The University of South Carolina Aiken will recognize five students with the honor of summa cum laude when they march with about 300 other graduates Thursday.
Although these five have different plans for the next few years, they do have more in common than their perfect grade point averages -- they will be making history.
For the first time in its 40-year existence, USC Aiken has five students graduating with a perfect 4.0 at the same time. And they all agree their success began at home.
Roger Mulchandani of North Augusta said encouragement and support from his parents were the key ingredients in his accomplishments.
"They are very proud of me, and that just motivates me to work even harder," Mr. Mulchandani said. "I really do credit my success to my parents more than anything else.
"There is no doubt that education does start at home. It's like they say in business -- if they (parents) invest a little time now, it has a great return."
Mr. Mulchandani plans to work in international business, where he says his interest in different cultures will enhance his business insights. With family in Asia and opportunities to spend more time in other countries such as England, Czech Republic and Australia, he said he has learned to appreciate cultural diversity and has applied that to his understanding of people.
Lindsay Green attributes her success to family and faculty of USC-Aiken. "My parents have always encouraged me to do anything and everything I wanted to do," the North Augusta woman said.
As a student of ballet and modern dance and as a writing tutor at the school lab, Ms. Green leans on that support while challenging herself.
"I couldn't have done it without having a nurturing environment to come home to every night," she said.
And after seeing her own hard work pay off, she intends to pass that support and encouragement on to students of her own -- eventually.
First, she plans to attend graduate school at University of South Carolina and eventually obtain her doctorate.
Penny Hirsch of Aiken chose to attend USC-Aiken to stay close to her family. Now, the chance to study law at Cornell University has her planning a move to New York.
Even after four months, her parents still are adjusting to the idea, but they understand this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, Ms. Hirsch said.
As a graduate after only three years, Ms. Hirsch knows the importance of a work ethic, and she said it has paid off for her.
"I got a scholarship at every school I was accepted at," she said. "This way I worked hard for three years, and I've got something to show for it."
Other schools that accepted Ms. Hirsch included Georgetown, Notre Dame, and College of William & Mary.
Amy-Catherine Aring of Aiken said her support system consisted of her family, school faculty and church.
"Church really helps to put everything into perspective. While school is very important, it is not the only thing in life," she said.
Throughout her college career, Ms. Aring has balanced her classes with travel and learning German culture. After spending her junior year at the University of Bamberg in Germany, she was hooked.
"I would love to work in Germany for at least two years," she said, but she doesn't plan to become a permanent resident. "I'm still an American at heart, and my blood runs red, white and blue; I think everything in moderation."
The fifth honor graduate, Briana Childers of Aiken, has her sights set on USC Columbia. She plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in the medical field.
Ms. Childers has worked as a lab technician in a research project to find a treatment for sickle cell anemia, a project coordinated with other institutions. Her work centered around growing a virus that could help victims of the disease.
Between that and working at Hatcher Funeral Home in Langley, Ms. Childers has been exposed to different aspects of medical work and is certain that is the path she would like to follow.
Her secret of success lies in her ability to manage her time. "That, and I don't sleep a lot."
Reach Lisa Lohr at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.