Bulloch County STAR Student Kyle Samuels is an 18-year-old licensed pilot and four-year champion high school wrestler headed to the U.S. Air Force Academy. He plans to become a fighter pilot.
Samuels was first named Bulloch Academy’s school-level STAR student and chose wrestling coach and health teacher Andy Tomlin as his STAR teacher. Then Samuels’ SAT score, 1580 at a single sitting out of a maximum score of 1600, placed them first among the five high schools in Bulloch County participating in the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program.
Because attending the Air Force Academy plus pilot training requires a 10-year commitment to serve as an Air Force officer, Samuels knows what he hopes to be doing a decade from now: still flying fighter jets. Beyond that, he could stay in or choose a different path.
“But wherever I go, I know that Coach Tomlin is going to be right here,” Samuels said, pointing to his cranium, “telling me how to win, telling me to do the right thing and giving me confidence. I want to thank you for that.”
The Rotary Club of Downtown Statesboro, in cooperation with the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce, hosted all five local school-level STAR students, their selected STAR teachers and the students’ parent, at breakfast Thursday.
Timid to tough
After almost 14 years at Bulloch Academy, Samuels said he feels close to many of his teachers and found choosing a STAR teacher difficult. But Tomlin has been one of his teachers since kindergarten, always teaching life lessons, such as “toughness,” beyond what students learn in the classroom, Samuels said.
“He’s my wrestling coach too, and when we started out, I was a shy, timid kid, not very athletic for sure, not motivated either, and we ended up winning four state championships as a team,” Samuels said.
While the Gators wrestling team won the Georgia Independent School Association championships in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, Samuels also prevailed as the individual champion in his weight class all four years. Before that, in 2013-14, his eighth-grade season, he was state runner-up.
Samuels was accompanied Thursday by his parents, Dr. David Samuels and Laura Samuels, RN, of Statesboro. His father, a psychiatrist, owns a small plane and flies for fun and to events such as professional conferences. When Kyle was 8 or 9 years old, he started learning the controls and flying the plane with his father beside him. As early as the law allows, Samuels got his pilot’s license.
“He got his pilot’s license the day he turned 17. He flew solo the day he turned 16. He flew before he drove,” his mother said.
“Very proud,” was how his father described his feelings about the STAR student’s achievement. “He’s earned it,” Kyle’s mother added. “It’s all his own hard work. He’s completely self-driven, self-motivated.”
Portal High School STAR Student Cayla Morris chose Dennis Moore, whom she called “Coach Moore” to share STAR honors. Moore coaches the baseball team, but he teaches math, and this is his fourth time as STAR teacher. He taught Morris geometry in 10th grade, and she took his pre-calculus class this year.
“I chose him because he has always challenged me and math has always been one of my favorite subjects. …, Morris said. “He pushes me to be a better student.”
Morris, daughter of Clay and Dana Morris, hopes to major in animal science at the University of Georgia and go on to become a veterinarian.
Statesboro High School STAR Student Rebecca Fu chose STAR Teacher Mary Adamson, who was Fu’s U.S. government teacher in 10th grade and mentored her as a Model United Nations participant. But Adamson, who was a STAR teacher once before, now teaches at Brunswick High School.
“Mrs. Adamson drove out from Brunswick to be at this breakfast today, and I think this perfectly describes why I chose her as my STAR teacher,” Fu said. “She has dedication and passion to her teaching and to her students.”
Having also been accepted at Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, Fu plans to attend Washington University in St. Louis to major in finance.
She also publicly expressed appreciation to her parents, George Fu and Jennifer Liu, as well as her brother and sister.
“My mom and dad have continuously encouraged me to pursue my interests, such as swimming, playing my flute and volunteering all throughout the community,” Rebecca Fu said.
Southeast Bulloch High School STAR Student Chyann Hoyle chose Billy Haas, who was her sixth-grade English and language arts teacher at Southeast Bulloch Middle School. Haas, who now teaches physical education and health, helped Hoyle transition from elementary to middle school and has remained a teacher she can talk to, she said.
“He’s just always been there for me, and that’s why I chose him as my STAR teacher,” she said.
Hoyle has been accepted at the University of Georgia, where she plans to pursue a degree in pharmacy. In 10 years, she hopes to be working in a hospital or research facility, she said.
Her career choice may surprise some people who have seen her perform as acoustic musician Chyann Rose at various venues and events in Bulloch and surrounding counties.
“I always hope to play music kind of on the side, but medicine will be like my main focus,” she said.
Her parents are Stephen and Rosanna Hoyle. Stephen Hoyle is also SEB High School’s principal.
Trinity Christian School STAR Student Ben Lattner chose STAR Teacher Angela Hall. She was his history and language teacher in fifth and sixth grades.
“I’ve had many great teachers at Trinity, but Mrs. Hall has definitely been a favorite,” Lattner said. “I can’t think of any other teachers who played kickball at recess with us every day or gave us Lego projects to learn our history.”
Ben, son of David and Lori Lattner, plans to attend the University of Georgia beginning this fall. He has yet to decide on his major area of study but is considering a career in the state or national park system.
“Very impressive, all!” Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce President Phyllis Thompson commented when the winners had been introduced. “I think that we would all agree that in this case, all these kids, all these teachers are winners, and I’m so proud for the parents; congratulations to all of you.”
Downtown Statesboro Rotary Club President Allen Muldrew joined in congratulating them.
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators’ PAGE Foundation sponsors the statewide STAR program. The graduating seniors recognized have their schools’ highest scores on the SAT college admissions test and must rank in the top 10 percent or top 10 students in their class in grade-point average. They are asked to choose the teacher who has had the most influence on their success.
Samuels and Tomlin will vie for the regional STAR recognition to be awarded March 13 on the Georgia Southern campus in Statesboro. The state winners will be named in Atlanta on April 23.