Anthony D'Angelo, an American writer and vice president of sales for InterTrade Systems Inc., had a unique perspective on the importance of education in the lives of young people.

"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow,"  he said.

That is the same philosophy the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) embraces each school year when it honors seniors throughout he state who are excelling academically with its Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) awards.

This award is presented to students whose standardized test scores elevate them to the highest 10 percent of their senior class.

According to Lynn Varner of the STAR program lead support team, which guides the program, its mission is to recognize Georgia’s highest-achieving high school seniors, as well as the teachers who have been most instrumental, in that student’s eyes, in helping that student achieve academic notoriety.

According to the STAR program website, this recognition program was launched almost 60 years ago by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. In 1994, the PAGE Foundation was invited to coordinate the program in association with the chamber and the Georgia Department of Education.

“The 86,000-plus members of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators are honored to recognize Georgia’s future leaders and the professional educators who have nurtured these students,” Varner said in a news release. 

The state’s overall STAR teacher receives $2,500 and the state’s first runner-up STAR teacher receives $1,000.

This year's local STAR students are: Elizabeth Becker, Atlanta Girls' School; Josh Pablo Patel, Atlanta International School; Tianya Zhan. Brandon Hall; Alex Warren, Ben Franklin Academy; Grace Xinyi Li, Campbell High School; Samuel Risner, The Galloway School; Will Scarborough, Holy Innocents' Episcopal School; Watson Casel, Holy Spirit Prep; Dylan Shapiro, Lovett; Isabella Hay, Marist School; Ivan Mo, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School; Charles Hirsch, Pace Academy; Michelle Stanek. Riverwood; Rowan Wiley, St. Pius X Catholic School; Jennifer Nolan, Wesleyan; Jessica Lou, Westminster and Mona Nahadevan, Woodward Academy. 

Editor’s note: Atlanta Country Day School, Cumberland Academy of Georgia, the Howard School and the Weber School are not participating in the STAR student and teacher program this year.

Here's a closer look at this year’s STAR students and teachers:

Atlanta Girls’

STAR student: Elizabeth Becker


Highest SAT score: 1540

Extracurricular activities: helped start school the robotics team, created a free weekly tutoring program for children, varsity track and varsity swimming, attended the Governor's Honors Program, co-leader of Model UN Club.

Awards and honors: Physics Scholar Award, Math Scholar Award and World Studies Award

College choices: Georgia Tech

Career path: aerospace engineering and work in a state-up-like environment in the future

STAR teacher: Suzy Beckham, science and math

Atlanta International

STAR student: Josh-Pablo Patel

Student GPA: NA

Highest SAT score: NA

Extracurricular activities: first chair saxophone, math tutor, co-leader of AIS Book Club and student ambassador for Atlanta's Caring for Others Inc.

Awards and honors: 2018 Phi Beta Kappa Book Award, will graduate with International Baccalaureate bilingual diploma

College choice: undecided

Career path: undecided

STAR teacher: Ecaterina Lungu, IB diploma program: biology

Brandon Hall

STAR student: Tianya Zhan

GPA: 4.28 (weighted)

Extracurricular activities: plays on the varsity tennis team and is a member of the school's math team

Highest SAT score: 1560

Awards and honors: third place in the Georgia Southwestern State University Math Tournament and member of National Honor Society

College choices: undecided

Career path: biologist

STAR teacher: Alexander Pike, biological sciences

Benjamin Franklin Academy

STAR student: Alex Warren

Highest SAT score: 90 percent on master education approach scale

Extracurricular activities: nationally rated squash player, cross country, Philanthropy Club, and taking math classes at Emory University

Honors and awards: Georgia Governor's Honors Program in French, Gold Award on Le Grand Concours French exam and BFA Service Award

College choice: undecided

Career path: philosophy or physics

STAR teacher: Wright Howell, social studies


STAR student: Grace Xinyi Li

GPA: 4.695 weighted

Highest SAT score: 1570

Extracurricular activities: Hiking Club, Habitat for Humanity, plays the piano and member of the Student Conservation Association

Awards and honors: National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, AP Scholar with Distinction and recipient of the International Skills Diploma Seal

College choice: Georgia Tech or Emory University

Career path: global health

STAR teacher: Melyn Roberson, Spanish


STAR student: Samuel Rosner

Highest SAT score: NA

Extracurricular activities: Galloway Theatre Company, French Woods Festival of Performing Arts, All-State Chorus member for five years, plays piano, Youth Leadership Sandy Springs and Pathways Program in Economics at University of Chicago

Honors and awards: Georgia High School Association All Star Cast Award,  ands winner of the 2017 Excellence in Citizenship Award.

College choice: Northwestern University

Career path: undecided

STAR teacher: Gordon Mathis, advanced topics in European history

Holy Innocents’

STAR student: Will Scarborough

GPA: 100.24

Highest SAT score: 1560 

Extracurricular activities: secretary general of Model UN Club at school, president of National English Honors Society and Code Club and member of Leadership Council on the Holy Innocents' Forum

Awards and honors: first place in Georgia Tech AP Poll, first place in Lockheed Martin Code Quest, National Merit finalist and honorable mention in Writers of the Future

College choice: University of Chicago

Career path: being an author or computer scientist

STAR teacher: Chris Yarawich

Holy Spirit Prep

Star student: Watson Casal


Highest SAT or ACT score: NA

Extracurricular activities: varsity football and track and field, Eagle Scout, Milites Christi gospel reflection group, Delta Omega service fraternity and chess team member

Awards and honors: National Merit finalist, AP Scholar with Distinction, Triple Crown of High Adventure with Boy Scouts, Delneo Cup Classics Knowledge runner-up and National Latin Exam Summa Cum Laude for four years

College choice: undecided but leaning toward Georgia Tech

Career path: mechanical engineering

Star teacher: Tom Cole, theology department chair


STAR student: Dylan Shapiro

Highest SAT score: Weighted 101.42.

Extracurricular activities: Wolf-PAC Georgia-state Legislature director, Let American Vote field organizer, Extemporaneous Speaking-Speech captain and freelance videographer/director of photography

Awards, honors: Earned 99th percentile in National Spanish Exam, finalist at Moondance International Film Festival and earned Georgia Certificate of Merit

College choices: undecided but has already been accepted at Princeton

Career path: undecided but possibly leaning toward civil rights law

STAR teacher: Kevin Randolph, upper school history


STAR student: Isabella Hay

GPA: 100.57

Highest SAT score: 1560 

Extracurricular activities: Captain of varsity tennis team, churhc league basketball, student government, co-president of senior class, worked in Peer Leadership Program and volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club in Chamblee as well as being on the school's Council of Environmental Affairs.

Awards and honors: National Merit semifinalist, winner of class mewdal for highest GPA in all three years of high school and won Yale University Book Award and Bill Jordan Award for excellence in U.S. History.

College choice: Yale University

Career path: chemical or Biomedical Engineering with a minor in International Relations

STAR teacher: Brittany Loudermilk, social studies and U.S. government

Mount Vernon

STAR student: Ivan Mo

Student GPA: 4.3 weighted

Highest SAT score: 1530

Extracurricular activities: founder of the Advanced Math Competition Club, theater, school debate team and Mount Vernon's e-sports team.

Awards and honors: Governor's Honors Program finalist in 2018 and Headmaster List for grades 9-11

College choice: undecided

Career path: computer science

STAR teacher: James Roberts, biology, chemistry and AP chemistry

North Atlanta

STAR student: Robert "Jake" Churchill

GPA: 102 weighted, 97 unweighted

Highest SAT score: 1600

Extracurricular activities: marching band, Academic Bowl, Model UN, MAYWE Honor Band, Mu Alpha Theta

Awards and honors: National Merit Scholar finalist, Georgia Certificate of Merit, U.S. Presidential Scholars Program candidate

College choices: University of Califorinia at Berkeley, MIT or Georgia Tech

Career path: using engineering to develop and implement sustainable energy technologies

STAR teacher: Adam Brooks, band and music technology

North Springs

STAR student: Elaine Wen

GPA: 102

Highest SAT score: 1550

Extracurricular activities: fencing, Women In Technology, Anti-Defamation League national student representative

Honors, awards: 2017 WIT Girl of the Year, National Merit Finalist, 2017 and 2019 Georgia Fencing League women’s champion

College choice: possibly the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Career path: management of technology (business and computer science)

STAR teacher: Eric Smith, social studies


STAR student: Charlie Hirsch

Student's GPA: NA

Highest SAT score: NA

Extracurricular activities: co-editor-in-chief of the upper school newspaper, captain of the varsity tennis team,, president of the Knight Capital Investment Club and the Pace Academy Jewish Club

Awards and honors: member of Math Works National Math Modeling Challenge team, member of the team that finished third of 600 teams in the 2018 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Students of the Year and winner of the Pace Alumni Scholar Award.

College choice: undecided

Career path: build technology startups and enter the private equity and venture capital space

STAR teacher: Gus White, math


STAR student: Michelle Stanek

Student GPA: NA

Highest ACT score: NA

Extracurricular activities: National Merit semifinalist, received the Harvard Prize Book Award, president of the National Honor Society, vice president of the Chemistry Club and a member of both the Science National Honor Society and Beta Club as well as tutoring students at the Raider Writing Center

Student awards and honors: National Merit semifinalist, Georgia Certificate of Merit, AP Scholar, Harvard Prize Book Award winner and was selected as a Riverwood VIP by her AP U.S. history teacher in both 10th and 11th grades

College choices: Georgia Tech

Career path: the medical field

STAR teacher: Daniel Gribble, social studies

St. Pius X

STAR student: Rowan Wiley

GPA: cumulative 99.17

Highest SAT or ACT score: 1580 on SAT and 36 on ACT

Extracurricular activities: varsity track and cross country

Awards and honors: National Merit Scholarship finalist, Georgia Certificate of Merit, on President's List seven times at St. Pius, Outstanding English II honors student and Outstanding Spanish II Honors student and Outstanding Track and Field Distance Runner

College choice: undecided but considering the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech

Career path: engineering, statistics or finance

STAR teacher: Mike Scirocco, English


Star student: Jennifer Nolan

Student GPA: NA

Highest SAT or ACT score: NA

Extracurricular activities: varsity softball, varsity track, mock trial team and math team

Awards and honors: National Merit finalist, Yale Book Award, Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, National Honor Society and Academic Honors Society for English, Science, Latin and Math

College choice: undecided but has been accepted to Georgia Tech and the University of Virginia

Career path: undecided but leaning toward aeronautical engineering

STAR teacher: Joseph Cooper, Latin


STAR student: Jessica Lao

GPA: 102.51

Highest SAT score: 1600

Extracurricular activities: co-captain of the Academic Quiz Team, writing fellow, The Writing Center at Westminster and president of the Junior Classical League, Westminster Honor Council and president of the Circle of Women organization

Awards and honors: National Merit semifinalist, AP Scholar with Distinction Coca-Cola Scholar semifinalist, distinguished finalist for state of Georgia and recipient of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award

College choice: undecided

Career path: undecided

STAR teacher: Reanna Ursin, upper school English


STAR student: Caleb Corliss

GPA: 99.57

Highest SAT score: 1570

Extracurricular activities: cross country, Boy Scouts, peer tutor and Science Olympiad

Awards and honors: National Merit finalist, Georgia Certificate of Merit, Eagle Scout

College choice: Georgia Tech

Career path: cyber security for now

STAR teacher: Kyle Justice, Advanced Placement computer science and honors geometry


STAR student: Mona Mahadevan

GPA: 4.88

Highest SAT/ACT score: 1570

Extracurricular activities: member of Woodward's debate team, Equality Alliance, math team, the Science Olympiad team and founder of the Intersectional Feminism Club

Awards and honors: class of 2019 valedictorian, National Achievement Award in Writing from the National Council of Teachers of English, member of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society.

College choice: undecided but has been accepted to Yale University

Career path: social sciences such as political science, international relations or economics

STAR teacher: Margaret Lee, English


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