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A great honor
High school taps top two
3 Top students
Dawson County High School valedictorian Greer French, right, sits beside salutatorian Jessica Smith, left, in their economics class Monday. French, who is attending Georgia College & State University in the fall, said she is honored to represent the class of 2012 during graduation May 26. - photo by Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News

Principal Jute Wilson said it's always an honor to recognize Dawson County High School's academic elite.

"Naming the valedictorian and salutatorian is one of the most rewarding times of the year," he said. "To be recognized as the top academic performer over the course of four years speaks for itself."

After learning she was valedictorian, Greer French said she was pleased to have reached a goal.

"I feel like it's a great honor to be named valedictorian," French said. "When I started my freshman year I was hoping for it, but I didn't know if I could actually do it. It's kind of nice that now I have actually done it."

Salutatorian Jessica Smith was excited to represent her school and to carry her title forward.

"I think it's very rewarding to see how hard work can pay off," Smith said. "I think it opens so many doors. Now I have so many more opportunities."

Wilson said the honors are based on grade-point average throughout a student's academic career.

"There is a reason colleges, the military and employers look at the GPA," he said. "It is an indicator, not only of a person's intelligence, but of their work ethic, diligence and determination."

However, the titles also take into account students' personal discipline, leadership and social involvement.

French has been involved for four years in Juniorettes, a club sponsored by the Dawson County Woman's Club, and Venturing, which she described as "basically co-ed Boy Scouts."

Before beginning high school she attended Robinson Elementary and Riverview Middle School.

She has been accepted to Georgia College & State University, where she plans to begin in the fall. Recently she also received an Amicalola EMC scholarship.

"I am going to study pre-physical therapy and then go to graduate school to earn my Ph.D in physical therapy," she said.

For her part, Smith is involved in Y-Club, Interact, National Honor Society and Chamber Singers. Plus, she was an integral part of starting Praising Him in the A.M., a Christian club that meets on Thursday mornings.

"I am really involved in my church, Dawsonville First Baptist Church. I am in the youth group," she said.

Before high school, Smith attended Black's Mill Elementary and Riverview Middle School.

Now she is preparing to attend Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. She hasn't decided on her major, but is interested in intercultural studies, "which is like mission field work."

Both French and Smith said they are thrilled to represent their school in future endeavors, but are nervous about the required graduation speeches.

"I am glad to accept the challenge, but the speech is going to be tough," Smith said.

French agreed.

"I am excited about [being valedictorian] right now, but when the speech comes I am probably going to be really nervous," she said.

Both students said they would describe themselves as "shy." However, French said she is honest and caring, while Smith thinks of herself as being "passionate and open-minded."

Both thanked their teachers for mentorship and support. French mentioned Anne Hyams, a U.S. history and economics teacher at the high school.

"[She] has been a big support," she said. "She always encouraged me to do my best and always got excited when I had some kind of news to tell her."

Graduation is set for May 26 at Dawson County High School.