The STAR students from First Presbyterian Christian Academy, Liberty County High School and Bradwell Institute were recognized Thursday in a sentimental ceremony that also honored teachers, both new and veteran.
Matthew Lormis, Andrea Lamboy-Nieto, and Rebekka Hawkins, respectively, were recognized for their academic achievements, which include having the highest SAT score in their school and being either in their school’s top 10 percent or top 10 numerical class rankings.
Sitting with each STAR was one influential teacher selected by the student.
“This is a very elite group, and a very special group, and we’re very proud to honor them today and the STAR teachers that they have selected,” LCSS Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said.
Hawkins was selected to advance to regional level of recognition, which is coordinated by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators in association with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. The varsity cheerleading captain and four-year honor roll student plans to major in education and history and minor in Mandarin Chinese at the University of Georgia.
“It’s pretty awesome, actually. I wasn’t even expecting it, but I’m pretty thankful to have been a part of this whole thing,” Hawkins said. She picked former BI teacher James Wisner.
He said his return for the honor was especially emotional since he took a job in Rome this year so he could be closer to his girlfriend in Tennessee.
“We are all influenced by our teachers. That’s why this award is so important to me, just reflecting on how important my teachers were to me, and then to know that you’ve had that kind of an impact on students,” Wisner said.
He thanked several of his own educators. The Bradwell grad taught civics at his alma mater for 21 years and was the school’s STAR student in 1986.
Bradwell Principal Scott Carrier said it is an honor to have a Tiger serve as the district representative and that Hawkins’ qualities as a student and in the community made her a prime candidate.
LCHS STAR Lamboy-Nieto plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design for sequential art as she aspires to work in the film industry. She was joined by second-year social studies teacher Lauren Hale.
“I know it didn’t seem like I paid attention a lot in your class, but I did …,” Lamboy-Nieto said, drawing laughs. “I was really worried that I was going to fail one of my most important classes, government, and she really helped me.”
Hale said it was an honor to be recognized.
“Never in a million years would I have thought I could have impacted a child so much in just two years,” Hale said.
FPCA’s Lormis, who plans to attend law school and is an aspiring politician, selected Kathy Walden as his influential educator.
“It’s a great honor to have this opportunity. I’d like to thank Ms. Kathy Walden,” Lormis said. “She let me know very quickly in AP chemistry that school isn’t just for fun, sometimes it involves tears.”
Walden, a 30-year science teacher, spoke highly of the baseball standout and his siblings.
“He was really a super-smart guy,” she said. “Sometimes it would take me 30 minutes to realize that he had told a joke at my expense. … The Lormis kids definitely have awesome gifts.”
She also gave an anecdote about her aunt realizing in the 1980s that her neurosurgeon had been her student in the 1950s.
“You never really know who you’re going to teach,” she said. “Somebody had to teach Galileo, so maybe I have the next one.”
The honorees received awards from: The Heritage Bank, Kiwanis Club of Liberty County, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, Southeast Auto Service & Repair, Amerigroup, VIP Office Furniture & Supply, Keep Liberty Beautiful, Walmart and the city of Hinesville. Local band 3rd Class Citizens presented to Hawkins a free concert for a crowd of her choosing.