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STAR student Max Hernandez credits his teacher for treating him as an individual
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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

For Max Hernandez, Hall County’s 2019 STAR student, his passion of engineering sparked in his dad’s basement workshop.

“I’d go downstairs and help, or watch what he was doing,” Hernandez said. “I was pretty active in the STEM field. Through time I grew a certain love for engineering and making things.”

Hernandez was named the county winner of the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition  program Feb. 19, competing with students from Hall’s other public schools as well as the private Lanier Christian Academy.

When he graduates from North Hall High School this year, he plans to pursue studies in mechanical engineering.

Hernandez intends to major in mechanical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Stanford University. He is also considering minoring in political science or philosophy.

Hernandez said he selected Lori Barrett as his 2019 STAR teacher because she guided him through troubling times and assisted with his writing in preparation for the STAR student competition.

“She helped me a lot growing as a person and as a student as well,” he said. “She treats every one of her students as a human and not a student. She treats them as people who are individuals, who think and have emotions. She recognizes that, and she’s able to share her wisdom with her students.”

Balancing academics and social life is no easy feat for Hernandez.

To become eligible for the STAR distinction, he had to produce the highest score on a single SAT test date and a grade-point average in the top 10 percent of his class.

In addition to his involvement in North Hall High School’s International Baccalaureate program, Hernandez is the president of his school’s Chess Club and tutors middle and high school students. During his free time he plays the piano, hikes and reads mostly dystopian books with a science fiction twist.

Hernandez said the secret to having enough time for his hobbies entails taking breaks throughout his work period.

“I try to do as much as I can in school and out of school to have a healthy mix of social interaction and homework,” he said.

Hernandez gives credit to his best friend Jonathan Lowrey for helping him become successful in high school.

“My friend Jonathan Lowrey was pretty much my only friend from middle school that came with me to North Hall,” he said. “We have worked together on projects, and he’s still a great friend to talk to and have fun. He’s been very supportive of me through my high school career, and I can’t thank him enough.”

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