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Meet Newton's Val and Sal

Newton County High School senior Ian Cole isn’t worried about much these days.

The 17-year-old is months away from graduating and has already been accepted in the college of his choice, but there is one more thing Cole needs to do before he can wave goodbye to high school life.

Cole has been named the valedictorian of his high school class and with that comes the infamous valedictorian speech he must give to his classmates at the graduation ceremony.

Cole, who hasn’t starting writing his speech yet, is feeling a little nervous about it.

“I don’t really do a lot of public speaking,” said Cole. “I’m not used to giving speeches, so I’m definitely nervous about it.

The annually speech even has Cole’s father slightly nervous.

“My dad is happy. He’s just worried about me having to give the speech,” said Cole. “I think he’s sort of playing about that, but he didn’t seem too excited about me having to give a speech.”

But Cole thinks with a little bit of practicing reciting his speech and getting in the right frame of mind, he’ll be OK.
“It’s mostly just about getting into the idea,” he said. “I’m working on that.”

Other than the giving the speech, the experience of being named the valedictorian has been a bit underwhelming for Cole. While being at the top of the class is something he pursed close to the end of his sophomore year, over time it “just seemed to happen.”

“It’s not too big of thing for me, but a lot of people congratulate me for me for it. I just do the work like I’ve always done,” Cole said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, but then people kept saying it would be one of three people.”

Whatever butterflies he may be feeling is well worth it.

Cole’s family, including his father, mother and older brother, has always pushed him to do well in school. Not to be valedictorian but because doing well would open more doors to a better future.

Now, Cole is reaping the benefits of those rewards. He’s already been accepted to the University of Georgia and is anticipating being a college freshman.

He’s planning to major in scientific and medical illustrations.

“I like art and science,” said Cole. “I didn’t want to focus too heavily on a field that was just science and shy away from the arts, so I wanted to look at something that would do a little bit of both.”

Newton High School’s salutatorian, Brittany Webb, hasn’t chosen a school for higher education yet, but she’s hoping to hear back from her top schools in March.

The 17-year-old is fascinated by math and sharks, but isn’t sure which subject matter she should purse full-time.

“I think I want to major in math and minor in biology because I really love statistics and I really love sharks, so I don’t know what I want to with my life because I really want don’t want to give either one of them up,” said Webb.

While her collegiate future is still up in the air, like Cole, she isn’t too estatic about being the salutatorian of the school.

“It’s pretty cool. I mean I’m not like jumping off the walls,” said Webb about her position. “It’s a thing that happened.”
She once had aspirations to be the valedictorian but determined it didn’t matter whether she was first, second or third in the final results.

“The colleges I’m going to it’s not going to make much of difference to them either way,” she said. “Ultimately, it didn’t matter a whole lot. I mean it’s cool, but that’s all it is.”

While Webb isn’t making a big deal about her status, her friends and family, her father, mother and older brother, didn’t get that memo.

Her friends joke with her that she should’ve been number one, and Webb’s father blames her secondary position on an internship she worked.

Unlike Cole, Webb is feeling the pressure of having to give her speech at graduation.

“I think I’m just going to wing it,” she said about her salutatorian speech. “I feel like I’m more genuine when I do it that way.”