PERRY -- Ian Clester added an honor to his already impressive resume Wednesday as the Houston County High School senior was honored as the countywide STAR Student on Wednesday.
Also the school’s valedictorian with a 4.0 GPA, Clester scored a 2350 out of 2400 in his only SAT attempt as a junior.
“It means a lot just to be recognized for both the hard work that I’ve put in over the last four years, but also the hard work that so many other people have contributed -- from my parents to my teachers,” Clester said.
The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program, put on by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation, honors the student at each high school with the highest SAT score in a single sitting. That student then selects a STAR teacher, a decision that was difficult for Clester.
He eventually chose Laura Byrd, a chemistry teacher who has taught Clester in her class for two straight years. He said she went “above and beyond” to help students.
“Every Tuesday, she would have sessions after school,” he said, noting that the sessions were meant to help students catch up or prepare for upcoming tests. “Those were fantastic.”
For Byrd’s part, she said Clester is a “naturally curious” student.
In her honors chemistry class when Clester was a junior, Byrd mentioned in passing that math matrices could be used to balance chemical equations. Over his Thanksgiving break, Clester taught himself about matrices, figured out how to use them for chemistry and wrote a computer program to handle the process.
“Stuff like that happens all the time with him,” Byrd said.
That computer programming prowess was part of another of Clester’s big feats. He was honored at Tuesday’s school board meeting for being one of just 12 in the world to make a perfect score on the Advanced Placement computer science exam last May. Out of 285 total AP test entries worldwide, just 12 were perfect in any subject.
His mother, Candace, didn’t hear about the rarity of the accomplishment until Wednesday.
“It’s almost incomprehensible. ... That’s just too big,” she said with a grin. “He really is motivated and dedicated.”
Brian Clester, Ian’s father, said Wednesday’s new honor was “just awesome.”
“Ever since he started school, we’ve encouraged him to work hard and achieve academically,” he said.
Clester also scored a 5, the best score possible, on all four of his AP tests last year, and he’s taking five more AP courses this year. He initially found out about his perfect score over the public address system at school. That led to even more attention from his classmates.
“It came as a surprise, but a very pleasant one,” Clester said.
Clester already has been accepted into Georgia Tech and is awaiting responses from other schools, specifically MIT, Stanford and Harvard. He isn’t sure what career path he wants to take, but computer programming has long been a hobby of his.
“Computer science is the obvious choice, but that was even before I took the course,” he said with a laugh.
Houston County Superintendent Mark Scott praised Clester.
“Of course, somebody with his kind of ability, the sky’s the limit for him because he obviously is in a career field that’s wide open,” Scott said. “There’s not enough people going into it, and he’s going to be one of the leaders. It will be amazing to see what kind of things he accomplishes as an adult.”
The rest of the county’s school-level STAR Students also were recognized at Wednesday’s event, held at the Go Fish Education Center in Perry: Sara Abdulla (Northside), Liston Mehserle (Perry), Jin Seo Kang (Veterans), Joseph Davis (Warner Robins), Tiny Chen (Warner Robins) and Rebecca Etter (Westfield).
Addressing the group, Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said he is confident the students could be leaders in repairing the problems of the world they will one day inherit.
“Comparatively speaking, we can’t hold a candle to what’s sitting before us tonight,” Faircloth said, standing with the county’s other mayors. “There’s enough intelligence in this room to fix it all.”