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Countys top grads look back on high school careers
ECHS valsalhon
Effingham County High School’s salutatorian Kasey Gifford, honorary Branden Pollett and valedictorian Jessica Friday have finished their high school academic careers. - photo by Photo by Sandi Van Orden

Effingham County High and South Effingham High’s top students have a variety of plans for the future, and a little advice for the students still at their schools.

Jessica Friday has been named valedictorian at ECHS. She was named the county STAR student a few months ago.

“It was awesome because we (salutatorian Kasey Gifford) have been battling it out,” Friday said. “We were .02 of a point away from each other. It’s the ultimate recognition.”

Friday was in the physics/calculus club, Beta Club, National Honor Society, chorus, show choir and Tri-M.

Her advice to next year’s seniors, “Don’t give up.”

“It’s not as scary as it seems,” Friday said for the freshmen who will begin at the school next year.

Friday plans to attend Georgia College and State University to obtain an English degree. She plans to become an English professor.

Gifford is involved in Tri-M, physics/calculus club, mixed chorus and show choir.

“It was a good feeling,” Gifford said of when she found out she is the class salutatorian.

“You have to work hard, but you have to have fun too,” Gifford tells the rising seniors. “Don’t let your academics completely control your life, or you’ll just go crazy.”

For the incoming freshmen, “When I was a freshman I would have really liked hearing this is my home, too. It’s not just the seniors and upperclassmen — it’s your home, too, and you have a right to it.”

Gifford plans to attend Georgia Southern University to obtain a degree in nursing. She plans to become a trauma nurse.

Branden Pollett has been recognized as the honorary of ECHS. The football player also was involved in the physics/calculus club, Interact, National Honor Society and FCA.

“It was a relief for me to know what I actually am,” Pollett said of when he found out.

“Don’t procrastinate,” is Pollett’s advice for the rising seniors.

For the incoming freshmen Pollett said, “Get involved as much as you can, and don’t forget your studies, too.”

Pollett plans to attend the University of Georgia to earn a degree in chemistry. He plans to become a pharmaceutical engineer. 

Cristen Ray has been named SEHS’ valedictorian, and Lana Williams is the salutatorian.

Ray played volleyball and basketball and was in the Beta Club and National Honor Society.

“It was a relief because I knew I was going to be either number one or two,” Ray said.

Williams said, “She’s happy she beat me.”

Ray said people were congratulating her before she knew she had earned the honor.

“Work hard, do your best. Have fun, too,” Ray said to the rising seniors.

“It’s hard to bring your grade up your senior year,” Ray said to the incoming freshmen.

Ray plans to attend Georgia Southern University in the fall and is still looking into what she would like to do after college.

Williams was in the marching band and National Honor Society.

“If you start off well, it’s easy to stay there,” she said for the incoming freshmen.

Williams plans to attend Georgia Southern to earn a degree in education. She plans to become an elementary special education teacher.