Newton High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian represent a range of interests and academic paths, but they both blazed their way through high school and are knocking on a dorm door.
Richelle St. Louis and Vitaliy Semenikhin have been named Newton High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian for the 2014 graduating class, respectively.
“Being valedictorian and salutatorian out of a building of 2,200 is a monster (accomplishment),” said Newton High Principal John Ellenberg.
St. Louis is graduating with a 4.0 GPA and has held various positions in school clubs, such as senior representative of National Honor Society, secretary of Student Government Association and treasurer of Key Club.
Born in the Caribbean, 17-year-old St. Louis moved to the United States in 1998 and to Georgia in 2009. She said she will remember graduation as her fondest memory of high school.
She plans to attend Oxford College of Emory University in the fall to pursue a degree in biological sciences. She said she wants to study something in the medial field, but if this major does not suit her once beginning it, she at least will be in the sciences.
St. Louis said she is looking forward to the freedom of not having the schedule of a high school class, noting it will be a nice change.
In her spare time, St. Louis said she enjoys reading and writing poetry. She is particularly fond of “The Mortal Instruments” series of young adult fantasy novels.
Semenikhin, 18, is also graduating with a 4.0 GPA. He was recently featured in The News for winning the state science fair and is a STAR student and the captain of the Academic Team. On top of his academic work, he worked 35 hours a week through high school at Johnny’s Pizza.
Born in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Semenikhin moved to the United States when he was two years old, starting in Boston with his family and ending in Newton County.
He said being named salutatorian has been a favorite high school memory because “all the hard work I put forth is solidified.”
He now moves on to Georgia Tech to major in aerospace engineering.
“I’ve always been interested in engineering, and I solidified my interest in aerospace because I love model rocketry,” Semenikhin said.
He plans to live off-campus with his brother, who just received his bachelor’s degree at Georgia Tech and is now pursuing his master’s in material sciences.
“I’m ready for the challenge and to see how I’ll do in a new environment,” Semenikhin said.
His non-school-related activities include building model rockets in his garage, woodworking and tending to his family’s bees and chickens. He said the bees just produced 10 gallons of honey.