2019 Star Senior Videos
The Fulton County School District Communications Department celebrates the graduating class each year by highlighting a Star Senior from each high school. They are stellar students, athletes, and artists – each with a unique story to share. New videos will be posted each week FCSTV and here on the FCS website.
Congratulations to our seniors (and their parents) as they celebrate new beginnings and head into their futures of careers and college.
Alpharetta HS Star Senior 2019 - Jalon Kimes
Alpharetta High School’s Jalon Kimes has a “can do” attitude, so says his computer science teacher Lee Nicholson. Despite having experienced some significant obstacles in his life, he has managed to persevere taking a rigorous course load “with a stellar attitude and resilience,” concurs his guidance counselor Amy Longstreth. With a resume of nine AP courses and an A average, Jalon is headed to Brandeis University in Boston on the Posse Scholarship: a four-year, full tuition leadership award. “Everyone comes from different circumstances,” Jalon said. “Despite all the things that would hinder me, I think I was able to achieve more than what was expected of me. I just had to focus, do better for myself so I could do better for my family.” Jalon worked hard to be a good example for his two younger brothers and helpful to his mom. He has learned to challenge himself and branch out in new activities like Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and fencing. After three years on the Alpharetta fencing team, he placed in the top 80 in the high school fencing league. A fan of robotics, he is passionate about 3D modeling and animation. Jalon has maintained family loyalty and respect. His goal is to achieve financial independence through investing and business entrepreneurship to ensure support for his family. Alpharetta High School Principal Dr. Shannon Kersey said, “Not only is Jalon a Star Senior, he is a star human being.”
Banneker HS Star Senior 2019 - Mary Yeboah
Banneker High School’s Mary Yeboah arrived at the school and became a change agent. “I saw a lot of girls at school who were homeless,” Yeboah said. “I started a club to cater to homeless girls called Girl Up. We provide monthly hygiene products for the girls and play games. We’ll host our final event in May and pass the club on to future leaders.” Banneker principal Duke Bradley said, “Mary shows other students that what she’s accomplished is possible for everyone within our school community; she’s a catalyst.” An intentional scholar, Mary has had the opportunity to develop leadership skills as a 2018 Bank of America Student Leader and as a member of Steve Harvey’s Disney Dreamers Academy. “Some 1,000 students apply and only 100 are chosen,” Yeboah said. “It gave me the opportunity to meet successful people and see what motivates them.” Getting on the pre-med track at either Emory University or Georgia State University is Yeboah’s goal. “I’m talking with professors at both schools to help me decide which school I will attend,” she said. “I need to find out who I am in each school.” Yeboah’s legacy at Banneker is community activism. She has this advice for future scholars: “When you lead with passion and take action, you can achieve!”
Cambridge HS Star Senior 2019 - Jackson Wakefield
Cambridge High School’s Jackson Wakefield stretched himself to make positive changes in the world as well as broaden his own horizons. His counselor Allyson Carvell describes him as being curious about life, open-minded, kind and generous. That curiosity has informed his adventuresome spirit. Starting his day at 4:45 a.m., Jackson keeps busy with a demanding schedule. He says, “If there’s something worth doing, you can always make time for it.” Jackson has also spread his wings to help break faith-based and cultural barriers by attending a local mosque. He has built relationships with the congregation’s leaders to better understand their challenges. Twice he has traveled to Guatemala to work at a school and orphanage where he’s mentored young children. At Cambridge, he has mentored freshmen as they adjust to high school and participated in the Junior Classical League all four years. Jackson is a triathlete, qualifying for the 2016 USAT Triathlon as well as a devoted CrossFit member who runs an occasional half marathon. Unlike most of his peers though, he spends a lot of time off the screen and in a book. His favorite subjects are social studies and psychology which he may use in his future as he’s interested in cognitive science and artificial intelligence. AP chemistry teacher Dr. Ellen Kerr has been inspirational to him in his love of science. With plans to attend UGA, Jackson is considering a possible career in medicine.
Centennial HS Star Senior 2019 - Alexis Seith
Centennial High School’s Alexis Seith is proof that some researchers are born, not made. Having a scientific fascination that drives her interest to dig deep, Alexis conducted research with Centennial’s AP biology teacher Bob Kuhn on viruses in wasp reproduction. As a dual enrollment student who split her time between three campuses including Georgia State University and Georgia Tech, she learned to balance her interests with her studies early on. “I’m motivated by pressure,” she says. Having transferred from another district in ninth grade, Alexis had already taken some AP classes which jumpstarted her Fulton County high school career. But she also wanted to fit in and make new friends, so she founded a club called the Students Serving Veterans. Fortunately, it also doubled as a Girl Scouts Gold project she needed to complete. Through recruiting members to help donate items to the Veterans Empowerment Organization, she not only secured a new club charter and sponsorship but also built relationships and gave back to her local community in a meaningful way. “I really want to make this world a better place,” she said. At home, she had to assume more responsibility than the average high schooler which helped her gain a greater sense of responsibility and service. Ultimately her passion for neuroscience drove her plan to take psychology at Georgia Tech. “I predict a bright future for Alexis,” says Mr. Kuhn. “She exhibits a rare combination of empathy, self-awareness, intelligence and expression. She is always questioning and finding, something I noticed in her immediately.”
Chattahoochee HS Star Senior 2019 - Vibha Murthy
Chattahoochee High School’s Vibha Murthy, while unassuming and modest, is the school’s first student to complete her Associate’s degree as she graduates from high school. Vibha is dual enrolled at Georgia State University-Perimeter College and has earned straight A’s every semester. In addition to her college-level math and chemistry classes, she tutors fellow students. Managing a dual path takes tremendous motivation and organization, and Chattahoochee macro-economics teacher Tim Reeder says she’s very self-directed and has been her own mentor. “I took advantage of the opportunities I’d been given,” Vibha said. “Find your passion and do it your own way.” Counselor Deborah Blount describes Vibha as “wise beyond her years” having the foresight to plot out this complicated path. Vibha’s passion for research will play into her pursuit of a career in medicine or healthcare. Through the AP Capstone program available at Chattahoochee, Vibha conducted a psychological research study that examined the relationship between personality type and short-term memory which she hopes to expand in college. Vibha says she is most inspired by fellow tutors who love the challenge of helping others. She has brought some of the benefits of her meaningful two-year Associate’s program back to Chattahoochee like founding a research club of which she is the president, to help teach other students the same skills. “Vibha’s college journey will be shorter than most,” says Ms. Blount. “In just a few years, I could easily see her entering medical school and soon achieving a degree in medicine.”
Creekside HS Star Senior 2019 - Ashauna Pearson
Independence HS Star Senior 2019 - Rachel Knowles
Independence High School’s Rachel Knowles is one hard worker who has struggled to overcome personal challenges and has come out on the other side. Having transitioned from a traditional Fulton County high school to Independence, a choice alternative learning environment that meets students’ unique needs at critical points in their lives, Rachel found her place. The combination of the mini-semester schedule, blended learning (teacher-taught and online courses), flexible scheduling and supportive counseling, Independence met her where she was to help her achieve success. In time, she rediscovered her leadership skills which she’d shelved to focus on her well-being. Her counselor Jackie Jones bragged about her hard work and what her success brought her. “Rachel has become a role model not only as a student but as a person. She’s not afraid of a challenge but rises to the occasion, and that helps motivate others.” Environmental science teacher Debbie Dean concurs saying, “Rachel is a force to reckon with; she seeks positive outcomes.” Rachel’s struggles fostered compassion that enabled her to become an advocate for other students. Her message is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. She strives to be a helpful friend to others. By the end of high school, she was president of the service club Interact, a Rotary-sponsored club. One of Rachel’s strongest words is “grateful” for her experience and how Independence’s support system and her parents contributed to making her the whole person she has become. She hopes to attend either Kennesaw State University or Georgia State University and of course, continue service work.
Johns Creek HS Star Senior - Thea Fernandez
Johns Creek High School’s Thea Fernandez was raised to take what one is given and serve others. Originally from New York, she came to Johns Creek and had to get out of her comfort zone to make friends. One providential event that made a difference was being chosen as one of three freshmen for the Integrity, Service and Excellence (ISE) Committee, a team of 12 that values community service and strong character qualities. Thea began to develop academic interests and take on more leadership roles. She identified biology and anatomy as favorite subjects leading her to volunteer with the Aurora Day Camp, a seven-week summer camp for children with cancer and their siblings, sponsored by the Sunrise Organization. From her involvement with the cancer charity Relay for Life, she learned about the camp and soon realized her love of children paired with science made the camp a perfect fit. Despite being exposed to very sick children, she found it rewarding to help make their lives a bit more normal. She will study at Kennesaw State University to fulfill her dream of being a pediatric nurse. Thea says, “I try to inspire other people through leading by example. Younger kids look up to me, so I try to be the best version of myself.” Assistant Principal Caren Hudson commended her saying, “She seeks to find the best in everyone. Thea is more interested in lifting up others than promoting her own service work. She will be a strong force as she approaches the world, changing it for the better.”
Langston Hughes HS Star Senior - Kyle Jorel Frett
Langston Hughes High School’s Kyle Jorel Frett, a native of St. Kitts, an island in the British Virgin Islands, came to Atlanta, Ga. after Hurricane Maria hit the tiny island in 2017. “I had to work harder on my studies when I came to the United States,” Frett said. “In St. Kitts a grade of 70 was a B. In the United States, 70 is a C. At home, we may study one book for a whole year while here we had several books to cover in one semester.” Langston teacher Shakasha Stevenson said, “He brings out the best in his classmates. He is a compassionate nerd.” Langston Principal Latesha Reeves agrees. “Kyle loves to study, loves to learn and inspires people around him to be learners,” Reeves said. “A dedicated leader, Frett is Student Government Association (SGA) senior class parliamentarian and principle trombone for the Langston Hughes Panthers band. After earning scholarships to 15 colleges and universities, he has decided to attend Fort Valley State University in the fall. “I want to become a veterinarian,” Frett said. “With animals you have to use your eyes and all of the knowledge you have to assist them. It makes you a stronger, critical thinker.” Frett has this advice for incoming students at Langston: “Do your work, find out what learning style works for you, and always put God first.”
Milton HS Star Senior - Rylyn Monahan
Milton High School’s Rylyn Monahan has made a big impact on the Milton community since ninth grade. She was ambitious early on, from assuming leadership positions in the French and English National Honors Society to serving as coeditor-in-chief for the literary magazine to making the varsity volleyball team as a sophomore. Additionally, she traveled on a school-sponsored trip to Italy and to France as an exchange student. International travel contributed to her love for the French language and culture and, due to her extensive vocabulary and spot-on accent, she’s been mistaken for a French native. Last summer, she attended the Governors Honors program for French. Karen Jones, Language Arts department chair, said “Rylyn walked in freshman year rocking ninth grade honors. She could have jumped in to 11th grade honors. Rylyn successfully juggles so many activities and interests with school studies saying, “My parents taught me that academics always come first. Clubs and activities are an outlet for me to express myself, so I’ve always been able to manage academics knowing I could have extra fun that the clubs provide.” Her proudest moment was developing International Night, an eye-opening experience where she learned “where everybody came from,” by listening to their stories. Rylin will attend Carlton College, a small liberal arts institution in Minnesota. Though she’s not sure of her major, she knows French will always be a part of her life.
North Springs HS Star Senior 2019 - Charley Plumly
North Springs Charter High School’s Charles “Charley” Plumly is a busy guy who still has time to smile often. He is an Eagle Scout who plays lacrosse, water polo and swimming for North Springs. After several years of increasing yearbook responsibilities including designing a popular cover, he assumed editorship. Charley’s former Language Arts teacher and yearbook sponsor Kristie Zachary has worked closely with him for years and says she hopes her own children will grow up to be like him. Charley’s side gig is as a graphic design and marketing intern at an IT support services company. Charley credits his parents as being his inspiration and owes his achievements to them. He also appreciates his coaches and teachers who shepherded him through high school. “He has a good strong work ethic,” remarked counselor Ava Butler, “and has the respect of the administration and his peers.” Charley’s favorite subject, U.S. history, dovetails nicely with his post-high school goals and possible career plans for military service. Recently accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, MD, he follows the legacy of his grandfather, Charles Plumley, I, a 1955 USNA graduate. Career ideas include piloting a plane or serving as a surface warfare officer…but no submarines, please.
Northview HS Star Senior 2019 - Erin Jackson
Northview High School’s Erin Jackson came to the party late but made a difference in just two years. Arriving in her junior year, Erin observed Northview was nothing like her previous school but said, “I learned to roll with it and do the best that I can, and I think I’ve been successful.” Counselor and cheerleading coach Erica Waters added, “What sticks out for me is how Erin transitioned to Northview; it was amazing to see how she was able to conquer barriers placed before her.” Erin has been recognized for her strong leadership skills, athleticism, and portrayal of the school’s four pillars of compassion, integrity, positive attitude and personal responsibility. A lively cheerleader, Erin also engaged with special needs students in the Community-Based Instruction (CBI) program as a teacher’s assistant. While not highly visible like cheerleading, Erin’s CBI volunteer work along with mentoring underclassmen and new students (a demographic she understands well), has brought satisfaction and made a lasting impact on the student culture. “I go to a CBI class, and everything just washes away. The kids are so happy; it really is awesome.” That volunteer experience made such a strong impression on her that she hopes to be a special education teacher. “A star senior is someone who not only embraces academics, arts and athletics,” said Principal Brian Downey, “but one who goes beyond, who gives back to our school community. What most impresses me about Erin is how much time she spends with our special needs students.” Erin concludes, “Northview has definitely made me tougher and maybe stronger.”
Riverwood International CS Star Senior - Violetta Filatova
Riverwood International Charter School’s Violetta Filatova comes from farthest away of all the Star Seniors. A native of the Ukraine, she arrived in the U.S. in ninth grade knowing little English. After a year in Florida, Violetta and her family moved to Atlanta. As if full immersion in an English-speaking school wasn’t hard enough, acclimating to American culture and larger schools than what was familiar in Russia, made the whole experience overwhelming. However, she worked very hard and eventually became fluent. Head counselor Shamona Harrell noted, “Violetta has an unbelievable amount of determination.” Making school and learning a priority, she discovered her strongest aptitudes and interests. Her proudest moment was when she received her first A in math. Naming her mother as her greatest inspiration, Violetta affirmed she was always supportive throughout the difficult transitions. Outside the classroom, Violetta participated in FBLA, kickboxing, karate and running. “When I’m mentally on, I’m physically off and vice versa,” she said of her philosophy for maintaining balance. Her counselor Ashley Holmes knows how serious Violetta takes her education yet says she is well-respected and well-liked by her peers. Riverwood is an international baccalaureate school and values embracing different world views. Students like Violetta bring new perspectives that enrich school culture. Her IB economics teacher Jill Johnson, a former corporate executive turned educator, shares that Violetta’s love of learning and respect for the process will serve her well in her future career. This fall, Violetta plans to pursue a psychology degree at Kennesaw State University.
Roswell HS Star Senior 2019 - Djefley "Jeffery" Lubin
Roswell High School’s Djefley “Jeffery” Lubin came to the U.S. from Haiti with his father and sister when he was just three years old. Academically, he had a rough freshman year but made a complete transformation in short order. Learning early in football season that lower grades render a player ineligible for team participation, Jeffery a cornerback, resolved to make the necessary changes. Not only did he succeed but he got a “Pick 6” in his first game back which sealed the deal. Today, he is known for his dependability, humility and perseverance. His counselor Lauren Butler sings his praises. “Jeffery is a student athlete who truly embodies a student who strives for excellence.” He loves U.S. history and is fascinated to learn what happened in the past and how it can affect the future. He also enjoys wrestling, rugby and theatre. Math teacher Addison Neiman acknowledged how Jeffery showed character by taking ownership of his learning. “Jeff is going to make a huge impact. Everybody loves being with him; he makes the room a better place. And he doesn’t make excuses.” The strong support at Roswell has helped shape him-“there is no excuse to fail,” he says. His father has been his greatest inspiration, having made many personal sacrifices for him and his sister to have new opportunities in America. Jeffery signed to play football at Anna Maria College in Massachusetts and hopes to study criminal psychology.
Tri-Cities HS Star Senior 2019 - Aaron Guy
Tri-Cities High School’s Aaron Guy is a dual enrollment student, taking classes at Atlanta Metropolitan College and Tri-Cities. His favorite instructor, Tri-Cities Theater Director Jade Lambert-Smith, describes him as humble, honorable and humorous. “He’s a wonderful artist who is really invested in service,” Lambert-Smith said. “In his first six months as a student at Tri-Cities, he won the Auguste Wilson Monologue contest.” Though he describes himself as not a good singer, he aspired to do the role of Uncle Henry in the amazing Tri-Cities Visual & Performing Arts Magnet production of “The Wiz.” “His role required him to be on stage all of five minutes,” Lambert-Smith said. “He commanded the stage for that period of time.” While acting has become his second love, his first is math. “I try to make certain beats in my acting match up to math,” Guy said. “I love math!” When he leaves Tri-Cities, Guy will be attending Georgia Southern University, where he’ll major in biology. “I’ll also be pursuing acting, any way possible,” he said. Tri-Cities Principal Termerion McCrary-Lakes believes if anyone can succeed in medicine and acting it’s Guy. She has this advice for him: “Don’t let anyone place you in a box. You have everything you need to achieve your vision for your life.” Jade Lambert-Smith agrees. “Aaron Guy is the future,” she said. “He’s unstoppable.”
Westlake HS Star Senior 2019 - Nina Giddens
Westlake High School’s Nina Giddens is an International Baccalaureate (IB) student. Always striving for excellence, she focuses on her IB program during the school day and community service after she leaves the campus. “My hope is that I inspire students to care about their community,” Giddens said. “My ultimate goal is to empower others to focus on community service, specifically health care.” Nina’s academics and community service caught the attention of Steve Harvey’s Dreamers Academy. “It was an honor to be selected,” Giddens said. “These are Georgia’s future leaders.” As a future leader, Giddens is BETA Club President, historian for the National Honor Society and a member of the Student Government Association (SGA). “Organization is the biggest way I balance school and community service,” Giddens said. “Prioritizing my academics helps me get everything done.” It’s that kind of example that makes Westlake Principal Jamar Robinson one of her biggest fans. “Nina sets a high bar for other students,” Robinson said. “Other students say they look at her and say if Nina can do it, I can do it.” After graduation, Nina plans to study global health care and health policy, with an ultimate goal of advocacy. “I’d like to work with the United Nations or the World Health Organization,” Giddens said. “I’d like to advocate for successful, affordable health care internationally.”