photo/ Kyle Frantz Photography
STAR Student Brett Menard and STAR Teacher Christine Westbrook.
Submitted by Jasper Optimist Club
Pickens High School senior Brett Menard has been named the school’s 2021 PAGE STAR Student. The Optimist Club of Jasper, the local STAR program sponsor, announced the honor. Menard selected Christine Westbrook as his STAR Teacher. Mrs. Westbrook has taught for 27 years and currently teaches Honors and AP Biology at PHS. She is married to Ricky Westbrook.
Brett is the son of Mark and Michelle Menard of Jasper and he has one brother, Nick Menard. He earned the recognition as the STAR Student for academic achievement and performance on the SAT.
The PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program is sponsored, administered, and promoted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE). Since its inception in 1958 the STAR program has honored nearly 30,500 students and the teachers selected as the most influential to their academic achievement. High school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average to qualify for STAR nomination.
STAR begins each year in participating Georgia high schools when the STAR Student is named and chooses a STAR Teacher to share in this recognition.
The students and their teachers are honored by their schools and receive special recognition in their communities from one of the more than 165 statewide civic organizations and businesses that serve as local sponsors of the STAR program. Students then compete for school system recognition as the top STAR Student, and those winners compete for region honors. Region winners contend for the honor of being named State PAGE STAR Student. STAR Teachers continue with their STAR Students at every level of the program.
Mrs. Westbrook said, “I’m not sure I can fully put into words what an exceptional young man Brett is. How do you describe someone who excels in so many different areas? Without question, Brett is one of the most intelligent students I’ve ever taught. I don’t know many students who truly get excited about learning the way Brett does. He has an insatiable desire just to know how the world works. Every day I had him in class and every time I have seen him since, he has a smile and a friendly word to share. There is so much more I could say about Brett, he is truly a special young man with many gifts and talents and one student that will always have a special place in my memories.”
When Brett was asked why he selected Mrs. Westbrook as his STAR Teacher, Brett said, “During my sophomore year I was in a rough place mentally and AP Biology was my favorite class. Despite being a difficult academic class, it was the one that I had the best time in and a large part of that was because of Mrs. Westbrook. Before entering that class, I strongly disliked biology, but I was able to become genuinely interested in the content during the class because of Mrs. Westbrook’s teaching style. She has been extremely supportive of me during my high school years and I want to recognize her for that.”
Brett has been involved in several activities at PHS including Technology Student Association (TSA) where he was treasurer in 2019 – 2020 school year and president this year. He is a member of Beta Club, Academic Team, Theatre and Mu Alpha Theta. He is a Boy Scout and has obtained the rank of Eagle Scout. Brett participated in Youth Leadership Pickens and is a member of the Jasper United Methodist Church Youth Choir.
Upon graduation, Brett plans to attend Georgia Institute of Technology where he will major in engineering and minor in German. His long-term plans are to obtain a master’s degree in robotics at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. He wants to enter Rescue Robotics, a field dedicated to building machines to assist in disaster relief scenarios like earthquakes, floods and wildfires.
The Optimist Club and PHS recently recognized Menard and Westbrook at the STAR Recognition Night at PHS. Prior to the recognition of the STAR students and teachers, PHS hosted the STARS and their families and guests to a meal at the school.
Senator Chuck Payne spoke to the STAR students and teachers after Mrs. Westbrook and Mr. Menard spoke to the group. Tucker Green, Optimist Club member, coordinated Senator Payne as the events guest speaker and introduced Senator Payne to the audience.
In addition to the STAR Student and Teacher, the Optimist Club also recognized an additional nine STAR Student and Teacher finalists. Each student and teacher were presented framed certificates from the Optimist Club and the STARS were also presented with scholarship checks.
The Optimist Club and the Pickens County Progress will have responses to questionnaires from all the STAR Students and Teachers in a future edition.
The Optimists would like to extend thanks to the following for making the night a special time for the 2021 STAR Students and Teachers. PHS Principal Chris Wallace and the counseling department for arranging the event. To Patsy Schmidt for the calligraphy of the certificates. Mrs. Schmidt has been providing this service since the inception of the program and the Optimist Club is appreciative of her support over the years. The Optimists would also like to thank Kyle Frantz Photography for taking photos for the program and to Gene Berry, Optimist Club member for taking photos the night of the banquet. The club would also like to thank Royston LLC for printing the programs.