High school graduation double the pleasure for twins at Mount de Sales

Students at Mount de Sales Academy were doing a lot of double takes in the hallway this school year.

Among its 123 seniors, there are four sets of twins — a record, said members of the school staff.

“I never saw this many sets of twins in one class,” said computer applications teacher John Watkins, who joked that even he can’t tell some of them apart. “I would hand one a paper and say, ‘Is this you?”

Janna Comer and her twin brother, Joseph, are fraternal twins. At first, some students thought the two were dating because they’re always together.

Chris and Alex Ahn are also fraternal. They look enough alike, both play tennis and other students refer to them as “Asian No. 1” and “Asian No. 2.” Zach and Josh Putnam are identical twins. They pretend to be the other when school gets boring.

“We switch classes,” Josh said. “That makes it so much more fun.”

Olivia and Blythe Rivers, also identical twins, are used to not having their own identity. “They normally start out with, ‘Which one are you?’ ” Blythe said.

Having someone there to rely on through high school has its advantages, they all said.But after high school, some of the twins plan to shed their mirror image, parting ways for college.

Joseph Comer plans to attend LaGrange College to study engineering, while his sister Janna heads to Berry College to study pre-veterinary science.

Zach Putnam will attend Georgia Tech to study biomedical engineering, while his brother Josh plans is going to Valdosta State for pre-engineering studies.

Chris Ahn, who’s been wait-listed at three colleges, may attend the University of Pennsylvania, Emory or Georgia Tech, and his major is undecided. His twin, Alex Ahn, will head to Emory or Georgia Tech to study business.

Olivia Rivers is going to Valdosta State to study speech therapy, while her sister Blythe plans to attend Macon State College for a couple of years, then the University of Georgia to study zoology.

Parting advice: just did one thing from the list here since we’re dealing with four sets of twins

“Go ahead and apply for college and get it out of the way. I waited until Christmas.” — Joseph Comer

“Enjoy high school and have fun because it goes by fast.” — Janna Comer, 18

“Good friends are hard to come by. Keep them.” — Zach Putnam, 18

“Make a lot of friends.” — Josh Putnam. 18“Don’t expect anything out of your senior year.” — Chris Ahn. 18

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land with the stars.” — Alex Ahn, 18

“Don’t spend all your time counting down to the end of the school year.” — Olivia Rivers, 19“Senior year is what you make it.” — Blythe Rivers, 19

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World view has Central grad thinking about her future

It’s no surprise that Ekene Agu — whose first name is actually 14 letters long —was attracted to Central High School’s International Baccalaureate program for high school.Agu was born in Nigeria. She lived there with her mom until she was 9, and then again during her early teen years. For the past four years, while living with her dad and attending Central, she’s been consumed with learning about world cultures and their economic disparities.

“Different cultures are the most interesting thing to me,” Agu says. “And I’ve always been interested in the economy because of life in Nigeria. There has to be a better balance than one party getting everything and one party having nothing.”

That passion explains why she spent this past Christmas in Thailand soaking up the culture, why she helped organize a school fundraiser to help African refugees and was head delegate for the school’s Model United Nations team.

Advanced Placement government teacher Marquis Harris says he’s never had a student as passionate about learning as she is. Agu, Central’s valedictorian, applied to and was accepted at six different colleges: Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Wellesley and Williams. After visiting Harvard last month and attending a poverty and human rights class, she said she decided “it was tailor-made for me.”

She plans to major in economics and international relations and one day work in a new career field, developmental economics.

“My ideal job is to consult with governments of developing countries and to look at how they are structured financially and see how to improve it,” she said. Living overseas and attending a diverse Central High had its influence.

“I don’t think (without it) I would have come out the way” I did, she said

Ekene AguAge: 18Activities/interests: Economics, traveling, soccer, foodFavorite high school moment: Senior year. The people, my friends and the IB class of 2009.Plans after graduation: Attend Harvard and major in economicsParting advice: “Never regret. When you want to do something, do it. Really make the most of this time.”

* * *Southwest graduates attendance record would make Cal Ripken Jr. proud

Southwest High School senior Jhondarius Marks accomplished something in his public school career that few other students do.

From kindergarten until now, he hasn’t missed a day of school.

“He’s only been late once in 13 years, and that was because the babysitter had to drop off a rented steam-cleaning machine,” said his mom, Sakina Marks. “I always told him if I have to go to work every day, so do you.”

Keeping such a streak alive that many years is a rarity, based on spot checks by the Bibb County school system.

To prove his early years of perfect attendance, Marks has awards hanging on the living room wall, beginning with his kindergarten year at Barden Elementary in 1997.In high school, even when he got a busted lip or twisted an ankle as an offensive tackle for the football team, he went to school banged up.

“You can’t learn what you need to if you’re not at school,” he said, quoting his motto.

Being there every day helped land him in the National Honor Society and a 3.3 grade-point average.

He didn’t want to end up like other teens he encountered growing up, since his mom worked at the Youth Detention Center and in other areas of law enforcement.

“He saw a lot of kids come through who went to school 12 years and were unable to graduate,” Sakina Marks said. “I think it was a deterrent.”

“It did make me want to graduate,” Marks said.

Jhondarius MarksAge: 18Interests: Football, psychology, video gamesFavorite high school moment: When Southwest Patriots football team made it to the state playoffsPlans after graduation: attend Georgia State and major in psychology Parting advice: “Keep coming to school so you can learn every day and pass the graduation test.”

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Jones County Grad overcomes tragic accident

Courtney Smith doesn’t want to limp across stage May 23 to grasp her high school diploma.“Maybe I won’t have to use my crutches,” the Jones County High graduating senior said. “But if I have to, oh well. I’ll do whatever I have to do.”

Since her junior year, she’s been in and out of doctors’ offices, missing school for weeks at a time and often on crutches.

One December day in 2007, she was driving her 1998 Infinity to the skating rink where she worked. The rain was pouring around her.

“It was still really wet and I think I hydroplaned,” she said. “I remember waking up and seeing broken glass above me.”

Smith hit a small truck head on.

The impact smashed her right foot as well as her leg, which is now held together by pins. Her younger brothers and her sister were also in the car.

They all had on seat belts except for her 16-year-old brother, Bobby Michael Smith, a Central High School sophomore. He was killed in the accident.

Even though the two lived with different parents, they were always together. The loss drew her closer to her family and made her appreciate life.

The accident also caused her to focus more on graduating and got her thinking about a career in the medical field. She wants to attend Macon State College and study radiology so that someday she can work at a hospital taking X-rays and ultrasounds.

“She was in the hospital a long time and really pulled her grades up,” said Jones County High School counselor Kahadija Baker. “She has really been a trouper through it all to be in and out of school and make it out with her class.”

Courtney SmithAge: 18Activities/interests: Dancing, singing, watching TVFavorite high school moment: Senior promPlans after high school: attend Macon State CollegeParting advice: “Be prepared for whatever comes at you. You never know what life will throw.”

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World Traveler glad to finish school in Macon

When Ali Bridges began her senior year at Tattnall Square Academy, she envisioned it much like a scene from the Tina Fey movie “Mean Girls.”

“I really didn’t want to move here,” she said. “I had this idea of high school being awful with mean cheerleaders.”

She’s now lived the American high school experience, however, playing soccer, attending football games and the prom.

Since Bridges’ mother worked for U.S. AID, which is involved in foreign policy work, the family has lived from India to Africa.

Bridges lived in Atlanta until she was 10.

Then her mom was relocated to Bangladesh for two years and then Ghana.

Then, during her freshman and sophomore year of high school, she attended a school for U.S. Embassy children in Cairo, Egypt, before moving to Uganda for her junior year.

She took camel rides through the desert during Thanksgiving and once took a school field trip to London and saw Daniel Radcliffe in the play “Equuis.”

When her mom took a new job with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and moved to Macon to be near grandparents, Bridges went through the drill all over again.

“(Moving) helped me mature quite a bit and forced me to see this big world. ... It isn’t as scary as everyone thinks,” she said.

Her senior class voted her “most individualistic.”

One day she hopes to work for National Geographic, recording other cultures.

“She will share the things she’s learned ... with other students,” said Robbie Burns, development director at Tattnall. “People see her washing her hands a lot, and she got that from living in Egypt. There, it’s frowned upon to greet someone without washing your hands.”

Ali BridgesAge: 18Interests/activities: Soccer, literary team, Quiz Bowl, Pep Club, dramaFavorite high school moment: A school trip to LondonPlans after graduation: Attend University of Georgia, with a bachelor’s degree in film studiesParting advice: “Don’t spend a lot of time worrying and stressing. You won’t remember all the drama later on, but you’ll remember the good times.”

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Northeast grad makes his mark with broadcasts

Many Northeast High School students wouldn’t know much about their school athletes without “Rob C” around.

High school senior Robert Collins travels with the school’s football, basketball and track teams to games or meets, sits on the sidelines compiling stats, interviews coaches and then writes short articles to read on air the next day for the student body.

On his show, “Rob C in the Morning,” he reads school announcements and in Stuart Scott or John Madden style, whips into an energetic sports broadcast.

“He’s the only student with a media pass,” Northeast media specialist Becky Ehalt said. “He dresses (in ties) for the games, too.”

Collins has focused on journalism and broadcasting since he was in elementary school. He says it kept him motivated to graduate, despite his unstable early home life.

At King Elementary, teachers told him he had a good public speaking voice, so he started producing news shows, which he also did at Appling Middle School.

“When I got (to Northeast), I just decided to continue,” he said. “Before this year, the sports teams weren’t getting too much publicity.”

Some children in his shoes may have taken another path, his guardians said.Collins’ grandmother was raising him and his three siblings until she died during his freshman year. Now he lives with his aunt and uncle Regina and John Green.

Collins is going to be the first grandchild in his family to graduate from high school, the couple said.

He has a 2.5 grade-point average, and he earned a $2,500-a-semester scholarship through the Department of Human Resources.

“It just shows no matter where you come from, it doesn’t determine who you are,” John Green said

Robert CollinsAge: 18Activities/interests: Journalism, band drum major, playing golfPlans after graduation: Attend either Savannah State, University of West Georgia or Fort Valley State University, studying mass communications.Favorite high school moment: Walking into a school assembly and the student body chanting, “Rob C in the Morning.”Departing advice: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

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