Alcovy High School senior Alex Yang was extremely proud of himself when he was named valedictorian of the school’s 2015 graduation class. It was a goal of his since the start of his senior year.
But, before his senior year, he didn’t pay too much attention to the class rankings. Instead he kind of just fell into the top spot.
“(it was) not really planned. It kind of just happened,” Yang said. “Earlier this year when I did find out my rank, then I just said, ‘OK, well let’s just do it because I’m already number one.’”
Although, it wasn’t a surprise the 17 year old found himself in the top spot. Yang, an athletic student and member of several high school clubs, always strives to be the best at what he does.
He approaches his academic studies in the same way.
“I think (it’s) just my personality,” he said. “I always like to go above and challenge myself. Like last year, I took AP classes, to get those grades for college.”
Taking accelerated courses and participating in after school activities was a true balancing act for Yang.
“A lot of times I do find it challenging, because sometimes it’s hard to stay after school when you have a test the next day,” he said. “Somehow, I find a way to balance everything and do it.”
The balancing act will have to continue for Yang, who plans to continue do extracurricular activities on a college campus next school year.
He’s narrowed his choices down to two schools but hasn’t made a final decision yet. Whichever one he picks, he’s going to major in computer science with the idea to program computer software that improves technology on a global scale.
“Technology is globalizing. It’s going all around the world, so if I can contribute to that, then I can help people,” he said.
Helping others, especially those less fortunate is something that Yang, the third oldest of six siblings, does quite often even now. Around the holidays, the Newton County native would go to homeless shelters and helped the less fortunate.
“I always feel like you have to give to those that are less fortunate than you,” he said. “You got to give to them so it will inspire them to become something of themselves.”
The people that inspire Yang are his parents, teachers and all his friends that push him to be better.
Alcovy’s salutatorian, Elise McDonald, feels very accomplished about her class ranking because she works really hard to succeed.
McDonald wasn’t paying attention to the class rankings until her junior year of school, when she found out how close to first place she actually was.
“I found out that I was number four,” she said. “I thought, ‘If I really tried, I might be able to make it higher.’”
Trying harder wasn’t easy. McDonald was already a drum major in band and part of several clubs and programs.
“Yes, it was very challenging,” she said.
But she preserved and powered through the school years and now has earned the title of salutatorian.
Her mother, who’s very proud of McDonald, wasn’t at all surprised by her accomplishment. It’s understandable because McDonald claims her determination and passion for learning comes from her mother, who’s an art teacher at Eastside High School.
“I’ve always been a self-motivated person, but I think it’s my mom who installed the need for education in me,” she said. “If I wanted to get to college I needed to get scholarships,”
Now, McDonald, who’s spent all her teenage years living in Newton County, is on her way to the University of Georgia, where she plans to get her bachelors and masters degrees in wildlife biology. After school, she plans to work for Fish and Wildlife, an organization that focuses on preservation marine animals.
McDonald has been in love with aquatic animals since the days when her grandfather use to work at Fish and Wildlife.
“He taught me everything about fish and wildlife, and he grew that passion in me,” she said. “It’s the only thing I ever wanted to be.”