By Curt Yeomans
Laura Parkhouse takes her education so seriously, she decided to miss the Clayton County Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) recognition luncheon on Wednesday, so she could attend her classes at the University of West Georgia.
The Jonesboro High School senior, and STAR student, had classes on ethics, religion and philosophy at West Georgia. She decided it wouldn't feel right if she skipped those classes to attend a luncheon where she was going to be honored. In Parkhouse's mind, attending classes means she'll get good grades, which will help her eventually get into law school.
Law school will help her become a lawyer, who can work to influence national legislation, which will help the disadvantaged citizens of the United States.
"I take a different type of pride in my grades than some students have in [their grades]," said Parkhouse, in a telephone interview from the West Georgia campus on Wednesday. "It's not as much of a competition to me ... My education will be for the further good of society."
Parkhouse is Clayton County's STAR student for the 2007-2008 school year. The luncheon at the Holiday Inn in Jonesboro was sponsored by the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce and the Clayton County Rotary Club.
Parkhouse earned the STAR student honor because her Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) score of 2150 was the highest in the county. She said she was "very surprised" to be named the STAR student, but it felt "great" to receive the honor.
Parkhouse already has been accepted to the University of Georgia (UGA) for her undergraduate studies. She is still waiting to hear back from New York University, George Washington University and American University to see if she has been accepted to those schools as well, but she's pretty sure UGA will be her eventual destination.
When it comes to where Parkhouse will attend law school, though, she's looking to the center of American government.
"I'd like to attend law school in the Washington D.C. area, because I'd be close to where legislation is created and that's what I want to focus on when I'm a lawyer," Parkhouse said.
Anna Cox, Parkhouse's STAR teacher and Mock Trial team coach, was not surprised by her pupil's decision to skip the luncheon in favor of attending classes. "Obviously, she liked learning the material," Cox said. "It wasn't as much about getting the perfect score on a test with Laura, as much as it was about learning something new."
Cox said Parkhouse, who is the mock trial team captain and lead prosecution attorney, will make a good attorney after she graduates from law school because she is dedicated, focused on winning her cases, and practices hard to be a winner.
"Anybody who has to go up against her [as an attorney] should already be scared," Cox said.
Lacey Ekberg, the president of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, said she was impressed by the academic dedication of the 10 STAR students from eight Clayton County high schools, and Mount Zion Christian Academy. "The Young adults who have been chosen for this honor are truly exceptional students," Ekberg said.
Dr. Gloria Duncan, the interim superintendent of Clayton County schools, also spoke at the luncheon. She used the achievements of all the STAR students as an example that all is not lost in the school system, despite a recent recommendation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to revoke the district's accreditation.
"They are so ambitious, and we have to be proud of their accomplishments," Duncan said. "This lets you know children are still getting an education in Clayton County schools."