Raoul Rego is soft-spoken about his academic achievements in high school.
When he was introduced earlier this month at the Rotary Club of Effingham County’s STAR Student luncheon, Rego politely thanked the crowd, thanked his parents for all their support, quoted a few lyrics from the Bob Dylan song “Precious Memories,” and returned to his seat.
He humbly accepts the honor as this year’s STAR Student for Effingham County High School. The STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) program honors the senior at each Georgia high school who earns the highest SAT score while ranking in the top 10 percent of the senior class.
“It’s nice to be recognized, but I don’t try to look too much into it,” Rego said. “I accept it for what it is and I’m proud of what I’ve done.”
His performance in the classroom speaks for itself, though. Along with excelling in his courses — most of which have been Honors or Advanced Placement — Rego is the countywide STAR Student.
“He is very talented,” said Sara Huntley, Rego’s selection as his STAR Teacher. “He is so driven, and I know he will do well. I’m really proud of him.”
However, Huntley said, Rego’s success goes far beyond the top grades he earns. She described him as a friendly, genuine student who “always comes to class with a smile on his face.” While he is dedicated to his classwork, he also takes the time to help others when they need it.
“He exhibits all the traits that I would hope to see in one of my students,” Huntley said. “Raoul impressed me not only academically, but also in his relationships and interactions with others.”
Huntley was Rego’s AP statistics teacher last year and his Math Club advisor. She was even Rego’s assistant coach when he was on the ECHS tennis team.
“She has just been the kindest and most passionate teacher I’ve had,” Rego said.
Huntley described Rego as a rare type of high school student. Whereas students in advanced classes often fixate on making an “A” on every assignment or competing with each other for the highest grade, she said, Rego loves to learn solely to better himself.
“He wasn’t comparing test scores once he got his back,” Huntley said. “It’s more for him than just knowing (the material) for the test. He wants to know, he wants to understand, he wants to be able to figure things out and piece them together. He’s really a good problem-solver.”
While most high school students don’t recreationally solve math problems in their spare time, Rego shrugs off the uniqueness of it. He said he doesn’t enjoy doing basic arithmetic, preferring instead the challenge of complex problems.
“The fun I get from math problems is just the way to think about them and solve them,” he said. “I like having problems that make you conceptualize what you’re trying to do or make you think, like brain-teasers. I don’t like doing math to say I like doing math.”
Rego said he “most likely” will attend Georgia Tech, but he has applied also to Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and Harvard. He plans to major in computer science and hopes for a career with the National Security Administration in cryptology, the science of secure communication.
“Cyber-security is now quite a big issue,” Rego said. “President Obama mentioned in his State of the Union that it’s one of our top priorities.”
As the district-wide STAR Student, Rego will represent Effingham County in the regional STAR competition next month in Statesboro. Regional winners will advance to the state STAR banquet in Atlanta in April.