SUWANEE -- Early in high school, Brittney Reese learned she had an interest in clothes and marketing. So when she decided on a career path, Reese figured she would combined the two.
"If you're going to do it for the rest of your life," the Berkmar High senior said, "you might as well enjoy it."
Reese was selected as the top student on Wednesday night among a decorated group of 22 Gwinnett County Public Schools students at the system's Career and Technical Education Awards Program. The group combined to take 94 Advance Placement classes, and had a 3.37 combined grade-point average.
"I was totally shocked, astounded, I didn't expect it at all," said Reese, who plans to pursue a career as a retail buyer. "It definitely shows that hard work pays off, so I'm really excited."
The first runner-up was Brookwood High's Kuttler Smith, who was awarded a $500 scholarship, and the second runner-up was Meadowcreek High's Franklin Gomez, who was awarded a $250 scholarship, or $500 if he attends Gwinnett Technical College.
All of the students spoke to a crowd of teachers, administrators, parents and other supporters about the role Career and Technical Education has played in their lives. Each student submitted an application, transcript, letter of recommendation, essay, leadership examples and had an interview with a panel of judges.
Smith plans to attend Georgia Tech in the fall and study mechanical engineering, and possibly computer science and robotics.
Gomez has selected a video broadcast pathway, and he said he was proud to represent Meadowcreek. His ultimate goal is to attend SCAD, but in the short term Gomez said he's looking to begin a career in television production.
GCPS CEO and Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the awards dinner each year renews his faith in young people and that "we're in good hands for the future."