Coahulla Creek High salutatorian appreciates Georgia Scholar status

Aug. 24—Although Coahulla Creek High School graduate Ben Griggs has received many accolades, from being the salutatorian of his graduating class to being the 2021-22 STAR student for Whitfield County Schools, he said being a Georgia Scholar is the "most meaningful."

"It's more broad, (and) everything in my life came together for me to be a Georgia Scholar," he said. "A lot fell into place, and it's pretty cool to say I'm one of the few in Georgia" to be a Georgia Scholar.

Through the Georgia Scholar program, the Georgia Department of Education identifies and honors high school seniors who have achieved excellence in school and community life, according to the department. The program is coordinated by the department's excellence recognition office and through local coordinators in each public school system and private school throughout the state.

Griggs and his fellow Georgia Scholars should be commended for having "met the stringent requirements to be a Georgia Scholar," said Superintendent Mike Ewton. "It is quite an accomplishment."

Griggs is a math standout, but his success in the subject didn't truly start until high school, and he credits "awesome" math teachers Josh Deslattes, who is now the assistant principal at The Dalton Academy, and Billy Singletary.

Coahulla Creek "is an incredible school with amazing teachers and administrators," but none have been more impactful for Griggs than Deslattes and Singletary, said Griggs, one of a few Coahulla Creek students to "take the 'Super Seven,'" a selection of exceedingly challenging math courses. Also, "I like to know what I'm doing — math is right or wrong — and with" non-math subjects "I feel like I'm guessing."

"It's really impressive to make the decision as a freshman to take seven math classes instead of the four" required by the state, Singletary said. "It takes a lot of maturity to realize (that early in high school) the opportunities taking all those classes" open up for a student.

Griggs, the salutatorian of Coahulla Creek's class of 2022, values the certainty of math, but he reminds others that "there are many ways to solve a math problem — (the key) is finding the best way for you."

Beyond academics, Griggs devoted himself to being a youth leader in his church congregation — he's a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often informally known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church — "working with students and helping people do family histories," he said. That experience in part played a role in his decision to spend the next two years on a LDS Church mission in France, as did the experiences of his father, Christian.

"My dad went to England" on a LDS mission, and the "experience shaped his life," Griggs said. "It's an amazing opportunity to grow" spiritually and personally.

Following his mission, Griggs plans to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, he said.

"I'm not sure of my major, but it'll be math-based."

Sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and the PAGE Foundation, the STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) program has been recognizing outstanding students and teachers for more than six decades. High school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10% or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average to qualify for a STAR nomination.

Griggs, who was a regular on the school's academic bowl team for several years and on the swim team — a captain senior year — for four years, advises current and future high school students to avoid procrastination and prioritize tasks based on importance and deadlines.

That will "help you be less stressed, and if you're not stressed about school you can do other (activities, but) don't pile everything on," he said. "Do really well in a few" chosen projects, rather than be mediocre in many endeavors.

"It's been fun to watch (Griggs) find his passion and see who he's become," said Singletary. "I'm excited to see what he does."