With the selection of Statesboro High School senior Neha Aggarwal, 17, as Bulloch County’s 2017 district-level STAR student, her family has achieved a rare distinction.
Her sister, Nidhi, was the county’s 2014 STAR student, also representing Statesboro High. Their father is oncologist Dr. Sudhir Aggarwal of East Georgia Cancer Center. Their mother is Neelam Aggarwal, a lecturer in mathematics at Georgia Southern University.
So, how does it feel to be the parents to two Bulloch County STAR students in four years?
“Just awesome, so proud,” Dr. Aggarwal said.
“So proud,” Mrs. Aggarwal agreed. “Neha is following in her sister’s footsteps, I know that’s for sure.”
The proud parents agreed that Nidhi, now 20 and a junior at the University of Georgia, has been an excellent mentor and role model for Neha, who has looked to her older sister for guidance.
“She has been a model big sister for her, and of course mom helps,” their father said, adding a modest, “Dad, not so much, but mom helps.”
Neha Aggarwal said both parents have been “unequivocal and absolute,” in their support.
She was one of five school-level STAR students honored, along with the STAR teachers they selected, at Thursday morning’s breakfast meeting of the Rotary Club of Downtown Statesboro. The club joined the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce in sponsoring in the recognition program.
Aggarwal chose Bruce Law, who was her Advanced Placement English language and composition teacher in 11th grade, as her STAR teacher.
“This year Mr. Law will retire from Statesboro High School after decades of teaching, and his contributions both to my education and those of hundreds of students who have passed through his classrooms are but remotely honored by this title for which I was beyond blessed to select him,” she said.
Like her sister, and following in their father’s footsteps, Aggarwal plans to pursue a career in medicine.
“I’m looking into neurology, because I want to major in neuroscience and find it the most fascinating,” she said.
Currently taking classes both at Georgia Southern and as a Statesboro High senior, she hasn’t chosen which university she will go on to this fall. But she has been offered a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been interviewed for Yale, and has an interview coming up for Northwestern, her parents said.
She is already doing research work, related to cancer drugs, with Georgia Southern’s chemistry department. Not interested solely in science, Aggarwal is president of the National Art Honor Society at Statesboro High.
Bulloch Academy’s STAR student is Evan Amaral, who chose Vanessa North, his art teacher since eighth grade, as STAR teacher.
Amaral plans to attend Emory University to double-major in film studies and creative writing. In 10 years, he said, he would like to be in New York working to make a place for himself as an artist and writer and “helping to push cinema in directions that it hasn’t been pushed before.” His parents are Craig and Heather Amaral.
Portal High School
Portal High School’s STAR student is Holly Sawyer, who was accompanied by her mother, Joy Sawyer. Portal Middle High School agricultural education teacher Dr. Thomas Marshall is a fifth-time STAR teacher after being chosen by student and confessed “plant freak,” Sawyer, who took his horticulture, basic agriculture and landscaping courses.
Now enrolled full-time at Georgia Southern, Sawyer will be a college sophomore when she graduates high school in May. She plans to continue at Georgia Southern this fall, pursuing a degree in communication studies.
Southeast Bulloch High
Southeast Bulloch High School’s STAR student is Joseph Muldrew, who chose math teacher Susan Boddiford as STAR teacher. He talked about her encouragement in classwork, Quiz Bowl and AP exams and said, “In that way she exemplifies what every teacher should do.”
Muldrew plans to study neuroscience or psychology, or both, at the University of the South, Mercer University or Georgia Tech, and hopes to return to Statesboro as a psychiatrist specializing in addiction medicine, “an unmet need,” he said. His parents are Michael, the Ogeechee Circuit’s newest Superior Court judge, and Laurie Muldrew.
Trinity Christian School
Trinity Christian School STAR student David Pierson chose upper-school math and science teacher Donna McKenna as the school’s 2017 STAR teacher. Pierson plans to go the Georgia Southern for a computer science degree and hopes within 10 years to be working either in a software development company or contracting for net security in the community, he said.
His parents are martial arts instructors Clay and Debra Pierson.
What’s a STAR?
Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce President Phyllis Thompson announced the winners.
The chamber is the long-term local sponsor of the Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition program, created by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 1958 and now administered statewide by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, or PAGE.
Students recognized must have their school’s highest score on a single test day on the SAT college admissions test and rank in the top 10 percent, or in the top 10 students, in their graduating class in grades.
Neha Aggarwal’s three-part SAT score was 2340 out of 2400, corresponding to 1580 of 1600 on the traditional two-part test.
Aggarwal and Law now represent Bulloch County in Region 8 STAR competition. Those awards will be presented March 15 on the Georgia Southern campus.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.