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Central honors top academics
Principal Rudy Hampton congratulates Top Dog Award winner Ethan Smith during the STARS awards ceremony Wednesday at Forsyth Central High. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Students and families were asked to hold their applause until the end, but that didn’t happen.

They were too excited to show support for the more than 100 Forsyth Central High School students who scored 1,100 or higher on the non-writing portions of the SAT or a 24 or higher on the ACT.

The annual Central STARS, or Students Taking Academic Responsibility Seriously, award ceremony honors those high-achieving students in front of their peers.

Principal Rudy Hampton said he was proud of the group. He also spoke to those who have yet to take the tests.

“Those of you students sitting in the stands who will be juniors and seniors next year, we challenge you to do what these students have done,” he said. “We hope to see you sitting here next year.”

The SAT and ACT are tests that measure a student’s verbal and math abilities and are often used as an entrance exam for many colleges and universities. A perfect score on all parts of the SAT would total 2,400.

For some Central students, the ceremony was similar to last year’s.

Senior Ethan Smith received the Top Dog Award for a scoring 1,580 out of a possible 1,600 on the math and critical reading parts of the SAT, the highest mark at the school.

Smith was also Top Dog last year, when his score was 1,570. His first, junior year attempt yielded a 1,470.

“[I] took it again because I felt like the first time I didn’t really study or work hard at it,” said Smith, whose final overall SAT score was 2,300. “So the second time I did it, I tried to practice the questions.”

The third time was a scholarship requirement. While he said it was an honor to receive the Top Dog award, that wasn’t his motivation.

“It’s not about what other people got or who I’m better than, it was more about seeing how much I could get,” he said. “What I appreciate is that I know I did what I could.”

Though he’s been accepted to the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Drexel, Smith said he’s waiting to hear from MIT, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

He plans to study economics or operations research and pursue a career as a chief executive officer.

Addressing students after receiving his award, he said, “To do this, I worked hard. I did not do this half way. All of you can do it too, if you work on it.”

The STARS event also recognized Anna Purcell as the Professional Association of Georgia Educators’ STAR student.

The honor is based on her SAT score, which was higher than 1,400 on the math and critical reading parts, but also her overall academic career. The association also honors a STAR teacher, selected by Purcell.

“So many teachers here have had an impact on my studies, it was difficult to pick just one STAR teacher,” she said. “But when I think of what teacher, what class I enjoyed the most … the first thing that comes to mind is Kelli Schuyler. She goes above and beyond.”

Purcell, who took both honors and Advanced Placement chemistry with Schuyler, has also worked with the teacher on the academic bowl and as part of the National Honors Society.

Schuyler, whose son Joshua was also honored as a STAR student Wednesday morning, had to pause for a few tears before addressing the crowd.

“Anna is a leader in every sense of the word,” she said. “A true leader inspires others and builds relationships around her, and that’s exactly what Anna does.

“I’m proud to know Anna, not because of her academic achievement, but because of the wonderful person she is.”

The event was also special for Associate Superintendent Joey Pirkle. As a former principle at Mashburn Elementary School, Pirkle said he knew many of the STAR students when they were starting their academic careers.

“I see these kids now that they’re juniors and seniors and I remember back to when they were in kindergarten and first grade and it makes me feel good that they have continued to do well in their school career,” he said.

“As their former principal, I knew these kids would be successful even when they were in kindergarten and first grade. I’m not surprised that they were sitting here today. They’ve always been good kids and I’m just really proud.”