David Griswold, 17, of Tupelo High School, was named the top All-STAR Scholar in Mississippi. Adam Gray, 18, a student at Pontotoc High School, ranked third in the same competition. Jennifer Carlisle, a senior at Jackson Preparatory School, placed second in the state.
The STAR student award – Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition – is sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council and the M.B. Swayze Educational Foundation. One student is selected from each high school across the state each year based on ACT scores and scholastic averages. To qualify, students must have scored at least 25 on the ACT and have an
academic average of 93 or higher.
The state winners are selected by who has the highest composite score on the ACT, a standardized test used by many colleges and universities to determine admittance. If there is a tie – this year’s winners all scored a perfect 36 – the scores on each of the four individual sections are totaled to determine a winner.
Griswold said his senior year has been a great one.
He is a National Merit finalist, a 2001 Presidential Scholar nominee, captain of the Mississippi College Math and Science Team and captain of the swim team. He also was a member of the THS Academic Decathlon team and won a gold medal in math at the national competition in Alaska earlier this month.
Griswold, the son of Richard and Kathryn Griswold, said he was surprised to get the top All-STAR spot in Mississippi.
“I knew from the criteria that I had a chance,” he said. “I didn’t know what the other people in the state were like. It’s been a great year.”
As part of his award, Griswold received a $24,000 scholarship funded by the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Charitable Foundation. He said he is planning to attend the California Institute of Technology and major in computer science.
“It is going to be a big help,” Griswold said. “They don’t give academic scholarships at Cal Tech.”
Each STAR Student gets to name a STAR Teacher, the teacher who has made the greatest contribution to his scholastic achievement.
Griswold chose Bonnie Webb, a former English teacher at THS who retired this year after 31 years in the classroom. Webb is one of the coaches for the Academic Decathlon team.
Because of Griswold’s win, Webb is now STAR Teacher of the Year for Mississippi.
“It’s a wonderful way to finish my career as a teacher,” she said. “I tell you, it’s been a wonderful ride for three years (with Griswold as a student). It has been, I think, satisfying to see him grow as a person, grow as a leader.”
Gray, son of Kevin and Tami Walls and Gary and Ann Gray, also has had an impressive high school career.
He is a National Merit semifinalist, a Presidential Scholar candidate, drum captain of the marching band, D.A.R.E. role model and he won first place in the Beta Club State Quiz Bowl.
Gray’s perfect score on the ACT, oddly enough, is tied into Griswold’s performance. Gray had scored a 32 on the test when he saw a story about the Tupelo teen’s perfect score.
“When I saw that he had made a 36, I kind of felt that I could do it,” Gray said. “I went and took the test the very next test date. I thought it was pretty neat (that we both won state honors), especially since we’re both from the same area.”
Gray will receive a $16,000 scholarship. He said he plans to attend the University of Mississippi and major in music education. His STAR teacher is Jimmy Wallace, his band director.
“He’s been one of my band directors for seven years,” Gray said. “He’s one of the few people that’s really pushed me through the years. He’s given me drive and direction.”
Wallace spoke just as highly of his prized student.
“It’s quite an honor,” Wallace said. “He’s a very good student. It’s very seldom you get student who does what you ask them to do 100 percent. To think I was a best influence is quite an honor.”