Columbus HS senior, Hurricane Katrina survivor named salutatorian

Columbus HS senior, Hurricane Katrina survivor named salutatorian

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Jared Vale has spent the last four years at Columbus High School seizing every opportunity to succeed in academics, and putting in long hours to earn high grades.

"Endless nights staying up til 4 or 5 a.m.," the 18-year-old senior said, "just doing nothing but studying, working on projects or finishing my homework. Just constant dedication throughout all four years."

For Vale and his family, that work and determination paid off.  

At Tuesday's honors award ceremony in Columbus High School, Vale was recognized as his graduating class' salutatorian. 

Rick Vale, Jared's father, said he was especially proud of his son's dedication, which led to his acceptance into Georgia Tech to study mechanical engineering.

"I was always taught, if you teach someone to fish, they can eat for a lifetime," Rick Vale said, "so that's the philosophy that I went by."

That drive to succeed may have blossomed inside Jared when he first arrived in Columbus as a 7-year-old boy, escaping the damage left behind by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Jared's sisters, 24-year-old Sam and 20-year-old Rachael, said they remember exactly how they felt in the aftermath of the storm that devastated New Orleans and left them searching for a new home.

"I completely knew what was going on," Sam said.  "I understood we're about to have to leave and we're not coming back."

"It was really confusing," Rachael said, "but you just kind of get used to that feeling of like, 'OK, this is going to be your home. You can see your friends later, but this is where you're going to live right now.'"

At this point in Jared's life, Columbus and New Orleans are both homes, and as his homes, he plans to positively contribute to their futures as a professional engineer.

"I consider myself a New Orleans boy, you know," Jared said. "I have somewhat of the accent, still a huge Saints fan, watch it every single Sunday. Huge Drew Brees fan, but when it comes down to it, Georgia is also right there with it." 

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