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Top Dawgs
Rockdale High School valedictorian and salutatorian to follow their passions
Salutatorian Diedra Rodriguez, left, and valedictorian Joshua Norton in the RCHS senior courtyard. - photo by Michelle Kim

Rockdale High school has named its valedictorian and salutatorian in preparation for Friday's graduation.

Both students have high academic credentials, a plethora of advanced placement classes and a distinct influence of their parents for their future academic and career paths.

Joshua Norton is the 2010 valedictorian, and Deidra Rodriguez was named the senior class's salutatorian.

Joshua Norton

Norton, the only child of Mark and Cindy Norton, has been taking AP classes since 10th grade, has played on the Rockdale and Rockdale Youth Soccer Association soccer teams, and has been a member of the 4H Club since fifth grade.

Working with the 4H Club has provided him with community service experience, which he says "rounded me out as an individual" and has allowed him to pursue working outdoors.

That is the passion he will follow to the University of Georgia where he has been accepted into the accelerated program.
Joshua has accepted a scholarship to UGA, where he will study animal sciences and continue on to veterinarian school.
"I grew up a Georgia boy," Joshua said. "My family has always been a big supporter of UGA. I was accepted into their food animal veterinarian incentive program and that was the extra push."

Mark, who works with the Department of Agriculture, helped his son earn an internship with a federal program where he worked with the Food and Drug Administration, Army veterinarians and the Center for Disease Control.

Those experiences opened his eyes to more possibilities with the career of a veterinarian outside of a private practice.
"I've always been one to be outside and working with my hands, I couldn't' stand being cooped up inside," Joshua said. "I figured a career outside doing something I enjoy, which is taking care of animals, would be ideal.

"It was really interesting to see all the jobs that vets could have besides just private practice. They do a lot of pathology and dealing with diseases that could be potentially deadly."

Joshua will look to continue to work with animals while at UGA, but said he will always look back fondly on his time at Rockdale.
"It's been interesting getting to know all the different people who go to school here," Joshua said. "It's definitely a melting pot. It's been a great time getting to know the teachers as well as preparing myself for other places."

Diedra Rodriguez

Rodriguez, the 2010 salutatorian, has been used to going to other places for some time now, as has been a support and supported by her mother in Cleveland, Ohio.

Rodriguez's mother, Martha Rodriguez, was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago, and has been receiving chemo therapy treatments at the Cleveland clinic.

While traveling with her mother, Diedra saw both the benefits and the areas of improvement needed by the nursing profession.
From that experience she decided to parlay her education into a career of nursing.

After graduation she plans on studying biology at Ohio State University and then moving on to nursing school.

"I've always been around hospitals because of my mom, so I really grew interest in nursing," Diedra said. "A couple of years ago I noticed how there's been a decline in patient compassion, and I want to be around people as well as help them medically. That definitely influenced me."

While in Cleveland with her mother, Deidra decided to take an admissions tour to Ohio State and fell in love with it. Throughout her time fighting the cancer, Martha has also fought to keep her daughter on track in her studies.

"At first it was a struggle, but then she was the one who pushed me," Diedra said. "She was my strength to continue on and do my best."

While at Rockdale, Diedra took several AP classes, including biology, calculus and psychology and was a member of the cross country and tennis teams.

She has one younger sister, Erika, a sophomore at Rockdale and was raised by her mother and father, Raymond, Rodriguez.
She also was a constant presence at Rockdale football games.

"It's definitely been unforgettable," Diedra said. "It's been a fulfilling accomplishment. I learned a lot here, and there are definitely teachers who I'll never forget."