2023 VHS STAR Students

For the first time in Valdosta High School’s history, three students have been named STAR students.

The PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program honors Georgia’s highest achieving high school seniors and the teachers that they believe have been most instrumental in their academic development. In order to obtain the STAR nomination, a student must have the highest score on the SAT and be in the top 10 percent of their class and this year three VHS seniors did just that and tied for the honor: Riley Diaz, Skylar Partin, and Dhruv Thanki.

Riley Diaz, daughter of Cisco and Laura Diaz, is a member of the VHS International Baccalaureate program, as well as the BETA Club, Interact Club, Student Council, Yearbook Club, and Food Bank Club. She plans to attend a 4-Year University with a major in Biology/Pre-Med concentration in order to fulfill her passion in the medical field or in a helping profession. Diaz says, “The last two years of my life have been a challenge for me medically. These struggles have piqued my interest in the medical field and helping professions. I strive to channel my experiences in a positive manner by seeking a profession to assist and care for those with similar needs.”

Diaz named Joy Roberts, her AP World History and IB Psychology teacher, as her STAR teacher. Roberts holds a B.S. in Secondary Education, and a Master of Science in Education from Troy State University and is a 23-year veteran teacher at Valdosta High School. “I have been privileged to have Mrs. Roberts as a teacher for the last three years. She has a passion for teaching and truly cares about her students on a personal level. Not only does she teach with enthusiasm, she also establishes meaningful relationships with all her students. She makes difficult and complex content easy to understand, while creating an interactive, fun, and engaging classroom environment. Her sense of humor always livens the classroom. Most importantly, her grace and understanding of her students and life in general have made such a positive impact on my own life and circumstances,” Diaz said.

Roberts said Diaz is the kind of student that “makes it a pleasure to come into the building every day.” She adds that Diaz “has the kind of work ethic that makes it very clear that Riley is a lifelong learner.” Roberts is mostly thankful for the relationship she has formed with Diaz and says “I look forward to cheering on all of Riley’s accomplishments, because I know there will be many.” Upon learning that Diaz chose her as her STAR teacher, Roberts says she was shocked and overwhelmed. “Riley will forever be one of my favorite students, and I am blessed to be mentioned in the same sentence as someone of such integrity and determination as Riley. I am grateful that someone of her caliber thinks highly enough of me to give me this honor,” Roberts

Skyler Partin, daughter of Tammy Siler, is also an International Baccalaureate student at Valdosta High School. She is President of Beta Club, Captain of Academic Team, Co-Captain of Batgirls, an Interact Club Committee Officer, and member of the Food Bank Club, Model United Nations, and Yearbook Club. Partin is looking at either University of Tennessee or University of Arkansas to continue her education. She says, “As an eight year old, I moved from a small, rural community (Clairfield, TN) where there were only 98 kids K-8th in my school. Moving to Valdosta, GA, was a shock to me as it was exponentially larger than the area I was used to. However, moving here has provided several opportunities in my academic and extracurricular education.”

Partin chose Jeremy Paradice, her pre-AP Biology teacher from Valwood as her STAR teacher. Paradice holds a B.S. in pre-med Biology from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and is currently in his final year of medical school at Mercer University School of Medicine. Although he is not currently in a classroom teaching, he says that he is frequently engaged in mentoring high school students, college undergraduates, and med students on study habits, experimental design, and clinical decision making through both one-on-one discussion and public speaking events. Partin says, “I owe my interest in biology to Mr. Paradice. He always encouraged me to achieve my fullest potential through constantly challenging me academically and exposed me to a higher level of learning early in my high school career which I am forever thankful for. His teaching has impacted me not only academically, but personally as well. Always stating that a person should strive to learn as much as possible and that they have a duty to reach their biggest goals, he inspired me and continues to inspire me each day.”

Paradice was “emotionally overwhelmed” when he learned that he had been chosen by Partin and equated the feeling to being accepted to medical school. Of Partin, Paradice says “Skylar is the type of student that every teacher hopes to have at least once in their career. She was determined, intelligent, well spoken, and very hardworking. Often, I would find Skylar would be prepared the next day after lecture to have a conversation that revealed a working knowledge of the concepts covered the previous day. Furthermore, within the week, you could ask her any detail about the information she was asked to learn and she could respond with a discussion of the concepts and details of the material.”

Lastly, Dhruv Thanki, son of Paresh Thanki and Gyanasudha Balki, is an Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment student at Valdosta High. He is a member of the Interact Club, Beta Club, and Wildcat Tennis team. He states, “My educational journey has mainly revolved around working hard and doing things to the best of my ability. I’ve had to study a lot and push myself despite the challenges I’ve faced.” Thanki plans on going to Mercer University to pursue a career in medicine.

Thanki chose his AP US History teacher, Ms. Sarah Broome, as his STAR teacher. Broome, an  18-year teaching veteran who has spent 8 years at VHS, holds degrees from Freed-Hardeman University and Georgia State University. Thanki says “I chose Mrs. Broome as my STAR teacher because she is the only teacher I’ve had that really pushed me to be my best. She is a very nice and knowledgeable person who did whatever she could to help me and my classmates succeed.”

Of Thanki, Broome says, “Dhruv is a quiet student and is friendly and funny to those who are lucky enough to know him. He is not afraid to be uniquely himself. He is humble and a joy to be around.” When she found out that she had been chosen as Thanki’s STAR teacher, it brought her “to tears” and says that she felt “honored and so completely proud of his achievement.”

Valdosta High School is very excited to be celebrating these students who went above and beyond in their studies. These three seniors have achieved great things in their academic lives and will undoubtedly go on to achieve ever greater things, personally and professionally, in the years to come.