Bulloch County STAR Student Neha Aggarwal, a senior at Statesboro High School, and Chatham County STAR Student Harrison West, a senior at Savannah Country Day School, tied for the 2017 Region 8 STAR honors.
So Aggarwal, West and their chosen STAR teachers will represent the region at the state level. The tie was announced at the end of the Region 8 Student Teacher Achievement Recognition luncheon Wednesday at Georgia Southern University’s College of Engineering and Information Technology. The luncheon, organized by the Exchange Club of Statesboro, recognized STAR students and teachers from 16 school districts, from whom the regional winners were chosen.
STAR students are selected largely for their top scores on the SAT college admissions test. Aggarwal and West each attained the equivalent of a 1580 on the two-part SAT. Only 1 percent of students who take the test score 1500 or higher, and 1600 is a perfect score.
“Only we know of the stories of disappointment, perseverance … and finally, success, that have bolstered us to this position that we stand here today. …,” Aggarwal told fellow STAR students. “That is what we are gathered today to honor, not numbers, but stories.”
She has shared first school-level, then county-level, and now regional honors with STAR Teacher Bruce Law. He teaches 11th grade English at Statesboro High, and Aggarwal took his Advanced Placement composition course last year.
Law is retiring at the end of this semester after 29 years as an educator.
“Each year he has kind of stood out at our school as an exemplary teacher and mentor and role model, and in his last year I’m really glad that I’m able to bring him to the STAR banquet and also take him to state,” Aggarwal said. “I’m really excited about that, and I’m really happy that he’s here to share this journey with me.”
Law’s teaching remains “relevant, socially conscious and ideologically dynamic” and his affinity for politics and use of the website Google Earth enliven students’ reading and discussions, she said.
Law first taught in the Screven County school system in Sylvania. After two years leading University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service educational programs, he taught at Langston Chapel Middle School for several years and has now taught at Statesboro High for roughly a decade.
This is the third time Law has been a STAR teacher.
Law called Aggarwal “perhaps the most determined, the most driven, the most exceptional” student he has encountered, a perfectionist with an analytical, science-oriented mind but who adapted and learned to be a better writer.
Neha Aggarwal, 17, followed her sister, Nidhi, as both Statesboro High and Bulloch County STAR student. Nidhi Aggarwal, who captured those titles in 2014, is now a University of Georgia junior preparing for medical school exams.
They are the only children of Dr. Sudhir Aggarwal, a hematologist and oncologist with East Georgia Cancer Center, and Neelam Aggarwal, a math lecturer at Georgia Southern.
Neha Aggarwal also plans to pursue a medical career, after majoring in neuroscience. She has been offered a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but has yet to decide on a university.
“So. What have I been up to? Like school and … painting, cooking?” Harrison West quizzed back when regional luncheon emcee Mike Bowen asked the STAR students what they have been up to.
West’s paintings have been exhibited in several shows through Savannah Country Day School’s extensive arts program. He said he has adopted no single style of painting, doing a wide of range things. Some Savannah news organizations reported that he has painted local landscapes.
West chose Thomas Crenshaw, who teaches world history and world religions at Savannah Country Day, as his STAR teacher. This is Crenshaw’s first time receiving STAR recognition. He has taught for 15 years, including 11 years at Savannah Country Day.
“Harrison’s a great artist, so I’ve supported his work as a visual artist and I have one of his pictures that he painted hanging up in my classroom…. ,” Crenshaw said. “His work is always featured in our student exhibits. He is among the most talented visual artists that I can remember at Country Day.”
In his introduction, he also called West “an aspiring chef.” West played baseball his first three years in high school and this year performed in the school musical. Crenshaw said West could also go into a math- and science-related field or become a writer, being a “very multitalented young man” with many options.
West took Crenshaw’s ancient world history class in ninth grade.
“He definitely changed the way I look at a lot of things in the world,” West said. “He doesn’t just go through a textbook. We would have readings from different current books and from the time period that we were talking about.”
West has enrolled for the coming academic year at Bowdoin College, a small but highly ranked liberal arts school in Maine. His parents are Mark West, a Savannah banker, and Shayne West, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant.
Among the 14 other system-level STAR students listed for recognition were Candler County’s Christian Summerlin, a Metter High School senior, with STAR teacher Allen Lanier; for Evans County, Pinewood Christian Academy senior Madeline Thompson, with STAR teacher Allison Pollack; Screven County’s Meagan Kimbrough, with STAR teacher Ashley Lariscy, both from Screven County High; and Emanuel County’s Trent Smoyer, an Emanuel County Institute senior, with STAR teacher Tracey Mercer.
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.
The state STAR banquet in Atlanta is planned for April 24.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.
The state STAR banquet will be held April 24 in Atlanta.