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Statesboro High student named Bulloch's STAR student
SHS STAR studentteacher
    Statesboro High School senior John Benjamin Marshall was chosen as Bulloch County's STAR student Tuesday at a banquet hosted by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce.
    Marshall was selected for having the highest SAT score in the county, from a field of STAR students from five area high schools.
    STAR students traditionally select a teacher who has been most influential in their academic career to stand as their STAR teacher. Marshall chose SHS teacher Tony Whiddon.
    Other STAR students and teachers who attended the banquet were Southeast Bulloch High School senior Steven Keith Roberson and his STAR teacher Jennifer Afroozi; Bulloch Academy senior Kimberly Melissa Denton and her STAR teacher Courtney Joiner; Portal High School senior Michelle Rae Newsome and her STAR teacher Pat Tankersley; and Trinity Christian School senior Mary Hope Bray and her STAR teacher Diane Walker.
    Dr. John Bressler spoke at the banquet and used humor to get he point across that each student is special and can succeed "by the grace of God."
    "I am in front of you by the grace of God," he said, following with a story about a teacher who humiliated him in front of his peers by telling he he was "the stupidest kid" she had ever known.
    "I was crushed," he said. "How does the stupid guy get through high school? Any way he can."
    Bressler told about his struggle to defy the teacher's hurtful words, and how he left college with a 1.2 grade point average, joined the Navy, then "ran back to college."
    "I admitted myself with a prayer," he said. He stayed in and studied instead of going out and partying, and worked his way to eventually achieving a doctorate at age 40.
    "Don't you take a back seat to anyone," he told the group.
    He praised teachers who helped and encouraged him. "It wasn't because I was so bright ... but I had teachers who saw in me something I had never seen."
    He reminded the students that although teachers can be inspirational and supportive, success is in their own hands.
    "You can't take that marvelous mind and hide it away. You have to give it away .. the grace of God is in your hands."
    The STAR students introduced themselves as they each received an award plaque .
    Marshall said he plans to major in chemistry and has not decided upon which college or university to attend.
    Whiddon praised his student. "Other students are always aiming to beat John on a test... he is a young man I would be proud to call my son."
    Roberson gave a lively introduction and claimed several hobbies. "I'm kind of a renaissance man," he said, joking . He plans to attend Georgia Southern University as a 1906 Scholar and major in art therapy, combining art and psychology.
    "Every teacher has one thing about the profession that keeps us where we are," said Afroozi. "Teaching is why I was born, and students like Steven bring it home."
    Denton praised her teachers for her success. "You have someone who believes in you, and because of that, you can do something with your life." She said she plans to become a dentist, master bilingual skills and work in a foreign country.
    Joiner credited parental influence for the students' success and said Denton " is the student you want to teach because she has that joy of learning."
    Newsome said she intends to study math at Georgia Southern University, then pursue a masters in education so she can "give the same gift that my teachers gave to me."
    Tankersley said Newsome, like her other students, is like her own. "I take each student I have on as if they are mine," she said. "Every STAR student here has been a leader. You are a star, and you've earned it."
    Bray said she will attend GSU and major in Spanish and said her teacher's goal was "giving us the best chance you can get."
    "I'm no hero," Walker said. "I do it because I love it. I feel every day I am privileged and blessed to be a teacher."
    Marshall will attend the Region 8 STAR Student program March 14 at the GSU Information and Technology Building atrium at 11:30 a.m., where the regional STAR student and teacher will be announced.
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