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ECHS top trio ending careers on a high note
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Valedictorian Jacqueline Zantow, salutatorian Deeran Patel and honorarium Michael Lastinger top the Effingham County High School class of 2012. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

ECHS Graduation

• When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

• Where: Rebel Field

• Also: Commencement exercises will be broadcast live on

After being actively involved in Effingham County High School’s music program for four years, including the last two as drum major for the marching band, Jacqueline Zantow is considering earning a degree in music in college.

Or, she might go a completely different direction and study psychology.

"I haven’t decided which part of me is going to win out — the more academic side or the more liberal arts side," said Zantow, who will take her core subject courses in college while she decides which interest to pursue as a major.

Zantow’s commitment to a well-rounded education paid off, earning her the top spot in her graduating class. She is the valedictorian of the ECHS class of 2012.

"It is such an honor, just knowing how hard all the other students worked and I was still able to come out as No. 1," she said.

While Zantow will head to Armstrong Atlantic State University to further her education, the other two other honorees in the top-three of the class will attend the University of Georgia.

Salutatorian Deeran Patel plans to become a cardiologist and will major in either biology or genetics at UGA, while honorarium Michael Lastinger will study computer engineering in Athens.

The two future Bulldogs will join Zantow on stage tonight and be recognized for finishing ranked second and third in their graduating class.

"It’s a great honor. It helps you realize all the hard work paid off, and it will help me work harder in the future," Lastinger said.

"It shows me that perseverance really pays off," Patel said.

That message, that "perseverance is really important," is what Patel said he will share tonight in his speech to his fellow graduates.

In her address, Zantow willencourage her classmates to "strive for even more after high school."

"High school might have been easy for some students, and I don’t want the real world to shock kids," she said. "We need to step up to the plate."

Like Zantow, Patel and Lastinger both look forward to the experiences that await them after high school. But first, they will enjoy one more night with their ECHS classmates at tonight’s graduation ceremony.

"It’ll be a bittersweet moment, but it’ll be a relief," Lastinger said.

"I am going to miss all my friends, but I’ll be glad to move on to the next chapter of my life," Patel said.