SHINING STARS: NCSS, Kiwanis honor students, teachers

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

COVINGTON -- Three Newton County students had stars in their eyes this week.

In the 53rd annual celebration, the Newton County School System and the Kiwanis Club of Covington honored the three students and their selected teachers for the 2011 Newton County School System STAR -- Student Teacher Achievement Recognition -- program.

"These young people represent the very best of the best," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews. "They foretell a very well future of our country. What a wonderful tribute they are to all of us in Newton County."

This year, Alcovy High School's STAR student is Heather Steckenrider, who selected her history and economics teacher Anita Anderson as her STAR teacher; Newton's student is Brian Carpenter, who chose math teacher Diana Brown; and Eastside High School's student is Patrick Ford, who picked Latin teacher Eric Adams.

"(The teachers are) outstanding in every way," Mathews said. "Teachers matter greatly in what they do, what they say, how they do, how much they care. ... They really go out of their way to help our children perform."

The STAR program, which is nationally sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and locally sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Covington, honors graduating high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their class with the highest Scholastic Assessment Test scores in their schools.

Ford, son of Richard Ford, also was chosen as the county's STAR student for scoring the highest in the county on the SAT -- a 2120 out of 2400.

He's already been accepted to the University of Georgia, but he is setting his sights on Harvard University. He also has applied to Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan and Oxford College of Emory University.

Whatever university he chooses, he plans to study classics and then work as a professor or attend medical or law school.

"It's easy to seem like you're doing a good job when you have students like Patrick," said Adams, who Ford chose because he's been an inspiration to him. "It all falls on the students."

Ford took every Latin class offered at Eastside, as well as every Advanced Placement course except for art. Now he is teaching himself the Greek language and studying German through the Georgia Virtual Academy.

Alcovy's student scored a 1880 on her SAT -- and a 31 on her ACT -- and plans to attend UGA to study biology or genetics and minor in photography or some sort of art.

"She pushes herself very hard," said Anderson, who taught Steckenrider advanced world history in 10th grade and microeconomics this year. "She's an outstanding student. I know she is going to represent Newton County well."

Steckenrider, daughter of Michael and Michelle Hunter, hopes to get into the honors program at UGA.

While in high school, she has participated in varsity cheerleading and the prom committee, among other activities.

Carpenter, who scored a 1900 on his SAT, is a little more unsure about his future.

"I haven't exactly figured out the whole college thing yet, but I'm working on it," said Carpenter, son of Fred and Carrie Carpenter.

He's been accepted to UGA and Georgia Southern, but hasn't yet made up his mind on where he wants to go or what he wants to study, although he's interested in music and theology.

"I have some options," he said.

Brown said that he's a great student and will succeed in whatever he chooses to do.

"He's one of the students where it just comes natural to him," she said. "He's amazing."

Carpenter is an active member and youth leader at St. Pius Catholic Church in Conyers and took several AP classes in high school.

Each student was given a $1,200 scholarship and a certificate from the Kiwanis Club.

Piedmont Academy's 2011 STAR Student, Matthew O'Brien, is the son of Ed and Caren O'Brien of Covington. His STAR teacher is Bobbi Sauls.

"Matthew will participate in class discussions with insightful comments and asks a number of questions that challenge me as an instructor," Sauls said. "While he has outstanding grades, Matthew is not motivated solely by the number on the paper. He desires to comprehend the material, works to analyze information from a unique perspective, and strives to avoid past mistakes in his future work."

They were honored at the Jasper County Kiwanis Club's presentation of Jasper County's STARS last week.