Leonardo Nunez, a senior at Flowery Branch High School, is a STAR student with an exceptional academic record, but he still has time to bust a move.
Nunez was named the Hall County district winner for the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition Wednesday afternoon at the First Baptist Church in Gainesville. He selected his teacher Harmon Tison for his STAR teacher.
To qualify, high school seniors must have the highest SAT score on a single test date and be in the top 10% percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade-point average. The STAR student then selects a teacher they feel had a great influence on them.
Nunez will represent his school system at the regional level for the chance to win state.
He plans on pursuing electrical engineering at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
“I’m very excited because it’s very close to the NASA Space Center, and maybe I will get to work there,” he said, though he shudders at the thought of human space travel.
“Good luck to Elon Musk and them doing that,” he said. “Not my kind of thing.”
From a family of humble means, his parents immigrated from El Salvador to provide him and his sister a better life in the United States.
“I thank them for that eternally,” he said.
He was born in New Jersey and moved to Georgia when he was 1 year old.
Despite often being the smartest person in the room, Nunez said he has had to overcome imposter syndrome.
He attended the Governor’s Honors Program last summer at Berry College, recommended to him by his sister who was a STAR student for West Hall High School a few years ago. There he was able to come out of his shell.
It was there that he discovered his passion for electrical engineering over its mechanical counterpart.
“I learned a bit more about working with other engineers,” he said. “It was the first time I worked with talented people who really knew what they were doing.”
He discovered another passion: dancing.
“I also took a dance class there and I realized that I love to dance,” he said, adding that he is particularly fond of the game Just Dance. “It was a great time. I talked to some incredible writers, incredible dancers, incredible musicians. Definitely the most memorable experience of my life, not even just as a part of education but as a part of my life where I realized that there's more to me than being intelligent.”
In his free time, he plays Just Dance, beatboxes and solves Rubik’s cubes. His favorite food is Lo Mein.
Schools in Gainesville also named STAR winners. Hall County's schoolwide winners included the following: