Bulloch Academy senior Kyle Samuels was surprised but elated to hear his name called as the 2018 Region 8 STAR student Tuesday at a luncheon held for all STAR students in the region. The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition luncheon was held at Georgia Southern University's College of Engineering and Information Technology.
After each of the students in the 16 counties making up Region 8 had the chance to tell a little about themselves and their accomplishments and introduce family and guests attending the luncheon with them and the teacher each had selected as their STAR teacher, the Region 8 winner was announced.
Samuels chose wrestling coach and health teacher Andy Tomlin as his STAR teacher.
Samuels felt honored to be in the presence of talented individuals from all across the region. "There are so many people here with so many different interests," he said about his competition.
Samuels first held the distinction of Bulloch Academy's school-level STAR student. His SAT score, 1580 at a single sitting out of a maximum score of 1600, placed him and Tomlin first among the five high schools in Bulloch County participating in the STAR program.
The high school senior admitted that he studied a great deal for the SAT, but not for the sake of achieving the highest score.
"I studied at home for it a lot because I was interested in it," he said. "I'm not naturally the smartest person in the world; I studied a lot."
Finding the time to study is an accomplishment in itself for the busy young man. Samuels wrestled competitively for Bulloch Academy and is a four-year champion high school wrestler. He also participates in cross country, track and weight lifting.
Coach Tomlin said that Samuels came to him as a timid youngster.
"I've been working with him since he was a little boy," Tomlin said about Samuels, whose Bulloch Academy career spans 14 years now. "Three feet tall and super timid. Unsure about things. But now ... it's just awesome. I'm pumped. I feel like he just won state again. What an honor to be part of it.
"It's all him. I'm ecstatic. This is a kid who works around the clock."
In speaking on finding a balance between academics and sports, Samuels said he just does what it takes to get it all done.
"Sometimes I stay up all night. And actually, being in sports makes it easier. It's a way to escape, a way to distract you," he said.
As if high-achieving marks in academics and sports weren't enough, the well-rounded individual has been flying with his dad, who is a pilot and owns his own plane, since "before he could see over the dashboard," said his mom, Laura Samuels.
By the time he was 16, young Samuels flew solo, and he had his pilot's license at the age of 17. He plans to attend the Air Force Academy upon graduation and wants to be a fighter pilot.
Samuels is the son of Dr. David Samuels, a psychiatrist, and Laura Samuels, a registered nurse.
Statewide, the STAR program is sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. The Exchange Club works with PAGE, Georgia Southern University and other sponsors to host the regional event.
Region winners from across the state will attend the STAR banquet in Atlanta next month.