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The brightest STARs
Cremo, McCarthy shine for SEHS, ECHS
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Connor Cremo, the 2014-15 South Effingham High School and countywide STAR student, second from left, is shown with his STAR teacher Stephanie Tant, far left. Effingham County High School STAR student Kayla McCarthy, second from right, selected Brad Arrington, far right, as her STAR teacher. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

Effingham County’s SAT scores have risen to just one point below the state average, though two students in particular set their aspirations a bit higher.

South Effingham High School’s Connor Cremo and Effingham County High’s Kayla McCarthy were honored Thursday as their respective school’s 2014-15 STAR student at the annual luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Effingham County.

“Of course, these kids didn’t have to worry about the state average,” Effingham Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. “They’re probably worried more about how high they are above the national average.”

The STAR student is the school’s senior who has the highest SAT score and also is ranked in the top 10 percent of the graduating class.

“I feel awesome,” McCarthy said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, so I’m really excited about it. I feel really honored.”

Cremo also was recognized as the countywide STAR student. He will represent Effingham in the regional STAR competition.

“It means I did well, I suppose,” Cremo said modestly. “I just have to keep going at it.”

Each STAR student honors an influential instructor as their STAR teacher. Cremo selected Stephanie Tant, who has been his math teacher for the past three years.

“I have had a lot of great teachers, and Miss Tant is definitely one of those great teachers,” Cremo said. “She has been very good at teaching the subject and making sure everyone understands it, and can use the knowledge they gain further in the subject as they go along.”

Cremo has been accepted to the University of Georgia and is awaiting word on his acceptance to Georgia Tech. He is considering majoring in “some sort of engineering,” but will wait to make that decision until he sees what interests him most in college.

Along with being the county’s STAR student, Cremo is a Rensselaer Medalist and Georgia Certificate of Merit Scholar and he will graduate with the Effingham Scholar Endorsement Medallion, the highest academic honor bestowed on an Effingham student. He is active on campus as a member of National Honor Society, Science Olympiad, concert band, symphonic band and the SEHS Marching Mustangs.

“Connor is an outstanding student,” Tant said. “He’s very analytic in his thinking, he is a good reasoner and he’s definitely a math teacher’s dream student.”

McCarthy chose Brad Arrington as her STAR teacher. Arrington was her Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher in 11th grade.

“He was my favorite teacher, and I love history,” McCarthy said. “He definitely pushed us. We were doing more work than we were used to. But I’m very thankful for that because he pushed us to succeed and to do our best.”

McCarthy will major in biology at the University of Georgia, with plans of becoming a veterinarian. She intends to join the military after earning her bachelor’s degree, which, along with enabling her to serve her country, will help pay her way through veterinary school.

Arrington’s class is one of several AP courses McCarthy has taken in high school. She will graduate with the Effingham Scholar Endorsement Medallion.

“She is the model student,” Arrington said. “She always goes above and beyond in class, and I know she has great things in store for her. She makes me look good.”

ECHS Principal Yancy Ford and SEHS Principal Mark Winters both praised the students for their hard work and dedication. They also credited the students’ families for fostering their children’s eagerness to learn and desire to excel.

“Kayla and Connor both are products not just of our schools, but our community,” Winters said. “People ask me all the time, why are the schools in Effingham County so good? And you can’t put your finger on one single thing — it’s the community, it’s the teachers, it’s the students. It’s all about working together.”