How to succeed in high school: Advice from Atlanta's top students

7:05 a.m. Monday, May 22, 2017 AJC Homepage

Stay focused from the start, Atlanta's top students say, and perhaps you too will graduate at the top of your class.

More than 2,400 seniors will graduate from Atlanta Public Schools this month. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently asked Atlanta’s Class of 2017 valedictorians for their advice on how to succeed in high school. 

Many advised their peers to try to start strong in their freshman years. But they also offered words of encouragement: “Don’t let failure seem like it's the end of the world,” Carver High School valedictorian Anna Watson said.

Hanika Albert

Extracurricular activities: Swim; track & field; Health Occupations Students of America

College: Georgia State University

Intended major: Biology with pre-med concentration

What advice would you give a freshman at your high school?: Freshman year is the year that you can gain a lead against your classmates. If you start strong, you'll finish strong.

Benjamin Leverette

Extracurricular activities: Student government, cross country, tennis 

College: Georgia Institute of Technology 

Intended major: Computer science 

What is the best advice you have received about succeeding?: True success is not based only on the great things you have done, but the great things you have done for others. How will you impact those around you?

Anna Watson

Extracurricular activities: Audio video team, Health Occupations Students of America, Student body government, Hands on Atlanta, art club 

College: University of West Georgia or Agnes Scott College

Intended major: Biology (pre-med track) 

What is the best advice you have received about succeeding?: Don’t let failure seem like it's the end of the world.

Samuel Weekes

Extracurricular activities: Varsity cross country, track and field and golf; Boy Scouts of America; SGA Advisory Board; Chairman, Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation; Model United Nations; Jobs for Georgia Graduates; Technology Student Association; Breakthrough Atlanta; Fast Track Atlanta (Business and Entrepreneurship) 

College: Brown University 

Intended major: Undeclared but an interest in mathematics 

What advice would you give a freshman at your high school?: I would tell a freshman at my high school to get involved in extracurricular activities in school to develop into a well rounded student. I would also tell he or she to take challenging/different courses over the course of your high school career to really see what you would pursue after high school, whether that be an undergraduate degree or trade. 

Asha Crews

Extracurricular activities: Emory Pipeline, Health Occupations Students of America, BETA Club, National Honors Society, Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation 

College: Pace University 

Intended major: Nursing 

What is the best advice you have received about succeeding?: If you can't out smart them, out work them.

Sterling Spiegl

Extracurricular activities: Boy Scouts of America, varsity lacrosse, debate team, Arabic Culture Club, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, National Honor Society 

College: Princeton University 

Intended major: Chemical engineering 

What advice would you give a freshman at your high school?: Do things for the right reason, because they make you happy, not to build a resume or prove people wrong

Rebecca Schmitt

Extracurricular activities: Tennis, orchestra, Zoo Atlanta volunteen, Mentor for Velocity, Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation 

College: Duke University 

Intended major: Chemical engineering 

What advice would you give a freshman at your high school?: Positivity is key. Remain an idealist and hope can overcome anything.

Jenny Nguyen

Extracurricular activities: Robotics, GEMS (Gracefully Empowered Matriculating Sisters), Direct Focus Youth, Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, student government, JROTC, Girls Who Code 

College: Georgia Institute of Technology 

Intended major: Biomedical engineering 

What is the best advice you have received about succeeding?: Failure is a good thing too. It helps you identify your mistakes so that you can fix them and improve yourself.

Gloria Kitchens

Extracurricular activities: Varsity and club volleyball, band, soccer, National Honor Society, National Beta Club, Tri-M Honor Society 

College: Tufts University 

Intended major: Mathematics 

What advice would you give a freshman at your high school?: I would tell them to work hard and study hard especially in ninth grade because you want to start your GPA off right.

Alexandra Schneider

Extracurricular activities: The Southerner (school newspaper) managing editor; historian of the Latin Club; dance (ballet, modern, jazz) and outreach for the arts; National Art Honor Society member; President of the National Honor Society 

College: Yale University 

Intended major: Undecided 

What advice would you give a freshman at your high school?: Keep an open mind to new things and make an effort to step outside your comfort zone. Meet new people, start a club, or try an extracurricular you never thought to try, but don't leave high school regretting the chances you didn't take.

Brittany Byner

Extracurricular activities: Dance, Elite Sisterhood Inc., GAETT (Geniuses Achieving Excellence Through Technology) 

College: Tuskegee University 

Intended major: Nursing 

What is the best advice you have received about succeeding? Don't engage in what "the crowd" and your "friends" are doing. Follow your own mind and focus on preparing for your future.

Asha Redhead

Extracurricular activities: Dual enrollment: Georgia State University, varsity volleyball, self-founded literacy enrichment program (volunteer organization), mock trial, Atlanta Public Schools Honors Chorus, piano, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society 

College: Morgan State University 

Intended major: Industrial engineering and economics 

What advice would you give a freshman at your high school?: Use the next four years as your personal platform to discover your unique passions and your ultimate purpose. High school is one of the least expensive investments you will encounter in the next decade, always bet on yourself and your own success.

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