By Haley Hogan
“It’s great; it feels like an honor,” Loud says when asked about his feelings on receiving the award. To continue, he adds, “I feel like there were a lot more people ahead of me, or even smarter than me, so it’s definitely an honor.” Loud is the son of Tinisha Kitchens.
The STAR Program, which is an acronym for Student Teacher Achievement Recognition, is designed to recognize high school seniors who have the highest SAT score in a single sitting in their graduating class and meet all the other program requirements, such as being named in the top 10%. The STAR program is sponsored on the state level by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) Foundation. Local sponsor of Valdosta High School’s STARs is the Kiwanis Club of Valdosta.
What gives Loud an edge is the fact that, unlike the five previous consecutive recipients of this award, he is enrolled in all Advanced Placement (AP) instead of International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. His reasoning behind the choice of AP was as he says, “I knew there would be a lot of writing… and I knew I wouldn’t be good at that part.” Loud credits the decision to the factor of his sophomore honors English teacher, Donna Tomlinson, who taught IB. He says, “The fact that Ms. Tomlinson was an IB teacher comforted me, because I knew she could help me with all the writing…. But when she moved to Lowndes it sort of brought my confidence level down, so I chose to pursue Advanced Placement courses rather than the IB diploma program.”
Loud’s decision didn’t hold him back in the slightest. He decided to strictly enroll in all AP, even taking AP Language. Unquestionably, Loud excels in the math realm. English - he admits - can present a struggle. In fact, there’s a sense of irony in all this. Each year the STAR Student selects the teacher he feels deserves to recognized as his STAR Teacher. Loud’s selection is Gnann Moser. Moser has taught English at Valdosta High for 35 years and six additional years at other Georgia schools. She describes receiving this award as an honor for which she is both shocked and humbled. As Moser says of Loud, they “share a light-hearted relationship” that blends with his laid-back personality. Her favorite memory of Loud remains the second day of this last school year when she caught him in the guidance office trying to drop her class. She immediately intervened with, “Oh no you are not,” and described his reaction as “priceless”. Moser admires Loud’s constant focus, sincere humility, and personable attitude. In 10 years, she sees him having completed both an undergraduate and graduate program in one of the engineering areas and embarking on a career in that field. She concludes with advice for any student striving for the STAR award saying, “Any student aiming to become the STAR student must possess an innate desire to go above and beyond.” She continues with the importance of standardized test scores and how growth comes from the diligent practice she believes Jimmy exemplifies.
Explaining why he chose Moser as his STAR teacher, Loud shares that she challenged him in the field where he acknowledged he needed assistance: “Often I had to meet with her and discuss my problem areas.” He knew the great deal of frustration he would have in the language arts and admits, “I knew I had to either get good at it now, or suffer later.” Ultimately, Loud credits Moser for helping him raise his English grade, and for these reasons, he selected her as his STAR teacher.
Loud’s legacy doesn’t stop as Valdosta High’s STAR student. He’s been accepted and (for now) plans to attend Georgia Tech. He plans, like Moser anticipates, to study one of the engineering areas. He hopes to become anything “math-related, whether that’s a pharmacist or mathematician, or even an engineer”. His high school experience has been a journey. Like any true Wildcat, Loud will miss cheering on his football team. He will also miss reading the quotes as he walks through the hallways. Loud’s favorite inspirational quote? Any of Vince Lombardi's sayings, but especially, “The difference between most people is a lack of will.” Loud’s legacy will forever imprint the halls and classrooms of Valdosta, and his success inspires his classmates much like the quotes on the walls that have pushed him from the beginning.