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Wilhelm named TCCHS 2019 STAR Student

TCCHS senior and STAR Student Ben Wilhelm with STAR Teacher Laura Kornegay.

To anyone searching for proof that athletics and academics truly can go together, look no further than Benjamin “Ben” Wilhelm.

Wilhelm is the 2019 Thomas County Central High School STAR Student.

The senior is known for his commitment to academics, athletics and school community. Wilhelm is an honor student who has participated in several sports, including football, swim, baseball, cross country and basketball. The youth is active in his school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes and National Honor Society chapters. He also takes part in the Work-Based Learning Program and works at Hand-In-Hand Primary School a few hours each day.

“Being named STAR student is an honor,” Wilhelm said. “The fact that I am a student-athlete and earned STAR Student means more. It shows that just because you play a sport does not mean you cannot be one of the smartest in your class.”

The STAR designation is given to the student in each graduating class with the highest SAT score. Wilhelm says he set out to attain this title.

“Right after I took my first SAT and scored above the average, my goal was to have the highest score in the school,” he said. “At TCCHS, everyone pushes you to do your best, and the teachers making me a better student helped me achieve STAR Student.”

Laura Kornegay is his chosen STAR Teacher.

“Mrs. Kornegay does every possible thing she can do to make a student better,” Wilhelm said. “She treats them like her own and pushes them to be the best, not accepting any excuses. Mrs. Kornegay has always pushed me to be my best and helped me achieve whatever I wanted.”

This is Kornegay’s fourth time being named STAR Teacher by one of her pupils.

“It is a great feeling to be recognized by Ben as having a positive impact on his education,” she said.

Wilhelm first became an academic student of Kornegay’s his sophomore year when he took honors chemistry and robotics. He took AP Chemistry and a second year of robotics his junior year. As a senior, Wilhelm is taking AP Environmental Science and AP Physics.

“When I graduate, I will have taken every class she has to offer,” he said. “AP Physics is my favorite. I love the way the class is never boring and we are always doing hands-on labs.”

Wilhelm appreciates how science offers definitive answers.

“Science is different from English class,” he said. “Science is either black or white; there is no in between where you have to explain your answer based on how you feel about some writing.”

Though Wilhelm is a years-long student of Kornegay’s, high school is not the first time the duo met in a scientific or academic setting.

“I first got to know Ben when he was in middle school and a student on the LEGO League team I coached,” Kornegay said. “Since then, Ben has taken six of my classes and he was on the robotics and Science Olympiad teams I coached, so I have had the opportunity to work with Ben in a variety of settings.”

Wilhelm is actively engaged in whatever he does and consistently meets high standards of excellence, she adds.

“Whether in the classroom or on the field, Ben does not shy away from a challenge,” Kornegay said. “Anyone who knows Ben knows he is very competitive; it shows on the field and in the classroom. At robotics competitions, teams are judged on showing ‘gracious professionalism’ to other teams. Last year, Ben’s team brought home the top award from region competition and a special award from state for the way they worked together and interacted with other teams. Ben does not let his competitive drive overwhelm his sense of sportsmanship.”

Wilhelm intends to continue his appreciation for science in college and hopes to land a job in mechanical engineering as his chosen career.

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