The Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology has named its valedictorian Jason Mitchell, right, and its salutatorian Alex Mann. Mitchell plans to attend the University of Georgia, while Mann will go to the University of Arizona. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
CONYERS -- For the past four years, the fewer than 50 graduating students at the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology have created a bond that will connect them forever.
"We are a family," said the 2013 valedictorian Jason Mitchell.
"Everyone is just connected -- we all know everybody," echoed this year's salutatorian Alex Mann.
But next year, heading off to college will separate many of the students, some who have attended school together since elementary school, like the top two graduating students.
"It's been a nice community that you can't get in a normal high school," said Mitchell, who attended Barksdale with Mann and later Davis Middle School before Mann home schooled for two years.
Eighteen-year-old Mitchell will stay somewhat close to home, as he is headed to the University of Georgia in Athens.
He said he's received a scholarship there, so that helped cement his decision.
At UGA, he plans to major in biochemical engineering.
"I enjoy chemistry," said Mitchell, son of Stephanie Siren of Conyers. "Engineering is a good way to get a job."
However, he's not quite sure what type of job he will want yet.
Mitchell said he was surprised that he was named valedictorian, an honor he didn't officially find out about until Friday. He even told his parents earlier that he would be the salutatorian.
He said he thinks he accomplished the feat by "just putting work first and getting it done."
Next year in college, he's looking forward to getting a new start and meeting new people.
Seventeen-year-old Mann also is looking forward to meeting new people -- he doesn't know anyone in Arizona, but he's heading to the University of Arizona in the fall.
"It's adventurous," said Mann, son of Helen Mann of Conyers and Todd Mann of Covington. "I've never been anywhere like that before, so it will be a new experience with new people."
He's also looking forward to having warm weather all year long.
While in Arizona, he plans to study math and chemistry.
"I want to be a Wall Street guy," he said, adding that he likes economics. "It fascinates me, and it's kind of challenging."
Still, he was surprised to be a top student.
"It's an honor, and I'm glad I get something gratifying after four years of hard work," Mann said, adding that he's just stayed positive to accomplish high grades.
Both Mitchell and Mann were on the Magnet's math team while in school. The team played in 17 tournaments and was named state champions this year.
Even though they have been part of competitive events throughout their time at Magnet, they said the race for the top of the class was not competitive at all.
"Whatever fell into place, fell into place," Mann said.
Both students, who took 11 Advanced Placement classes at Magnet, many together, are looking for local jobs this summer.