Middle Georgia has two new star pupils. Warner Robins High School's James Luppino and Peach County High School's Tyler Messer have been selected as the 2016 STAR Students for their counties. The seniors were recognized at separate ceremonies at the end of February.
The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program honors seniors throughout Georgia and is based on SAT score and class ranking. Each honoree chooses a STAR Teacher who has made a difference in their academic success. Luppino, Messer and their teachers will attend the regional awards banquet March 15 at Middle Georgia State University's Macon campus.
Luppino, who earned a 2,230 out of 2,400 on the SAT, will study mechanical engineering at Auburn University this fall. He's following in his family's footsteps, as his parents, John and Dobbie, are both electrical engineers, and his brother is studying the subject. He has thought about working with Engineers Without Borders in the future.
Although his main love is math and science, Luppino has become a "master of all subjects" and developed other intellectual passions, said his STAR teacher Louis Leskosky. Luppino said he didn't like social studies and literature until he took Leskosky's classes. Leskosky taught him ninth-grade honors literature, AP U.S. Government and AP Art History and multicultural literature. The professor showed him critical analysis skills that will apply to all areas of his life.
"He really has given me appreciation for literature and history and government and politics that I just didn't have before," Luppino said. "When he's lecturing, he commands the class's attention. Everybody is zoned in. He's a very engaging public speaker."
Outside the classroom, Luppino is a captain on the soccer team and a member of the quiz bowl team, which Leskosky coaches. He was honored to be chosen as the youth spokesman for Family Promise of Greater Houston County's Car City event this past summer.
"James is the type of student that you're always looking for and that is always such a pleasure to teach. Not only is he bright, but he's one of the nicest people that you'll ever get a chance to teach," said Leskosky, who's been at Warner Robins High for eight years.
Tyler Messer, who scored a 1,910 on the SAT, will study chemical engineering at Georgia Tech this fall. He hopes to one day become a pharmaceutical developer and create cures for Alzheimer's disease and cancer.
"I would definitely agree that he was one of our stars. He's an awesome student. ... He really respects work ethic," said STAR Teacher Gina Clark, who's been teaching for 24 years with nine at Peach County High. "I expect to hear his name in the news in the years ahead that he made some Nobel Prize in science or something."
Messer, son of Judy and Billy, said all of his teachers helped him win the STAR Student award, but especially Clark. He took forensic chemistry with Clark last year and AP Chemistry and chemistry 2 this year. He's currently a teacher's aide in her forensic chemistry class and a math tutor to ninth-grade students during her extended learning period.
"She challenges me to be even more than I believe I can be. She's really influenced me in my academic learning," Messer said. "She personalizes her education so she teaches each student the way they need to be taught."
Messer is senior class president, captain of the varsity soccer team, vice president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and a member of Future Problem Solvers Team and the Community Problem Solving group. He said Clark encouraged him to open up, and she helped him improve his public speaking skills.