Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Valedictorian Advises Work Hard, But Enjoy Life

By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published June 10, 2010
Luke Derochers, East Jackson Comprehensive High School’s 2010 valedictorian, is a visible yet humble reminder to high school students of what it takes to stand out in a crowd.

The son of John and Karen Derochers, he is a parishioner at St. Catherine Labouré Catholic Mission, Jefferson, and has been active in his parish and his school over the last few years.

In addition to participating in the church’s youth group and playing saxophone for the choir, Derochers has been involved at his school in the Science Olympiad, Beta Club, Watson and Brown Historical Preservation Junior Board and the National English Honor Society, among others.

And it’s not just that he is involved with these groups, but he also excels in them. Named a Georgia STAR student, which means he achieved the highest SAT scores in his school, Derochers has also been the recipient of an Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. history award, an AP chemistry award and received a perfect score on the math portion of the Georgia high school graduation tests.

Derochers said he has learned much during his time at East Jackson and hopes to take those lessons with him to Georgia Tech, which he will be attending in the fall.

“The lessons I’ve learned (in high school) are learning to work hard to accomplish something worthwhile, and learning to live,” he said.

Derochers also said his proudest accomplishment to date is being named valedictorian for his class of 2010.

“It’s great to be able to represent such a fine class,” he said.

While some students keep their faith life and their school life separate, Derochers has always been interested in sharing his beliefs, even if it wasn’t always the easiest to do so.

“Being Catholic isn’t always easy in public high schools (that are) predominantly Protestant (like in world history—the whole Reformation time period is never a fun topic),” wrote Derochers in an e-mail. “But at the same time it makes you stronger because of your uniqueness; you really have to embrace your religion and stand up for yourself because not many people have your back.”

“It was always great having to explain exactly why I couldn’t have the chicken sandwich that our cafeteria always served on Fridays during Lent,” he added wryly.

But he said he had support from his friends as well as his teachers, with his U.S. history teacher holding a special place.

“My AP U.S. history teacher, Denise Backus, taught me so much more than just history and I was able to grow in much more profound ways because she treated me as a colleague rather than just an everyday student,” he said.

As he looks to the future, he is excited about the possibilities. Derochers is interested in studying aerospace engineering with a minor in history or English, bringing together his love of the sciences and the arts.

When asked what advice he had for incoming freshman entering the high school environment, Derochers humbly encouraged them to live in the moment and appreciate their time in school.

“I never feel like I am nearly wise enough to give others advice,” he said, “but I guess I would tell them to not let the future be the only key to their happiness. ‘Carpe diem’ and enjoy living life while you’re at it. It will make the journey much more pleasant and bearable.”