JONES COUNTY, MS - The best and brightest from high schools across the Pine Belt were honored at Jones County Junior College for Top of Class.
The event that recognized class valedictorians and salutatorians for their high achievements was hosted by JCJC and WDAM.
Each student is offered a presidential scholarship to JCJC.
"That's tuition, room, board and books," said Samuel Jones, vice president of Student Affairs. "We really just want students to come here and give them time to explore themselves and find a direction in life so that they can be prepared for the next phase in life."
WDAM News Director Nick Ortego offered words of wisdom to the soon-to-be graduates.
With graduation just weeks away, students said hard work and determination is what helped them to achieve high marks.
"You know a lot of people say it started in ninth grade, but since the sixth grade I had the dream, goal, and aspiration to be the valedictorian of my class," said Katelynn McGowen, valedictorian of South Jones High Schools.
Some of the students scored a 35 out of 36 on the ACT.
"I feel like I'm lucky, because a lot of these other people, two people standing right here have thirty-fives," said Matthew Gallardo, valedictorian of Sacred Heart High School. "A lot of smart intelligent people out there that are going to have a bright future."
Salutatorian Joshua Hubbard, a four-time football state champion from Bassfield High School, offered advice to rising ninth grade students.
"Take it serious," he said. "There's going to be a lot of distractions, and get involved you know meet new people, but most importantly keep grades first."
The students will attend universities and colleges across the country.