Academic Excellence

Parth Patel, Class of 2015, Douglas County High; Class of 2019, Vanderbilt University

Parth graduated from Douglas County High School with not only the standard high school diploma, but also with the prestigious, internationally recognized International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. He is currently in his sophomore year at Vanderbilt University, where he is on a 4-year full tuition scholarship, majoring in neuroscience. As a result of success on his IB exams, he started at Vanderbilt with 8 credits in Chemistry and 6 credits in Economics.

One of the best indicators of true excellence in public schools is how alumni perform after they graduate. Parth excelled his freshman year at Vandy, earning a 4.0 GPA and participating in the university’s Quiz Bowl team (his quiz bowl team won the High Q competition his senior year!). We interviewed Parth about how his school and family background prepared him for success at the college level.

How did your public school education help prepare you 1) to get a scholarship, 2) to succeed at Vanderbilt?

To qualify [for the scholarship], I essentially had to display academic achievement, which was demonstrated through my 4.0 GPA and standardized test scores, and a commitment to extracurricular activities.

I would definitely argue that teachers were integral components in enabling me to achieve my goals. Undoubtedly, their encouragement and constant challenges allowed me to grow, not only as a student, but as a human being. By providing an environment that nurtured academic development, teachers encouraged me to strive for greatness. Equally important, the faculty were essential in providing me opportunities to become involved with extracurricular activities through various clubs and organizations they organized. Both of these aspects were necessary to get the scholarship I did. Regarding the second question, Vanderbilt’s commitment to the same ideals means that I was prepared, when entering the university, to continue to strive for academic and extracurricular success.

How would you describe the role your family has played in your academic success?

My family has been crucial for me to achieve what I have. Both of my parents constantly encouraged me to strive for my best, regardless of the outcome. When I felt stressed, they would always be the friendly shoulder I could rest my head on. Because of their belief in me, especially in my formative years, I was able to tread forward, regardless of the obstacles I faced. 

Concerning his choice of a major that focuses on the study of the brain, Parth said, “It is simultaneously one of the most challenging, yet intimate of puzzles which has eluded the stringent examination of scientists, but would undoubtedly be one of the most important for humanity to resolve.” We look forward in the decades to come to seeing how Mr. Patel helps to uncover the mysteries of the brain for the benefit of us all.


Hellen Nganga, Class of 2024, Mt. Carmel Elementary

Hellen is the 4th grade state winner for Young Georgia Authors. The title of her winning entry is “Hellen’s Diary Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.” She writes from the perspective of a child in 1776 experience life in colonial America during the Revolutionary War, writing in her diary. One of the entries reads:

Something terrible has happened. I shall speak little of this so Mother wouldn’t get mad if she sees it. A man in a red coat has come into our cottage. He is tall and is armed with a rifle. I think ’twas a British soldier. He said we have to take care of him for a fortnight. He put his rifle on the table and sat on a stool. Mother has left to buy figs to cook for supper. Before she left, she told me she will be back as soon as possible. I know she does not want to leave me with this man for long. When she left, the man turned around and stared at me. “What is thine name?” he asks. I tell him my name is Hope. He asks many other questions like where was I born and if I have siblings. Mother came back and quickly cooked. I gave the solider his stewed figs. “Thank ye, Hope” he says. My candle is low. To bed now…”

What an excellent use of historical imagination!

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Hellen’s teacher is Dr. Linda James.

Gates Millennium Scholars

The Gates Millennium Scholars program aims to promote academic excellence and help outstanding minority students who have significant financial needs by providing scholarships that extend even through graduate school, especially in areas in which minorities are underrepresented. Four graduating seniors were chosen from Douglas County Schools this year for the scholarship:

Vincent Buckman, Lithia Springs (will attend Washington & Lee) U.)

Jose Amador, New Manchester (will attend Emory U.)

Sondai NaNaBuluku, Chapel Hill (will attend Bard College)

Yaa Ofori, Chapel Hill (will attend High Point U.)

Of note, while DCSS has had Gates scholars in previous years, this is the most we have had in a single graduating class!


We want to share more stories of exemplars of academic excellence. Please contact us at to recommend someone to be featured.