By Greg Gelpi
Amidst less than stellar county-wide test scores, some students have blazed paths to success and are passing on their advice.
"When you hear SAT, you just think focus," said Jamaal Parham, a North Clayton High School senior. "That's what it takes to do well."
Gov. Sonny Perdue honored North Clayton High School for having the biggest increase in the region from last year to this year on the SAT. The school was presented with the Governor's Cup and a check for the accomplishment.
Focus requires practice, Parham said, explaining that he practices by reading the "most boring things" he can find, so that he's prepared for the SAT.
It just takes desire to do well, he said.
"We know what we want to do and how to get there," North Clayton senior Lashaundra Pierce said.
The key to SAT success is preparing "from the get go," from kindergarten, said Onyakachi Ukpabi, another North Clayton senior.
"You look at your goals and look past them," North Clayton junior Gary Williams said. "You look at the good that comes past them."
The students agreed that the test shouldn't be feared as long as students prepare for it.
"The No. 1 rule is if you don't know it, don't answer it," Parham said.
Their advice to those who are preparing for Saturday's SAT or any standardized test is to know the directions before hand, eat a good meal, arrive early and review materials that were learned previously.
"If you've been doing well since the start of high school, then you'll be straight," Ukpabi said. "All the stuff was in my head. You should have learned it from the get go."
And, Pierce added, "Read, read, read."
In the end, the studying and test-taking pays off...literally.
"All the scholarships hinge on SATs," Pierce said. "It gets people to pay you to go to school. Right now, we're just going to school."
Members of Mundy's Mill High School's first senior class were recognized as National Achievement Semifinalists
for their scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test and are experiencing the rush of scholarship offers as well.
As the top 1 percent of black students in the country, Brandon Chapple and Jeremy McGee have already received offers for $87,000 each to attend North Carolina Central University.
"I think what pushed me the most is my desire to succeed," McGee said. "I know if I focus and put my mind to it, I can do anything."
Chapple thought it would be more difficult to earn scholarships.
"Work hard early on," Chapple said. "It's easier to learn the first time."
McGee has the same advice for those who follow in their footsteps.
"My advice would be to focus on the first day of high school to the last," he said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I expect someone to pay me to go to college."
McGee intends to go to M.I.T. and study aerospace engineering. Chapple plans to study law and become a judge.