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Patriots' valedictorian, salutatorian follow passions beyond school
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Valedictorian Teju Faminu and salutatorian Ellen Dement were announced Wednesday morning. - photo by Michelle Kim

Top 10 seniors (listed alphabetically):
Kevin Blum
Mariya Cheriyampurathu
Ellen Dement
Tejumade Faminu
Kari Hiner
Katey Jones
Shawn Myers
Cody Nolen
Julie Roseberry
Kathryn Tuck

After waiting on pins and needles due to a new calculation method for determining the top students, Heritage High School valedictorian Teju Faminu and salutatorian Ellen Dement are breathing a sigh of relief. Both community-minded scholars learned of their status Wednesday morning when they were presented with gold medallions representing their hard-earned status.

Valedictorian Teju Faminu

Heritage valedictorian Teju Faminu used to want to become a pediatrician. Until she realized she didn't like being in hospitals. Or being around doctors. "The medical field is not for me," she said, laughing. "The children is the only part I like."

So this fall, Faminu is headed to Georgia Tech where she plans on studying computer engineering.

She insists she is not following the footsteps of her older brother, who also graduated from Heritage four years ago and studied computer engineering at Georgia Tech, and incidentally shares a birth day with her.
Faminu enjoys studying math the most out of all her subjects. Her eyes light up as she thinks about her past math classes, as well as history and physics classes. "I like the logic behind it," she said. "Eventually, it all makes sense." Literature and biology classes, on the other hand, are a challenge.

She is the daughter of Ade and Ife Faminu and is the second youngest out of five siblings. The family moved from Centreville, Va. to Rockdale seven years ago. Faminu attended Barksdale Elementary, Memorial Middle, Davis Middle, and Heritage.

Besides academics, Faminu participated in Beta Club, Interact club, Young Life youth ministry, Spanish Club, Math Team, and is president of the National Honors Society. She was recognized by the Rockdale and Conyers Rotary Clubs for excellence in social studies and was on named the Superintendent's Academic Scholar this past fall.

In her limited free time, Faminu bakes up a storm. Her cupcake creations and brownies have become so renown, she was able to raise $1,100 towards a mission trip by selling her baked goods.

This summer, Faminu is attending Young Life camp and is excitedly looking forward to the mission trip to Nicaragua.

Both girls already have their speeches written since the students near the top were asked to prepare a speech in advance. Faminu said her speech would be about freedom.

Salutatorian Ellen Dement

Ellen Dement's love of history goes back well before she ever took a history class.

"I've always loved history and architecture," she said. Even as a first grader, Dement would eagerly consume books about presidents and enjoyed family trips to Washington, DC and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
Now the Heritage salutatorian plans to pursue this passion in college and beyond by attending Vanderbilt University to study art history and architectural history with the goal of going into the field of historic preservation.

Her favorite subjects in high school were art history, European history and literature. Her most challenging classes also included art history as well as physics and biology.

Dement also played flute and piccolo in the marching band and symphonic band, where she was first chair, was Beta Club president, copy editor for the Heritage High paper The Sentinel, participated in Model Arab League, daram, Fellowship of Christian Youth, and tutored at Shoal Creek Elementary. She was named a STAR student at HHS for having the highest SAT scores, a National Merit Committed Scholar, a USMC Scholar of Excellence, and received a number of scholarships.

She is the daughter of Jonathan and Amy Dement and has one younger brother. She attended Shoal Creek Elementary, Edwards Middle, and Heritage High.

This summer, she'll intern with a Marietta-based firm that does historic resource surveys for the Ga. Department of Transportation.

She said her speech is about both the annoying things in high school but how, despite those, "there's a lot of good things" as well.