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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Longtime friends are Durant's valedictorian, salutatorian

PLANT CITY Jacob Bernier and Natalie Raschke became classmates and friends when they met in the third grade. They share many of the same habits in school - hard work and perseverence. And now they will share the spotlight during Durant High School graduation. Bernier is the valedictorian and Raschke is salutatorian. Their grade point averages are separated by less than a tenth of a percent.
Bernier said he didn't necessarily set out to be at the top of his class academically. "I honestly was just taking the classes I wanted to take," the 18-year-old said. "I idolized other students who were successful." He doesn't really have a secret to success. "It's easy to say you want to do well, but you have to do it, you have to work hard and even read the book," he said. He is the son of Shawn and Greg Bernier. He has a 20-year-old sister, Sarah. His activities at Durant have included membership in the school math and science clubs. Mostly, he has focused on his school work, including his advanced placement classes. Bernier plans to attend Florida State University, where he will study physics. His career goal is uncertain although he may become a professor. Raschke attributes her success to staying focused on school work. "I always tell people that you have to pay attention in class and do your homework. You can't let the teacher do the work for you," she said. "You can't sleep in class and expect to get good grades." Raschke is the daughter of Christi and Scott Raschke. She has a 15-year-old brother, Jake. Like Bernier, she was a member of the math and science clubs. She played on the Cougar soccer team as a freshman. Her advice to others who may want to follow in her footsteps? "Pay attention and do the homework, that's a big part of it," she said. Raschke plans to attend the University of Florida where she will study psychology and pre-law. But her career plans aren't firm at this point. Both Raschke and Bernier said they will talk about the future during their speeches at commencement. Principal Pam Bowden said she feels optimistic for her graduating class. "They are very competitive, they are very enterprising and they are looking for success," she said. Bowden said members of the class have always given there best effort, from football games to choral concerts to school plays. They have always "played their hearts out," in every endeavor, she said. "They all love performing well on everything," Bowden said. "They are anxious to leave and face the next challenges in life." Durant High School Principal: Pam Bowden Graduates: 570 Valedictorian: Jacob Bernier, 6.87 grade point average Salutatorian: Natalie Raschke, 6.84 GPA Class president: Margo Butler Graduation: 8 p.m. Monday June 3, Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall School colors: Navy, gold, white and green School mascot: Cougar Reporter Dave Nicholson contributed to this article.
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