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Valedictorians rise to the top of their class

5/16/2014, 5:38 p.m.

As more than 5,954 seniors prepare to depart DeKalb high schools this week, we take a look at the valedictorians of the 2014 class.

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Dallas Turner

Arabia Mountain (Magnet)

For Dallas Turner, the idea of an engineering and music degree at Northwestern University is the most natural thing.

The Arabia Mountain High Magnet valedictorian plans to pursue a dual major in mechanical engineering and oboe performance at the Evanston, Ill., university.

His path to engineering came from the influence of his parents, both of whom were science and technology majors, and from the interesting projects he had in class. Dallas said he rose to the top of his class with a 4.23 GPA because he took his teachers’ advice.

“They heavily emphasized that you take AP and Honors classes, and I listened.”

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Ashjah Hall

Cedar Grove

Ashjah Hall will take a giant step toward her dream of being an entrepreneur when she begins college this fall.

Cedar Grove’s 2014 valedictorian will major in marketing at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. Ashjah, who has a 3.84 GPA, hasn’t yet decided on a specific career, “but I think I would enjoy the challenge of business ownership.”

Ashjah, whose club activities include the National Honor Society, Beta Club and Cedar Grove’s Dance Team, said she will urge classmates to “aim to inspire” in her valedictory speech.

“We should inspire future generations so that they can be better than us. And if they’re better than us, the good possibilities for humanity are endless.”

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Phat Chang

Clarkston

Phat Chang is the first valedictorian in his family.

His parents, Vong Chang and Mui Sang, who emigrated from Vietnam to the United States when he was a year old, were very excited when they got the news that his 4.193 GPA had earned the top spot at Clarkston High.

“I saw a look in my mother’s eyes I had never seen before,” he said. “Her eyes sparkled like stars.”

Phat is headed to Emory University in the fall to study pre-medicine.

Phat said his high school, which is DeKalb County’s most diverse, taught him to be understanding of different viewpoints and to be respectful of all of them.

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Mikirra Bullard

Columbia (Resident)

Mikirra Bullard’s GPA hovered around 4.0 since the early weeks of her senior year, so she can’t honestly say that she was surprised when she nabbed the resident valedictorian spot at Columbia.

Still Mikirra, who finished with a 4.082, said she was deeply moved. With her sights set on a career in medicine as an ob/gyn, she will become a biology major at Georgia State University this fall.

For her valedictory address, Mikirra said she will tell her classmates that their future is in their hands.

“It’s not about where you come from,” she said. “It’s where you’re going. So never let someone else’s ideas about you dictate your future.”