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Featherstone at the top of class
The top three graduating seniors at Ceres High School have GPAs so tight one might need a micrometer to tell the difference.

With a grade point average of 4.387, Sydney Featherstone claims this year's honor as salutatorian honors are split between Kevin Fliflet and George Polivan, both sharing the number 4.336.

"Honestly, I've had some great valedictorians and salutatorians over the years," said Ceres High Principal Bob Palous, "but these have been the best. They've had a very, very competitive class."

So competitive that 25 percent of the class of seniors is off to a four-year university. That's up from 13 percent two years ago, said Palous.

In the old days, a 4.0 GPA was the highest a high school senior could attain. These days Advanced Placement (AP) college prep classes allow a student to exceed a 4.0.

Featherstone, the perky 17-year-old daughter of Robert Featherstone and Sonya Palmer, both of Modesto, will be vastly changed her scenery when she leaves Ceres for Long Beach State this fall. Her goal is to major in microbiology.

"I want to try to be a doctor but maybe study oncology," said Featherstone. "For now that subject kind of interests me - the study of viruses."

Featherstone said she has always been competitive - a lot like her dad.

"We both like to work hard and come out on top," said Sydney. "We figure if we work hard enough there's nothing wrong with wanting to succeed in life."

Not once has Sydney ever thought about not going to graduate school. "I've considered lightening up on my load a little bit. Even my parents tell me they need to take it easy some times and focus on one or two things but not spread myself too thin. I've always wanted to just go to school and get a master's (degree)."

She claims the environment of Long Beach won't be distracting because she's entering the President's program. "That's the part I like. I want to be surrounded by people who are also very driven and school oriented. And my grandma lives about 30 minutes."

Kevin plans to attend Modesto Junior College for a couple of years to build a "foundation for myself moneywise" before he transfers out. The son of Stan and Jadeen Fliflet would like to attend Cal Poly or Long Beach to double major in aerospacing engineering and mathematics.

Kevin admits that his competitive nature stems from "living in the shadow" of his older brother - Kyle Fliflet, the 2005 CHS valedictorian.

"I've always been able to strive to beat him and it's a very easy way to set the bar high," said Fliflet.

Kevin always got good grades in elementary school but at eighth grade he wanted to surpass his brother's GPA accomplishment. Along the way he discovered what he wanted to do in life. If he doesn't get into space through aerospace, he would like to work on an alternative energy source.

George has his sights set on CSU Long Beach and molecular biology and a graduate program in science beyond that. He is the son of George and Elizabeth Polovin, Russian immigrants.

"Honestly I really didn't think I would be here," said George of the second highest honor. "There's nothing that really motivated me except that in my freshman year I figured a lot of the classes I took I got A's in them. It just came naturally so I figured why not go all the way? The fact that I can do it."

Classifying himself as a "carefree" and "flexible guy," Polovin said he is not entirely certain what career path he will take. He knows he wants to college and graduate school.

Both Kevin and George participated in the Science Olympiad the last two years and were both co-captains this year of the waterpolo team.

All three were involved with the Ceres Youth Commission as well as CSF and National Honor Society (NHS). Sydney was also active in the "S" Club and played tennis.

Sydney enjoyed her time as a student representative to the Ceres School Board.

"I've enjoyed it a lot actually, because I really don't have any idea what's going in the elementary schools through junior high schools. So it's been nice to hear what's going on at the other schools and ... where the money is being spent. And I like meeting new people, too."

George spent some of his free time away from studying by playing the violin in a couple of orchestras, including at church and Stanislaus State University. As a freshman he belonged to the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra.

While all three are happy about their forthcoming college opportunities, they feel a sadness about leaving good friends behind.

"A lot of people will say they're happy to leave," said George, "but it's just that your life is passing. You see it."

"We made the most of it but I am going to miss this school a lot," said Sydney. "I mean, I'm totally excited to get to college and everything and being in a new atmosphere but I'm really sad about leaving Ceres."

Fliflet will miss lots of friends.

"Being an AP student you're with the same people all the time and those bonds grow really firm," said Kevin. "It's kind of hard separating them especially since I'm the one who's kind of not leaving. I don't want to lose the friendships that I've got right now."

They'll also miss their teachers who helped guide their educations. Sydney will miss Linda Cooper, who was her Leadership class teacher and CHS activities director.

"Ms. Cooper has been like my third or fourth mom," said Sydney. "She is very strict and she does her job but when we get to hang out with her, like going to CADA camp, she's very sweet and I like hearing her talk about her daughter. She's a mom."

Both Fliflet and Polovin have already bid farewell to their favorite teacher, swimming and waterpolo coach Sonja Raynes. The biology teacher left CHS for another career opportunity.

"She was like our second mom," said George of Raynes. "She was very much involved in our lives. She made sure we did everything we could to perfect us but she also looked out for us."

"She grew very close to us," said Kevin. "She knew us very well, sometimes better than we knew ourselves, honestly. She did a lot for us. It was difficult seeing her go."