But he said those perfect grades and focus would never be possible if it weren’t for the mentors and teachers he’s met along the way.
“There has to be a great support system,” Nguyen said. “I think any credit I get, it equally goes to (my teachers) who made this all possible.”
For his top academics and potential for future success, Nguyen, a senior at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, was named the 2013 Richmond County STAR Student on Monday. His band teacher, Everett Cannady, was also awarded the STAR Teacher honor for his role in Nguyen’s success.
The STAR Teachers and students from 13 high schools were honored at a Kiwanis Club banquet lunch before the county winner was announced. The annual event recognizes high school students with the highest SAT scores and class rank, along with the teachers who were most instrumental in their academic achievement.
Nguyen, who won the honor with a 2310 SAT score, said Cannady has taught him lessons with music that he uses in academics and every day life. He now follows in the footsteps of his brother, Maximilian, who won the award in 2011.
“He is dedicated, focused, one of the most respectful students I’ve ever had,” Cannady said of Nguyen, who plans to attend Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall to study physics.
As the county winner, Nguyen will move on to the district STAR competition, which is followed by the statewide event in the spring. STAR is sponsored statewide by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Department of Education.
Guest speaker Michael L. Thurmond, attorney and former Georgia Commissioner of Labor, said greatness now awaits each and every student in the room and while young people make up 20 percent of Georgia, they count for 100 percent of the state’s future.
On Saturday, Thurmond was appointed superintendent of the troubled Dekalb County School District, which is on probation with its accrediting agency for allegations of financial mismanagement and nepotism. The school board is also at risk of being suspended by the state.
Thurmond said the challenges ahead only underline the importance of academics and the need for responsible, passionate leaders to ensure all students have access to a quality education.
The son of an illiterate sharecropper, Thurmond said education helped him become something greater than the three generations of sharecroppers before him by achieving multiple degrees and powerful positions within the state.
He said young people now must embrace diversity and continue learning to achieve greatness.
“You’re going to have to cross not only the geographic railroad track but the psychological and emotional one,” he said.
T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School STAR Student Jeffery Robinson II said he plans on doing just that when he attends Georgia Southern University to study biology.
He said the STAR Student honor has been a great accomplishment, but one of many he hopes to achieve.
“I am just super happy, I can’t even put it into words,” Robinson said.