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Freeman, Van Sickle honored as STAR students

The Rotary Club of Effingham County honored two students Thursday afternoon for being named the STAR Students for the county. Marina Van Sickle won for Effingham County High School and Kate Freeman won for South Effingham High School.

The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program, known as STAR, is administered by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and is used to highlight the hard work of students in the state of Georgia.

A  STAR student is a graduating senior with the highest SAT score on a single test (Freeman scored a 1540, Van Sickle scored a 1510) and must be in the top 10 percent of their class. For Effingham County, a student was chosen at each high school with one going on to serve as the Overall County Representative at the Regional recognition event at Georgia Southern University later this spring. Kate Freeman was the system winner for Effingham County.

At the ceremony conducted by the Rotary Club, attendees were treated to a catered lunch buffet before the honor ceremony began.

Dan Burkhalter, Rotary President, gave a few comments on the STAR program before introducing Van Sickle and Freeman.

Each STAR student also selects a teacher from their scholastic career who made the greatest impact on their life; those teachers are then honored as the STAR teacher. Van Sickle selected her sixth-grade Language Arts teacher at Ebenezer Middle School, Ann Waltz. Freeman selected her high school Art teacher, Craig Owens.

Waltz spoke to the audience and discussed how she knew from a young age that Van Sickle was a special student.

“I know (Marina) has worked so hard for so long to achieve this honor,” Waltz said. “She was an avid reader, exceptional writer and an outstanding student. I’m excited for Marina as she begins this next chapter of her life.”

Like Waltz, Owens spoke glowingly of his student.

“Kate is always uplifting to students around her,” Owens said. “Knowing Kate and seeing how her future turns out is like reading a great book – you want to know how it ends. On the other hand, you hate for the book to end because it’s so much fun to read. It’s been my pleasure to teach her and it has been an even greater pleasure to know her.”

After graduation, Van Sickle will be attending Mercer University in Macon.

“I really like the atmosphere they gave off and how welcoming they were to the students and how they really want to help the students,” Van Sickle said. “It’s a beautiful campus and a great location – I also hope to be a walk-on to the cross country team.”

Freeman will be attending Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

“I want to study Industrial Design because I like problem solving, math and science but also art,” Freeman said. “I want to go to Georgia Tech because I really like how all of the students collaborate together.”