Starkville High School Announces STAR Students and Teachers

Jenna Holder and John Robert Walker

Starkville High School names Jenna Holder and John Robert Walker as 2024 STAR Students for their scores on the ACT.

Starkville High School has named two seniors as 2024 STAR Students for their scores on the ACT. Jenna Holder and John Robert Walker received the honors for scoring a 35 on the college readiness test. Both award-winners chose a STAR Teacher recipient who has most impacted their high school careers. Holder chose SHS History teacher, Craig Wood, and Walker selected Jason Scott, SHS Statistics teacher for the honor.

The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program recognizes high school seniors in Mississippi who earn the highest ACT score in their school. The STAR student then selects his STAR teacher.

Jenna Holder and Craig WoodJenna Holder is a student in the SHS Health & Human Services Academic House and plans to attend Mississippi State University after graduation and major in General Biology. She hopes to pursue a career in wildlife biology, specializing in the conservation of non-game and endangered species. Jenna is also a National Merit Finalist, an Eagle Scout, and co-captain of the Yellow Jacket Archery Team.

"SHS has very caring teachers," Jenna said, when describing her high school experience. "Students benefit from numerous Advanced Placement classes, and an extensive variety of extracurricular activities. Taking AP courses, MSU’s Early Honors Academy, and other classes that challenge me has helped me learn to course-correct and improve how I approach learning, which will help me in college and life."

Jenna says she chose Craig Wood as her STAR Teacher recipient both because of how knowledgeable he is about history, and because of how encouraging he is to students. Wood has taught Jenna in both 6th and 10th grade and also serves as the coach of the award-winning SHS National History Day group, in which Jenna is a competitor.

"Throughout the years I have learned that Jenna is a hard-working student with many different talents," Wood said. "Her talents are in and outside of the classroom. She challenges herself in the classroom by taking AP classes and outside the classroom by participating in archery, National History Day, and other extracurriculars. She is not afraid to put herself out there and take on the challenges of new things."

Most teachers consider it a great honor to be selected as STAR Teacher by one of Starkville High's top students, and Wood is no different. The honor represents an impact they've made beyond just grades or academic scores.

"Being recognized by a student is the greatest honor a teacher can receive," Wood shared. "It means a lot to know the positive impact that I have had on her academic career."

Jason Scott echoed the same sentiment when speaking about being selected as a STAR Teacher by John Robert Walker.

"John Robert is one of the most hard-working individuals that I have ever had the privilege of teaching," Scott said. "He is motivated by his passion for excellence and genuine desire to help those around him." 

"STAR teacher is such an honor to have received," he continued. "This is not a reward given out by the administration or voted on by my peers, but a selection made by the very ones that I have dedicated my career to help teach. I can't put into words how much that means to me and how much I appreciate John Robert for having a lasting impact on me as well."

John Robert Walker and Jason ScottJohn Robert Walker is a senior in the SHS Technology, Engineering and Construction Academic House. In addition to being named a Starkville High School STAR Student, he was also selected as an ALL-STAR Scholar by the Mississippi Economic Council and will receive an additional $1000 scholarship through the STAR Student program. Although he has not determined which college he will attend, he plans to major in Public Policy and Data Science, and credits some of his extracurricular activities as well as the motivation of Mr. Scott for helping him spark an interest in how Data Science can impact people.

"I’m interested in utilizing data science as a tool to shape impactful health and education policy in Mississippi," John Robert said. "Mr. Scott's teaching and guidance initially sparked my interest in the real-world application of statistics when I took his AP Statistics course, and it has continued to drive my passion for Data Science. I am so thankful for his continuous mentorship."

During his time at Starkville High School, John Robert shared that some of his most rewarding experiences have been in giving his peers a voice through involvement in extracurricular and state-wide organizations. He has been actively involved in Teen Health Mississippi and was selected as a member of the Mississippi Board of Education Student Advisory Council.

"Through Advanced Placement courses and MSU’s Early Honors Academy, SHS has provided me with a firm academic foundation that has prepared me to test well and be competitive in college admissions," John Robert said. "More importantly, SHS has fostered an environment for me to try new things, encouraging me to learn and grow outside of my comfort zone. Without support from teachers and administrators at SHS to pursue transformative extracurricular experiences, I would not have discovered my passion for improving our state through public policy."

When talking about the advice they would give to other students at SHS, both Jenna and John Robert emphasized finding your individual path. In a school of nearly 1400 students, they encourage peers to pursue a variety of interests without fear.

"Try your best, and don't compare yourself to others," Jenna shared.

Both students described the benefits of engaging in the diverse array of extracurricular opportunities available at Starkville High. In learning the sport of Archery, for example, Jenna shared that she gained the practice and patience needed to learn and maintain a skill, which can impact success long past high school.

"Plus, I have made amazing friends through it," she said.

"Try new things!" John Robert added. "It is just as valuable to discover that you dislike something as it is to find the things you enjoy and are passionate about. That process only happens if you put yourself out there."

2024 STAR Students and Teachers