Three of the best and brightest students Baldwin County has to offer were honored Thursday by the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce and other partner organizations.
Once the hourlong ceremony was over, Baldwin High School senior Cara Bennett was named the county’s STAR student for 2020. She and her chosen STAR teacher Jack Shepherd will go on to represent Baldwin County at the regional level next month in Macon. Bennett’s selection this year marks back-to-back years a BHS senior has taken the county honor.
The STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) program honors high school seniors for producing the highest scores in their schools on the SAT. Those students then select a teacher who has had a big impact on them along their educational careers as their STAR teacher. Locally, each of the three high schools — Baldwin High, GMC Prep School and John Milledge Academy — name school-level winners each year to compete for the county honor. Sutton Eady was selected John Milledge STAR student for 2020 while Carson Waters took the honor for GMC Prep. The school-level winners each received $500 scholarships while Bennett was awarded $1,000 toward college for being named the county winner.
It is almost a misnomer to refer to Bennett as a Baldwin High School student. She’s spending her entire year taking dual enrollment courses at college, including a distance-learning math class at Georgia Tech, which is on the shortlist for where she will enroll after graduation. She is also considering Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT. Bennett wants to major in either computer science or mathematics once she reaches college, so it’s no surprise that she chose Shepherd, a math teacher, as her STAR teacher. The 2020 Baldwin County STAR student was at a bit of a loss for words when asked her reaction on being selected as this year’s system winner, but did have more to say on Shepherd’s role in fostering her love of math.
“He’s had a really big impact when it comes to letting me explore mathematics and my interest in it,” Bennett said. “He’s just an overall really good teacher.”
Bennett does not yet know what she wants to do after college but will use that time to explore her options. Shepherd is in his 29th year leading a classroom and believes his pupil is destined for great things whatever she decides to do.
“It’s a payoff for all that hard work she’s done the whole time she’s been in school,” he said. “She’s always working and always thinking. I’m just privileged to have seen some of that in the classroom and see it rub off on others. I suspect that a lot of the really great moments are ahead of her.”
Bennett’s fellow local STAR students are obvious standouts in the classroom as well. JMA’s Eady has been accepted to and plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall where she will major in biology on a pre-med track. She can also be seen often on The Union-Recorder sports pages for her success on both the softball field and basketball court. Eady selected Jennifer Watkins as her STAR teacher for challenging her in the classroom and also recruiting her to compete in argumentative essay at literary where she won both region and state championships. GMC Prep senior Carson Waters had to miss Thursday’s STAR student ceremony as he recently came down with the flu, so his father stepped in and spoke for him when the time came. Waters is currently ranked at the top of his class at GMC Prep where he has made the Principal’s List all through high school. He also plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall where he wants to major in biological sciences on his way to dental school to work toward a doctor of dental medicine degree. Waters selected GMC Prep AP biology teacher Emily Boylan as his STAR teacher.