2018-02-21 / Front Page

STAR Students Honored

The 2018 STAR students and teachers from Early County High and Southwest Georgia Academy were honored Thursday, Feb. 15 at the Blakely Rotary Club’s noon meeting at the Blakely Town and Country Club.

Rotary awarded $500 scholarships to the STAR Students and the Chamber gave the STAR teachers $100 gift certificates. These outstanding individuals are honored each year by the Blakely-Early County Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club.

STAR students have the highest score on the Scholastic Assessment Test and are among the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average. Each high school STAR student is asked to name his/her STAR teacher.

Courtney Leigh Keith was named the 2018 Early County High STAR Student. Courtney is also the System-wide STAR Student. Courtney chose Deborah Hughes as her STAR Teacher.

Keith completed the SAT only two times during her high school years, making a 1230 in her senior year.

“Education is very important to me because I know it has a great influence on my life – my entire adult life,” said Keith. “Although I know education does not define me, it can open opportunities for me. For this reason, I highly value my education.”

Keith has participated in both academic and athletic extracurricular activities as well as volunteering in community events throughout high school.

She has been a member of the Lady Cats varsity softball team for three years as an outfielder and catcher. She was named to the all-region team every year. She played for the girls’ varsity tennis team junior year. She served as the president of the Fellowship of Christian Students junior and senior years.

She was a member of the Future Farmers of America, Beta Club, and Science club, serving as vice president this year.

Keith has counseled children at First Methodist Church’s camp at Kolomoki Mounds since eighth grade, volunteered with Kids Against Hunger and worked as a cashier at Mike’s Pharmacy.

She has received numerous awards including the FFA Degree of Greenhand from Early County FFA; the FFA Agricultural Communications award from the Georgia Agribusiness Council; the Georgia Certificate of Merit by the State of Georgia and the University of Georgia; the DAR award for outstanding work in American history; the DAR Youth Citizenship award; class superlative sophomore and junior years; and was a graduation marshal for the class of 2017.

When asked what pushes her to be successful, Keith replied, “It is the understanding that I have – that what I do in the present will impact my future. I always keep that in mind whether I’m doing school work, working out, or simply managing my time.”

“I also learned that in whatever I do, I should do it with all my heart as working for the Lord, because when I do that, it glorifies God. That is my ultimate purpose,” said Keith.

After graduation, she plans to enroll at ABAC Bainbridge before earning her associates degree and transferring to the University of Georgia for a bachelor’s of science in dietetics. She would like to move back to Southwest Georgia after graduating to work as a dietitian at a hospital or clinic. She is the daughter of Billy and Lisa Keith of Blakely.

Keith selected history teacher and social studies department head Deborah Hughes as her STAR Teacher. This was the first time in her 21 year teaching career Hughes has been chosen for this honor.

Keith set the example for others in her classes according to Hughes, “Courtney is one of those students that every teacher dreams of having in the classroom. I must say that it has been an absolute honor being selected by such a “Model” student—especially with all the many wonderful teachers that have had the pleasure of teaching Courtney.”

“I chose Mrs. Hughes because of the powerful influence she has had on my education,” remarked Keith. “Having her as my teacher really pushed me outside my comfort zone; her classes helped me grow as a student. Mrs. Hughes genuinely cares about her students and their futures. This is evident in her involvement in education even after finishing her classes.”

Hughes stated, “I had the pleasure of first meeting Courtney her sophomore year when she joined my Pre-AP government and politics class. She demonstrated such a love of learning. No matter how rigorous the assignment, Courtney always took the time to produce a product that reflected care and pride in the final result. I had the great privilege of teaching Courtney again her junior year in my AP US history class. She continued to demonstrate such an eagerness to learn and always put forth extra effort to produce quality work.”

Hughes encourages Keith and all her students to, “NEVER lose your self-motivation and self-management as you plan and take actions in pursuit of your goals and dreams. ALWAYS keep learning. Adopt a system of lifelong learning and look for valuable lessons and wisdom in your experiences in life. ALWAYS believe in yourself— your capability and worthiness can take you as far as your dreams desire…”

ECHS Principal Anthony Yarbrough in his first year leading the high school says that, “It has been wonderful to see our staff and students work to reach achievements such as this. The SAT is a national measure of what our children learn and to have Miss Keith make such an outstanding score is to be commended.”

“Mrs. Hughes sets a standard for all our staff to impact the lives of our students in a lasting, positive way, she is highly deserving of this honor,” stated Yarbrough.

Miller Pickle was named the Southwest Georgia Academy STAR student. Miller is the son of Trent and Stacie Pickle of Miller County.

“I was very excited to be named the STAR student, and I was striving to make sure that I obtained it,” Miller stated. “Once I knew that I had attained my goal, I knew I was going to pick Coach Adam as my STAR teacher. It was an easy choice, because I knew that he was not only a great teacher, but a great person as well.”

STAR teacher Adam Benton teaches biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. He also serves as head junior varsity baseball and football coach and is an assistant coach in these varsity football and baseball.

The Blakely native is a 1990 graduate of Early County High.

Prior to teaching, he was an environmental. In his second year at SGA, he taught physical science at ECHS for one year.

Adam attended Troy State University earning a bachelor of science degree in chemistry with minors in biology and physics and a masters degree in environmental chemistry and toxicology.

He is married to the former Angel Sasser of Rowena. They have two children, 11th grader Luke and 7th grader Maggie.

The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program was created by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to focus public attention on Georgia’s outstanding students and the teachers who have been most instrumental in their academic development. Since its creation in 1958, the STAR program has honored more than 26,500 high school seniors.

The State STAR banquet will be held in Atlanta later in the year at which region winners and State STAR Student and STAR Teacher are announced.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation was selected by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 1994 to coordinate the STAR program in association with the Chamber and the Georgia Department of Education.

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