STATENVILLE -- Sometimes four years of hard work and dedication pay off. That's what Echols County High School's valedictorian believes.

"My goal throughout high school has been to be one of the top two graduates," said Rebekah Staten, 17. "I am proud of myself. It's nice to see all my hard work and studying pay off."

The daughter of Greg and Suzan Staten of Statenville plans to attend Valdosta State University this fall and study early childhood education. She dreams of teaching English to speakers of other languages, particularly Spanish-speaking students.

At Echols County High School, Staten served as a member of Future Farmers of America, Future Business Leaders of America, Family and Consumer Career Leaders of America, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She was vice president of Senior Beta Club and secretary of Student Council. She also played basketball.

Audrey Corbett, 18, was named salutatorian. She achieved this goal by simply working hard to maintain good grades.

"I am somewhat of a perfectionist," said the daughter of John and Rebecca Corbett of Statenville.

"I guess it paid off."

Corbett plans to attend Young Harris College and pursue a career in physical therapy this fall.

At Echols County High School, Corbett was a member of the softball team, Future Farmers of America, Family and Consumer Career Leaders of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Senior Beta Club.

Staten and Corbett will lead their fellow graduates during a 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 25 commencement ceremony at Valdosta State University's Whitehead Auditorium.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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