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Top Athens high school scholars named

The Clarke County School District is pleased to announce the Class of 2024 valedictorians and salutatorians for Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central, and Classic City high schools. The district commends these students for finishing with the highest and second-highest grade-point averages in their graduating classes.


Valedictorian – Jason Zhang

Jason Zhang was president of the Cedar Shoals Beta Club and has enjoyed Math Team, Chess Club, Book Club, and varsity tennis. He is also a dual-enrolled student at the University of Georgia and an intern at the Chandler Lab in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

“How Jason does anything is how he does everything,” said Carly Chandler, seventh-grade science teacher at Hilsman Middle School. “Whether it be preparing for an exam, competing on the tennis court, fishing for bass or baking a cake, Jason gives his full attention, care, and dedication. Jason is recognized as a brilliant student, club leader, and winning athlete; but of all his many achievements, Jason’s greatest qualities are his love for his family, friends, and a good laugh.”

Jason will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology beginning in the fall and plans to major in Computer Science with hopes of one day becoming a software engineer.

“Excelling in academics is a momentous feat that many strive for, yet few obtain. Jason has excelled academically as this year's valedictorian and participated in extracurricular activities, making him a well-rounded student and Jaguar leader,” said Cedar Shoals principal Antonio Derricotte. “His commitment to educational fortitude and dynamic personality set him apart. The Cedar Shoals family salutes him as a proud Jaguar ready for greatness.”

Salutatorian – Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith is a dedicated student, working hard to immerse herself into the rich student body and environment of Cedar Shoals through many clubs and activities. Last football season, Chloe was one of the drum majors for the Classic City Sound Marching Band, leading the band through their endeavors on and off the field. She is also vice president of the Student Government Association, a member and leader of the Cedar Readers book club, co-editor of the Little Blue Book literary magazine program with Cedar BluePrints, and principal clarinet player for the Cedar Shoals Wind Ensemble.

“Chloe’s peers voted her ‘Miss Cedar Shoals’ for a reason,” said Marc Ginsberg, Cedar Shoals English teacher and BluePrints Adviser. “One of the most well-rounded young people you will ever encounter, she exemplifies all of the best qualities of the East Side: strong in all subject areas but also creative and kind. Independent, determined, and strong-willed. Chloe also understands how to collaborate with peers to achieve greater outcomes for all.”

Entering the 2024-25 school year, Chloe will be attending the Georgia Institute of Technology with a major in Psychology, as she plans to explore her fascination with the human mind through research and studies.

Chloe moves to the beat of her drum, which has earned her the honor of being this year's salutatorian,” said Mr. Derricotte. “It has been said that time waits for no one. Chloe has used her time wisely to execute a plan that would help guide her, as she has created the mold and model of what academic success looks like. Cedar Shoals is proud of Chloe and looks forward to her future promise as she grows to new heights.”


Valedictorian – Patrick Allen

Patrick Allen’s desire to learn at the highest level has led to several academic recognitions – the AP Scholar with Honor award, the UGA Merit Scholar award, and the Gregg W. Lewis Memorial Scholarship. His dedication to academic success has led to his most notable achievements to date, which also include being named Clarke Central’s valedictorian, STAR Student for Clarke Central and the entire Clarke County “system” of public and private schools, and a UGA Foundation Fellowship and Stamps Scholar.

Patrick has earned the reputation as a true leader and uses those skills to make significant impacts in both his school and the community at-large. His keen interest in economics and finance inspired him to co-found and serve as co-president of Clarke Central’s Investment Club. He was a varsity runner for the CCHS cross country team and part of the team that won a fourth consecutive region championship. He is a dedicated senior member of the Athens Peer Court, as well as the CCHS chapter of the National Honor Society. As captain of the boys’ tennis team, Patrick led the Gladiators to their first region championship title in over 35 years and was the recipient of the GHSA Region 8-AAAAA Singles Player of the Year award.

Patrick will attend the University of Georgia beginning in the fall and intends to major in Finance.

“I have come to know Patrick as someone who is hardworking, outgoing, caring, determined to reach his personal goals, and never fails to give his best effort,” said Patrick’s school counselor, Kanika Barnett-Jewell. “I have truly enjoyed being a part of his high school journey culminating in this well-deserved honor. I know that a very bright future awaits him.”

“Our school community commends Patrick Allen as this year’s valedictorian for the graduating class,” added Clarke Central principal Dr. Swade Huff. “His outstanding academic achievements and dedication to excellence have earned him many distinctions. The Central community looks forward to his continued success and global contributions.”

Salutatorian – Caroline Orbock

Caroline Orbock has excelled in math and science, and many of her extra-curricular activities have a science and environmental focus. She learned about propagating gardenias from her adult neighbor, and for the past several years they’ve had a partnership growing and selling gardenia bushes. She has also been involved with the Green River Preserve environmental summer program for nearly 10 years.

This school year, Caroline co-founded an Aeronautics Club and put together a team to enter model rocket competitions. Her creative explorations have led her to the arts as well. She spent a year working with the Clarke Central Puppetry Guild and contributed to the school literary magazine. A student-athlete since ninth grade, Caroline co-captained the varsity girls’ volleyball team for her senior season last fall.

“In addition to Caroline’s intellectual and creative talents, she also stands out for the depth and quality of commitment she brings to her endeavors,” said Caroline’s school counselor, Heidi Nibbelink. “I know the future is in good hands with students like Caroline leading the way.”

“The Clarke Central school community isn’t surprised that Caroline is the salutatorian for the class of 2024 because of the high standard she has set for herself and her peers during the past four years,” added Dr. Huff. “Caroline has consistently demonstrated exceptional academic focus and commitment to her education. We are proud of her achievements and excited to see what the future holds.”


Valedictorian – Jamarion Evans

Jamarion Evans plans to attend Athens Technical College starting in the fall to pursue his goal of becoming a phlebotomist.

“When I first arrived at Classic City High School, I was navigating uncharted territory, searching for my place in a world that often seemed overwhelming,” said Jamarion. “I was behind in my studies, grappling with self-doubt, and struggling to find my footing. But within the supportive community of Classic City High School, I found not only the academic resources I needed to succeed but also the encouragement and guidance of teachers and peers who believed in me.”

“Jamarion has shown a dedication to achieve his education. He has overcome many challenges to make sure he is graduating this year,” said Classic City assistant principal Kim Mattox. ”I am so proud of his perseverance and willingness to stay on his path for success.”

Jamarion’s favorite quote is from Dale Carnegie: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."

Salutatorian – Kiriyana Faust

Kiriyana Faust plans to study Criminal Justice as she begins her journey at Athens Technical College in the fall. She credits her success as a student to her family, friends, and teachers who offered support and encouragement along the way.

“I am a product of the unwavering love and support of my grandfather, Walter Faust, who raised me with a strong sense of moral values, and am a reflection of the resilience and determination of my aunt, Jennifer Hull, who overcame great obstacles to achieve her dreams,” said Kiriyana.

“Kiriyana is the perfect example of kindness. She cares for others and is always encouraging of her fellow students and respectful to teachers and staff,” said Ms. Mattox. “Under her kindness is the determination to succeed and a mindset of greatness.”

Kiriyana’s favorite quote is from Harry Styles: “A dream is only a dream until you decide to make it real.”

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