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Forest Park senior ahead of the game

By Doug Gorman

Forest Park senior Dionel dela Puenta has his act together on an off the field.

With a 3.23 grade point average and a 1,010 on the SAT, dela Puenta is looking forward to finishing up his senior year and moving on to the next phase of his life, which includes college.

His most recent accomplishment came this week when he was honored as the Clayton County Scholar Athlete of the Week.

dela Puenta's accomplishments don't surprise to those who know him.

"He is a model citizen," said Forest Park Athletic Director Thomas Chisholm. "He does everything that is asked of him."

The Forest Park scholar has applied to Georgia State, Alabama State, Georgia Southern and Albany State.

He hasn't ruled out possibly playing football in college.

"I would like to keep playing if I get the chance," he said

When he steps on the football field, dela Puenta stays busy playing just about where ever head coach Howard Stearns needs him.

So far this season he has played guard on the offensive side of the ball, and defensive tackle and defensive end on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Succeeding in both sports and academics takes some effort, but dela Puenta has a game plan for both.

"You just don't sleep very much during the week," he said.

The future business major serves as a mentor for his teammates, especially those just starting their high school studies.

"I'm not really that vocal," he said. "I don't yell and bring people down, but I do believe in trying to encourage people to do their best."

Forest Park has a mandatory study hall for its athletes on Thursdays and dela Puenta is a prime example of how academics and athletics can successfully mix.

"He is there to show the younger athletes how important it is to start off working hard in the classroom," said Chisolm.

Although Forest Park is off to an 0-3 start on the football field, dela Puenta hasn't lost his enthusiasm for the game or his teammates.

Stearns is trying to create a new attitude among the football players, and Chisolm has been working since his arrival last year as athletic director on changing the image of athletics in the school.

Forest Park was given a sportsmanship award by the Region 4-AAAA for the way it conducted itself on the field in all sports last season.

"We want our athletes to always show character and class," said Chisolm.