What it takes: DeKalb valedictorians share secrets to success

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Advice from the top Rayeanna Motley Advice received Do not compare yourself to others ... Instead, be encouraged by others to help motivate the plans you have for yourself. To Freshmen Participate in activities not only because it looks good on your resume but it will help you gain something for yourself. Saya Abney Advice received Involving yourself deeply in areas you are passionate about has a way of opening up opportunities and helping things fall into place. To Freshmen Life is going to be unpred

Now that high school seniors are graduating, the class of 2018 is ready for college. Some are headed to Harvard, MIT and other prestigious institutions out of state. Others are staying closer to home, attending Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, among others. The DeKalb County graduates featured here have worked hard to achieve academic success. Here they share some advice. (In some cases, responses were edited for length)

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Sydnie Cobb

Sydnie Cobb
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Sydnie Cobb

Sydnie Cobb 

High School: DeKalb Early College Academy

Extracurricular activities: Student Government Association president, Girl Scouts, 21st Century Leaders

Youth Ambassador, Reading Bowl, National History Day, The Signal copy editor(Georgia State

newspaper), Youth Leadership Center president, National Honor Society, History and Politics Club

treasurer, Lime Green Giraffe (Girl Scout magazine) service director, Church Youth Council

Where you are going to college? Harvard University

What do you intend to study? Government

What is the best advice you got about succeeding? 

Persistence, persistence, persistence! The journey to success is never linear, but persistence is key to navigating your path. Also, don’t let others define what success looks like for you. You will never feel fulfilled trying to attain someone else’s vision of success.

What advice would you give to a freshman? 

Networking and forming meaningful connections with your teachers are two of the most important actions you can take in your high school career. You never know where those connections might take you.

RELATED: Here is the complete DeKalb County school graduation schedule for 2018

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Tea White — Resident Valedictorian 

School: Southwest DeKalb High School

Extracurricular activities: Softball, National Honor Society, BETA, French Honor Society

College: University of Georgia

Intended major: Food Science

What is the best advice you have about succeeding? Set a goal worth striving for. Do not allow those around you to affect your decisions.

What advice would you give to a freshman? Freshman year is a period where you learn how to balance your time and work. In all, stay focused, and before moving on find something that makes you happy or at least relax.

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Morgan Banks — Magnet Valedictorian 

High School: Southwest DeKalb High School

Extracurricular activities: Varsity Cheerleading; Wind Symphony Band; Spanish Honor Society; National Honor Society; Mu Alpha Theta; Student Government Association; Rho Kappa; and Beta Club

College: Tuskegee University

Intended major: Animal Science

What is the best advice you got about succeeding? Success comes with hard work and dedication. You cannot compare your success to someone else's. In order to succeed, you need confidence and perseverance.

What advice would you give to a freshman? The ninth grade is the most important and critical year in High School. This year sets the ground work for your next three years of High School. Make every grade count and enjoy your four-year journey.

RELATED: Metro Atlanta well represented on list of best high schools in the U.S.

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Richard Tran 

High School: Clarkston High School

Extracurricular activities: Future Business Leaders of America

Where you are going to college? Georgia State University

What do you intend to study? Computer Science

What is the best advice you got about succeeding? To succeed one must be consistent, persevere and manage time well. To succeed in life, one will make mistakes, however, to truly understand success is to set goals for yourself and focus on making them happen.

What advice would you give to a freshman? 

The advice I would give to a freshman would be to search for opportunities to be ahead of everyone. Whether it be accelerated classes, advanced placement classes or dual enrollment classes, take as much as is offered to you. It will be worth it in the end.

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Kariyah Muhammad (Magnet Valedictorian) 

High School: Columbia High School

Extracurricular activities: National Honor Society, Soccer, Reading & Writing

Where are you going to college? Georgia Southern

What do you intend to study? Nursing

What is the best advice you have about succeeding? It will always be harder at the next level but you miss 100 percent of the shots you do not take. If someone else can do it, you can do it too. With great determination, you are able to do anything you put your mind to.

What advice would you give to a freshman? Take the extra challenge. Always go the extra mile! Put in your best effort during your freshman year because it is your most important year. Keep pushing when it gets hard because it will be worth it in the end. Take dual enrollment courses ask questions, go the extra mile, and push until the very end.

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Name: Rayeanna Motley (Residental Valedictorian) 

High School: Columbia High School

Extracurricular activities: BETA, National Honor Society, Swimming, Cross Country, Track & Field, Chorus, and Photography/Videography community service

Where are you going to college? Savannah College of Art and Design

What do you intend to study? Filming/Cinematography

What is the best advice you have about succeeding? Success is all in the mind. Do not compare yourself to others because that is your greatest downfall. Instead, be encouraged by others to help motivate the plans you have for yourself in the future. Have the desire for what you want to become and positively execute it.

What advice would you give to a freshman? Be well rounded. If you are shy, try to surround yourself with positive people and get involved in your school and community. Participate in activities not only because it looks good on your resume but it will help you gain something for yourself. High school is a life experience that you will not get back so enjoy it. Also, it is important that you remain consistent throughout high school in your academics and extracurricular activities. Lastly, do not be afraid of failure because that can be motivation for success.

Mario Becerra Aleman 

High School: Cross Keys High School

Extracurricular Activities: Mu Alpha Theta Vice President; Technology Student Association; Robotics; Future Business Leaders of America; Youth Entrepreneurs; Latino Youth Leadership Academy; National Honor Society; Beta Club; Rho Kappa; Tribe of Funk Marching Band (8th-11th grade)

College: Emory College of Arts and Sciences

Major: Computer Science

What is the best advice you got about succeeding? 

Because success is an abstract word, no two definitions of it are the same. Define the word, do what you love and become great at it. With hard work and passion, everything else will fall into place.

What advice would you give to a freshman? 

Freshman year is probably the most important year in your high school career. Even if it seems irrelevant that the time, in this year you will lay the foundation for the next three years. Hit the ground running and do not slow down; maintain your grades so that your GPA starts off strong. Find your niche within the school, this is the time to explore, because of this, surround yourself with friends that will support and encourage you. And finally, do not overburden yourself, find the best way to relax, because you will need it.