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Keeping Up with the Patels: Magnet val, sal named
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Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology valedictorian Neal Patel, left, and salutatorian Janki Patel - photo by Michelle Kim

Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology knew it would come down to Neal Patel or Janki Patel (of no relation) for the top two spots this year.

But it wasn’t until Thursday that Neal was named this year’s valedictorian and Janki the salutatorian for the Class of 2012.

The refreshingly humble and sweet seniors have known each other since elementary school – they both attended Peeks Chapel Elementary and then Memorial Middle – and both said they would have been fine with either position.


Neal Patel, Valedictorian

Neal Patel, son of Atul and Bimal Patel, is headed to Emory University in the fall where he hopes to study neurobiology and behavioral biology.

Neal said he initially applied for the Magnet school just as a personal challenge, to see if he could pass the test.

“Once I got in my parents pretty much forced me into it. But I’m glad they did,” he said.

For Neal, one of the most interesting classes during his time at the Magnet School was Engineering Applications. His class designed and built a soapbox carts that they raced down the hallways. He was able to learn how to use design software and use carpentry skills he had picked up in ninth grade.

Although academics at the Magnet School are tough and involve a lot of late nights studying, Neal said he was able to make straight A’s since 10th grade and by 11th grade he was able to strike a good school-life balance.

The lanky 18-year-old was also very involved the local Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter and the Teens in the Driver’s Seat program, which advocates safe practices for teen drivers. The SADD chapter even put on a play at Edwards Middle School’s March Madness event this spring.

“It’s something I believe in,” he said.

Neal was chosen by the Magnet School as the Conyers Rotary top scholar for science and was also part of the group that won first place in chemistry at the regional science fair.


Janki Patel, Salutatorian

Janki Patel, daughter of Mayur and Lopa Patel, is headed to Georgia Institute of Technology to study biomedical engineering.

She pretty much knew she would be applying for Magnet School since her older brother Kunal, now a University of Georgia rising senior, had attended Magnet as well.

One of her favorite classes during these last four years was calculus. “Dr. Garner, our calculus teacher, showed us how calculus and math can be used in basically anything in life. It has so many applications,” she said.

Another passion for Janki is dance. The petite 18-year-old has been taking classical Indian dance classes since she was 4 culminating in her arungetrhum last year, a graduation/debut recital and ceremony. She choreographed the 2-hour long solo performance, displaying all the skills she's learned over the years.

“It’s something that I began to love," she said. "I just like dancing.”

"I am extremely glad I did it," she said of the arungetrhum. "It was a huge accomplishment for me and it allowed me to share my love for dance with my friends and family."

Last year, Janki and her dance group, the Kruti Dance Academy in Norcross, performed on the television show “America’s Got Talent.” The group auditioned in Orlando, Fla. performed in Las Vegas, NV and was invited back for the wild card competition in Hollywood. During that whole time, Janki and her teammates had to stay quiet until the shows aired. Janki ended up telling people she was attending a wedding.

 She also volunteers at the Academy with the younger dancers. “I enjoy teaching the young kids and being kind of a role model,” she said.