STAR Student

Yehong Zhu of East Coweta High is 2014 winner

by Bradley Hartsell

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East Coweta’s Yehong Zhu speaks Friday during the STAR recognition program at the Newnan Rotary Club meeting. She was named Coweta’s 2014 STAR student, and she selected White Oak Elementary’s Paula Corley as her STAR teacher. 


East Coweta High School senior Yehong Zhu was named the 2014 Coweta County STAR student on Friday at the Newnan Rotary Club’s annual STAR recognition program.

Newnan Rotary honored all the 2014 STAR (Student and Teacher Achievement Recognition) students for Coweta County’s high schools and their chosen STAR teachers during the luncheon at Newnan Country Club. Friends, family and respective school principals packed the dining hall to honor the outstanding students from East Coweta, Newnan High and Northgate high schools in the Coweta County School System, as well as those at The Heritage School and Trinity Christian School.

The STAR students were recognized for excellence in the classroom, along with the teachers they say have most shaped their academic careers. Both students and teachers gave remarks commending the others for their merits.

East Coweta’s Yehong Zhu, as Coweta County STAR student, will be entered into the next level of academic recognition in the statewide program. Zhu selected as her STAR teacher her fifth grade teacher, Paula Corley, who now teaches the REACH gifted program at White Oak Elementary School.

“I’m very grateful for everything my parents have done for me, and for Mr. Horton (East Coweta principal Evan Horton). It’s one of the best high schools in the country,” Zhu said. “It’s been a great honor.”

Zhu will be attending Harvard University in the fall to study government, and she thanked Corley for the strong foundation the teacher provided for her academic career.

Newnan High’s Samantha Finkelstein won the school’s STAR award, and Finkelstein chose Sue Dennis as her STAR teacher.

Finkelstein, thanks to credits from dual enrollment, will enter Georgia Tech this fall as a junior. “I know kids who’ve been there five years and still haven’t achieved junior status,” joked Dennis, who taught Finkelstein for three years in middle school.

Finkelstein, who hopes to become a genetics engineer, praised Dennis for her wit and appreciation for humor and banter.

Northgate honored Abby Pinaud, whose brother Tyler was a STAR student in 2012. Pinaud chose Larry Burns, Northgate’s Advanced Placement history teacher, as her STAR teacher. Burns glowed over Pinaud’s ability as an essay writer.

Pinaud, who will likely attend the University of Georgia this fall, lauded Burns for his knowledge of history, and for his unbiased presentation of history to the class. She also praised him for “teaching me it’s never too late to do what you love.” Burns worked at Delta for many years before going back to school to become a teacher.

The Heritage School’s winner was Abbie Farr, who chose Brooke Martin, dean of teaching and learning, as her STAR teacher.

“She has a strong work ethic and sets high standards for herself,” said Martin.

Trinity Christian School’s winner was Colson Craig, who chose Quincetta Ford as his STAR teacher. Ford called Craig “one of the most optimistic and generous young men I’ve ever known.”

Dean Jackson, public information officer for the Coweta County School System and a Rotarian, opened the proceedings with praise for the afternoon’s honorees.

“We have a real focus on academic excellence in Coweta County and today is a special pleasure,” he said. “Simply put, we’re blessed to have some of the best students.”





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