Conference at the University of Maryland. He is an Optimist Student of the Month and a University of Georgia Merit Scholar. He plans to study medicine but has not yet decided which college to attend.
Salutatorian: Abigail Olsen
Olsen, the daughter of Mark and Sandra Olsen and the sister of Brad and Trey, has been an active participant in the Houston County High choral department. Olsen is a University of Georgia Merit Scholar and a member of Beta Club, the National Honor Society and the Tri-M Society. Last September, she was honored as Optimist Student of the Month. She tutors students in mathematics after school. Olsen plans to attend Middle Georgia State College in the fall and major in mathematics education.
Northside High School
Commencement: 8 p.m., Friday, Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry.
Valedictorian: Sarah Currier
Currier is the daughter of Howard and Heike Currier. She is a member of Beta Club and Keep Warner Robins Beautiful. Currier has taken numerous honors and AP classes, which have helped her find her passion: math and science, particularly chemistry. After high school, she plans on attending the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she will pursue a degree in chemical engineering.
Salutatorian: Hunter Smith
Hunter is the son of Kim and Bob Gray. He has been a member of the Math Club and Junior Optimist Octagon International. Smith was nominated for a Golden Eagle award and the Governors Honors Program in math, and he was also Northside Highs STAR student. He played soccer at Northside for four years, and he served as captain his senior year. He plans to attend Georgia Tech, where he will major in materials science and engineering.
Perry High School
Commencement: 3 p.m., Saturday, Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry.
Valedictorian: Tyler Claxton
Claxton is the son of Argene and Sandy Claxton. Claxton has been an active member of the FFA where he was the top individual in the nation at the 2011 National FFA Nursery/Landscape competition. He was a 2011 Governors Honors participant in the area of agriscience and a 2013 Golden Eagle winner in the area of industrial/vocational. Claxton was a member of the four-time region champion cross country team and the track team. He also was active with the Perry High drama department, Prayer Club, Beta Club, National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society. After graduation, he will attend the University of Georgia and major in environmental engineering.
Salutatorian: Elizabeth Lewis
Lewis is the daughter Scott and Tory Lewis. She is a member of FFA, Beta Club and National Honor Society. She received the Georgia Certificate of Merit, First Honors for all four years and attended the 2012 Georgia Governors Honors Program in the field of agriscience/biotechnology. She plans to attend Lincoln Memorial University in the fall and major in veterinary technology with an equine emphasis.
Veterans High School
Commencement: noon, Saturday, Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry.
Valedictorian: Brandon Cauley
Cauley is the son of Dave and Sandy Cauley. He has been on the baseball team for four years and is a member of the varsity squad. He is a member of the Beta Club, National English Honor Society and Rho Kappa. Cauley volunteers as a writing tutor in the schools Warhawk Workshop. An active member of his church youth group, he also volunteers at the Peachbelt nursing home, and he has been on a mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica. He is a recipient of the University of Georgia Certificate of Merit. Cauley plans to attend UGA, where he will pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
Salutatorian: Brian Decker
Decker is the son of Doug and Jennifer Decker. He is a member of the Veterans High School concert and marching bands and serves as a marching band clarinet section leader. He has been selected for the All State Band for three years. Decker was selected to attend the Governors Honors Program at Valdosta State University in music/clarinet. He is a recipient of the University of Georgia certificate of merit and is an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction. Decker is active in his church youth group, choir and hand bell choir. After graduation he plans to attend Georgia Tech and pursue a degree in engineering.
Warner Robins High School
Commencement: 9 a.m. Saturday, Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry
Valedictorian: Ashleigh Austel
Austel is the daughter of Paul and Lorrie Austel. She is in the gifted program at Warner Robins High in addition to taking Advanced Placement courses. This year she has also taken classes at Middle Georgia State College. Her extracurricular activities include being vice president of the sophomore class as well as belonging to Freshmen Who Care, Student Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Beta Club. She attended Georgia Girls State last summer at Georgia Southern. She has been involved in DECA and placed second in the Buying and Merchandising Test at the regional competition. She has been in the All-State Chorus for three years and District Honor Choir for two years. She volunteers at her churchs nursery and in the library at Pearl Stephens Elementary School. Austel plans to study early childhood education at Middle Georgia State College.
Salutatorian: Kathryn Martin
Martin is the daughter of Michael and Joyce Martin. A student in the gifted program, she also takes AP classes and classes at Middle Georgia State College. In addition to Senior Class president, she holds positions in Student Council and Math Club. She is in the Beta Club, band, chorus and Science Club. She was a Governors Honors nominee and a Golden Eagle nominee. She was chosen as the Optimist Club Student of the Month and STAR Student. Martin has been in the All-State band and chorus and plays with the Macon Youth Symphony and Mercer Flute Choir. She volunteers at a local soup kitchen and at Houston Medical Center. Martin plans to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech.
The Westfield School
Commencement: May 17
Valedictorian: Valerie Lauren McLure
McLure is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gary McLure of Bonaire. An AP Scholar and recipient of numerous awards, she was a 2012 Governors Honors Program participant in the area of physics. She has served as president of the Beta Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes and also as a member of Student Council and Tri-Hi-Y. She lettered all four years in varsity cross country, basketball, soccer, track and tennis, earning All Region awards and winning the 2013 GISA AAA state tennis championship in doubles. A member of Emmanuel Church, she has participated in many mission trips and community service programs. McLure plans to attend Berry College where she received the Deans Scholarship. While attending Berry, she plans to major in chemistry and play basketball.
Salutatorian: Peyton Leigh Marshall
Marshall is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Marshall of Perry. An AP Scholar and recipient of numerous awards, she has been an active member of the Tri-Hi-Y Club, Prayer Club and Culinary Arts Club. She was also a member of the Academic Bowl Team and the Debate Team, earning the top speaker award. A member of Perry Presbyterian Church, Marshall has participated in various mission trips and community service projects. She received the Taylor Fellowship in physics and the Hon Scholarship at Rhodes College, where she will attend this fall.
Westside Christian Academy
Commencement: May 16
Valedictorian: Richard Allen Gatton
Gatton is the son of Gary and Monique Gatton. He has played soccer for Westside in grades 9-12, basketball in grades 9-11, was a member of the Praise Band all four years and has played piano for nine years. Gatton has been the vocalist and lead guitar player for the pop/punk band All For Nothing for three years. He plans to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., to major in worship leadership.
Salutatorian: Christopher Michael Horne
Horne is the son of Chris Horne and Lorilee Cuvillier. He has played football for Westside and also been a part of the Praise Band. He plans to work in Alaska for the summer with hopes of joining the military and attending college upon his return.
(Note: The Houston County Career Academy will hold its commencement at 6 p.m. Friday in the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry. The school does not name a valedictorian and salutatorian.)
Peach County High School
Commencement: 8 p.m. May 31 at Ernest R. Anderson Stadium.
Valedictorian: Briana Lynn Warner
Warner is the daughter of Vicky Warner of Byron and Kim Warner of South Carolina. Warner is active in the Future Problem Solvers Program and Community Problem Solvers Program and is a member of the National Honor Society. She is a dual-enrollment student at Fort Valley State University and plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall.
Salutatorian: Maria Christina Rodriguez
Rodriguez is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Elpidio Rodriguez of Byron. Maria is a member of the National Honor Society, and she is dual enrolled at Middle Georgia State College. Rodriguez plans to attend Wesleyan College in the fall.
Editors note: Schools provided student biographies to The Sun News. Biographies have been edited for length and clarity.