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Future’s ahead for Mustangs graduates

POSTED: May 26, 2011 7:45 p.m.
Photo by Calli Arnold/

South Effingham valedictorian Rajal Patel, left, and salutatorian Olivia Bolton will lead the 2011 class of Mustangs in tonight’s commencement exercises.

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Today, South Effingham High School’s class of 2011 will visit The Corral for the last time to walk across the stage toward their futures. And for this year’s valedictorian, Rajal Patel, moving on is “bittersweet.”

“I’ll be happy to be on such a big campus,” said Patel, who will attend the University of Georgia in the fall. “But I’ll miss my friends and family. I’m looking forward to it, though.”

Patel will major in biology, pre-med, in hopes of one day becoming a pediatrician.

She is a native of Effingham County, as is SEHS salutatorian Olivia Bolton. Both are in the wind ensemble in the band, the Beta Club, of which Bolton was the vice president, and the National Honor Society, with Patel serving as co-president.

Patel also was involved science club at SEHS, and Bolton was active in the school’s Fellowship of Christian Students branch.

Bolton will become an Eagle in the fall when she begins her studies at Georgia Southern University majoring in international studies. She hopes to one day work with an international organization in relief efforts throughout the world.

“I love people and I’m really interested in other cultures,” she said.

Patel said that she has been ranked number one in her class since her freshman year.

“I’ve kinda had this spot for all four years of high school,” Patel said, “and I was really satisfied to find out that I made it all the way through.”

Patel said that science teacher Michael Cabrera had the biggest impact on her high school career.

“He didn’t treat me like I was better than anyone else,” she said. “If I needed to do better, he would tell me, and it didn’t matter if I was number one in the class. He always encouraged me to try harder and to try to be as close to perfect as possible.”

Bolton said that she was excited to learn of her number two honor as salutatorian. “It’s great to see that all this hard work paid off,” she said.

She said that Kathy Swinford, Beta Club advisor and English teacher at SEHS, gave her the most support in high school was always encouraging her.

To her fellow graduates, Bolton imparts wishes for their future. “Keep working hard. Don’t give up. Do well in college,” she said.

Similarly, Patel wants her classmates to keep working and never give up, but she adds, “Always follow your dreams because you never know what will come of it.”

To the underclassman behind them, Patel wishes them luck and encourages them to stay focused on their grades.

Bolton’s advice to the Mustangs behind her is a bit more sentimental.

“Enjoy high school; don’t wish it away,” she said. “Take it one day at a time because it’ll be over before you know it.”

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