A STAR at her brightest

By Greg Gelpi

For Jonesboro High School's Michelle Marie Kennel, life is art, and the picture she is painting for herself is one of success.

Not only was the 17-year-old named Jonesboro High's STAR Student, but Wednesday it was announced that she is the STAR Student for Clayton County as well, representing nine high schools and more than 2,500 seniors.

"It's not a surprise to me," Jonesboro High art teacher Robert Putnam said. "She's just brilliant at everything that she does."

Putnam said that there's nothing "casual" about art and that Kennel's art reflects a "deep awareness of everything behind her art." Her art is more than two-dimensional images on canvas, but contains depth of emotion and experience.

"So many people think that art is only about being able to draw," Putnam said. "Drawing is just a technique."

Kennel recalled her first drawings at the age of 3 as she sat in a church pew sketching on a pad. After high school, she plans to attend Eastern Mennonite University, a small liberal arts college in Harrisonburg, Va.

"I really want to experience life in a closer community," Kennel said, explaining that college isn't about the money or pursuing a career to make money.

Once there, she is considering studying psychology or sociology, perhaps even art therapy.

"An artistic mind must be curious about everything we have on this planet," Putnam said. "(Art) makes for a very rich, really thorough life."

STAR is the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Student Teacher Achievement Recognition. The program, locally sponsored by the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce and the Clayton County Rotary Club, recognizes the student with the highest SAT score who ranks in the top 10 percent of the senior class from each high school.

The SAT isn't about spitting back specific knowledge, but the ability to think, Kennel said. She approached the SAT in much the same way she approaches art, searching for an answer on the test using the same analytical skills as when she searches for the answer to an art problem.

While hitting on creativity, art also taps into other areas, including many facets of academics, Putnam said.

"It's a truly mathematical process and psychological as well," Putnam said.

It's those facets of art and the artistic mind which enabled Kennel to succeed on the SAT, Kennel said.