The Union Recorder

February 28, 2013

STAR Student finds motivation through inspiring educators

Vaishali Patel
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce honored Michael Watson of Baldwin High School as the county’s 2013 STAR Student at the Milledgeville Country Club Thursday with a plaque and a $1,000 scholarship in recognition of his achievement.

Watson said his late grandfather Laurence Heymann has served as a huge driving force for everything he has accomplished in his academic career thus far.

“I come from a family of teachers; my great uncle teaches at Auburn and my grandfather was an English teacher at Georgia Military College. [My grandfather] was diagnosed with [multiple sclerosis] in 1980 and by the time I was born in 1995, well I never really heard him talk. He passed away in 2007, and everything I’ve done academically is a tribute to him,” Watson said during his speech. “I hear stories about him and hear from my mom, grandma and students of his in the past, and everything just drives me to be a little bit better. Everything I do, every paper I write, I know he’s looking down from heaven with his red pen and grading it.”

Watson’s parents, Benny and Lori, and grandparents Delores Heymann and Ben and Jackie Watson, were more than elated to see their son and grandson earn the STAR Student merit.

“We could not be more proud of him,” Lori said.

“It’s just a privilege to be his grandparents,” Jackie added emotionally.

Since his freshman year, Watson has been involved with the school theater, Thespian Troupe No. 2187, the mock trial team and Baldwin Marching Pride, serving as trumpet section leader, selected to numerous district and region honor bands, and participated in the Georgia Music Educators Association’s All-State Chorus. He has been nominated for the Governor’s Honors Program in the area of social studies, and the Macon Telegraph’s Golden Eagle Award in the area of drama. Watson stays active within the community by assisting and tutoring with the Homework Helpers Ministry through Hardwick Baptist Church and Discipleship Christian Center. He was also a founding member of the school’s Political Science Club during his junior year. Watson will attend the University of Georgia in the fall as a political science major to pursue a career in teaching.

“We ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, and he answers with no hesitancy a college professor; he wants to mix his love of academics with education, which is very commendable. I’m most impressed about Michael’s ability to set goals and work toward those goals. He doesn’t shrink his challenges, but pushes himself to meet them head-on,” said John Stone, Watson’s STAR Teacher. “It’s indeed been a pleasure to teach Michael over the last two years and watch him grow into the young man he is today. It’s a testament to Baldwin High School and definitely Baldwin County, and I look forward to seeing what he achieves in the years to come.”

Watson said his STAR teacher has been very inspirational in his high school career.

“Mr. Stone is that rare teacher that teaches you so much more. He shares with us his life experiences. He tells us exactly what we need to know to go out and live our lives and succeed, not just in a college classroom, but through the college experience on a college campus,” he said of Stone. “He is an excellent teacher; he motivates his students and prepares them so much more than any other teacher ever can.”

STAR students Davis Farr of John Milledge Academy and Elliot Fairbrass of GMC were each awarded with a plaque and a $500 scholarship. JMA STAR Teacher Jessica Jones and GMC STAR Teacher Dr. Linda Brown were also rewarded with plaques and $100 checks.

“I congratulate Davis and Elliot because this is an incredible accomplishment,” Watson said. “I also want to thank the Chamber and give a shout-out to every teacher I’ve ever had at Baldwin High School. They’ve all be instrumental in making me who I am.”

Through the Chamber’s Keystone Investor Program, GMC President Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan challenged the young scholars and those present to strive to become their best selves.

“Think about the person you want to become and what is it that you have to do with yourself to become that person,” he said. “I ask you to start now and not tomorrow. Integrity and honesty is not easy. Take the hard and difficult road.”

The STAR program is a statewide program coordinated by the PAGE Foundation that awards high school seniors that have the highest SAT score and are ranked in the top 10 percent or top 10 members of their class. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce initially launched a program to recognize students in each high school with the highest score on the SAT. Two years later, the recognition program included the teacher with the greatest impact on the student’s academic career. For the past 55 years, more than 23,500 STAR students and teachers have been recognized for their academic and professional accomplishments. 

This year’s STAR program was a joint meeting of the Milledgeville Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

Watson will advance to the regional level in the state STAR competition in March. The Georgia 2013 State PAGE STAR student and teacher will be named at the annual banquet Monday, April 29 in Atlanta.

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VIDEO: STAR Student and Teacher award ceremony.