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Valedictorian credits salutatorian with success
by Noreen Cochran
May 20, 2014 01:21 PM | 2834 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Noreen Cochran. From left, salutatorian Brandi Raines and valedictorian LaShawn Simmons raid the Langston Hughes High School costume closet.
Staff / Noreen Cochran. From left, salutatorian Brandi Raines and valedictorian LaShawn Simmons raid the Langston Hughes High School costume closet.
At Langston Hughes High School in Fairburn, valedictorian LaShawn Simmons gets top marks from her guidance counselor, Chad Horton.

“LaShawn is that rare student in that she already possesses those innate qualities to be successful when she goes to college,” he said. “She has the work ethic, the drive and the determination to be successful not just in college, but beyond graduation when she finishes.”

But the 18-year-old Fairburn resident, owner of a 4.0 grade point average and the subject of the Neighbor Stellar Student profile in February, said she does not yet know what that success will look like.

“I’m not sure what my major is going to be, but the good thing is at Brandeis [University in the Boston area] it’s very common to be undecided. And on top of that, a lot of people at Brandeis have two or three majors,” Simmons said. “I’m very confident I’m going to find a way to incorporate theater into my studies.”

Simmons has made a name for herself in the theater department, where she met her best friend, salutatorian Brandi Raines, in 10th grade.

“I remember being stunned by how awesome she was,” Simmons said. “I said great, we’re going to be friends because she’s really good.”

Raines said there is no rivalry in their relationship – which includes enrolling in the Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation and the school’s Senior Leadership council – only friendly competition.

“We basically teach each other so much; we learn from each other,” she said. “It’s not just with theater. It’s with our academics. We just help each other, motivate each other, encourage each other to keep going.”

Their chemistry has motivated Simmons to a full-ride scholarship from the national Posse Foundation.

“Like the friendship [Brandi and I] have, we’re a posse, we’re a group,” Simmons said about fellow freshmen. “The goal is for all 10 of us to graduate together.”

Togetherness is a key concept in describing the school’s top two students, said their theater teacher Kirsten VanWagner.

“They definitely come across as very studious, serious young ladies,” she said, “and then they come in my room and they’re still smart, they’re still intelligent, but they’re not exactly serious anymore.”

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