Tant, DEA’s valedictorian, overcame health issue in route to top of class

Updated: May 21

Meet 18-year-old Alana Tant. She’s set to graduate as David Emanuel’s valedictorian this year, and she has a story that could motivate future students and the general public alike.

A lifelong student of DEA, her athletic and academic track records alike are a testament to her work ethic.

She is a four-year Beta member, her class’s current president, a six-year softball player, a four-year letterman in basketball and track, a two-year soccer player, and a one-year tennis letter recipient. She’s also held the highest average in her grade for the past four years, which propelled her to the valedictorian spot, and has a state championship ring in softball to keep in a safe place, along with her Georgia Certificate of Merit and high school diploma she’ll receive this Saturday evening.

Her proudest moment that has already occurred, however, is a major health obstacle she had to overcome heading into her freshman year.

“I went on a cruise in June 2019 and ingested a parasite,” Tant, a native of Kite, explained. “It caused me to lose my ability to walk. I went through lots of therapy and had lots of support. By December, I was back on my feet, but the hardest part throughout the entire ordeal was realizing I couldn’t do the things I used to. This helped me not take anything for granted.”

That renewed sense of appreciation extended to include her talents in the classroom and on the athletic fields.

This past year, she was on the roster of softball players who helped secure David Emanuel’s second state title in school history. She played centerfield for the Lady Eagles.

Not long after that, she found out she had performed well enough to keep the No. 1 spot in the class and serve as valedictorian at the 2022 commencement ceremony.

“In April, we found out who was going to be honor graduates and our final class ranks,” Tant said. “Leading up to that point, I was very nervous because this was something I wanted even before high school.”

Now that she’s just days away from delivering her speech, she feels a sense of relief.

Like Grace Catherine Hood, who will stand next to her on Saturday as salutatorian, Tant’s best advice for younger readers is to set a goal, stay focused, and give a quality effort. When the time comes to set a new goal, she encourages setting a higher one.

Her most influential teacher throughout high school was Maranda Usry, but Tant also mentioned a few others who positively helped her during the past few years—just not in the classroom. These people included softball coaches Terry Lumley, Allen Jordan, Gabrielle Story, and Laura Webb. Combined, they taught Tant the game of softball, sure, but they also taught her life lessons she says she’ll never forget.

All in all, high school for Tant was “a blur” because she hurried it by. Now, she’s wishing time would slow down.

“The past four years was a lot of hurrying and a lot of waiting. I spent most of my days playing sports, hanging with friends, or studying for a test the night before I had to take it,” she commented with a laugh. “I met lifelong friends, some of the greatest mentors out there, and I made a lot of memories, so I’m thankful for that. I’ve been rushing graduation since I started high school, but now that it’s here, I want to go back. I’m every emotion you can think of right now, but I’m excited to see where life takes me.”

For now, the plan is to head to Athens, where she’ll spend the next four years. Then, she’ll transfer to a medical college to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Her parents include father Andrew Tant and mother Brandi Tant, whom she credits for pushing her to her fullest potential and always believing in her.

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