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SEHS’ top grads getting a head-start on future

POSTED: May 24, 2012 8:35 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

Honorarium Andrew Rushing, valedictorian Emilia Truluck and saltutatorian Ashlee Griffith lead the South Effingham High School class of 2012.

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For most high school seniors, graduation day is a farewell.

But for South Effingham High School class of 2012 valedictorian Emilia Truluck, it’s more of a reunion.

Truluck was back among her SEHS classmates this week after being dual-enrolled for the past two years at the University of West Georgia’s Advanced Academy of Georgia, carrying a full college class load and living on-campus in Carrollton.

"I’ve been going to school with most of them since elementary school, so I definitely know them all. But it is interesting because some people have realized that I’ve left and I think they’re confused as to why I’m back now," she said with a laugh.

Truluck wouldn’t miss the graduation ceremony, especially since she earned the top spot in her class with a 99 average. That is in addition to the 4.0 grade-point average she maintained in her coursework at West Georgia.

Being named valedictorian is just the latest honor for Truluck. She is this year’s Effingham County STAR student for having the highest SAT score in the county, and she was recognized this spring as the Georgia Association of Gifted Children’s Distinguished Gifted Teen.

Truluck said she will attend Emory University and major in Middle Eastern studies. She plans to earn a master’s degree in social work and a doctoral degree in law, and combine those two fields by assisting underprivileged people in court.

In tune with her long-term goal to develop social policy, Truluck will serve this year in a student volunteer positionwith Amnesty International. She was president of West Georgia’s Amnesty International chapter, participating in several campus events promoting awareness of global human rights.

For the speech she will deliver Saturday to her fellow graduates, Truluck will "have about five lessons that I’ve learned throughout my weird high school career that I’ll be sharing. The most important, I think, will be to embrace life as it is today and then embrace the people with whom you live it, whether they’re like you or not."

While Truluck will stress valuing today, salutatorian Ashlee Griffith will encourage the graduates to make the most of "our whole future ahead of us."

"We need to embrace it and just go in confidently knowing that the Lord has plans for us," Griffith said, "and learn from our experiences and go into the future with our heads held high."

Griffith will attend the University of Alabama to pursue a degree in education. She said she will likely become a middle school math teacher, which would combine her love of math with her love of working with children.

"I have always felt very led to make a difference in the world, and I feel that I could do that best through the lives of children," Griffith said.

Griffith understands the importance of teaching children and encouraging them to set goals. She said, "It has been a dream of mine since I was probably five years old to be valedictorian or salutatorian, so to see it come true is just amazing for me."

Andrew Rushing will be recognized as the honorarium for finishing third in SEHS’ class of 2012. Though he won’t give a speech, Rushing said he will be honored just to share the stage with Truluck and Griffith.

"I always tried to push myself with rigorous courses and just prepare myself for the next level in college," he said. "Just being around those two ladies has been a fantastic motivation. We pushed each other throughout the years, so it’s just the biggest credit to them."

Rushing was a finalist this year, along with Truluck, for the Exchange Club of Effingham County’s Youth-of-the-Year Award. He will major in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech.

"(Graduation) will be bittersweet," Rushing said. "Obviously I’ll be leaving behind some really great friends and great teachers, but I’m looking forward to a new chapter in life."

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