The Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology selected Neal Patel, left, as its 2012 valedictorian and Janki Patel as its salutatorian. Neal plans to attend Emory University, while Janki will go to the Georgia Institute of Technology. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
CONYERS -- The two top graduating students at The Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology have a lot in common.
In addition to sharing the same last name, although not related, they have known each other since attending Peek's Chapel Elementary School, each have a strong passion for science and both plan to attend college in Atlanta in the fall.
However, the school's 2012 valedictorian Neal Patel and salutatorian Janki Patel said they were never fighting for the top spots at the school.
"It wasn't that competitive," Neal Patel said.
Eighteen-year-old Patel plans to stay close to home after high school, so he will attend Emory University in Atlanta.
There, he will study neurobiology and behavioral biology to eventually get into the healthcare field. He hopes to go to medical school at Emory, but he said he will have to work hard to get there, since it's a tough school to get into.
He said his anatomy class peaked his interest in the field, since he got to study the nervous system and the brain. He's also enjoyed taking microbiology, calculus and literature.
"All the classes, really," said Patel, son of Atul and Bimal Patel of Conyers.
In ninth-grade, Patel said he made some B's in classes, so he began studying more and taking more rigorous courses, allowing him to earn A's.
He's taken eight Advanced Placement courses in high schools and was on the math team, Teens in the Driver's Seat and a peer tutor. He also earned an award for being the top student in science from the Rotary Club of Conyers.
While in college, he said he will miss his teachers and the small class sizes he's accustomed to having at Magnet. He's looking forward to having more freedom in the classes he takes and having a greater offering of classes.
The eighteen-year-old salutatorian also plans to attend school in Atlanta, where she will enroll at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall.
Patel, the daughter of Mayur and Lopa Patel of Conyers, plans to study biomedical engineering.
"They have the second best program in the country," she said about why she chose the school. "It's something interesting and a combination of engineering and medicine."
She said it's a new field with new developments always happening, so she is excited to be a part of that.
Eventually, she would like to attend medical school or get a job designing medical supplies.
In 2010, Patel was part of the Kruti Dance Academy based in Norcross that competed on "America's Got Talent."
She also has participated in teen court and peer mentoring while in high school. This, all in her free time, in addition to taking 11 AP classes while in high school.
When she gets to Georgia Tech, she said she especially will be excited about meeting new people and getting to learn new things in the area of study in which she's interested.