CONYERS, GA—The Rotary Club of Conyers honored the 2023 STAR Students and their chosen STAR Teachers during an awards luncheon held at the Conyers-Rockdale Nancy Guinn Memorial Library.
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) STAR Program recognizes high school seniors who have the highest SAT score in their graduating class and are in the top 10 percent or top 10 students in their graduating class. The 2023 Rockdale County STAR Students and their selected STAR Teachers are:
Chace Cleveland (Heritage High School) and teacher Kimberley Donaldson (Rockdale Career Academy)
Justin Sterlin (Rockdale County High School) and teacher Keri Wagstaff (Young Americans Christian School)
Maxwell Zhang (Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology) and teacher Dr. Charles Garner (RMSST)
Ethan Niemczyk (Salem High School) and teacher Dr. Nathan Wisdom (SHS)
Carson Lawler (YACS and teacher Jay Howe (YACS)
Maxwell Zhang of RMSST and Dr. Charles Garner were named the overall District STAR winners. They will go on to represent this region in the PAGE STAR competition.
Special thanks to organizers, Rotary Club of Conyers; sponsors United Community Bank and Georgia United Credit Union; PAGE, and the parents, teachers, families, mentors, coaches and community members who make it possible for students to achieve.
Chace Cleveland (HHS)
Chace is deciding between colleges and universities to attend and plans on becoming a business administrative leader for a business that specializes in financial planning. He said his STAR teacher, Ms. Donaldson, has been a profound example of the engagement and magic that happens “when teachers look past their assigned curriculum to teach students how to apply their subject to real life… Ms. Donaldson has been a profound example of that. Thank you so much Ms. Donaldson for your role in my life.”
Ms. Donaldson, the Biotechnology Teacher at Rockdale Career Academy, said “As I was thinking about how I could best describe Chase, the word Superlative comes up. Superlative means somebody who embodies excellence. That is Chace in every possible way.”
Justin Sterlin (RCHS)
Justin plans on studying aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University, where he received a full-tuition Posse Scholarship. He said of his chosen STAR Teacher, Ms. Wagstaff, “All of her classes were just a blast. She made sure to make all of her lessons engaging.”
Ms. Wagstaff, a teacher at Young Americans Christian School, said she had Justin as a student when he was in middle school. “It’s incredible to see how this young man has grown up. Even in middle school I could tell he was special. He was an intelligent thinker; he was bold in his ideas; he stood out as one that would not be waivered by anyone around him, which is something to say for a middle school boy and I can tell even now as a young man.”
Maxwell Zhang (RMSST and District Winner)
Maxwell said math is his passion and he’s known he’s wanted to study math since middle school. He said of his chosen STAR Teacher, Dr. Charles Garner, “Being a student of Dr. Garner’s has reinforced my passion for mathematics.” Maxwell is waiting to find out about a few more college acceptances before deciding where to attend. His goal is to ultimately get a Ph.D. in math.
Dr. Garner, a Math Teacher at RMSST, said, “Maxwell is one of the brightest young men I’ve ever taught He is a wonderful young man, witty, always on top of things.” Dr. Garner’s son and Maxwell’s older sister were friends so Dr. Garner would hear stories of the little brother who was always running around. “To see him become this wonderful guy is just amazing.”
Ethan Niemczyk (SHS)
Ethan plans to attend either University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, or Georgia State University to study journalism, business, or literature/media/communications. He said of his chosen STAR Teacher, Dr. Nathan Wisdom, “I chose Dr. Wisdom because no matter what, he’s always been dedicated to teaching the concepts. In 10th grade we were virtual, there was no way to see who was paying attention. He still taught the same way – he was always focused. This year, we had five kids in our class, he taught the same way. He was focused on getting the work done no matter what the circumstances. I’m thankful for that.”
Dr. Wisdom, a Math Teacher at SHS, said “I’m very honored. But I can tell you that Ethan loves to learn… I’ve taught many students. He’s a very memorable student. He’s very hardworking. He doesn’t talk. If he asks a question, you know it is an epistemic question, so you’re going to have to go deep.”
Carson Lawler (YACS)
Carson received an early acceptance from Georgia Tech and plans on attending Tech to major in Engineering (Industrial, Civil, or Mechanical), eventually getting a master’s or MBA. He said “I chose Mr. Howe because he did not just teach me what to think but how to think.”
Mr. Howe, a teacher at YACS, said “Carson is a joy to teach. The humility he has as he’s working with fellow students is very refreshing. I had him in Honors Geometry. Not all students get Geometry. I would present an idea and Carson would say ‘You know Mr. Howe if you think of it this way…’ ‘Yes, Carson, your mind thinks that way and in three different other ways but some people are just trying to walk.'”