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Three Hall County students named Georgia Scholars
2 from Johnson High, 1 from Flowery Branch collect honor
Madison Stewart and Jackson Kelly pose for a photo Friday at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville during the Johnson High School prom. The two who went to prom together are both Georgia Scholars. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Last Tuesday, Johnson High School seniors Jackson Kelly and Madison Stewart were among three Hall County students and 183 across the state to be named Georgia Scholars, an award recognizing high academic, community and leadership achievement.

On Friday night, Kelly and Stewart were each other’s prom date for the Johnson High School prom.    

“We might be the smartest prom couple there,” Kelly said Friday afternoon before the event at the Chattahoochee Country Club.

Both Kelly and Stewart said they have become good friends thanks to common interests and achievements, taking many of the same classes, playing on the school golf team and attending the Governor’s Honors Program in Valdosta last summer in addition to other activities. They decided to go to the prom together as friends.

“I guess the fact that we are kind of at the top of our class puts us together a lot, so we just developed a great friendship from that,” Stewart said.

The two Johnson seniors  were joined by Flowery Branch senior Ali Winiesdorffer as the three Hall County students selected 2017 Georgia Scholars.

Laurie Ecke, assistant to the director of innovative and advanced programs for Hall County Schools, said the requirements to be a Georgia Scholar include a non-weighted 3.75 grade-point average, a 1360 combined score on the SAT or 31 on one test administration on the ACT, be registered to vote if the student is of voting age, evidence of self-esteem and concern for others, participation in three different competitive interscholastic activities, leadership positions in two school organizations and two organizations outside of school.

“It’s wonderful to have three out of 183, but what’s more remarkable is the comprehensive nature of the award and what it means they have achieved in so many areas,” Ecke said. “A lot of times we will have students who have done a lot of these things, but when you have a student who has done all of these things, it’s pretty extraordinary.”

Johnson Principal Stan Lewis said this is the first time Johnson has had two in the same senior class.

“They’re outstanding kids, the kind of kids that, when I’m in their presence, I’m humbled and I realize I’m not that smart,” Lewis said. “In a day and age when you turn on the television and you watch the news and you wonder what’s happening in the world, kids like this give you hope and inspire you to make you feel like the future can be a better place for us.”

Kelly, who was also recognized this year as Hall County’s Student Teacher Achievement Recognition, or STAR, student, plans to attend the University of Georgia this fall and hopes to become a doctor.

“It’s obviously a big honor,” he said. “They don’t select a lot of people for it, so it’s a validation of the hard work I’ve put in while I’ve been in high school.”

Stewart  plans to major in business administration with a minor in nonprofits at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. She said she wants to pursue ministry with her degree.

“I think it’s kind of versatile enough that I can do several things, but the goal is to be some of sort of executive pastor, kind of running the everyday business of a church rather than doing the actual speaking and that kind of thing,” she said. Stewart has served as an intern at Cornerstone Assembly of God, where her dad, Steve, is the pastor.

Winiesdorffer is also planning to attend Pepperdine this fall and major in broadcast journalism.

“My dream is to be a broadcaster either on the news or on something like Good Morning America,” she said. “I like knowing that things that I worked on and put my effort and my energy to are educating people and affecting people. I think that work is a field where you can inspire people and affect people.”

Winiesdorffer said she was “so surprised, so honored” to be named a Georgia Scholar.

“It means so much for me,” she said.”I was so excited that my hard work and everything that I had put into my academic and extracurriculars were paying off. School has always been my No. 1 priority.”

Denise Ramsey, a Flowery High teacher who taught Winiesdorffer in honors American literature, called her, “a very driven young lady.”

“She’s extremely creative and she’s one of those people who has an infectious personality,” Ramsey said.

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