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Class of 2023 Valedictorians and Salutatorians
Posted on 04/20/2023
RMSST 2023 Valedictorian Duc Le and Salutatorian Grace KirklandConyers, Ga. – Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) congratulates the Valedictorians and Salutatorians of the Class of 2023. The Valedictorians and Salutatorians were notified in surprise announcements during school on Thursday, April 13, 2023. Administrators, counselors, family members, and classmates celebrated the remarkable accomplishment of these top scholars. The Valedictorians and Salutatorians will lead their respective senior classes in their school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. For more information, please visit



Name:  Itandehui Cruz

Family members:  Juan Cruz (father), Maria Yanet Cruz (mother), Juan Diego Cruz (brother), Carlos Emmanuel Cruz (brother)
Intended College/University (or deciding between):  University of Georgia or Georgia State University Honors College
Intended Major:   Business Administration
Intended Career Field:   Sports Marketing/International Business
RCPS Schools Attended:   J.H. House Elementary, Edwards Middle, Heritage High, Rockdale Career Academy
Awards/Scholarships:   Awards - Metropolitan Water Conservation Spanish Video Award (Grades 9 & 10), Marketing Rookie of the Year, “In Pursuit of Justice” Getty Museum Photography Award, Principal’s List (Grades 9-12), ULA Unsung Hispanic Hero Award, Georgia Merit Scholar, Junior Marshal, Superintendent’s Academic Scholar (Grade 10-12), Most Likely to Succeed Senior Superlative, 1st Place: Conyers Photography Contest.  Scholarships - EMC Walter Foundation, JKM Scholarship, SS Robinson Memorial, Texas A&M (full tuition), GA Access Award, GA State Scholar.
Extracurricular Activities:  Student Council (Vice President), FBLA (Secretary), Unidos Latino Association (Youth Committee), DECA, Rockdale Youth Leadership, Rockdale Youth Courageous Conversations, National Honor Society, Rockdale Career Academy Ambassador (Officer), Latino Student Union (Activities Director), Community Involvement, Unidos Latino Association, Saint Pius X Catechist and Usher.
Favorite Subjects:   Math and Spanish
Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:  I have had wonderful teachers throughout my life. Mr. Hodge, and Mrs. Ray have been amazing teachers. Aside from schoolwork, I know that I can always go to them regarding anything. Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Roop, and Ms. Hollingsworth have also been great teachers and have shown me their unconditional support. My favorite memory from high school was being in Mr. Adebiyi’s Marketing class. I am very passionate about business and marketing so being part of the class, receiving advice, and growing from that has impacted me as a person, and has also helped me in preparation for my career.  
Best high school experience:  One of my best experiences in the classroom was in my Sports and Entertainment Marketing class. Mr. Adebiyi was a great teacher and always motivated me to excel. In the classroom, I enjoyed having class conversations. I enjoyed going on field trips, having real life experiences in the field, and making connections. Mr. Adebiyi always gave me advice and motivated me to keep pushing, and for that I am very grateful.  
Being in Ms. Ray’s class has also been an amazing experience. Receiving a 5 on the AP Spanish Exam has been one of my biggest accomplishments in the classroom. Ms. Ray has supported me and has pushed me to become a better person. She truly cares and loves her students, so being her student has been a blessing!
For extracurriculars, being part of Student Council has been great experience. I have had the opportunity to meet amazing people, and work on activities such as homecoming, spirit week, and much more! I have grown a lot in leadership skills and confidence since freshman year. Once I leave high school, I know that I will have strong relationships with both friends and teachers.
What was your family's and friends' reaction?:  My family was excited and happy for me. They have been there for me every step of the way, so their surprise meant a lot to me! They have motivated and believed in me, even when I haven’t believed in myself. My friends were also beyond happy for me! I am very grateful for the people around me, and my support system. Both my family’s and my friends’ reactions meant so much to me!
What do you look forward to doing over the summer?:  Over the summer, I look forward to preparing for college and having fun. I will be spending time with family and friends.
Advice for freshmen:  Make the best out of your high school years! Get involved in clubs and activities. Have fun and make friends. Freshman year truly sets the layout for your high school career, so start it strong! Focus on school, but don’t stress over it. Be aware of how you manage your time and create a balance between school and personal life. Make sure to also take self-care time because your wellbeing is very important!


Name: Sarah Abdulkhader  
Family members:  Safna Kalariparambil (mother), Fathma Abdulkhader (sister, 2016 HHS Salutatorian), Abdulkhader Kurrikkasseril (father)
Intended College/University (or deciding between): Georgia Institute of Technology or the University of Georgia
Intended Major:  Biology
Intended Career Field:  Medical field
RCPS Schools Attended:  Lorraine Elementary, Gen. Ray Davis Middle, Heritage High
Awards/Scholarships:  Zell Miller Scholarship, Superintendent’s Academic Award (three years), AP Scholar, Georgia Certificate of Merit Recipient, Junior Graduation Marshal, Broadcom Master
Extracurricular Activities: Vice President of National Honor Society, Senior Class Treasurer, President-elect of Healthcare Occupations Students of America, Rockdale Career Academy Student Ambassador, HHS Peer Leader, Rockdale Youth Leadership, Rockdale Youth Action Board, and working at American Eagle.
Favorite Subjects:  English and History
Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:   Throughout my high school years in Rockdale County, I have had several impactful and enriching experiences with my teachers. Most notably, I would like to mention my Dual Enrollment English instructor, Mr. Rigdon. Through his high expectations and insightful classroom discussions, I was able to grow substantially as a writer. His class has prepared me the most for my future academic endeavors, and I am very grateful for this.
Best high school experience:   I have many fond experiences from high school, but I think the best one was going to homecoming with my friends this year.
What was your family's and friends' reaction?:  My family was extremely proud of this accomplishment. My friends were super excited and gave me many kind words.
What do you look forward to doing over the summer?:   I look forward to spending time with my friends and family before starting college in the fall.
Advice for freshmen:  High school may seem intimidating at first, but don’t let this stop you from setting a strong foundation for yourself. Always advocate for yourself and remember that your school is full of people who are eager to support you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to teachers/counselors/other mentors whenever you’re in need of assistance or advice. Lastly, make sure to apply yourself both inside and outside the classroom! Although your grades are very important, make sure to find something you love doing outside of school. This will give you something to look forward to every day and help you build passion towards something you truly enjoy.



Name:   Liauna Kelly
Family Members:  Kassie Kelly (mom), Donte Collier (stepdad), Mary Collier (stepmom), Lucas Kelly (brother)
Intended College:  Georgia State University
Intended Major:  Nursing
Intended Career Field:  Travel Nursing
RCPS School Attended:  Pine Street Elementary, Gen. Ray Davis Middle, Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology (grades 9-10), Rockdale County High School, Rockdale Career Academy
Awards/Scholarships:  HOPE Scholarship, Second Century Scholarship (through GSU)
Extracurricular Activities:  I participated in NSHS during my freshman and sophomore year. Outside of school, I work and go to the gym.
Favorite Subjects:  Spanish, Statistics, Biology
Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:  Ms. Caroline Snell will have a long-lasting impact on me for the rest of my life. Without her, I would not be where I am now. She guided me in the right direction with my academics and showed me my true potential.
Best high school experience:  Going to the football games freshman year with my friends.
What was your family's and friends' reaction?:  Everyone was super excited for me, and they said that they would never expect anything less. They are all proud of me and what I have accomplished.
What do you look forward to doing over the summer?:  I am looking forward to spending these last couple of months with my family before I move off to college.
Advice for freshman:  No matter how hard it gets, you will always accomplish what you put your mind to. Anything is possible at any moment if you put in enough work and effort.


Name:   Ghaziazehra Momin
Family members:   Mom – Shasita Momin; Dad – Mohmadsezad Momin
Intended College/University:   Georgia Institute of Technology
Intended Major:  Computer Science or Neuroscience
Intended Career Field:  Medicine
RCPS Schools Attended:  D.L. Sims Elementary, Memorial Middle, Rockdale County High, Rockdale Career Academy
Awards/Scholarships:  Superintendent’s Academic Awards (three years), UGA Georgia Certificate of Merit, 1st Place in East Atlanta Technology Fair – Digital Photo Production 11th grade
Extracurricular Activities:  Beta Club, National Honor Society, FBLA, Work-Based Learning at Marco’s Pizza, Community Service
Favorite Subjects:  Biology, Human Anatomy & Physiology, Web Design, and Digital Design
Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:  My counselor, Dr. Breakfield, has guided me throughout high school. She has helped me pick out classes for every school year. Dr. Breakfield has also helped me throughout the college process and applications. She has given me advice on applications and the SATs and ACTs. Dr. Breakfield has been there for me for every high school achievement.
Best high school experience:  The best high school experience I have had was being an office aid my 11th grade year. I was able to help other students out while also helping the staff in the counselor’s office. I was also able to help out new students and give them a tour around the school.
What was your family's and friends' reaction?:  My parents and relatives were proud of my achievement. They were proud to see how far I’ve come.
What do you look forward to doing over the summer?:  I look forward to traveling and preparing for college. I also look forward to hanging out with family and friends.  
Advice for freshmen:  Enjoy every moment that you get because you will be a senior and applying to colleges before you even realize it. Meet those deadlines and ask for help when needed. Do the work so you can have greater opportunities and a better career in the future.



Name:  Duc Le

Family members:   Thu Tuyen Nguyen (mom), Ngoc Le (dad), Skyler Le (brother)
Intended College/University:  Emory University
Intended Major:   Biology
Intended Career Field:    Biological/Microbiology Research or Medicine
RCPS Schools Attended:   Lorraine Elementary, Gen. Ray Davis Middle, Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology
Awards/Scholarships:  Nationally Recognized Distinguished Student Leader, Georgia Tech Promise Scholar, Rotary Club Laws of Life Essay Contest State Winner and School Winner, Rockdale Region Science and Engineering Fair Grand Champion, USDA Certificate of Merit, APA Certificate of Award for Achievement in Psychological Science, two-time 1st place winner of the Southern Stingray Bowl, NSL Contest Winner – Biology, AP Scholar with Distinction, Outstanding Senior Award- Science, Regional Science Olympiad Medalist (Wi-Fi Lab, Astronomy, Dynamic Planet), Georgia Certificate of Merit, ChemClash Division Winner, GASC Honor Council, First Honors in Environmental Sciences and Behavioral Sciences at the Rockdale Regional Science and Engineering Fair, NOSB Nationals Top 12 Competitor
Extracurricular Activities:   Rockdale Magnet Student Council, Rockdale Magnet Science Team, Superintendent Student Advisory Council, Mu Alpha Theta, Beta Lambda Tau, Spanish Honor Society, Peer Tutor
Favorite Subjects:  AP Calculus, AP Biology, Microbiology/Botany
Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:   I can’t choose one specific moment, but Elizabeth Huynh and Margaret Hwang, who are Magnet Alumni, and my teachers, Dr. Garner, Ms. Seagraves, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Powell, and Ms. Kennen, all helped me to become the person I am today. They pushed me to pursue seemingly impossible challenges and to realize that I am capable of more.
Best high school experience:  My best high school experience was when I went to compete at the Southern Stingray Bowl during my Freshman year for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. It was the first time that I got to travel overnight for a competition, and all of our teams worked extremely hard. We bonded as a team through the experience and was able to obtain 1st, 2nd, and even 3rd place with the three teams that we brought to the competition.
What was your family's and friends' reaction?:   They were all so excited for me and cheered me on. It felt like all my hard work finally paid off.
What do you look forward to doing over the summer?:   I look forward to going on vacation with my family and hanging out with my friends for the last time before we depart for college.
Advice for freshmen:  Don’t let your fears and the opinions of others stop you from pursuing greatness. At the end of the day, it’s what you want and what you think of yourself that matters. You must strive to give up the good to go for the great


Name:  Grace Kirkland
Family members:  Ann Marie (mother) and Thomas (father) Kirkland and my dogs Rainbow and Buddy
Intended College/University:  University of Georgia
Intended Major:  Marketing
Intended Career Field:  Digital Strategist (I could change my mind. I like a lot of the different fields in marketing)
RCPS Schools Attended:  Pine Street Elementary, Gen. Ray Davis Middle, Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology
Awards/Scholarships:   Charter Scholarship from UGA and the Zell Miller scholarship.
Extracurricular Activities:   Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society, Magnet Book Club, Women on the Way to Success, and Peer Mentors.  
Favorite Subjects:   AP Psychology, Botany, and AP US History.
Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:  I have had great experiences with many RCPS teachers along the way. A lot of them have been instrumental in getting me to where I am today. So, I just wanted to say thank you to all my teachers from elementary to high school. They were all amazing!
A memorable piece of advice that I got recently was from Dr. Chuck Garner at the beginning of this school year. I was struggling with Multivariable Calculus, and honestly wanted to drop the class. I was nearing a breaking point and getting frustrated with the content, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t understand the material. He gave me a pep talk where he said that he believed in me and let me know that I didn’t need to be salutatorian to be able to do great things.
Best high school experience:  I really enjoyed doing Summer Adventure which is a program Magnet does the summer before freshman year at UGA where all the upcoming freshmen do fun bonding activities and tour Athens.
What was your family's and friends' reaction?:  They were all very proud of me.  
What do you look forward to doing over the summer?:  Just cherishing these moments with my family and friends before heading to college.
Advice for freshmen:  Don’t be afraid of vulnerability please reach out to someone if you are struggling, and most importantly, never give up.



Name:   Victor Montoya
Family members:   Gisell Montoya, Victor Montoya, Fermina Montoya
Intended College/University:   University of Georgia
Intended Major:   Computer Science
Intended Career Field:   Information Technology Manager
RCPS Schools Attended:   Peek’s Chapel Elementary, Memorial Middle, Salem High
Awards/Scholarships:   Superintendent's Academic Award 2022 and 2023, Superintendent's Advisory Council 2022 and 2023, Conyers Rotary Club Senior Award – Foreign Language, Zell Miller Scholarship, Principal's List, Highest Academic Achievement 2021-2022, NOLES Award, Salem Pundits Award.
Extracurricular Activities:   Foreign Language Club, Rockdale Bridges, FBLA, BETA Club, National Honor's Society
Favorite Subjects:   CTAE Courses and Mathematics
Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:   Ms. M. Sigman and Ms. K. Sigman have helped me on this journey to graduation countless times. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or struggling, I knew that I could always count on them both to have my back and support me with anything in order to be successful. Salem High School would not be the same without the Sigman twins; they are the best teachers I have ever had.
Best high school experience:   This might sound a little boring, but honestly my best high school experience was being able to balance my life between schoolwork and personal life. During my freshman year, I attended a school that did not allow me to do that. I stayed up until 3 a.m. doing homework almost every day, so yeah I felt pretty unhappy there to say the least. Switching to Salem High School my sophomore year things changed for the better in myself, I was able to balance my schoolwork while also enjoying my time in high school (going to events, extracurriculars, etc.) rather than being overworked and sleep deprived.
What was your family's and friends' reaction?:   Lots of my friends and teachers congratulated me in the hallways and classrooms for this accomplishment. It's an honor to represent this school in competitions, meetings, and extracurricular activities, so being recognized for all the effort I put into my work was incredible. My mom and dad hugged me really tight when they heard about this. My mom began to tell me stories about me growing up in Peru and how my teachers would always say that I have lots of potential. I love that I was able to make everyone proud. It makes me think back to the time when I was 5 years old coming from Peru not even able to understand English properly and this truly makes me realize how far I've come in order to be successful here academically.
What do you look forward to doing over the summer?:   I look forward to traveling to Peru to visit my family during the summer and eating some delicious food there. If you have not tried Peruvian food before, I would highly recommend trying dishes such as Lomo Saltado, Ceviche, Pollo a la Brasa, and more at a Peruvian restaurant.
Advice for freshmen:   My best advice for freshman would be to first know what your goals are and adapt to the change from middle school to high school. Second, get involved in extracurriculars because you might find something that really interests you, giving you valuable skills and experiences for college. Third, know who to go to for help when you need it. Lastly, be open to trying new things and making new friends just make sure to complete ALL of your assignments too (challenge yourself by taking AP and Dual Enrollment Courses throughout your time in high school!).


Name:  Ethan Niemczyk
Family members:  Mother – Diane Niemczyk, Father – Ted Niemczyk, Sister – Molly Niemczyk.
Intended College/University (or deciding between):  University of Georgia or Georgia Tech
Intended Major:  Journalism or Literature, Media, Communications   
Intended Career Field:  Undecided
RCPS Schools Attended:  Barksdale Elementary, Gen. Ray Davis Middle, Salem High
Awards/Scholarships:  STAR Student, Principal’s List, Georgia Certificate of Merit, Superintendent's Academic Award, Superintendent's Advisory Council, Conyers Rotary Club Senior Award – Science, Highest Academic Achievement, Outstanding Academic Achievement - Spanish, Varsity and JV Basketball Highest Academic Award, Perfect Attendance Kindergarten - 12th Grade.
Extracurricular Activities:  Basketball, National Honors Society, Rockdale Youth Leadership
Favorite Subjects:  English Language Arts, Psychology
Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:  All of my teachers have been very helpful and each one has instilled confidence in me over the years.
Best high school experience:   Making the basketball team in 9th grade.
What was your family's and friends' reaction?:  They were proud of me.
What do you look forward to doing over the summer?:  Sleeping in and being with friends.
Advice for freshmen:  Don’t underestimate the importance of your freshman year GPA. Make sure to enjoy each moment.

Flyer with RCPS logo and photos of all 2023 RCPS Valedictorians and Salutatorians. Flyer says Valedictorians and Salutatorians Class of 2023. Heritage High School. Valedictorian Itandehui Cruz (right), College:  UGA or GSU Honors College, Intended Major:  Business Administration. Salutatorian Sarah Abdulkhader (left), College:  Georgia Tech and UGA, Intended Major:  Biology. Rockdale County High School.  Valedictorian Liuana Kelly (right),  College:  Georgia State University, Intended Major:  Nursing. Salutatorian Ghaziazehra Momin (Ieft), College:  Georgia Tech, Intended Major:  Computer Science or Neuroscience. Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology. Valedictorian Duc Le, College:  Emory University, Intended Major:  Biology. Salutatorian Grace Kirkland, College:  University of Georgia, Intended Major:  Marketing. Salem High School. Valedictorian Victor Montoya, College:  University of Georgia, Intended Major:  Computer Science. Salutatorian Ethan Niemczyk, College:  UGA or Georgia Tech, Intended Major:  Journalism or Literature, Media, Communications. More at