Meet your 2022 local STAR Students

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The Milledgeville/Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce, which will celebrate its 75th birthday later this year, held its annual STAR Student and STAR Teacher ceremony on Thursday.

The STAR Students are the ones with the highest SAT score at their local high school, assuming that their GPA also is among the top 10 percent in their graduating class.

The PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program, according to the Chamber "is sponsored, administered, and promoted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and the PAGE Foundation. Since its creation, the STAR program has honored nearly 28,500 students and the teachers they have selected as having had the most influence on their academic achievement."

Added the Chamber: "To obtain the 2022 STAR nomination, graduating high school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average. STAR begins each year in participating high schools throughout Georgia when the STAR Student is named and chooses a STAR Teacher to share in this recognition."

The Milledgeville Exchange Club and Rotary Club of Milledgeville were the other key sponsors of the initiative.

Meet the winner(s) from each school:

DIANA CAZACU – Baldwin High (TIE); STAR Teacher, Jessica Thompson

  • PLANS AFTER GRADUATION: After graduating, I plan to attend college. I either plan to attend GCSU for one year and then transfer to UGA, or go straight to UGA. I plan to major in Visual/Fine Arts and would like a career related to this field.
  • CLUBS/ORGANIZATIONS: 4H (have been involved for almost 8 years); BHS Theatre (have been involved for almost 3 years; have been an official Thespian for almost 2 years; Baldwin Band of the Braves for one year; Baldwin High School Math Team for one year; National Honor Society for almost 2 years National Society of High School Scholars (for almost 4 years)
  • AWARDS/SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS: Received highest overall grade of my class when graduating from middle school (8th grade); Received a Rising Star award from my Spanish professor in a GCSU Dual Enrollment class (12th grade); Received the Dean’s Excellence Scholarship for GCSU; Received the Dean’s Merit Scholarship for GCSU; Received first place in a creative writing contest (7th grade); Received first place in a comic creation competition in middle school (7th grade); Received third place in an organ donation poster creation competition (10th grade)
  • SPECIAL EVENTS:  I attended the President Scholarship competition for GCSU and competed with other gifted students for a scholarship (12th grade); Have made and presented a total of 3 projects for 4H District Project Achievement, 2 about art (History of Cartooning and Different Types of Art) and 1 about a country (History and Culture of Romania); Performed in Baldwin High School Theatre’s 2021 production of Tuck Everlasting as an ensemble member and will perform the show at Georgia’s 2022 Thescon; Worked the lightboard for Baldwin High School Theatre’s 2019 production of Dark Road.
  • One of the main motivators in my life has been my parents, especially my mother. My mother taught me to challenge myself and try my best in all my classes and has also always been supportive of me and my preferred career path, the arts. Another one of my motivators is my best friend. He is an artist like me, and we inspire each other with our art and our stories.

KAELA CLARK – John Milledge Academy; STAR Teacher, Douglas Stephens

  • GPA (UNWEIGHTED): 4.0
  • PLANS AFTER GRADUATION: I plan to major in Aerospace Engineering and minor in Visual Arts or Mathematics. I am currently undecided on the college I will attend but have been accepted to and am considering Georgia Tech. I hope to work for an aerospace company like NASA one day.
  • SAT: 1500
  • ACT: 32, Superscore: 33
  • EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Student Council—President (12 th ) (2018-present); Watson-Brown Junior Board of Trustees—Secretary (12 th ) (2020-present); Drama/One-Act/Literary (2019-present); Varsity Competition/Spirit Cheer—Captain (12 th ) (2018-present); Varsity Soccer (2019-present); Piano (2013-present); Youth Leadership Baldwin (present); National Honor Society—President (12th), Senior Beta Club—Beta Board (11th, 12 th)(2018-present); Varsity Cross Country (2020-present); Varsity Track and Field (2021-present); Fellowship of Christian Athletes (present); Archery (2017-2020); GCSU Soccer Camp (2016-2019); All-star Cheer (2016-2019)
  • HONORS/AWARDS: STAR Student—highest SAT score of senior class; Head of School List—all A’s 4 years of high school; 2020-2021 JMA Female Athlete of the Year; Milledgeville Exchange Club Youth of the Month; Georgia Certificate of Merit; Most Likely to Succeed; State Champion—Competition Cheer, One-Act, Literary Duo Interpretation, and Track and Field; All-State—Track and Field, Cross-Country, and Competition Cheer; All-Region—Track and Field, Cross-Country, and Soccer; Soccer Awards—Trojan Award (2021), 110% Award (2019); Cheer Awards—Scholar Athlete (2019, 2020, 2021), Most Improved (2019)
  • VOLUNTEER WORK: Started Service Project for Donations to Help Tornado Victims in Kentucky; Coaching Elementary School Tumbling; Coaching Middle School Cheer; Assisting at JMA Kiddie and Summer Camps; Painting and moving materials for JMA renovations; Beta and NHS Service Project Opportunities (ex. Ronald McDonald House, canned food drives, etc.); Making Christmas Baskets at Church
  • EXPERIENCE: Gift of Flight – Hosted by my local airport, influential women in aviation – many of them pioneers in the field – spoke about their experiences and careers to our group of teenage girls. I took my discovery flight and logged my first flight hours.
  • SPECIAL EVENTS IN LIFE: Winning the literary duo interpretation state championship with my sister meant a lot because it wasn’t something I had accomplished alone; I was able to perform with my own family and unexpectedly placed first at the state competition.; Winning the competition cheerleading state championship was a very special moment in my life. It was my first year of varsity cheer, and we only had ten athletes on the mat as opposed to the fifteen or sixteen most other teams had. We had absolutely no expectation of first place and performed to the best of our abilities and it paid off in the end. This win was so special because of the bonds I made with my team and how far we had come to achieve something like a state championship. It made our motto, “Small but mighty,” really mean something.; After my trip to the local airport during a Youth Leadership Baldwin class, I was offered the chance to come back that following weekend and fly a plane in an event specifically for girls and women in the area. My discovery flight during the Gift of Flight experience at the Baldwin County Airport was a momentous event in my life as it gave me the opportunity to understand aviation and the aviation industry with greater context. I was able to listen to many women pioneers in the field speak about their experiences, and being able to fly a plane with the help of a female pilot allowed me to realize how much I enjoyed the flight and the magical mechanics of it all.
  • MOTIVATORS: My parents have consistently been the biggest motivators in my life. They constantly encourage me to try new things along with the familiar things that make me happy. They push me to do what lets me feel fulfilled and proud of my accomplishments at the end of the day. Aside from the external motivation of my parents, I have also been one of my own biggest motivators–I am a very self-driven person and when I commit myself to something, I do not like to quit. I have a competitive spirit by nature and the prevalent urge to better myself in all aspects of my life and become the best version of myself I can.

JOHNNY PULLIAM – Baldwin High (TIE);  STAR Teacher, Damita Jones


  • PLANS AFTER GRADUATION: After graduation, I plan on attending GCSU, majoring in Nursing, just like my father before me.
  • CLUBS/ORGANIZATIONS: Work-based Learning (if this would be suitable as I do not hold an active membership with any other club)
  • AWARDS: Academic Honor Roll
  • MOTIVATOR: My Dad (seeing him persevere through many challenges to support me and my family, including many different jobs before graduating from GCSU to become a CCRN)

ETHAN STEINFIELD– Georgia Military College Prep; STAR Teacher, Emily Boylan

  • PLANS AFTER GRADUATION: I have been accepted at both Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia and will be attending one of them after graduation.
  • Class Rank: 1
  • SAT: Highest Single Test Score 1560 (combined Super Score 1580)
  • EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Marching Band and Concert Band, flute and piccolo; play flute in marching band and in concert band, play sole piccolo in GMC Prep military parades; Varsity Tennis Team; National Piano Guild Audition Gold Pin Award, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019; National Piano Guild Audition 5-Year Honor Roll Award, 2019; PADI Open Water Scuba Diver Certification
  • HONORS, AWARDS, AND MEMBERSHIPS: National Merit Scholarship Commended Student; Georgia Certificate of Merit, University of Georgia; AP Scholar with Honor; National Honor Society; National Beta Club; Chick-fil-A Leader Academy; JROTC, Rank: Sergeant First Class / Position: Platoon Sergeant
  • VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE: Sea Turtle Preservation Society; Volunteer for beach cleanups, community education, also completed additional training for STERP; Emergency Response Program) to rescue washback post-hatchling sea turtles; Keep Brevard Beautiful; Volunteer, participate in beach cleanups in Brevard County, Florida; Musician Volunteer; Play piano and flute for rehabilitation centers, assisted care facilities, and church services
  • INTENDED MAJOR: Computer Science
  • HOBBIES:My hobbies include programming, hiking, scuba diving, tennis, surfing, piano, flute, piccolo, and reading
  • SPECIAL EVENTS/MOTIVATIONS: I was born in Milledgeville and have spent my entire life here in Baldwin County. My father is Dr. Laurence Steinfeld, a radiologist at Navicent Health Baldwin and my mother is Patricia Steinfeld, a retired computer systems analyst. I spent most of my summers and vacations visiting my family in Florida. Many of them worked on the space program, including my grandfather, an Air Force civil and environmental engineer who worked on NASA’s Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo missions, my aunt and uncle, who were IBM space shuttle computer analysts, and another uncle who was a Lockheed engineer. Hearing their stories and watching the launches of Atlas, Delta, and Falcon rockets, dozens of space shuttles, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and the 2020 Dragon Capsule inspired me to become a computer scientist. My teachers at GMC Prep School also inspired my interest in science, math, and English. I chose MAJ Emily Boylan as my STAR teacher because she was the most positive and enthusiastic teacher I have ever had. She motivated me to do my best and she encouraged my love of science and the natural world. MAJ Boylan always went over and above teaching solely the required curriculum. She was committed to making sure that every student understood the material. Her extra efforts prepared me and my entire class for success in AP Biology and beyond. MAJ Boylan’s enthusiasm for biology made her classes not only educational, but fun. She is truly an exceptional teacher who has had a lasting impact on my education. And as a bonus, she and I also share a love of scuba diving. All these interests and inspirations led me to pursue the field of computational science and engineering. This field combines my interests of computer science, mathematical modeling, biological sciences, and earth sciences. I am interested in eventually working for NASA or Lockheed Martin, researching new ways to run machine learning algorithms on high performance super computers to interpret the vast quantities of data that is collected by satellites and by future missions to the Moon and Mars. The information that will be deciphered in these big data sets will undoubtedly lead to new ways to monitor weather patterns and mitigate climate change. I am also interested in modeling complex natural systems, such as cellular function, on high performance computers, in an effort to find new medicines and medical treatments. I plan to attend either Georgia Tech or the University of Georgia in the fall.

In the end, Steinfield was honored as the countywide STAR Student, and he will now go on to compete in the regional competition next month over in Macon. He is pictured below with Boylan, his STAR Teacher.


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