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Looking into the future
HHS Val.-Kylie-Webb--Sal
Heritage High School valedictorian Kylie Webb, left, and salutatorian Frankie Merkel practice their speeches. - photo by Jessica Smith

Though most seniors slack off in the last months of school, Heritage High School's valedictorian Kylie Webb and salutatorian Frankie Merkel say knowing they were in the running for the top spots kept "senioritis" from getting out of hand.

But their AP Calculus and Macro-Economic teacher Jeff McCammon said their success was due to much more than that. 

"These are both top notch students - leaders in multiple ways. They're not only smart, but dependable and trustworthy. Their families have influenced them well, their peers look up to them...This year the competition was close, but it wasn't cutthroat. It was more about cooperation."

According to the school, mere percentage points in their weighted GPA's separated the school's top ten students.

The driving force behind Webb's academic quest was the goal of getting into a "good school with a good scholarship" - something she can now check off her list. Among her many collegiate suitors, she chose Auburn University where she will study bio-medical science and chemical engineering.

"I liked it the best. It was the prettiest campus, and they gave me a study abroad year that UGA and Tech didn't offer," she said. Webb is considering the medical field or research as her eventual profession.

Besides being first among her 372 fellow graduates, Webb is captain of the math team, competes on the varsity swim team and is active in the Anchor Club, a community service group. Their projects at Rockdale Cares are among her favorites.

McCammon noted Webb's dedication among her many admirable attributes. "In class, she did everything I asked and beyond. She does what it takes to get ahead," he said. Though AP micro-economics wasn't offered, she showed up in the afternoons for six review sessions and took the test for college credit.

UGA was a no brainer for Merkel, "It's close, and they have a good law school," he said. He plans on studying business law.

In addition to his academic bonafides, Merkel was a force to be reckoned with on the tennis courts as well. Playing number two singles, he was undefeated in Region 8 AAAA play this year assisting his team in securing the regional title for the fourth straight year. "He's a scholar athlete," said McCammon. "He has the focus and intensity there that shows in every avenue of his life."

Before enjoying the summer, these two stand-outs have the little matter of their commencement addresses to knock out. Despite some good natured ribbing, Webb gleefully gave a teaser for her topic - 90s TV theme-show songs and what they've taught her. She quoted a line from the show, "Boy Meets World": "Believe in you. Dream. Try. Do good."

"Don't make that face," Webb said to Merkel, as he listened on. He said his speech will be based on Winston Churchill's line, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." Words of wisdom culled from both a prime minister and a sitcom. Should make for an interesting and inspiring evening.