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ECHS valedictorian spurred on by ‘angel’

POSTED: May 23, 2013 8:54 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

All smiles are the top three students in Effingham County High School’s graduating class (left to right): honorarium Nathan Lee, valedictorian Hannah Boyd and salutatorian Ryan Ratchford.

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When Effingham County High School valedictorian Hannah Boyd graduates Saturday night, her thoughts will be on her loved one who isn’t at Rebel Field.


Her father, Richard Boyd, died in 2009 after a two-year battle with cancer.


“Absolutely, I’m always thinking of him,” Boyd said. “He always called me his angel, but now he’s my angel.”


More than anything, Boyd’s faith helped her cope with the loss of her father. That faith will come through in the message of her valedictorian speech that “with a little bit of willpower and a whole lot of God power, anything is possible.”


“If you say, ‘I can do anything,’ that’s really not the case,” Boyd said. “I can think all I want to that I can fly, but that’s never going to happen. But with God’s support behind you, then, yes, you can accomplish anything you set out to.”


Boyd knows something about accomplishing goals. She readily admits that she wanted to be the valedictorian of her graduating class.


That seed was planted at ECHS’ awards day at the end of her freshman year, when she learned she was ranked No. 1 in her class. From that point on, Boyd said, she was driven to hold on to the top spot.


The result was a 99.23 cumulative average, the highest among Effingham’s class of 2013.


“It shows that hard work does pay off — and that’s a great feeling,” said Boyd, who was crowned Miss Effingham County High School last month.


Boyd will attend the University of Georgia and major in genetics, with plans to become a genetic counselor. She will be joined in Athens by the two students who finished right behind her in ECHS’ graduating class, salutatorian Ryan Ratchford and honorarium Nathan Lee.


Ratchford earned a 98.9 average in his classes at Effingham County High. Even so, he said he didn’t put much thought into finishing as the valedictorian or salutatorian.


“I just wanted to work hard and get the grades I needed to go to school where I wanted to go,” Ratchford said.


At UGA, Ratchford will major in mathematics, which he describes as his “strongest subject, by far.” He is not certain of the career field he will pursue, but is considering engineering.


Ratchford said one of his fondest high school memories was being part the lively crowds that packed into the ECHS gym this year as both the boys and girls basketball teams advanced to the Final Four of the state playoffs. He will discuss that camaraderie in his speech Saturday to his fellow graduates.


“I mostly want to thank them for just the experiences we’ve had and all the memories,” Ratchford said, “and for being my graduating class — because I like them and I enjoyed it.”


Despite his 98.57 academic average, Lee said he was surprised when he got the news Monday he is the class of 2013 honorarium.


“I didn’t actually expect it,” he said, “but I was pretty happy about it. I was (ranked) four or five and then just went up.”


Lee plans to major in psychology and pursue UGA’s pre-medicine course of study, in hopes of becoming a doctor.


When the class of 2013 gathers one last time Saturday night at Rebel Field, many of the ECHS graduates will probably share the sentiment Lee expects to have.


“It’s a bit bittersweet,” he said. “I’ll be happy and sad.”

ECHS Graduation
• When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
• Where: Rebel Field

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