Jaret King and Jared Curtis have been good friends in high school, often sitting next to each other in their classes.
They will be side-by-side one more time Friday night, as the valedictorian (King) and salutatorian (Curtis) of South Effingham High School’s senior class.
“When I moved here (in 10th grade), he was in my math class and he helped me feel welcome,” Curtis said. “He is a really good friend.”
Along with their similar first names, the two SEHS seniors had “all their classes together” and participated in study sessions outside of school, King said. Also, they both were leaders of the South Effingham marching band, with King as the drum major and Curtis as the percussion captain.
“It’s my job as a drum major to make sure I’m with the drums, so we had to have that connection there,” King said.
Fittingly, they ranked in consecutive spots at the top of their class. King finished first with a 98.9 cumulative average and Curtis was right behind at 98.6.
“I’ve been working really hard for the past four years,” King said. “I enjoy challenges, so I pushed myself in all the AP (advanced placement) classes and pushed myself to do as much as I can.”
Part of King’s motivation was a friendly competition in his family. He was determined to outdo a cousin who ranked 11th in her high school graduating class.
“When I started high school, she said, ‘You’re not going to beat my class rank.’ And I said, ‘Just watch and see,’” King said with a laugh. “My cousin is going to be there Friday, so she’ll get to see me speak.”
In his valedictorian speech, King said he will celebrate the accomplishments of a senior class that he considers “with all bias, the best class to have graduated” from SEHS. He will encourage his classmates to “dream big and don’t stop.”
“If you keep dreaming, you’re constantly going to keep going and you’re going to find the best in yourself,” King said.
King’s cousin is not the only family member to inspire him. King began attending SEHS in ninth grade, when the family moved to Effingham for his mother’s job.
King’s mom is an electrical engineer, and he too will pursue engineering. He said he “really enjoys” math and science, particularly chemistry, and will major in chemical engineering at the University of Florida.
“I’m kind of following in my mother’s footsteps,” he said.
While most high school salutatorians are heading to college this fall, Curtis is taking a different path. He will depart for Brazil in September to serve a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Once Curtis completes his two-year church mission, the Utah native will enroll at Brigham Young University. He plans to major in some type of engineering.
In his speech Friday night, Curtis will encourage his fellow graduates to “just be grateful for the journey we’ve had so far, learn from that and apply what we’ve learned to the journey that’s still yet to come.”
Rounding out the top of South Effingham’s class of 2013 is honorarium Alex Norwood. He ranked third with a 98.2 average.
Norwood, who will study international business at the University of South Carolina, sees his high school graduation as just a beginning.
“It’s going to be more about a start to bigger things,” Norwood said. “High school is great, but you have to keep going.”
• When: Friday, 7 p.m.
• Where: The Corral