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SPIGOLON: Newton County’s young high achievers offer hope for future
Newton High Top 10
Newton High School's top 10 graduates for 2021 are Abigail Caceres, Iyonna Clark, salutatorian Russell Danilchuk, Alanys Elvir-Bustillo, Julia Kolt, Zoe Mayo, valedictorian Nathaniel “Skye” Nash, Karington Perry, Alexander Simons and Jada Spillers. - photo by Courtesy of the Newton County School System

In the relatively short time I’ve reported on news here in Newton County, I’ve seen enough alleged juvenile mayhem to last a lifetime.

Some county residents, 18 and younger, have listened to the wrong voices in their communities and done things that scarred them for life — in ways seen and unseen.

Why someone whose whole life is ahead of them would commit violent criminal acts — giving them little but prison or menial jobs to look forward to the rest of their days — is for the young perpetrators themselves to answer.

Sociologists and psychologists probably could write whole books about the root causes of teen violence and crime — which is doing nothing to enhance the quality of life in Newton County or Metro Atlanta as a whole.

But there is another, less visible group of young people in Newton County who are quietly going about their daily lives, focusing on what will prepare them for careers in all fields of endeavor and giving them skills they can use the rest of their lives.

These are the young people who will be leading us into the mid-21st century, who give us hope a bright future awaits. 

A number of our county’s top students intend to enter the ever-expanding field of medicine.

Consider Alcovy High School senior Aderonke “Esther” Adewumi. She intends to major in biochemistry and molecular biology at Mercer University in the fall. Maybe she will be part of a team that tackles some of our most daunting medical mysteries, beginning with coronavirus?

Newton High School Valedictorian Nathaniel “Skye” Nash said he worked to be the school’s top student in part to be positioned to earn the scholarship money he needed to attend the college of his choice without it being a financial burden for his family.

Nash plans to begin his college studies at Oxford College and go on to its parent campus, Emory University in Atlanta, for pre-med studies to become a cardiologist. 

“I’m trying to give back to my family and the community,” Nash said, noting he wanted to tackle heart disease which runs in his family.

Social Circle High Valedictorian Emily Hardwar has already done dual enrollment work at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College campus near Social Circle. She plans to pursue a doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP), although she admits that’s “subject to change.”

One of Alcovy’s two valedictorians, Logan Dobar, also already has been taking college courses as a dual enrollment student at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College campus to prepare himself for studies in electrical engineering.

He said he’s been too busy focusing on his studies to worry about whether he was in the running for Alcovy High’s valedictorian honors this year — which he will share with another student — or Alcovy’s STAR Student award denoting the school’s highest score on the SAT college entrance exam. 

Dobar, who also attended classes at Newton College & Career Academy (NCCA), did not hide under a rock while working toward his academic goals. He was a member of the NCCA Electrathon car team, the VEX Robotics Team, and the Technology Student Association throughout high school. 

Natalia Sanchez is sharing Alcovy’s valedictorian honors with Dobar. She plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall and is considering International Business as her specialty. 

She credited her parents with supporting her academic efforts after she was among the first in her family to graduate from high school. They wanted to support her academic efforts after they did not receive the same level of support for their education from their parents, she said.

There’s Joyce Li, who is Eastside High School’s valedictorian and the STAR Student for the entire county.

She plans to attend Georgia Tech this fall and major in computer science. She admitted she may have been a little better than others comprehending the course work but she had to work hard to make that understanding pay off.  

Newton’s top students also see their futures in other areas.

Aeryn Barrentine of Alcovy plans to study worship arts and sound tech at Toccoa Falls College 

Fellow Alcovy senior Taylor Stevens is the first student in the school’s 14-year history to earn All-State Band accolades. She is headed to the University of Alabama to study music.

All in all, the future is very bright for our top scholars who have placed themselves in positions to do great things for themselves in the future. Here’s hoping they remain focused and achieve all they want.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at