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Chamber Honors County STAR Students


The News and Farmer

The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce recognized the STAR students and teachers from Jefferson County High School and Thomas Jefferson Academy last week at its annual luncheon.

Luke Walden Rodgers of Matthews, the son of Jennifer and Timmy Chance and Scott Rodgers, was named the county’s overall STAR student. He chose Tommy Browne as his STAR teacher.

Rodgers said that he did not set out to become STAR student.

“Instead, I set a personal goal for the SAT Score that I thought I would need to have to be comfortable with applying to Georgia Tech,” he said. “My reading score was high from the first time I ever took the test, but my math score was not where I wanted it to be. I kept working on my math skills and kept retaking the SAT until I had the score that I had been wanting. I ended up scoring higher than my goal, and that was fine too.”

He is a member of the Beta Club, National Society of High School Scholars, FFA, Spanish Club, Math Team, Math Club and has played four years on the JCHS tennis team. He was named most valuable player the last two seasons.

While dually enrolled in high school and at Augusta University, he was accepted into the AU Honor’s Program.

“My mom has certainly influenced and encouraged me throughout my academic career,” Rodgers said. “She never stressed the importance of grades or test scores because everyone learns in different ways and at their own pace. Instead, she just encouraged me to do the best that I was capable of doing, and to take pride in a job well done.”

Rodgers has a 4.0 grade point average and is ranked in the top three in his class. Last year he was the Class of 2018 Georgia Certificate of Merit winner, won the University of Rochester Xerox Award for Innovation and Information Technologies and was nominated for the Georgia Positive Athlete Award.

He said he chose his tennis coach and teacher Tommy Browne as his STAR teacher because of his positive influences both academically and on the court.

“He taught me that even if a class is easy or a teacher doesn’t require much, that I should always push myself to learn and to do my best,” Rodgers said. “He helped me to be a self-motivator. And he has also been a good role model and a positive male influence.”

Rodgers said he recommends that students apply themselves, set goals and strive to be great.

Alivia “Livi” Ann Smith, the daughter of Mark and Shelli Smith of Kite, is Thomas Jefferson Academy’s 2018 STAR student.

She has been active in Beta Club and Key Club, has served as a class officer and captain of her school’s cheerleading squad. She has also been a part of the basketball, track and golf teams and volunteered in a number of community service projects.

Outside of school she participates in barrel-racing with the National Barrel Horse Association and the Georgia Sports Arena Buckle Series. She is a volunteer with the Miss Emanuel County/Miss Southeast Georgia Scholarship pageants and is a nanny for three children.

She said that education and academics have always been of the upmost importance in her home.

“My parents have always encouraged me and my siblings to strive for excellence with our academics,” she said. “Upon entering high school, I set certain academic goals for myself. Among those goals was the STAR Student award for my school, Thomas Jefferson Academy. Although standardized testing has not always been my area of expertise, I continued to work on my areas of weakness in order to improve my test scores.”

She said her parents and teachers have always been her biggest supporters and advisors.

“At home, my siblings and I have always been provided with the necessary tools we needed to excel in academics. In return, our parents expected, if not demanded, that we put our education ahead of everything else,” Smith said.

She said that her teachers have provided a positive learning environment throughout her school experience.

“They strive daily to provide challenging exercises to help their students reach their highest academic potential,” she said. “Due to our small class numbers, the teachers are able to give each student the individual attention they may need and are always willing to assist with any questions or difficulties we may be facing.”

Smith chose Rebecca B. Jones, who taught her in both middle and high school English, as her STAR teacher.

“My one true nemesis throughout my schooling has been my inability to express myself with words,” Smith said. “Grammatically I was perfect, but my writing simply lacked substance. Through the years, Mrs. Becky has been insistent that her students learn to express their thoughts on paper. By continually providing her students with challenging writing assignments, she has taught us all how to correctly express our thoughts on paper and more importantly to think outside the box. These are the vital, irreplaceable skills that we will need as we prepare for our college careers.

“However, Mrs. Becky Jones is so much more than just our teacher. She is our friend and confidant, the first to pat our backs for a job well done, and the first to realign our attitudes when we need it. She spends countless upon countless of unpaid hours assisting her students with everything from paper proofing to college applications. There is not a role at Thomas Jefferson Academy that she has not played; from teacher to cheer coach to prom sponsor to literary coach. The list is endless. Her love for her students and her profession is undeniable.”

Smith said that she encourages her fellow students to give their best efforts from day one in high school and never let up.

“This does not mean that someone has to be perfect, it simply means that less than one’s best is not acceptable,” she said. “And always take advantage of any opportunity that may come your way. You may not ever get that opportunity again.”


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