Six Thomas County Central High School seniors’ dedication to academics and community have them shining brightly amongst their peers with the announcement of the 2023 Georgia Scholars.
The Georgia Department of Education partners with local school districts/schools to coordinate the Georgia Scholar program. It identifies and commends graduating high school seniors who shine in school and within their community. According to the official press release, only 154 graduating seniors in Georgia earned this distinction. TCCHS students who received the honor are Caleb Kinneer, Bishop Jackson, Jackson McCorkle, Gavin Melnick, Riley Scoggins and Jay Campbell Smith.
Assistant Principal Dr. Erin Rehberg expressed pride in TCCHS and these students’ accomplishments.
“You have to meet some difficult standards to make this list, including high scores on standardized testing, a nearly perfect GPA, dynamic leadership and community involvement,” she said. “These six students have worked extremely hard throughout their high school careers and deserve recognition for their commitment to excellence.”
Riley Scoggins, 18, said she’s honored to receive the Georgia Scholar title.
“Earning the distinction of Georgia Scholar feels incredible,” she said. “It is such a prestigious designation that not everyone has the chance to get.”
Furthermore, Scoggins, who learned of the program this year, is the only female student at TCCHS to receive a 2023 designation.
“When I was told that I met the qualifications to apply for it, It became something that I sought, as I was the only female in my class to meet the requirements,” Scoggins said of the Georgia Scholars application. “Being the only girl at my school to receive this award is very important to me, and I would definitely encourage others to pursue the same in the future.”
Jay Campbell Smith, 18, said earning this distinction is gratifying because it acknowledges his efforts and involvement during high school. He learned of the Georgia Scholar program last school year when some of his senior friends earned the distinction.
“I aimed to follow in their footsteps,” he said. “Mrs. Erin White and Dr. Erin Rehberg helped this year's recipients by notifying us of our eligibility and guiding us through the application process.”
Smith said friends who attend surrounding schools are just as qualified and dedicated as him to be a Georgia Scholar; however, there were no honorees from these schools this year. Nevertheless, Smith believes the support given to students by teachers and administrators is a substantial reason why TCCHS students succeed in endeavors like Georgia Scholar.
“I mentioned how Mrs. White and Dr. Rehberg were involved in the application process, letting us know that this opportunity was available to us,” he said. “There are others in our school system who are generous in offering similar support, so it's appropriate that we applaud them, as well.”
Scholars must not only excel academically through exemplary course loads but also successfully participate in multiple unique competitive interscholastic activities, serve in appointed/elected leadership positions in two or more school-sponsored organizations, and demonstrate leadership in at least two separate groups outside of school where they also help in an elected/appointed leadership position in at least one of them.
Scoggins serves as senior class secretary and maintains involvement in TCCHS Art Club.
“Both of these clubs give me the opportunity to volunteer within and outside of my school to help better my community,” she said. “For my application, I explained how I am able to maintain a balance between work, community service, school and other various activities. I feel that this display of balance, as well as my success in school, allowed me to stand out.”
Smith believes his shadowing Bill Elkins at Rose City Pharmacy – and Elkins’ recommendation letter – helped his application stand out.
“Although the application placed an emphasis on our academic performances, it also allowed us to highlight our experiences in the community,” he said. “There (Rose City Pharmacy), I have been able to explore a professional passion for pharmacy with help from our Work-Based Learning program at the high school.
“I have enjoyed the lessons and connections I have found at the pharmacy, and I hope to continue pursuing this area of interest in college. I felt this recommendation and part of the application helped to personalize some of my motivations.”
While Smith also mentioned his involvement in athletics like soccer, academic competitions such as the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair, school organizations including Future Business Leaders of America, and church and service activities, one of his favorite volunteer experiences included in his application was serving as a poll worker with the Thomas County Board of Elections.
“Through Key Club, I was trained to assist at a local precinct, which then allowed me to observe several recent elections,” he said. “This preview of the democratic process is special to me, especially when I could proudly report on my application that I am a registered voter.”
Each Georgia Scholar will receive a special seal for their diploma.
Both Smith and Scoggins will attend the University of Georgia in the fall. Smith plans to major in pharmaceutical sciences on a pre-pharmacy track; Scoggins intends to major in political science but is undecided on a career path.
Other TCCHS Georgia Scholars are also UGA-bound: Gavin Melnick intends to study mechanical engineering, while Jackson McCorkle will pursue electrical engineering.
Additionally, Caleb Kinner will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology and plans to major in civil engineering. Finally, Bishop Jackson will study aerospace engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.