Poise, grades elevate this year's top senior

Best & Brightest 2010 winner Briana Rice hugs her mother, Trinidad, after earning top honors during the awards banquet Monday.

Briana Rice's poise, leadership skills and character placed her at the top of the list of the Augusta area's brightest students Monday night.

Moments after being named The Augusta Chronicle's Best & Brightest Student 2010, she was still in shock.

"This is such a big moment to be recognized as the top winner out of these 25 amazing kids," she said of winning the $1,000 grand prize. "I've learned a lot of things academically and socially that I hope to use in the next phase."

The Aiken High School senior and 24 other finalists were honored for their academic achievements, community involvement, character and leadership at the eighth annual Best & Brightest Awards Banquet, presented by Windsor Fine Jewelers, at the Augusta Marriott Hotel and Suites.

Briana said she was honored to add another achievement to her list. She was also named Aiken County Chamber of Commerce Student of the Year and was a National Achievement Scholarship finalist. She will attend Columbia University in the fall and study biochemistry.

Four other area students, Aiken High senior Aric Berning, Butler senior Quentin Mays, Greenbrier senior Kelechi Erondu and South Aiken senior Katrina Paolini, were named runners-up and received $200 each.

All 25 finalists are great examples of the caliber of students area high schools can produce, said Ellis Johnson, one of the Best & Brightest judges and a former Academy of Richmond County guidance counselor.

"These are truly the best and brightest students of the CSRA, so I'm very much confident that they will go on to accomplish much in their adult lives," Johnson said.

Best & Brightest 2008 grand prize winner Eddie Lovett said each year he attends the banquet he is reminded of the magnitude of the honor. The Glenn Hills High School graduate attends the University of Georgia.

"I find it terribly humbling to see what the next class is doing. To be a winner out of such a select group is an honor and it pushes you to continue to do great things," he said.

Graduation schedule

At James Brown Arena, 601 Seventh St., Augusta:

TODAY

9 a.m.: Lucy C. Laney High

11 a.m.: A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering

1:30 p.m.: Hephzibah High

3:30 p.m.: Westside High

5:30 p.m.: Academy of Richmond County

WEDNESDAY

9 a.m.: Butler High

11 a.m.: John S. Davidson Fine Arts

1:30 p.m.: Cross Creek High

3:30 p.m.: T.W. Josey High

5:30 p.m.: Glenn Hills High

Honoring area graduates

See complete graduate lists and valedictorian and salutatorian photos for more than 50 high schools in our Graduation section. You can also view profiles of the Best and Brightest at augustachronicle.com/graduations.

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