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Lathrop valedictorians plugged into community

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POSTED May 28, 2014 12:15 a.m.

LATHROP – Gurpreet Atwal has a 4.26 grade point average.

Kultar Ram has a 4.26 grade point average.

They’ve taken the same challenging classes during their four years at Lathrop High School and both have performed flawlessly. That means no B’s in a single class in four full years of high school.

And they’re co-Valedictorians for the Lathrop High School Class of 2014 for their efforts.

Oh, and they’re also not only plugged in on campus, but they’re also extremely active in the community as well – holding positions on the Lathrop Youth Advisory Commission, the Lathrop District Youth Chamber of Commerce and the Interact Club, just to name a few.

How they got there? That’s a different story entirely.

Both claim that they chucked sleep out of the window a long time ago, that of the three things that you need to succeed in high school – sleep, studying and a social life – they’d rather have fun. Their academic record shows where their study habits lie.

But Gurpreet – the son of Kulwinder and Jaswinder Atwal – says that he’s always been a good test-taker while Kultar says that he doesn’t function nearly as well when under pressure. That means that while one focused more on the in-class assignments and was able to boost his standing by acing everything leading up to the weighted test (Kultar) the other (Gurpreet) had some breathing room when it came to the in-class stuff as long as he made sure to perform when it counted.

Both approaches worked. And both will send them to four year colleges. Gurpreet has plans on pursuing a degree in electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley while Kultar is going to wait until Thursday before he reveals his choice. He’s been accepted to Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA and UC Davis.

Also, remember this slogan – “Ram 2032.” He wants to be President.

“It just looks good doesn’t it,” he said with a deadpan delivery. “That’s what I’m shooting for.”

Regardless of where he plans on pursuing his education he knows that law will ultimately be the direction he goes. He wants to study economics during his undergraduate years to help prepare him for a life in the political arena.

Gurpreet on the other hand hopes that his engineering degree will help him ultimately start his own successful tech firm in the Silicon Valley that has produced some of the world’s most influential startups.

“It took a lot of work to get here and it was really all about time management for me,” Atwal said. “I really wanted to make sure that even with everything I was still having fun.”

The feather in the cap for both of the young men might not necessarily have been academic at all.

Just across the street from where they’ll graduate this week sits the Lathrop Generations Center – a $5 million library and teen center that will boast one of the largest public skate parks in Northern California and possibly the only public parkour park in America when it opens next month.

The effort to get it built was collaborative, but the Youth Advisory Commission played a role in pushing for the construction of a teen center, and it helped play a role in the process.

Ram – the son of Kular and Maklan Ram – said that he wrote his personal statement about what it meant to be a part of such a movement. Atwal said that the time that he spent getting involved with something outside of traditional extracurriculars – something within his own community – drastically altered his outlook and allowed him to find what it is that he really wants.

While both might achieve the same goal through different channels, their faces light up when they talk about seeing the ribbon get cut at the end of June.

“Part of me wishes that I was able to enjoy it more, but I know what our efforts are going to provide something for the students that come after us and that will always be there,” Ram said. “That’s what I wrote my personal statement on. If I didn’t have that I don’t know what I would have written it about.”

Atwal echoed the sentiments.

“Before I got involved in this I was self-centered and all I cared about was what was good for me and a conversation that I had with a senior one day changed all of that,” he said. “You create relationships with the people in your community when you get involved and you learn to lead and you learn to interact and you have fun.

“It shows that you’re capable of doing all of those things.”

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