They were at the top of their respective classes just a few short months ago: the 2012 valedictorians. In June, they gave speeches and basked in the celebration of their high school accomplishments. Today, we celebrate these young scholars as they head off to college. Their words, as the passages below show, are hopeful and confident, like our young men and women should be as they enter the cusp of adulthood. One wants to be an economist; another a museum curator; a third actuary and one a doctor. These young Prince George’s men and women are just several examples of the thousands of emerging county residents ready to make an impact on the world.

Tramon McZeal (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

In middle school especially, I wasn’t always the best-behaved student. But when I got to high school, my middle school had done such a good job of scaring me that if I messed up in high school that it would be all downhill from there. So when I got to high school, I decided that I’m going to be a good student, I’m going to do what I have to do. And I straightened up from there. I was always a good learner. I always picked up things.

I look now, and if I wasn’t going to college right now, I don’t know what I’d be doing. It’s hard to find a job now, so it’s not like you can just go out there and get a job. And even when it is easy to find a job, it’s not that easy with just a high school diploma.

It was always something about Dartmouth. When I visited, it was an amazing experience. And I knew from that point on that this was my school. The professors were amazing when I sat in the classes. They were so welcoming. It’s a big school, but it’s not so big that you get lost. I like the personal contact between me and my professor.

My major is either going to be psychology or economics. If I do well in those science courses, I will pursue medical school because I love psychology. I like economics, too.

With psychology, everyone likes to learn more about themselves. I love learning about how our brain works. There are so many things that we don’t know about ourselves, but yet we know a plethora of things about everything else.

I find economics interesting because it’s a system that we’ve made up, and what we do affects that system. But when it goes wrong, we don’t know how to fix it, even though it’s our system. As a doctor of economics, I will find a way to better our system. Where everything works in harmony.

Tramon McZeal graduated from Bladensburg High School and will attend Dartmouth College, where he plans to major in psychology or economics.

— Interview by Carla Broyles

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