While Northwest Whitfield High School's 2020 senior class president Brogen Ballew was heavily involved in the social life of the school and was also an athlete, he remained focused on academics, graduating with honors-with-distinction.
That meant he took at least three AP (Advanced Placement) or dual enrollment classes while maintaining a numerical average of at least 94.5.
Ballew "is a young man of character and integrity, and in my interactions with him in the classroom he was always attentive, respectful, intuitive and industrious," said Ryan Reece, who taught Ballew for three years in literature courses. "In his interactions with others, Brogen is genuinely polite and honest, and he gets along well with peers and adults in any setting."
Ballew first encountered Reece while a sophomore in a mythology class, and "he always related everything he could to a life lesson," Ballew said. "I always love getting a life lesson, and I love Reece."
Beginning in middle school, Ballew was "set up" for a high school career full of AP classes and dual enrollment, but "I had to decide if I really wanted to go that route," he said. As a freshman in high school, he realized challenging himself academically could "help me get into a better college," so he followed that path, despite "a hefty workload."
Because of athletics and other commitments, there were "a lot of late nights," he said. "I prioritized school, because that's going to be my future, but I also focused on people, because the relationships are what I value the most, so any free time I had during the day, I threw in some studying or homework."
His "hardest class was easily honors chemistry," he said. "I loved it, but it was difficult — very college-like."
"I still got the grade I wanted to, but the last test, I needed at least a 92 to keep an 'A,' and that was the hardest I ever studied," he said. "I made a 94."
Ballew is studying engineering at the University of Georgia.
"My family has always been a Georgia family, always going to football games, (so) I guess I've been groomed," said Ballew, whose bedroom had long been covered with UGA paraphernalia. "I've always been told it's amazing, and once I took the tour, I knew it was definitely Georgia for me."
Reece is "proud of him and excited to see what awaits him as he begins his journey at the University of Georgia," he said. "In short, I was honored to get to teach and know Brogen over the past three years."
Ballew will focus on engineering in college because "my math and science classes, I've always been interested in them and loved them," Ballew said. "Those just clicked for me."
He's also spoken to individuals in the industry, and this summer he worked construction, he said. "I love seeing the process of things."
Ballew was one of the students selected to speak at Northwest's graduation in June.
"It was an honor, and I was excited," he said. "I always wanted an opportunity to talk straight to the class."
Among other things, he reminded them that a school without students is merely a building, and a lifeless one at that, but the members of this senior class "brought countless memories" into the lives of one another.
"Make every day your day, and do it in gratefulness," he advised. "Go out and continue to succeed."
Ballew never got "caught up in what other people say or think" during high school, he reflected this summer. "We didn't get involved in the drama or stuff that didn't matter."
"I had a friend group of about five guys, and we all stuck close throughout high school, but I tried to get to know every group and build relationships with every person I could," he said. "I have a ton of people I can call or talk to, and that's probably my biggest achievement of high school."
That ability to be friendly with anyone is rooted in his faith, he said.
"I've always been a Christian, and that relationship to Christ gave me a loving approach to everyone."
Steven Smith, who coached Ballew on Northwest's tennis team the past two years, knows Ballew's "faith is very important to him, and he is a great example of that faith," he said. Northwest's tennis team "will greatly miss Brogen’s leadership, hard work and personality."
Ballew isn't arrogant about his faith, but candid and authentic, Reece said.
"He actively tries to live out his faith, seeking to serve others before himself, and in all facets of his life that I have observed, he appears to challenge himself to be engaged in meaningful and purposeful ways."