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Schools celebrate 2019 STAR students, teachers
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Max Hernandez, left, of North Hall High School and Grayson Wagner, of Gainesville High School, were named Hall County and Gainesville STAR winners at an event Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

As an English teacher who likes stories, Lori Barrett had one to share about one of her brightest students, Max Hernandez.

She recalled Hernandez thanking her once for a writing assignment “because it was so tough and challenging.”

“I can assure you that’s never happened to me before,” Barrett said, drawing huge laughter from the audience at an event Tuesday, Feb. 19, at The Oaks at Lanier College & Career Academy honoring STAR students.

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North Hall High School STAR student Max Hernandez, left chose teacher, Lori Barrett, as his STAR teacher for 2019. All area STAR students were honored by the Gainesville Kiwanis on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 at The Oaks at Lanier College & Career Academy. - photo by Austin Steele

Such stories were in big supply at the event, as the Hall County and Gainesville school systems along with private schools honored their top academic students.

Hernandez of North Hall High School was named Hall’s top STAR student, and Grayson Wagner of Gainesville High School was the city’s top STAR student.

For the competition, students from Hall’s seven high schools and the private Lanier Christian Academy compete for the Hall honor. Students from Gainesville High and the private Lakeview Academy and Riverside Military Academy compete for the Gainesville honor.

Hernandez named Barrett as his STAR teacher, and Wagner named Chandra Karnati as her STAR teacher.

High school seniors eligible for the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition distinction had the highest score on a single SAT test date and a grade-point average in the top 10 percent of their class.

Speaking after the event, Wagner credited Karnati for helping her decide a career field to pursue.

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Gainesville High School STAR student Grayson Wagner, left, chose teacher, Chandra Karnati, as her STAR teacher for 2019. All area STAR students were honored by the Gainesville Kiwanis on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, at The Oaks at Lanier College & Career Academy. - photo by Austin Steele

Wagner is looking to major in biomedical engineering in college, but “I also like to perform, and I do theater,” she said. “(Karnati) is the one who pushed me toward math and science.”

“I want her to pursue both passions, if possible,” Karnati said.  “If not possible, stick with (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”

As for winning the systemwide STAR recognition, Wagner said, “I’m really honored and just excited to move forward.”

“It makes me feel very proud, very happy that my hard work finally paid off,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez and Wagner will face regional competition March 7 at the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus.

Student Teacher Achievement Recognition

Cherokee Bluff High School

Student Savannah Lunt and teacher Amy Hansen

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Savannah Lunt, Cherokee Bluff High School - photo by Austin Steele
Chestatee High School

Student Cuong Huy Tran and teacher Daniel Merck

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Cuong Tran, Chestatee High School - photo by Austin Steele
East Hall High School

Student Justin Berry and teacher Matt Turner

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Justin Berry, East Hall High School - photo by Austin Steele
Flowery Branch High School

Student Keegan Vaughn and teacher Katie Scali

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Keegan Vaughn, Flowery Branch High School - photo by Austin Steele
Gainesville High School

Student Grayson Wagner and teacher Chandra Karnati

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Grayson Wagner, Gainesville High School - photo by Austin Steele
Johnson High School

Student Riley Catledge and teacher Brooke Evans

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Riley Catledge. Johnson High School - photo by Austin Steele
Lakeview Academy

Student Chris Mills and teacher Craig Waddell

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Chris Mills, Lakeview Academy - photo by Austin Steele
Lanier Christian Academy

Student Brice Bennett and teacher Fe Gladden

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Brice Bennett, Lanier Christian Academy - photo by Austin Steele
North Hall High School

Student Max Hernandez and teacher Lori Barrett

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Max Hernandez, North Hall High School - photo by Austin Steele
Riverside Military Academy

Student Colin Wu and teacher Jared Koldoff

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Colin Wu, Riverside Military Academy - photo by Austin Steele
West Hall High School

Student Vanessa Nunez and teacher Cherie Hathcock

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Vanessa Nunez, West Hall High School - photo by Austin Steele
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