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

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

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
Hanika Albert

Hanika Albert - Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy

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 - Booker T. Washington High School

Benjamin Leverette
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 - Carver High School 

Anna Watson
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 - Benjamin Elijah Mays High School 

Samuel Weekes
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 - South Atlanta High School 

Asha Crews
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 - North Atlanta High School

Sterling Spiegl
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 - Maynard H Jackson High School

Rebecca Schmitt
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 - Carver Early College 

Jenny Nguyen
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 - Charles R. Drew Charter School 

Gloria Kitchens
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 - Henry W. Grady High School 

Alexandra Schneider
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 - Carver School of Technology 

Brittany Byner
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 -Therrell High School 

Asha Redhead
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.