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Students competed to be at top of class

Thomson High School recently announced Aaron Washington as the valedictorian and Drake Smallwood as the salutatorian of the Class of 2010. The announcement was no surprise to the two seniors.

"Drake and I battled it all the way through," Aaron said. "We always compared grades with each other every time report cards came out. So, we had an idea who it would be."

Although they share the limelight at the top of their class, their approach to getting there was quite different. Aaron said being valedictorian has been his goal and focus since he entered high school.

"It's hard work to balance schoolwork and other activities, like being on the golf team. But school always came first before anything else," he said.

Aaron's dedication to schoolwork is incorporated into his extra-curricular activities when he tutors fourth and fifth graders after school at Dearing Elementary School, is a Senior Adopter at THS and a member of Caring Seniors, a group that assists freshmen with their schoolwork.

Aaron is the son of Tiffany and Stoney Washington of Dearing, where his mother is the school nurse at the elementary school. Aaron plans to follow her footsteps in the medical field. He will attend Augusta State University and then go on to medical school to become a plastic surgeon. Aaron said he always enjoyed working "somewhere medical" during clinicals for the high school's health occupations classes.

"I've always known I would be in the medical field, because I like making people feel better," he said.

Drake also plans to pursue a medical career. He will attend Georgia Southern University and major in pre-med chemistry. He hasn't decided yet if he wants to become an orthopedic surgeon or a pharmacist, adding that he will wait until he's been through some college first to figure it out.

Drake said he had to "learn to juggle a lot of activities" with his schoolwork, including being an outfielder on the Thomson Bulldogs baseball team, a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Beta Club and singing in the youth choir at his church. Drake also works with his family's horses and enjoys "hunting and fishing a lot," and he works afternoons at Jimmy and Dena's Body Shop through the school's apprenticeship program. Drake said he doesn't have much time for stressing over school.

"I just always do my best, and let whatever happens, happen," he said.

Although Drake lives in Lincolnton with his parents, Mike and Heather Smallwood, he is able to attend school in Thomson because his father is the assistant principal at Thomson High School. Drake seems to have the same laid-back attitude about his father's position as he does with the rest of his schoolwork.

"Dad just always tells me to do my best, so I don't worry," he said. "I actually enjoy the chance to be around him every day."

Web posted on Thursday, March 04, 2010

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