Denver Alexandra Burton, a senior at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy (ELCA), said she was surprised, and happy, to receive a county-wide distinction for her academic accomplishments.
"My parents have always been really supportive, and I've had good teachers," said Burton, winner of the 2010-11 Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program for Henry County. "I've gone to ELCA my whole life, and they've just really supported me, and taught me a lot," she said, after Henry County Schools Superintendent Ethan Hildreth presented her with the award.
Burton, 18, of Jonesboro, received recognition Thursday, during the annual STAR Student Breakfast, at Eagle's Landing Country Club, in Stockbridge. She received a standing ovation from a packed audience of teachers, parents, business leaders and fellow students.
Burton said she has defined some of her post-secondary plans, while others remain to be decided. "I'm going to study psychology and neuroscience, on the pre-med track," the senior said. "Right now, I'm [planning to go] to Georgetown University, but I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of different schools."
Burton's STAR teacher, Scott King, also was selected as a top teacher for the county.
The breakfast has been sponsored for more than 20 years the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, according to Chamber President Kay Pippin. During the occasion, she said the STAR program displays Henry County at its finest.
"In this room, are some of the brightest, most capable, and hard-working young people in our community," Pippin said. "So, it is an honor for the business community to be able to celebrate these bright young people, and to wish them well as they head out toward college, and careers. Hopefully, a few of them will find their way back home to Henry County, to live and work."
Dr. Timothy Mescon, president of Columbus State University, was keynote speaker for the breakfast. "This is an enormous milestone," Mescon told the group. "But in today's global, hyper-competitive, academic, and business arena, celebrating today's accomplishments gives you the opportunity to take a deep breath, enjoy the accolades, get back at the end of the line, and start the process all over again.
"That's the nature of the world we're in, and it can be exhausting. It never abates. It never relents," Mescon advised the students.
He commended the students for their academic endeavors, and challenged them to continually set new goals, and standards for themselves.
Henry Schols Superintendent Hildreth said STAR students in the county's public and private high schools, are in the top 10 percent of their classes. They scored highest on Scholastic Aptitude Tests in their schools this year.
Hildreth thanked teachers, administrators and parents, as well as local business leaders, for their ongoing support of the STAR program. The superintendent encouraged the STAR students to be committed to the community in Henry, as they embark on their future plans.
"The world is your oyster," he said. "We just hope you remember that Henry County is a pearl in that oyster, and you have an opportunity to come back and be part of this team."
Denver Burton's father, Randy Burton, said Denver's determination has been instrumental in helping her to succeed. "It's a great honor," he said. "Unlike a lot of kids ..., I've never had to push her. She's really self-motivated, and she takes a lot of pride in her work.
"I was surprised, and I wasn't surprised," he continued. "I know how hard she's worked. I wouldn't say I expected it, but I'm proud to have her win the award."
Other STAR Students who were also recognized during the event are: Brittany Feriani, Community Christian School; Adeola Popoola, Stockbridge High School; Andrew Brian Dill, Luella High School; Taylor Chamberland, Strong Rock Christian School; Jordan Goodall, Henry County High School; Brandi Nicolle Scoggins, Ola High School; Matthew L. Anderson, Woodland High School; Leeanna Belle Floyd, Locust Grove High School; Allison Michelle Windom, Union Grove High School; Meselle Jeff-Eke, Eagle's Landing High School; and Nneoma Adaku Ahuruonye, Dutchtown High School.