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STAR recognizes best and brightest
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STAR students and teachers from left: Marilyn Hampton, Allison Boyle, Charles Canup, Haley Stuart, Jaylyn Matthews, Tracy Austin and Nick Westbrook. - photo by Lainey Standiford

The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce hosted their February Progress Through People luncheon Feb. 28, honoring three STAR students and their teachers from Bradwell Institute, Liberty County High School and First Presbyterian Christian Academy. The luncheon was sponsored by Webster University.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educator’s (PAGE) Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program honors Georgia’s highest achieving high school seniors and the teachers who have been the most instrumental in their academic development, according to PAGE’s website. Since the program’s inception in 1958 by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, STAR has honored nearly 27,000 high school seniors and their teachers.

“To obtain the STAR nomination, high school seniors must have the highest score on any single test date of the SAT taken through the November test date of their senior year, and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average,” the website read.

LCCOC is Liberty County’s local sponsor of the STAR program, and is one of 165 civic organizations and businesses around the state that serve as a local STAR sponsor. This is the 39th year that LCCOC has hosted the luncheon, according to LCCOC CEO Leah Poole.

This year’s STAR students were Bradwell’s Allison Boyle, and former BI AP Language teacher Marilyn Hampton; LCHS’s Jaylyn Matthews and math teacher Tracy Austin; and FPCA’s Haley Stuart and teacher Charles Canup.

Boyle moved to Liberty County in the summer of 2017, and since then, has done her best to succeed in both academics and extracurricular activities. Allison is a member of many theatre organizations, including the International Thespian Society and the National Capital Area Cappie Critics, according to her bio. Boyle was a second runner up in the statewide Georgia Poet’s Laureate contest; she was recognized as the 11th grade winner for Liberty County in the Young Georgia Authors writing contest; she was granted the Exemplary Writing Award from Bradwell; and she lettered once academically and twice in theatre. She is also one of 12 Shining Seniors featured in the upcoming Liberty Life Magazine.

Boyle was accepted to the New York University’s Tisch School of Arts in Manhattan, and plans to major in theatre.

“I don’t think I would have succeeded in the way that I have without my STAR teacher Marilyn Hampton,” Boyle said. “She was my AP Language teacher in 11th grade, and she was one of the first people to really recognize that I wasn’t happy just being okay, and that I always wanted to do more and try more. She helped me submit writing, she submitted me for contests I didn’t know I was entered in, she constantly took initiative to help me succeed and without her, I don’t think I would be standing here today.”

A former Bradwell educator, Hampton has taught every age group from pre-K to university levels, and has taught in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Europe, according to her bio. She is passionate about aiding students in finding their own voice and being able to express themselves in writing. Currently, Hampton teaches at Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, AL.

“Allison is undoubtedly the most humble student I’ve ever met,” Hampton said. “She doesn’t mind helping other people. She works hard and never complains. I know she’s going to go far. She has a spirit of excellency and I love that. As for me, I’m so grateful and humble to be here this year. A true measure of a teacher is what you do for the students. I am honored.”

Stuart has remained in the top five percent of her class throughout high school, and has earned a place on the Headmaster’s list at school. She received the highest GPA award in her 11th grade year, and is ranked number one in her class this year with a GPA of 3.94 on a 4.0 scale, her bio read. She served as president in 9th grade, treasurer in 10th grade, president and executive treasurer in 11th grade and is currently the executive president of the student body.

She is a member of National Honor Society, and is involved in the Young Adult Liberty Leaders program in the community. She competed on the Literary team during her sophomore and junior year, and made it to the GISA State Championships competing in Girl’s Chorus Trio and Duo Interpretation. She plans to go to state again this year in Duo Interpretation and Rhetorical Essay, the bio read.

Stuart is extremely active in FPCA’s sports, and she is a member on the tennis, volleyball, cross country, basketball and soccer teams. She is also setter and team captain for volleyball, and team captain for cross country.

Stuart will attend the University of Georgia and major in Business and Marketing.

“My STAR teacher has been a mentor for me since 5th grade,” she said. “I’ve got to say, he’s a tough teacher, his classes—you really have to study for them—but it’s out of love and wanting students to succeed. I cannot express my gratitude enough for this teacher.”

Dr. Canup is in his 11th year of teaching at FPCA, and serves as an adjunct professor of Pyschology for Georgia Southern at the Liberty Campus for the past five years, the bio read. Prior to teaching, Canup worked as a mental health counselor for a local health agency. Canup has always had a passion for helping children in their careers and life.

“One of the great things about being a small school like we are, is that you get the opportunity to teach your students across multiple grade levels,” Canup said. “I first got Haley in a 5th grade science and social studies course. Haley is going to be absolutely wonderful at UGA and I’m going to be sad to see her go.”

LCHS senior Matthews has challenged herself by taking AP and honors courses throughout high school, and participated in multiple sports like cross country, cheerleading, and golf. She was named captain of both the cheer and golf team in her senior year, according to the bio.

She is involved in National Honor Society, Student Ambassadors, Student Council, and the Young Adult Liberty Leaders program. Awards Matthews has received include: honor roll, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award; and a nomination for the Governor’s Honors Program in mathematics.

Matthews’s post-graduation plans include deciding on a school where she can pursue her dream of Early Childhood Education and becoming an educator.

“When I started Ms. Austin’s class, I was really excited and really nervous because I didn’t know how I was going to feel about it,” Matthews said. “When I started her class—it was amazing and I knew I was going to love her. She is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever known. She really cares about her students and she wants everyone to understand what they’re learning. I’ve never had a teacher who’s cared so much about their students. Wanting to be an educator, I really admired that and inspired me, and really showed me what kind of a teacher I want to be when I start teaching.”

Austin is the Math Department Chair and Drama Club director for LCHS, and has taught at the school for 14 years. In that time, she has taught Algebra 1, Applied Algebra, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, Math 1, Math 2, Math 3, Coordinate Algebra, Advanced Algebra, Pre-Calculus, regular and accelerated, and AP Statistics, her bio read.

She was a latecomer into the teaching profession, not having started college until age 27. She was a student teacher under the former LCHS Math Department chair Annette Payne. She was immediately hired for the single opening in the math department at the end of her student teaching year.

“You really cannot ask for a better compliment from your students ever,” Austin said. “To have them know you care about them that much. I’ve had the privilege of being able to teach Jaylyn two years running. The fact that I find what we do fun, really does translate to the kids. Thank you so much for honoring me this way and knowing how much I love you guys. I’m so glad you want to become a teacher in no small part because you saw what I was doing. Thank you.”

Organizations from around Liberty County brought gifts for both the STAR students and teachers for their excellence in academics.

“Each of the businesses represented here have created a community that people want to come into and produce those teachers and students such as this,” Hinesville Chick-fil-A owner and operator Nick Westbrook said.

Gifts included came from: Chick-fil-A; Coldwell Banker; Canoochee EMC; South Georgia Bank; VIP Office and Furniture Supply and Promotional Products; Heritage Bank; K&M Extreme Clean; Joanna Ng Photography; Ameris Bank; Keep Liberty Beautiful; Fraser Center; and Liberty County Development Authority.

At the conclusion of the lunch, Westbrook made the announcement of the system winner, who will represent Liberty County School System. Boyle was named the System STAR student, and will go on to compete for region-wide honors out of the 12 STAR regions. Hampton, the STAR teacher, will continue on with Boyle for region-wide honors.

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