CONYERS - Brandon Hong, a student at the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology, has been named the Rockdale County STAR Student for 2019. Hong names Dr. Charles Garner as his STAR Teacher.

Since 1958, the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition, or STAR program, has been recognizing exemplary seniors in Georgia high schools and the teachers most instrumental to their academic development.

Hong and the rest of this year’s STAR students - Alysia Lloyd from Salem High School, Sydney Gaylor from Heritage High School, and Victoria Edmands from Rockdale County High School - were honored by the Rotary Club of Conyers and Rockdale and partners at a luncheon on Feb. 14.

“What a great way to spend Valentine’s Day— showing a little love for our students and their teachers and their parents, ” said Ruth Wilson, Rockdale County Clerk of Court. “These students are the cream of the crop— the best and the brightest.”

To obtain the STAR nomination, students must have the highest score in one administration of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) taken through the November test date of their senior year, be in the top 10 percent or one of the top 10 students in their graduating class as well as a recipient of the Superintendent’s Award.

Brandon Hong excelled at the SAT with a score of 1580 and selected Dr. Charles Garner as his STAR teacher. Garner has been selected as a STAR teacher more than four times.

Hong stated that Garner didn’t teach him what to learn, but how to learn.

“He obviously has helped me a lot,” said Hong. “He changed my entire outlook on life… He taught me that you can learn something new everyday.”

Hong is waiting to hear back from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but has been accepted to the University of Georgia. Whereever he goes, Hong plans to study computer science.

Alysia Lloyd from Salem High selected her math teacher Audrey Dallas as her STAR teacher.

“I have never had a teacher show such love and passion for her students,” said Lloyd.

After receiving a 1220 on her SAT, Lloyd plans to attend Georgia State University and pursue her degree in nursing.

Sydney Gaylor is not the first in her family to become a STAR student. Her brother was delighted with the same honor three years ago.

“It feels good to continue the legacy,” said Gaylor.

She explained that she would have not made it through high school without her English teacher Samantha Swaney.

“The very first teacher I had at Heritage was Ms. Swaney,” said Gaylor. “And I am so glad that I was able to take class with her again this year.”

After graduation, Gaylor plans to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology to study linguistics. She received a 1430 on her SAT.

Victoria Edmands, a senior at Rockdale County High School who attends Rockdale Career Academy, nominated math instructor Michael Ryan as her STAR teacher.

“Throughout my high school career, I changed my mind about what I wanted to be,” said Edmands. “A teacher, a nurse, a public relation major, to finally a environmental engineer. But through it all, Mr. Ryan believed in me and said I could be any of it if that’s what I chose.”

Edmands hopes to find alternatives to plastic and study water sustainability while attending the University of Georgia in the fall. She received a 1290 on her SAT.

“It is with great honor that I celebrate your intellect, academic scholarships and your passion for learning,” said RCPS Superintendent Dr. Terry Oatts in his address to the students.

The STAR program has been sponsored, administered and promoted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators since 1994. More than 165 statewide civic organizations and businesses such as Rotary and Synovus Bank serve as local sponsors of the STAR program.

Covington native and proud Valdosta State alumna, Hunter has previously worked with The Covington News and Valdosta Daily Times. She started working for Rockdale/Newton Citizen in June 2018.

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