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Patel named River City Early College’s first valedictorian

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series recognizing each of the students named valedictorians at area high schools.


Four years ago, the Vicksburg Warren School District implemented River City Early College High School, an academic program where students could earn their high school diploma while also having the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree from Hinds Community College.

As a rising high school freshman, Simran Patel decided to apply for this unique learning environment and is now not only a member of the school’s first graduating class, but also the school’s first valedictorian.

“It was surreal when I got my final class rank. I went through a series of emotions. I was ecstatic, awe-struck, and proud of myself. Even more than that, I was honored to represent my class of trailblazers,” Patel said. “Overall, to be number one feels amazing but to have a lasting, positive impact means you’ve potentially inspired someone. I want underclassmen to understand that hard work is worthwhile when you reach the end and it sets a strong foundation for you to achieve your dreams. I hope as the school’s first valedictorian I paved a solid path for others to create a bright future.”

Patel, who is the daughter of Sejal and Samir Patel, said initially she had not planned on going to RCEC, but after much thought, discussing it with her parents and a positive interview experience with the school’s counselor, Marion Richardson, she decided to attend.

“I’m forever grateful I made the decision to go to RCEC because it is a place that has challenged me academically but also taught me important life lessons,” Patel said.

Graduating first in her class was not at the forefront of Patel’s mind while in high school but it was a goal early on.

“I remember in sixth grade I wrote down ‘become valedictorian or top of the class’ as a goal of mine. However, as I progressed through junior high and high school, the idea dwindled away and it wasn’t ingrained in my mind anymore,” she said. “At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to do well in everything I did, and of course, take the honest route to accomplish great things.”

Reflecting back on her sixth-grade goal, Patel said, “I think the main reason I wrote down those words that day was to prove to myself no matter how much I doubted myself or how much others doubted me, I will overcome the limitations and obstacles. I will aspire for greatness.”

While not focused on graduating first in her class, Patel did admit she was drawn to watching valedictorian speeches and imagining what she would say if given the opportunity.

Her opportunity came, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was not able to address her classmates in person.

However, it was videoed and included in a special graduation production created by the Vicksburg Warren School District and shared on YouTube and social media outlets.

Had she been given the chance to address the RCEC Class of 2020 in-person, Patel said, “It would’ve instantly unlocked so many cherished memories from our high school years.” Yet in their absence her speech still served as the final encouragement and moment they would share together, she said.

“When writing it, I chose to highlight 20 key lessons I learned with the Class of 2020 that were a true reflection of what we achieved and how our teachers contributed to our growth,” she said. “Through those lessons, I conveyed the importance of acknowledging our ambitions, knowing our true worth, and holding ourselves steady in the face of adversity.”

In the speech, Patel also urged her classmates not to let the virus and any negative impacts it had on their senior year ruin what was such a memorable high school career together.

“Ultimately, I told them to continue to put forth these lessons in their life after high school and pursue any goal that they have set for themselves,” she said, adding, “Because of COVID-19, I thought it was important to encourage my classmates to never forget old memories and friends. Nostalgia is a gift that allows us to relive the best times of our life and those moments are crucial to remember in unpredictable times. In addition to that, I told them to be fortunate and thankful for the people who have surrounded us and cared for us through every uncertainty we may have ever faced. This is a time for us to reflect on our accomplishments and eventually, live life without limits because as Ferris Bueller said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’”

Patel credited her success of the past four years to her faith, family, friends, classmates, and teachers.

“They’re the main reason I was able to remain motivated and diligent through every moment. They’ve kept me grounded and reminded me to remember my true roots. Without their constant support, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” she said.

At River City, Patel was a member of the Key Club, served as president of the National English Honor Society and National Honor Society, and was a member of the ROV Underwater Robotics team.

She was on the yearbook committee, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy and a volunteer for TOP Soccer.

Patel earned her Red Cord service hours and was also a student ambassador for the high school.

Patel has received various scholarships and will attend the University of Mississippi in the fall with plans of majoring in biology with a pre-med track.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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