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Kiwanis recognizes top high school seniors

The Newton County School System and the Kiwanis Club of Covington honored the county's STAR students Thursday. From left to right: Newton High School's Stephanie Lightsey, Eastside High School's Seth Kimbrell and Alcovy High School's Juweek Adolphe.

The Newton County School System and the Kiwanis Club of Covington honored the county's STAR students Thursday. From left to right: Newton High School's Stephanie Lightsey, Eastside High School's Seth Kimbrell and Alcovy High School's Juweek Adolphe.

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Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith The Newton County School System and the Kiwanis Club of Covington honored the county's STAR students and teachers in a special program Thursday afternoon at the First United Methodist Church of Covington. Pictured, from left, are the students, Newton High School's Stephanie Lightsey, Eastside High School's Seth Kimbrell and Alcovy High School's Juweek Adolphe.

COVINGTON -- Three Newton County students proved they were reaching for the stars when they were honored for being top students this week.

The Newton County School System and the Kiwanis Club of Covington honored three top high school students and their selected teachers for the 2011 Newton County School System STAR -- Student Teacher Achievement Recognition -- program, which is in its 54th year.

"What a magnificent display from three young people whose future is very bright," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews. "You make us very proud."

This year, Alcovy High School's STAR student is Juweek Adolphe, who selected his Advanced Placement history teacher Ryan Denison as his STAR teacher; Newton High's student is Stephanie Lightsey, who chose her fifth-grade teacher from Porterdale Elementary School, Debora Ondracek; and Eastside High School's student is Seth Kimbrell, who picked Latin teacher Eric Adams.

"I can't think of a more important profession than teachers," Mathews said. "They do touch the future ... and their legacy will live (on). ... They are the bottom line and where the rubber meets the road."

The STAR program, which is 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.

Kimbrell, son of James and Adrianne Kimbrell of Covington, also was chosen as the county's STAR student for scoring the highest in the county on the SAT -- 2300 out of 2400. He earned a perfect score on the reading section.

He's applied to several schools, but Yale is his first choice -- he was deferred during the first round and should find out if he was accepted or not in April.

Wherever he chooses to attend school, he will major in classics. He started taking Latin classes as a sophomore because he heard it could help his SAT score, and now he has ended up taking five years of the subject.

"(Adams) finds a way to make 2,000-year-old Romans and language apply to today's world and connect it to students," Kimbrell said, adding that is why he chose him as the STAR teacher.

This is Adams' sixth year being chosen as a STAR teacher.

"It's a fantastic honor and mainly a product of teaching so many fine students," Adams said.

Kimbrell, who was home schooled by his parents from fourth to eighth grades, also is Eastside's valedictorian this year and a National Merit Finalist for his SAT score.

Adolphe, son of Jules and Yanick Adolphe of Covington, earned a 1980 on the SAT.

In the fall, he will attend the University of Georgia. He hasn't decided on a major yet, but he's interested in psychology and political science.

"I'm hoping to figure it out," he said.

He chose Denison, his AP U.S History and European History teacher, as his STAR teacher.

"I couldn't decide because I had five teachers in mind," so he was selected randomly, he said.

Adolphe said he enjoys Denison's laid-back class, which helps him learn better.

"He doesn't talk to you, he talks with you," Adolphe said.

This is Denison's second time being chosen as a STAR teacher.

"He's a great student, very studious," Denison said, adding that he is his only student who has earned a perfect score on the End of Course Test in U.S. History. He also earned a 4 on the AP exam in the same class.

Lightsey, daughter of Jim and Renee Lightsey of Covington, earned a 2050 on the SAT.

She also will attend UGA in the fall, where she will major in animal science in hopes of attending the university's veterinary school.

"Ever since I was 4 (I loved animals) and it never changed," she said.

She chose her fifth-grade teacher from Porterdale Elementary School as her STAR teacher, a unique choice since most students tend to select a high school teacher.

"It's nice because we don't think they remember us once they get out of fifth grade," Ondracek said.

Lightsey said Ondracek taught her how to write well, which is something that she feels is important to know in any profession. She earned an A in her English dual enrollment class at Georgia Perimeter College, for which she credits Ondracek.

"Fifth grade was such a fun year and got me excited about learning," Lightsey said.