Saluting Rockdale County’s Top Graduates

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Rockdale High School’s Valedictorian 2017:

 Name: Myra Larkin

 Age: 18


Schools attended (elementary, middle, high):

Browns Mill Elementary, Salem Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr. High School (9-10), Rockdale County High School (11-12)

Parents’ names: Maranda Jones, Anthony Larkin

Siblings’ names (and are you oldest/youngest/middle, etc): Demyrion Peterson, I’m the oldest

Extracurricular activities:

SGA (9th)

MLK Village Scholar (10th)

Beta Club (10th, 11th, 12th)

Superintendent Advisory Committee (10th)

Dance Team (10th, 11th, 12th)

Spanish Club (10th)

Spanish Honors Society (10th)

Show Choir (11th, 12th)

Mu Alpha Theta (11th, 12th)

National Honor Society (11th, 12th)

Student Council (12th)

Vice Presidential Candidate (12th)

Interact Club (12th)

Fellowship of Christian Athletes (11th, 12th)


Leadership roles and awards:

Co-Captain of Divine Diamonds Dance Team

Marketing Chairperson of SGA

Chairperson of Academic Committee (MLK Village Scholars)

Captain of Show Choir

Highest GPA in Accelerated Coordinate Algebra (9th) 2013, Accelerated Analytic Geometry (10th) 2014 and Accelerated Pre-Calculus (10th) 2015

Top All Star Student in Math (9th, 10th)

Academic Excellence/Principal’s List (9th, 10th 11th)

Governor’s Honors State Nominee/Math (11th)

Georgia Certificate of Merit (11th)

Accounting Career and Awareness Program Case Study Winner (11th)

Student of the Month (AP U.S History, AP Chemistry, Sociology)

Tempus Fugit Award Nominee  (12th)

Georgia High School State Dance Championship Small Group Division 1st Place Winner (12th)

RCHS Divine Diamonds’ Best Motivator (12th)

RCHS Divine Diamonds Miss Congeniality (12th)

Superintendent’s Academic Award (12th)

Microsoft Office Specialist Certification (12th)


Scholarships: 1st RCHS Divine Diamonds’ Scholarship (12th)


College/plans after high school: Valdosta State University


Intended major and possible career: Accounting


Favorite subject/class and why: AP Calculus because it challenged me and I excelled


A memorable time when a teacher/staff member/parent/student helped you:  Mr. Calvin Leaks from Martin Luther King Jr. High School taught me how to be me and not change that. Ms. Timberlake, my coach and teacher at RCHS, she helped me with my resume and anything in life I had to deal with. She kept me going even when I had lost all hope.


Best thing about your high school experience: Being able to meet a group like the MLK Village of Scholars who became my family. Being able to come in to RCHS, everyone was so welcoming.


Advice to incoming freshmen: Always walk with a purpose


Best advice you received on succeeding:

Always have a goal set for yourself


How do you hope to be remembered or What are you most proud about in your high school career: I am most proud of being able to transfer schools in the middle of my high school career and still managing to prove that I can be great anywhere.





Rockdale County High School Salutatorian 2017

 Name: Johanna Stokes

 Age: 17


Schools attended: Hightower Trail Elementary, Conyers Middle, Rockdale County High and Rockdale Career Academy


Parents’ Names: Kenny and Tracy Stokes


Siblings’ Names: Youngest of 4; siblings names are Kenny Stokes III, Lorie Stokes, and Meagan Stokes


Extracurricular Activities: Marching Band, Interact Club, Spanish Honor Society, Beta Club, play softball at Rockdale Christian Youth Sports (RCYS), committee member of RCYS, part-time job at Beasley’s Drug Co., volunteer at AWAKE Coffee Community, teach children’s classes at church


Leadership Roles and Awards: President of Spanish Honor Society, Officer in Marching Band, Officer in Beta Club


Scholarships: Zell Miller


College/plans after high school: attend University of North Georgia (Dahlonega) majoring in Business Management and Spanish


Favorite subject/class and why:

Spanish; Learning another language and the different cultures associated with that language is something that I find incredibly interesting, particularly in the sense that it applies to my career field.


Memorable time when a teacher helped you:

I can’t really recall a specific time that she helped me with any one thing, though I’m sure there are many. Rather, it’s the influence she had over me that helped me so much. Ms. Nishio, my Spanish teacher for 3/4 years, really fostered my love for Spanish and served as a mentor to me as I was deciding my career path. She always pushed me to think critically and really dive into the culture, not just memorize conjugations of verbs.


Best thing about your high school experience:

Marching Band


Advice to incoming freshmen:

You have the power to make yourself the student you want to be, the professional you want to be, and ultimately the person you want to be. You just have to be brave enough to use it.


Best advice you received on succeeding:

It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do with what you know.


What are you most proud about in your high school career?

The person I became.



 Rockdale Magnet School of Science and Technology’s Valedictorian:

 Name: Chyna Mays

 Age: 18


Schools attended (elementary, middle, high):

  • Elementary School: Nova Elementary School and Flat Rock Elementary
  • Middle School: Sandy Springs Charter Middle School and K12 Virtual School
  • High School: Rockdale County High School/Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology


Parents’ names:

  • Demeka Breedlove-Mays
  • Anthony Mays I


Siblings’ names (and are you oldest/youngest/middle, etc):

I am the oldest child. I have a younger brother named Anthony Mays II.


Extracurricular activities:

  • National Honors Society
  • National Beta Club
  • Student Council
  • Science Envirothon Co-Captain
  • Science Olympiad Secretary
  • Varsity and Junior Varsity Lacrosse
  • Mu Alpha Theta Society
  • Spanish Honors Society
  • Model Atlanta Regional Commission Youth Leadership Council
  • Hands on Atlanta Volunteer
  • Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Volunteer


Leadership roles and awards:

  • National Honors Society, President

2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar Semi-Finalist

  • 2017 National Honors Society Scholarship Winner

2017 AP STEM Diploma

2016 AP Scholar with Distinction

2016 Georgia Merit Scholar

2015 AP Scholar with Honors

  • Student Council (Magnet Association of Student Activities, MASA), 2nd Vice President

2017 National Distinguished Student Leader by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Student Councils

2017 Southern Association of Student Councils Senior Scholar

o          2015-2017 National Association of Student Councils Excellence Award/Two Gold Excellence Awards

o          2015-2017 National and Regional Service Project Awards

  • Science Olympiad

o          Represented United States as a member of Team USA at the 2016 International Earth Science Olympiad in Mie, Japan

o          Ranked 8th on U.S. Earth Science Olympiad

o          Earned over 14 regional and state Science Olympiad Top 10 Awards

  • Science Envirothon

o          Earned over 22 regional and state Science Envirothon Top 10 Awards;

  • Lacrosse

o          2015 Varsity Letter

  • National Beta Club

o          2017 National Beta Club Scholarship Winner

  • Spanish Honors Society

o          2016 National Spanish Exam Silver Medalist

  • 2015 Intel/International Science and Engineering Fair Trip Winner/Observer
  • 2015 Merial Biological Promising Young Scientist Award for research on breast cancer
  • 2015 Georgia Science and Engineering Fair Outstanding Scientific Research in Medical Health Sciences Award for research on breast cancer
  • 2015 Georgia Junior Science & Humanities Symposium (GJSHS) Poster Presenter
  • 2017 Cornell University Presidential Research Scholar
  • 2017 Columbia University Kluge Research Scholar
  • 2017 Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Scholar
  • 2017 University of Southern California Trustee Scholar
  • 2017 Rob Brown Captain’s Scholar
  • 2017 Elks Most Valuable Student Semi-Finalist
  • 2017 UNCF STEM Scholar Semi-Finalist


Scholarships: $1,239,945

  • Duke University Engineering Half-Tuition Scholarship – $97, 976
  • Emory University Robert Woodruff Full Tuition/Room/Board Scholarship – $253,000
  • Georgia Tech University Zell Miller Full Tuition Scholarship
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Medalist Half-Tuition Scholarship – $128,000
  • Rice University Trustee Half-Tuition Scholarship – $102,000
  • University of Michigan Jean Fairfax/Dr. MLK, Jr. Scholarships – $60,000
  • University of Southern California Trustee Full Tuition Scholarship – $213,760
  • Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Full Tuition Scholarship – $190,992
  • Vanderbilt University Cornelius Vanderbilt Full Tuition Scholarship – $185,992
  • National Honors Society Scholarship – $2,325
  • National Beta Club Scholarship- $1000
  • Kimberly Chance Atkins Foundation Scholarship – $2000
  • Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarship – $1,000
  • American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) Scholarship- $1000
  • Southern Association of Student Councils Senior Scholarship – $900


College/plans after high school:

I plan to attend Stanford University where I will pursue independent research and support faculty research projects, study abroad in Asia and Africa, and take advantage of global humanitarian and sustainability projects with organizations, such as Doctors without Borders and Engineering without Borders.


Intended major and possible career:

I intend to major in Bio-engineering and minor in East Asian Studies. While I have not charted a definitive professional path, I am confident that I will use my learning experiences in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) responsibly and in ways that will advance environmental, mental, and physiological health to make the seemingly impossible, possible, on Earth, in Space, and for the protection and continuation of all mankind.


Favorite subject/class and why:

Science has always fascinated me. I’ve spent endless evenings with my dad engrossed in Stephen Hawking’s series Curiosity, and I have spent the last four years of school engaged in independent and team research project. These experiences helped me to appreciate the beauty of science and convinced me that it is an art form and are among the many reasons why Scientific Research was my favorite class. The laboratory became my art studio, dance floor, concerto, and operating room – a space fostering creative inquiry, encouraging ingenuity, and requiring intricate problem solving. In it, I move about the table tops with the grace of a ballerina, play the equipment with the timing and coordination of a musician, make transitions with the hand positions of a disc jockey, manipulate cells with the precision of a surgeon, and – in the end – produce works of scientific wonder much like a painter does with a blank canvas, translating my thoughts and ideas into something tangible, meaningful, and transformative.


A memorable time when a teacher/staff member/parent/student helped you:

Junior year, I asked my AP U.S. History teacher, Mr. Tucker, if he would be willing to write letters of recommendation for college and scholarships. He enthusiastically replied, he would be honored and that he would write his best recommendation yet. I asked why, and he replied that in all of his years of teaching, he had never met a student who has a greater work ethic, performance scores, and a passion for learning like I do.


Best thing about your high school experience:

My high school experience has allowed me to meet amazing people and create long-lasting friendships. My classmates are what truly made my overall high school experience memorable. The Magnet Class of 2017 was my second family.  Despite the differences we have, the class that I am a part of is very supportive of each other and accepting of different ideals. The memories I shared with them, such as dancing at Fall Ball or playing basketball at a Tailgate are ones that I will never forget. Whether it was late night calls about homework, studying for AP Exams, or throwing a potluck, we survived high school together as a family. I can’t imagine my high school experience without them.


Advice to incoming freshmen:

Always do your best in everything you pursue, but don’t get lost in the small stuff. Take time to have fun because you only get one chance at high school.  You have your entire adulthood to worry.


Best advice you received on succeeding:

Take it one day at a time. When you fail, find your faults and build on them. When you fall, wipe your tears, get up, and try again. When you succeed, determine how you can do better. You are in competition with yourself – so be your best self today and be better than your best self tomorrow. What God has for you, no one can take from you.


How do you hope to be remembered or What are you most proud about in your high school career:

I would like to be remembered for helping to build my school into what Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. called “the beloved community” by coordinating efforts between organizations to plan and facilitate activities focused on diversity in club recruitment, civic engagement, and involvement.





Rockdale County Magnet School of Science and Technology’s Salutatorian:

 Name: Sydney Driver

Age: 18

Schools attended (elementary, middle, high):

Peeks Chapel Elementary

Memorial Middle School (6th) and Davis Middle School (7th and 8th)

Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology (high school)


Parents’ names: Jeremy and Nicole Driver

Siblings’ names (and are you oldest/youngest/middle, etc):

Ashley, Sierra, Abigail, Jacob (2nd oldest, have a twin Sierra Driver)


Extracurricular activities:  Part time Work (Waffle House), Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, Ambassadors, Varsity Softball, Varsity Lacrosse, Women on Way to Success, Travel Softball


Leadership roles and awards: Ambassador for school, Varsity Softball captain (junior-senior year), Varsity Lacrosse Sophomore Captain (Program was cancelled jr and sr years), Grand Champion at regional science fair for research project sophomore and junior year, Varsity Softball( Most Valuable Player, Most RBIs, Coach’s award), Varsity Lacrosse Most Valuable Player.


Scholarships: Athletic Softball Scholarship ($24,000), Zenith Academic Scholarship (24,000), Dover Sons and Daughters scholarship (10,000) and Zell Miller


College/plans after high school: Emmanuel College

Intended major and possible career:  Undecided major (possibly biology). Occupational therapist

Favorite subject/class and why: Biology because my teacher was amazing and it somehow just clicked in my brain.


A memorable time when a teacher/staff member/parent/student helped you: My twin sister helped me study for our AP Physics exam while I was at work waiting on tables.


Best thing about your high school experience: All the amazing people I have met and grown with throughout this journey


Advice to incoming freshmen: Be nice to people and make as many friends as you can.


Best advice you received on succeeding: “Never give up”


How do you hope to be remembered or What are you most proud about in your high school career:

I am most proud of how well I was able to handle this last year while working, going to school, and playing year round travel softball. I hope people remember me as a good hearted person who was always positive and never gave up.





Salem High School’s Valedictorian

Name: Omar Tapia

Age: 18

Schools attended (elementary, middle, high): West Newton Elementary School (K-5th), Veterans Memorial Middle School (6th-8th), Salem High School (9th-12th)


Parents’ names: Juan and Ana Tapia


Siblings’ names (and are you oldest/youngest/middle, etc): I am the oldest. I have 2 younger sisters, Ana (15) and Diana Tapia (7).


Extracurricular activities: Salem Soccer (10th), Salem Tennis (11th), Salem Swimming (12th), Beta Club 10th-12th), FBLA (11th-12th), Skills USA (12th).


Leadership roles and awards: Star Student Award for the Class of 2017, Superintendent’s Academic Award, Skills USA State Architectural Display Competition 2nd place, Outstanding Senior Math Award, 2017 Work Based Learning Student of the Year Award


Scholarships: Zell Miller, Georgia Tech College of Design Academic Grants


College/plans after high school: Attend Georgia Tech


Intended major and possible career: Pursue a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering


Favorite subject/class and why: My favorite subject subject is a tie between AP US History and AP Physics. I loved US history because I just found all the material so interesting and enjoy learning about history. I loved physics because it is fundamental to our everyday lives and there is physics in everything we do.


A memorable time when a teacher/staff member/parent/student helped you: I’ve had countless memorable moments with my Architecture teacher, Mr. Daniel Scott, but this one stood out the most. He was helping me out finalize some renderings for my Skills USA project so I could hurry up and go home. On my way out, he told me to wait a sec and he presented me with two gifts after having nominated him has my honor teacher for the Superintendent Award. These two gifts meant a lot to me, and walked me out and advised me on career plans and told me the differences and benefits of a mechanical engineer and an architect.

Best thing about your high school experience: It is definitely the friendships that I made along the way. Friendships that will last a lifetime, friends that I can count on for anything and will always be there for me in my best and worst times.


Advice to incoming freshmen: Dear rising freshman, don’t screw up. Freshman year is arguably the most important year because it will set the tone for the rest of your high school career in terms of academics. If you hit the ground running, you will find it easier to keep those good grades; whereas if you slack off 9th grade year you will be busting your butt 11th and 12th grade year trying to get your GPA up to get those scholarships and college acceptances.


Best advice you received on succeeding: It actually came from a YouTube video that we watched in my SAT Prep class in 11th grade, the quote that stuck in my head was, “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe then you’ll be successful.” I will never forget that.


How do you hope to be remembered or What are you most proud about in your high school career: The proudest moment of my high school career was when I received my acceptance email from Georgia Tech on January 15, 2017 at 12:01pm. I was sitting around the dining table with my family anxiously waiting, refreshing my email a million times. When I opened it and saw I was accepted, tears of joy came out my eyes and I gave my mother the tightest hug ever.



Salem High School’s Salutatorian

Name: Vladislav Alex Mandzyuk

Preferred name: Vlad

Age: 18

Originally from: Everett, Washington.

Nationality: Ukraine.

Languages I speak: English and Russian.

Schools attended: Discovery Elementary (K-1st grade, WA), Emerson Elementary (2nd-5th grade, WA), Evergreen Middle School (6th grade, GA), Snellville Middle School (7th grade, GA), Edwards Middle School (8th grade, GA), and Salem High School (9th-12th grade, GA).

Parents’ names: Aleksandr Mandzyuk, Lyudmila Mandzyuk

Siblings’ names: Christina (16), Angelina (12), David (11), and Diana (9).

Extracurricular activities: Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), SkillsUSA, and Soccer.

Leadership roles: Captain of the soccer team (11th grade), Beta club treasurer (11th grade), and oldest sibling in family.

Awards: Superintendent’s Award (10th-12th grade), Silver medal in the state construction math competition (SkillsUSA), and A/B honor roll (9th-12th grades).

Scholarships: Zell Miller and Georgia Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities (GHARA).

College/plans after high school: Middle Georgia State University for two years (Regents’ of Engineering Transfer Program), then I’m going to transfer to Georgia Tech.

Intended major: Aerospace Engineering (Bachelor’s Degree)

Favorite subject: Physics, because it’s part of our daily life whether we know it or not, and just the math that goes with it.

Memorable time teacher helped me: As a student I am always stressed, so one day my teacher told me that whenever I’m feeling stressed I should take a walk. Without hesitating, he took the whole class outside just so we could walk, and the best part was, is that it actually helped. That was my construction teacher from RCA Brett Creel who also helped me in some of the decisions I had to make in my life.

Best high school experience: Definitely the friends that I got to make along the way, but also the time I scored my first goal for Salem.

Advice to incoming freshman: Don’t be overwhelmed by anything. There are people who care about your success and are more than willing to help you.

Best advice I received on succeeding: Not to stress about the future because God is already there.

Hope to be remembered by: I would like to be remembered as someone who works very hard and likes to stay humble no matter the position I find myself in.

Most proud about: I am most proud about the fact that I can share my success with all the people who got me to this point in my life.

Extra: I would like to thank and mention Dr. Carey from RCA because she played a huge role in my life. Not only has she helped prepare me for my first scholarship, but she taught me things about the real world. As a result, I feel like I am more than ready to go take on the next step of my life. I would also like to mention Mr. Paul Hagan from RCA because he inspired me to not only become an engineer, but actually enjoy it as well. I have a lot of teachers, friends, and parents I could thank, but I feel like these two were some of the best teachers that I could ever ask for.



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