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Area's top high school seniors shine
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Liberty Life Magazines 2016 Top 12 Shining Seniors honored Tuesday at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center are, from left, Joshua Armour, Carah Cochrane, McKaylin Darsey, Harley Dawson, Kyle Hill, MariaElena Lealofi, Lyanne Marin-Rodriguez, Diamond Richardson, William Scaggs, Sandra Scott and Kailyn Taylor. Not pictured is Kaitlin Estill, who also selected as a top senior. - photo by Photo by Jason Wermers

The 2016 Top 12 Shining Seniors and honorable mentions for Liberty Life Magazine were honored in a ceremony Tuesday at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.

Liberty and Long County high school seniors were recognized for their work ethic, volunteerism, aspirations and positive influence on others.

Thirty-six seniors were nominated from area schools — Liberty County High School, First Presbyterian Christian Academy, Bradwell Institute and Long County High School — by teachers, school counselors, coaches and principals. Three seniors from each high school were chosen by a committee to be named as

the top 12, and the other nominated students were honorable mentions. All the students were nominated because they stood out from their peers.

Jasmine Lustiano, an honorable mention from BI, was nominated by band director Jeremy Fermin. He described Lustiano as one of the most intelligent students he has ever taught and who is innovative, caring and loyal. Davis Teston, an honorable mention from Long County High, was nominated by Principal David Edwards. Edwards said Teston is self-motivated, a leader and represents the school and county well.

The top 12 seniors were chosen for more than their academic achievements and extracurricular activities. They are driven to be the best they can be for themselves and others, want to find cures for diseases, will pursue careers helping special-needs children, strive to be positive role models and desire to be catalysts for change.

The top 12 seniors did video interviews, answering questions about their motivations, interests, plans and what it feels like to be part of the top 12 seniors.

"I was actually taken by surprise when I found out I was in the Top 12 Shining seniors," Bradwell senior Lyanne Marin-Rodriguez said. "I don’t like to see myself as better than anybody, but I do see others above me. Now that I got a chance to be in the Top 12 Shining Seniors, I am starting to see my achievements come through and paying off. All those nights of studying and balancing everything I want to do is paying off. I want to thank those who chose me and those who believed in me."

Long County High top 12 senior Kailyn Taylor plans to major in special education at a college in Georgia.

"My youngest brother was diagnosed with autism at a very young age. So I’ve lived with that for the majority of my life, and he’s really inspired me," Taylor said. "I have a passion for children in general and especially those with special needs."

Taylor is excited to be the first member of her family who may complete college.

"My parents are a big motivation, but I also like seeing visible results," said Kyle Hill, a top 12 senior from FPCA. "I like seeing, for example, my team working together as a team or becoming close and a team bond. I can see that I helped and stepped out to become a leader also."

Diamond Richardson, top 12 senior from Liberty County High, had some advice for other students.

"Never let other people intimidate you. A lot of other people have their own opinions … but you can determine how you react to their opinions," Richardson said. "The underdog always comes out on top. … It’s cliché but it happens as long as you push yourself and stay focused on what you want to do."

The top 12 seniors each received a crystal trophy and certificate, and the honorable mentions each received a certificate. All seniors received gift bags with donated items from VIP Office Furniture and Supply, Charming Chics Boutique, Savannah Technical College, Farmer’s Natural Foods, McDonald’s and the Coastal Courier.

Family, school personnel and friends attended a reception catered by Occasions after the ceremony.

The event was sponsored by the Coastal Courier and Liberty Life Magazine.

To learn more about the top 12 seniors, watch their videos at, and pick up a copy of the April/May issue of Liberty Life Magazine.

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