South Effingham High School senior Liam Bendig has lofty goals for college and his career, but he sees it simply as doing what he is supposed to do.
Bendig, South Effingham’s class of 2014 salutatorian, will major in microbiology and minor in French in the University of Georgia’s honors program.
He hopes to work one day for the World Health Organization and research infectious diseases. Bendig also wants to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian organization that provides emergency medical aid to countries around the world.
“I feel like I have the abilities. I have the immense opportunity that gives me the capacity to be able to do something like that,” he said. “So I view it as a responsibility. If I have the chance to do this when so many don’t, I would be wasting that if I didn’t pursue something like that.”
Along with finishing second in his class, Bendig is this year’s South Effingham STAR student as the senior with the highest SAT score. However, he said he never set specific class rankings as goals.
“I knew I wanted to perform well, but it was mostly challenging myself,” Bendig said. “Honestly, I didn’t think I would get to be where I am today because there are so many high-achieving people in our class.”
One of them, Adam King, ran neck-and-neck with Bendig in grade-point average. King finished third in the senior class, earning honorarium recognition.
“Liam and I, we were really close in it. He just barely beat me,” King said with a smile. “In fact, we’ve been switching the entire year.”
The two students’ final GPAs were separated by just four-hundredths of a point, according to King. Bendig said “the final rankings are so close that it really came down to one exam.”
King said he began paying attention to his class standing in 10th grade, when he realized he was ranked second. He alternated between second and third place in his junior year, and was third again in the final rankings.
“It really does mean a lot,” King said of being the class honorarium. “I’m just really going to enjoy it, and I’m glad it’s gone the way it has.”
If they’re so inclined, Bendig and King can continue their friendly competition in college. King also will attend the University of Georgia, to major in computer science and minor in music.
Both Bendig and King will give speeches at South Effingham’s graduation ceremony Saturday night. Valedictorian Cathy Tseng, who plans to attend Georgia Tech, has decided not to attend commencement, SEHS principal Mark Winters said.
While Bendig has big plans for life after high school, his summer plans are simple. He wants to spend as much time as possible with his high school friends, creating more memories before they head to college in August.
“For me, the biggest takeaway from high school is the relationships that I’ve formed with everyone here,” Bendig said, “because it’s not just been these past four years — it’s been basically in my whole life. I’ve known everyone here for 12, 14 years, and I’ve seen them almost every day.”
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: The Corral