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Bradwell Institute student, teacher are STARs
Bradwell Institute senior Jordan Graham, second from left, is the Liberty County School Systems 2016 STAR student. She chose social studies instructor Mike Bell, left, as her STAR teacher. Also honored were Liberty County High School STAR student Megan Powell and her chosen STAR teacher, English instructor William Parker. School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee stands with the honorees during a Progress Through People luncheon at Connection Church on Thursday. - photo by Photo by Lawrence Dorsey

Jordan Graham of Bradwell Institute is the Liberty County School System’s 2016 STAR student, and she chose social studies teacher Mike Bell as her STAR teacher.

They will represent the district in the region competition. The region-level winners will move on to compete for the state title and scholarships.

The selected student and teacher were announced Thursday afternoon at the Progress Through People Luncheon at Connection Church, hosted by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Georgia Power and Savannah Technical College’s Liberty Campus.

Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee spoke on the history of the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition, or STAR, program. She said the program was founded in 1958 to acknowledge student academic achievement. STAR students have the highest SAT scores in their school taken on a test date in November until graduation, and SAT scores must be equal to or higher than the national average. Seniors’ GPAs must be in the top 10 percent of their class.

“So what you have before you today is the crème de la crème of Liberty County, and we are so very proud of them,” Lee said. “What makes this program unique, in addition to acknowledging the students, is the fact that each of them has an opportunity to acknowledge a teacher who has had the greatest influence on their academic career.”

Leah Poole, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, read the biographies of the STAR students and teachers.

Graham is a lifelong resident of Liberty County and has attended public schools since kindergarten. She is the president of Bradwell’s Beta Club, co-captain of the school’s Helen Ruffin Reading Bowling team, a member of the National Honor Society and is active in her church, Gum Branch Baptist Church. Graham has completed many Advanced Placement classes and plans to pursue an English degree at Stanford University. After graduate school, she plans to work in the publishing industry.

“The reason why I chose Mr. Bell is because he’s a very inspiring person. He’s always very organized and very on top of things,” Graham said. “All of our assignments are planned months in advance, and we always knew exactly what to expect from him, and he also knew what exactly to expect from the AP tests. That just made me want to be organized in my life as well.”

Bell has been an educator for 17 years — 13 at Bradwell. He teaches social studies in the areas of economics, government and AP government.

Of his student, Bell said, “Jordan’s been an outstanding student. She’s always pushed herself to achieve any kind of knowledge or excellence in education. She’s truly an outstanding young woman who has super bright goals and destinations in her bright future.”

Also honored during the luncheon was the Liberty County High School STAR student, Megan Powell, and her chosen STAR teacher, English instructor William Parker.

Powell is the president of the LCHS art club and enjoys being around the art club members. Powell strives to do her best and looks forward to continuing her education in college. She enjoys drawing, reading, riding her bicycle and spending time with her family.

“I came to Liberty County from a different school in the tenth grade and I didn’t know a lot of people,” Powell said. “Mr. Parker’s class was a little more comfortable and like home for me. Mr. Parker does his best to make every class and just casual conversations with students very entertaining and very engaging.”

She described him as being very kind, considerate and dedicated to his profession. She said she is thankful for his guidance in and out of class, and chose him as her STAR teacher because he seemed to really care.

Parker has a deep love of literature and music. He is able to enjoy both areas as the LCHS English department head and band director. Parker is a lifelong learner and believes that a day in which nothing is learned is wasted. He also believes that teaching is finding out who students are, who they want to be and helping them bridge the gap.

Parker said Powell is everything one would want a student to be — “dedicated, hardworking and a work ethic beyond compare.”
Addressing Powell, he said, “The highest praise I can give a student, and I will give right now is, ‘You are both thoughtful and thought-provoking.’ I cannot give higher praise to a student than that.”

“The questions she asks in my class are not just beneficial to herself but to other students,” Parker said. “The mark of a true honor and STAR student is that their presence in your classroom is not for themselves but a benefit too everyone in the room — and that’s what Megan is.”

The STAR students and teachers were given awards and gifts from local businesses and organizations, such as, The Heritage Bank; the office of U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga.; Keep Liberty Beautiful; the city of Hinesville; and the CVB. Poole presented each award winner with a special coin.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators, or PAGE, Foundation operates the statewide STAR program, honoring Georgia’s highest achieving high school seniors and influential teachers.

Members of the Young Adults of Liberty Leadership (YALL) program volunteered at the luncheon. The seven-month program teaches high school juniors and seniors leadership skills and has students participate in community service. Graham and Bell are also members of YALL.

The luncheon was catered by Bare Bones Catering of Farmhouse Restaurant in Glennville.

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