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Banquet honors county's STARs
Top students, teachers hailed

For John Burns of North Forsyth High School, the future lies in physics and engineering, while it’s all about political science for Lambert High's Ashtyn Warner.

The two were among seven students honored for their SAT scores Thursday night during the Cumming Kiwanis Club's annual STAR, or Student Teacher Achievement Recognition, banquet.

The students, one from each of the five public high schools in Forsyth County and two of its private schools, talked about their future ambitions.

Several shared how they are waiting to hear back from colleges -- Harvard, Yale, MIT and Princeton were mentioned more than once -- and each student selected a STAR teacher who helped guide them.

Warner selected Eric Lauterback, who leads the school's mock trial team.

Burns chose Amanda Swafford, his Advanced Placement calculus teacher, who is an “extremely motivated teacher, especially when students drift off.”

“You care about your job and all of your students,” he told Swafford.

West Forsyth High School STAR student Shobana Logan Ramasamy said her teacher, Kelley Grogan, was an inspiration.

But Grogran countered that it’s “an honor to work with students like Shobana.”

“Students like these are the reason we do what we do,” she said.

Hanover Matz, the Forsyth Central High School STAR student, appeared to have his path mapped out.

While he’s still waiting to hear from Harvard and Duke, he’s been accepted to the University of Miami, where he likely will go to study marine biology.

His STAR teacher is Jennifer Garner, who noted Matz was the only student to ever score a perfect 100 on her Advanced Placement test.

Joshua Kilcoyne was named Horizon Christian Academy’s STAR student. An aspiring musician, he hopes to pursue a career in Nashville, Tenn.

He named Gerry Crete as his STAR teacher. 

It was a unique situation for Pinecrest Academy STAR student Young Kim.

The South Korea native is actually living with Daniel Piper, his STAR teacher, through an exchange student program.

“It was a whole new experience living in an American’s house,” he joked. “His work ethic and how he takes care of his family has taught me a lot.”

But Kim came with little training required, Piper said. A naturally gifted student, he still “put in the effort and the time and he basically owned this opportunity.”

“Hopefully he’ll carry that on to college and it’ll be something he’ll benefit with later on in life,” Piper said.

The student with the highest SAT score was selected to represent the county at the regional level.

Since it doesn’t get any higher than perfect, South Forsyth High School senior Cody Baetz, who scored a 2,400, will go to the regional competition through the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation.

“It’s a big honor to be recognized among my peers as doing so well in school and reaching and striving to be the best,” Baetz said after the event. “It’s a little bit surreal.”

Baetz, who has earned a 4.45 grade-point average to go along with his perfect SAT score, said his future lies in math and engineering. That’s why he selected his math instructor, Carol Sikes, as his STAR teacher.

Guest speaker Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt challenged the students to continue excelling in their education.

“Not only that, but set goals for yourself," he said. "... Set those goals that [are] high ... and you’ll always have something to work for.”