Top spot gives teen no reward

Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
WHAT THE RULES SAY
Lucy C. Laney High School senior Jasmine Young (above) attended a private school in North Carolina earlier this school year while her family moved to New Jersey, costing her the title of valedictorian.
Richmond County's policy states: "To be selected as the Valedictorian (highest average in the class) or Salutatorian (second highest average in the class) for a school, the student must have taken all junior and senior course work in Richmond County."

Jasmine Young is ranked No. 1 in her graduating class, but she won't be her school's valedictorian because of a technicality.

The Laney High School senior described it as climbing to the top of a mountain only to fall back to the bottom. Ms. Young, 18, sacrificed time out with friends and squeezed in time between playing for the school basketball team to hit the books to reach the top of her class.

"I did all of this, and now I'm not going to get any recognition," she said after learning she won't be valedictorian. "In the back of my mind, I was thinking, 'Why put forth all of this effort?'"

Richmond County's policy states that students must be enrolled in school the first and second semesters of their senior year to be eligible to be valedictorian.

But Ms. Young attended a private school in Fayetteville, N.C., for several weeks while her family moved. In August, her father, a member of the Army, was deployed in Iraq and received orders for the family to relocate to New Jersey.

Ms. Young chose to stay in Augusta because she would have been a year behind if she transferred there. When she returned to Laney, she made up all of her work and still managed the highest grade point average of her class, and her report card will even list her as No. 1.

Her parents have contacted local, state and federal officials to seek help for their daughter.

"I understand there are policies put in place, but in some instances there should be exceptions granted on a case-by-case basis, especially in the case of the military," Sgt. 1st Class James Young wrote in an e-mail on his daughter's behalf. "I am fighting for my country, and now I have a son that has been deployed. It's not like we don't already have enough to worry about over here, now this."

Her mother, Karen Young, who works for the Department of Defense, has been writing letters, working her way up the chain of command, too.

"I really don't want to be stressed out anymore," she said.

Mrs. Young said it would be fair to have co-valedictorians or give her daughter some sort of recognition.

School board Vice President Joe Scott said he is just learning of the situation but wants to do what is fair for all students.

"It looks like the board could make an exception," he said, though he said he would need all the facts.

Unless there is an "outstanding" reason not to, Mr. Scott said, he would support making Ms. Young valedictorian.

"President Bush is always talking about supporting our troops, and this is one way we can support them," he said.

Board member Helen Minchew said the policy is in place to look out for the other students who have been at a school much longer. Though she is hoping the board will make an exception, Ms. Young remains positive and said nothing will take away her plans for college and a career in electrical engineering.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT THE RULES SAY

Lucy C. Laney High School senior Jasmine Young (above) attended a private school in North Carolina earlier this school year while her family moved to New Jersey, costing her the title of valedictorian.

Richmond County's policy states: "To be selected as the Valedictorian (highest average in the class) or Salutatorian (second highest average in the class) for a school, the student must have taken all junior and senior course work in Richmond County."

Source: Richmond County Board of Education