Groom, Thompson named TCC Valedictorian and Salutatorian

May 6—THOMASVILLE- Thomas County Central's Hayden Groom and Ian Thompson have been named the Class of 2024's valedictorian and salutatorian respectively.

Groom said he didn't realize until his junior year what his ranking was in his grade. After finding out, he pushed himself to come out on top.

"I figured I might as well go for number one, but if I didn't get it, it wasn't a big deal at least I tried," Groom said.

Thompson shared the same sentiments, learning he was ranked number three in his grade during his junior year.

"I always tried really hard, so I thought I might as well keep trying and see if I can get up a little higher," Thompson said.

Both Groom and Thompson's parents were ecstatic upon learning of their children's high-ranking accolades.

"They were surprised," Groom said. "They didn't realize I was that high up. They knew I was smart, but never like that."

Thompson said his mom was thrilled, finding out the news before he could even share it with her.

"She was more excited than I was," he said. "In December, she started asking if I knew if I got valedictorian or salutatorian."

Thompson told her he didn't know and had just as much information as she did.

"Someone then told her before I even found out," Thompson said. "I went home to tell her and she already knew, which I thought was pretty funny."

While both Groom and Thompson's parents were proud, neither was overbearing when it came to grades. Both parents just wanted their children to do their best and find success in whatever form that came.

"They were not overprotective about my grades," Groom said.

Thompson shared his mother wasn't either.

"They just always wanted to see me do my best, so as long as I wasn't slacking off intentionally, they were proud," Thompson said.

Thompson's parents also left him with sound advice when he didn't get the grade he was hoping for.

"They would always see how I could learn from it instead of saying I can't believe that's how you did," Thompson said.

It was a discipline Thompson knew well from his years in tae-kwon-do.

"It teaches a lot of discipline and perseverance," Thompson said. "I've learned how bad you can be at something and how you can improve and those are lessons that have carried over with me into my personal life and academic career."

Thompson's coach wasn't his only leader, though. Both students agreed Erin White played a pivotal role in helping them achieve their goals.

White, an AP US History teacher, was also the previous MERIT coordinator at the middle school.

Groom explained MERIT began when the duo was in middle school and allowed them to take more difficult classes than the average student.

"She always made me try my best," Thompson said.

Both agreed Farran Burnette, who taught AP World History, also played a huge role in their lives.

"Both have been always helpful," Groom said. "Mrs. Burnette always helped me lock in, while Mrs. White helped me get scholarships and awards."

The scholarships and awards will help Groom and Thompson as they prepare to attend the University of Georgia, where Groom plans to major in economics, while Thompson focuses in pre-med or biochemistry.

For upcoming students who hope to one day get into UGA or achieve their goals of being top of their class, Groom and Thompson encourage them to always ask for help when needed.

"If you need help, reach out to Mrs. White," Thompson said. "Just do the best you can, don't ever let it become a burden on you. If you push yourself in a way that facilitates that you've done the best you can, it will come naturally to you."

Thompson and Groom look forward to sharing more life advice and stories of perseverance from the past four years at graduation on Saturday, May 18, when they will walk the football field one final time as a student.