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STARs aiming high
Two share top honor for 2013
STAR students from area high schools include, clockwise from top left: Chederli Belongilot of Forsyth Central; Joshua Scaife of Horizon Christian Academy; Casey Kim of Lambert High; Christina Hansen of North Forsyth; James Kemper of Pinecrest Academy; and Vijeth Mudalegundi of South Forsyth. Not pictured is West Forsyth STAR student James Plager. - photo by Jennifer Sami

From a career in cellular biology to one as a U.S. Marine Corps officer, the sky’s the limit for seven bright Forsyth County scholars.

They earned the highest SAT score at their respective high schools and were honored Thursday night by the Cumming Kiwanis Club during the annual Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program.

“You all are our future,” said Wes Dorsey, club president. “You are all what we wish we could have been.”

The STAR program is conducted through the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. After their names were announced, each student thanked their families for support and briefly shared their plans before introducing their top teacher.

Forsyth Central’s Chederli Belongilot, who plans to study cellular biology at the University of Georgia en route to medical school, selected Bill Schuyler as her teacher, saying he “always makes time for us.”

Joshua Scaife from Horizon Christian Academy said instructor Shannon Marks “spent a lot of one-on-one time” helping him prepare for the SAT.

Scaife plans to attend either the Virginia Military Institute or the Citadel as he works toward becoming a U.S. Marine Corps officer.

Lambert STAR Casey Kim hasn’t officially selected a college, but has been accepted to MIT or Georgia Tech, “so I’ll end up somewhere.” And wherever she ends up, she’s planning to study neuroscience and then attend medical school.

But despite her passion for science, Kim selected literature teacher Woody Van Treek for recognition, because his class is “where I started to think about the deeper meaning.”

“Just being in class every day was such a joy,” she said. “He really inspires me with the way he lives his life.”

Christina Hansen from North Forsyth selected John Major as her STAR teacher. While she spends anywhere from two to four hours a day in Major’s class, that’s a good thing because “he’s incredibly engaging.”

“He’s definitely taught me the importance of the social sciences,” said Hansen, who plans to pursue a pathology track and medical school.

Pinecrest Academy’s honoree, James Kemper, will study economics at the University of Notre Dame. His star teacher is Kristen Falk, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. history.

“It was a very difficult class, but she made it engaging,” he said.

Vijeth Mudalegundi of South Forsyth said he doesn’t know what he’s going to do yet, but credited STAR teacher Kimberly Oliver with helping make him “a better speaker.”

“She’s been a great influence on me inside the classroom and outside,” he said.

West Forsyth STAR recipient James Plager and teacher Janet Pavlicek were unable to attend the banquet, which was held at the University Center | GA 400 in Cumming.

With SAT scores of 2390, both Kim and Hansen tied to represent Forsyth County at the district level.

Dorsey noted that the district winner will advance to the state and possibly national competitions.

Sherman Day, executive director of the university center, was the banquet’s keynote speaker. He talked to students about the University of North Georgia, as well as his 12 years working in the university system for China.

“It’s a global competition,” he said. “I encourage you to go abroad and study abroad and study different cultures.

“We are in the presence of greatness with you and we applaud you.”