The past couple of weeks have been filled with celebrations and goodbyes for the Class of 2013 graduating seniors at Charleston County and area private schools.

Here is what the valedictorians had to say before they walked across the stage:

Dexter AgenaGarrett Academy of Technology

Career plans: Enlisted in the Air Force.

Interests: Hanging out with friends, bowling, football, basketball, paintball, computers, working out, video games and helping out other people.

School involvement: Skills USA, National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society and JROTC.

Family: Parents, Ponciano Agena and the late Maria Agena; brothers, Patrick Agena, 29, and Francis Agena, 27; and sister, Shelia Agena, 28.

message to fellow classmates: “Don't forget your roots and the struggles we went through during high school. High school is just another phase in life where we form unforgettable friendships and realize our unlimited potential in the real world.”

Danielle AyerJames Island Charter High School

College Plans: Clemson University, major undecided, but considering business with a focus in French.

career plans: A career field where I can continue to interact with new cultures, customs and languages.

school Involvement: Varsity volleyball co-captain, varsity soccer co-captain, club ice hockey, high school team and yearbook editor.

Family: Parents, Carol Ayer, French instructor at the College of Charleston, and Tim Ayer, an insurance agent; and siblings, Matt Ayer, 26, Brendan Ayer, 24, Ryan Ayer, 22, Keith Ayer, 16 and Jin Ayer, 15.

Message to fellow classmates: “While the diploma is the product of our academic success, it is simply a piece of paper. It is meaningful because it represents the memories that have been made along the way. When we look back in 20 years, we will not remember what we were studying, or what we were supposed to be studying, but instead, we will remember the times we have shared, the memories made and the people who shaped our experience at JICHS.”

Macon BianucciAshley Hall

college plans: Will postpone college for a year to fulfill my dream of becoming a certified safari guide. I am attending a school called Bush Wise in South Africa, where I will train to become a safari guide for six months, and then I will work as a guide and for an anti-poaching cause in Tanzania for the following six months. I will then attend college in fall 2014.

career plans: I really do not know!

interests: I have volunteered at an orphanage in Tanzania for the past six summers and have been involved in fundraising for it over the years. I have focused a lot of my interests on the cause and raising awareness for it at home. My time there has fostered my interest in the anti-poaching force, to which I will contribute in the coming year. I also love to write.

school involvement: Student government, National English Honor Society, creating my 3-D art portfolio and fundraising for The Foundation for Tomorrow, a nongovernmental organization that sends orphaned and vulnerable children to school in Tanzania.

family: Parents, Susan Bianucci and Henri Bianucci, a veterinarian surgeon; sister, Miller Bianucci.

message to fellow classmates: “Continue, as we have at Ashley Hall, to pursue your passions without the fear of judgment or failure, but with the confidence in ourselves that we gained at Ashley Hall.”

Ky'Asia BrownGreg Mathis Charter High School

College pLans: Benedict College, majoring in computer engineering.

career plans: Enlisting in the military and furthering my education.

Interests: Working on and fixing computers and electronics.

School involvement: Beta Club.

Family: Parents, Kylie Kinloch and Clarence Brown; and siblings, Brianna Kinloch, 13, Cedric Myers, 11, Tyren Kinloch, 5, Clarence Brown, 11, and Janay Brown, 7.

Message to fellow classmates: “Being valedictorian means a lot to me. I have been through many situations in my life that made me want to give up on everything, but I got through it. What means the most to me is to be able to walk the stage to receive my high school diploma to prove to everyone who told me I wouldn't go far in life that I've made it.”

Erik Cardwell Charleston Charter School for Math & Science

college plans: College of Charleston Honors College, majoring in biomedicine.

career plans: A career in medicine.

interests: Traveling and learning about other cultures. I'm proficient in three languages.

school involvement: Soccer, cross country, academic bowl and National Honor Society vice president.

family: Parents, Dale Cardwell, an engineer, and the late Helene Cardwell; and brother, Tomas, 24.

message to fellow classmates: “High school is not the end of everything but the beginning of something greater, something where things learned in high school will be applied. Graduation is not a time of grief and sadness, but a time of excitement and anticipation.”

Joshua Chambers Northwood Academy

college plans: The Citadel, majoring in civil engineering or the U.S. Naval Academy, majoring in ocean engineering (wait listed).

career plans: Commission in the Navy to become a Navy SEAL

interests: History, books about SEALs, working out, outdoors and shooting guns.

school involvement: Varsity soccer, cross country, football, National Honor Society, Beta Club, Math Team, Debate Team and senior class vice president.

family: Parents, Scott Chambers, a business owner, and Melinda Chambers, an office manager; and sister, Mindy, 21.

message to fellow classmates: “So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life; perfect your life; beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. ... When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.” — From “Crouching Tiger” by Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee Nation.

Dashia DraytonMilitary Magnet Academy

College Plans: College of Charleston, majoring in biology.

career plans: Becoming a pediatrician.

Interests: Music. I play the tuba, drums and now the guitar. I've been part of a leadership program, Metanoia, for 10 years.

school Involvement: Marching and concert band, drill team, academic bowl MVP, Student Council president, Interact/Rotary Club, JROTC cadet captain and National Honor Society.

Family: Mother, Damitra Hilton, director of program services at My Sister's House Inc.; father, D'Angelo Drayton; stepfather Glenn Hilton, a carpenter; and siblings, Dasiah, 3, D'Angelo Jr., 15, Jahlia, 13, Quantes, 10, and Neveah, 1.

Message to fellow classmates: “In life, there are obstacles, but they aren't what strengthen you, it's the way you get through them. We all must take chances in order to reap the benefits of our risks. After all, if you never climb that mountain, you will never know what's at the top.”

Jonathan EllisonPorter-Gaud School

college plans: Yale University, major undecided.

career plans: I am truly undecided, but if nothing were to change, I would become an attorney.

interests: History, the 1700s, political theory, painting, waterskiing and fishing.

school involvement: Watch magazine editor, swimming, soccer, senior class vice president, community service, youth in government and quiz bowl.

family: Parents, Morris Ellison, an attorney, and Deborah Ellison; and siblings, Sarah Ellison, 23, Benjamin Ellison, 20, and Judah Ellison, 14.

message to fellow classmates: “Life is a play and we must all play our role on stage. ... Be people of action, be adventurous and continue onwards through life striving to achieve a lasting legacy through acts that touch the minds of others, often on a very personal level, because actions speak louder than words.”

Mary HensleySt. John's High School

College Plans: College of Charleston, majoring in creative writing.

career plans: To become an author or an artist.

Interests: Art, reading, writing, anime, manga, video games and music.

School Involvement: School newspaper.

Family: Parents, Robin Hensley and Marvin Hensley, a fiberglass technician; and brother, Marvin Hensley Jr., 27.

Message to fellow Classmates: “Don't try to fit the mold of someone else's design. Always be yourself and don't care about what others think because even if you were a perfect person, you'd still be misjudged by some people.”

Megan HuntAcademic Magnet High School

college plans: Clemson Honors College, majoring in bioengineering, then medical school.

career plans: A career in medicine as an anesthesiologist or surgeon.

interests: Running, hiking, finding new music, crafting, science, heart disease research and volunteering.

school involvement: Soccer team captain, basketball team captain, cross country team captain, National Honor Society vice president, Key Club, Reach Club, National Spanish Honor Society, Raptors Read, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Mu Alpha Theta.

family members: Parents, Marilou Hunt, a pharmacist at Roper Hospital, and Bill Hunt, a chemical salesman; and sister Georgia Hunt, 14.

message to fellow classmates: “The last four years have been extremely memorable. I could not have made it through Magnet without you all. I want to thank you for all of the support and help you have given me along the way. I cannot wait to see all of the amazing things our class will do to change the world.”

Christiana Keinath Charleston County School of the Arts

college plans: University of South Carolina Honors College, majoring in biology.

career plans: To become a research scientist in either environmental science or neuroscience.

interests: Painting, drawing, singing, volunteering at church, literature, nature, poetry, music, etymology, traveling, piano, crafting, and photography.

Community and school involvement: Scholastic Art, Coastal Carolina Fair, North Charleston Arts Festival, Charleston Fine Art Dealers Association High School Art Competition and Piccolo Spoleto, co-organizer of the 2013 Senior Art Show, National Honor Society, vice president of Tutoring for School of the Arts and the 2013 Robertson Jeffers Association Conference.

family: Mother, Amy Keinath, a retired audiologist; father, Anthony Keinath, a professor of plant pathology; and sister, Caroline Keinath, 14.

message to fellow classmates: “Though we face the unknown we, as artists, have already learned how to mark blank canvases and fill silent air with motion, speech, and music.”

Abby MandelPinewood Preparatory School

college plans: Tufts University after a year doing community service in Israel; undecided major.

career plans: Undecided.

interests: Running, theater and visual arts.

school involvement: Interact Club, International Club, theater, creative writing, Marine Biology Club, Panther Ambassadors, varsity cross country and track.

family: Parents, Adam Mandel, an emergency medicine physician, and Lydia Mandel, owner of Aquatic Analytics; sister, Emma Mandel, 15; and exchange students, Maya Friederich, 16, and Maria Mazzoni, 17.

message to fellow classmates: “Thank you for being a wonderful and supportive class, being welcoming and always friendly. You will all be so successful in whatever career and lifestyle you pursue, because every single member of the Class of 2013 has such wonderful talents.”

Shalandria Middleton Baptist Hill High School

College plans: Clemson University, majoring in athletic training.

career plans: Becoming a certified trainer.

Interests: Helping people.

School involvement: Varsity basketball, volleyball, softball and 2013 Homecoming Queen.

Family: Mother, Alexandria Middleton; father, Shaunn Middleton, a government constructor; sisters, Shaniqua Middleton, 22, and Shanice Middleton, 24; and brother, Shaunn Middleton Jr., 21.

Message to fellow classmates: “Remain focused at all times. Don't let anything or anyone get in the way of you being successful in life. When going to college, keep your head up and never give up. College is not going to be easy, so you will have to study and work at your highest potential every day.”

Tre'Ona PrioleauNorth Charleston High School

College Plans: University of California-Riverside, majoring in mechanical engineering.

career plans: Working for a small company designing certain parts for their product line or working for Boeing and focusing on one specific part of a plane to help it run more efficiently.

interests: Reading, socializing and volunteering.

School Involvement: Communities in School, Senior Board and the Delta Sigma Theta GEMS.

Family: Mother, Mary Prioleau, a TriCounty Link driver; father, Terrence White, a truck driver; and siblings, Taylor Prioleau, 15, Tyler Prioleau, 12, Terrence Prioleau, 10 and Marcquez Prioleau, 8.

Message to fellow classmates: “I wish you the most success. Although our time at North Charleston High has come to an end, I hope that everyone in my graduating class becomes successful. I wish you all the best and I know that you all have the talents and abilities to do anything and everything you set your mind to!”

Justin SindoniBishop England High School

college plans: University of South Carolina Honors College, majoring in biology.

career plans: Medical school or a career in biological research.

interests: Music, clarinet, science, biking and reading.

school involvement: Orchestra Club vice president and co-founder, Key Club secretary, Senior Board homeroom representative, Mu Alpha Theta treasurer, Archery Club and National Honor Society.

family: Parents, June Sindoni and John Sindoni, president and CEO of Charleston Leadership Strategies; and brother, Jason Sindoni, 13.

message to fellow classmates: “Do things you are truly passionate about and engage yourself in whatever path you take.”

Jessika WashingtonBurke High School

college plans: Tuskegee University

career plans: Attend Temple University School of Medicine or Florida A&M University to become a pediatrician.

interests: Music, dancing, helping others, writing and shoes.

school involvement: Advanced Placement Academy, Trident Technical College's Dual Credit Program, National Honor Society president, Fellowship of Christian Athletes vice president, High Steppin' Marching Band flag section leader, academic bowl, student government, varsity girls soccer, varsity girls basketball team manager, College of Charleston Upward Bound, South Carolina State University Talent Search and National Society of High School Scholars.

family members: Parents, Stephenie Washington, a retail sales manager, and Jesse Washington Jr., U.S. Marines Corps.

message to fellow classmates: “No matter what obstacles may come your way or what struggles you may go through, remember to keep the faith, remain strong and know that you can make it. Continue to make a change as we did at Burke High School, my fellow classmates.”

We would also like to recognize the following valedictorians: Richard Chan, West Ashley High School; Stephanie Tinney, Lincoln High School; Matthew Reeves, Wando High School and Shayne Sison, Stall High School. They did not respond to our requests.