Until Tuesday morning, the SEHS class of 2010 valedictorian and salutatorian were unclear as the top three GPAs were squeezed within tenths of a percentage point of each other.
Four days before graduation, end of course test scores determined that STAR student John Howard is the Mustangs’ valedictorian, one-half percentage point away from volleyball stud/art student, Melanie Richtman, who is the salutatorian, and .2 percent in front of number three.
Howard spent his senior year dual-enrolled in classes at Armstrong Atlantic State University.
“You’re not really pushed as hard (in college); everything is by your own efforts. You have to be more autonomous,” Howard said.
Howard, also an Eagle Scout, is the son of Cindy and Jake Howard. In the fall, he will be living in Atlanta, studying computer and electrical engineering at Georgia Tech. He’s not sure what he’ll do after that, though a master’s and/or doctorate are possibilities.
“I just want to get through all my schooling and find a job somewhere. I don’t know. Travel; see the world, all that kind of stuff,” he said of his 10-year plan.
Come fall, Richtman, daughter of James and Theresa Richtman, will be in the Twin Cities at the University of Minnesota — where she has family — pursuing a degree in public relations and a minor in anthropology.
“It took me by surprise my freshman year when we got our transcripts, seeing that I was number two,” Richtman said. “I knew I was smart, I guess, but I never realized that my grades were so good, and then I tried really hard the rest of high school.”
It paid off.
Richtman was awarded a number of scholarships, which cushioned out-of-state tuitions and helped in her decision to leave Georgia.
Richtman was candid about the uncertainty of her future.
“I don’t really know. I just want to have experienced everything, like traveling and meeting people and be successful in a career that I really love,” she said.
A major SEHS influence on Richtman was history teacher Jane Dolan.
“I had to actually try really hard and make myself study every night,” Richtman said.
She also said her dad’s support helped her in life.
He just always told me that I could do what I want and gave me a strong work ethic,” said Richtman.
For Howard, along with his friends, the now ECHS physics teacher and his STAR teacher, Dr. Brian Shinall and Dr. Nathalie Starling, a history teacher, made a big impact on him.
“Dr. Starling has helped me a lot, doing mock trial with her and all the support she’s given me,” he said.
For their classmates, SEHS’ top two would tell them to never give up.
“I guess just live by your own expectations,” Howard said. “I’ve always been supported by my parents and teachers, but it’s always been for my own gain rather than anyone else.”
Richtman said: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. If they put their minds to it they can do whatever they want.”