STAR Student is an award given to the student in the graduating class who achieves the highest SAT score on a single test administration. This year, Dalton High School senior Rafael Duchesne earned the honor.
Duchesne also received a commendation because his SAT score was so high, missing the National Merit finalist by just a couple of points. Thus, he earned the National Merit Scholarship Commended Student Award and the College Board's National Hispanic Recognition Program for Excellence in Academics, two highly-regarded accolades that only a few students receive nationally.
Those who know Duchesne understand how passionate he is about his opinions, his interests and his studies. DHS English teacher Minako Barry, whom Duchesne selected as his STAR teacher, explained that through all his accomplishments, Duchesne's character is what stands out.
"He is by far the most gifted student that I have ever taught... but Rafael's heart is more incredible than his scholarly gifts, which are vast. He is funny, often thought-provoking, and fiercely opinionated in ways that make me hopeful that he will make the world better," she said. "If anyone can and will fight against the injustices and fix the problems we face today – it will be Rafael Duchesne and others like him."
When Duchesne gets a mind to accomplish something, he does it. When he found his love for chess and realized the school did not have a chess club, he founded one. He is also the president of the philosophy club, an Eagle Scout, a buddy through the Big Brother program, a member of the Mock Trial team and a programmer on the First Robotics team, which qualified to compete in the World Championship.
Duchesne said this recognition feels like an acknowledgement that his hard work is paying off. "It's nice to be recognized and to get the chance to recognize a teacher that has helped me get here. There have been many teachers who have impacted me, and I wish I could recognize them all," he said. "I chose Mrs. Barry because she motivated me to try new things, like mock trial, even though I didn't think I'd be good at it. She has taught me many lessons like writing and grammar, but also how to be a good friend, how to be kind, how to be nice."
Duchesne and other STAR students from local high schools were recognized by the Kiwanis Club at their banquet in February. Duchesne and Barry each gave a speech at the banquet before his parents and school officials. Duchesne won the Dalton City district designation and went on the Regional banquet in Rome, sponsored by PAGE. All Star Students will also attend a state function in April for final recognition of their achievements this year.
In Barry's speech, she said that Duchesne has been a joy to teach. "Rafael challenges teachers to be the best that they can be, especially in my case. I found that his ability to absorb and analyze the difficult concepts of existentialism, for example, made me realize that his intellect is far beyond that of most people, including his teachers. He also has a wonderfully keen sense of humor that is a delight to observe."
"I have seen him help others who may not grasp a concept, either in class or in mock trial, and he helps them in a manner that is respectful, even empathetic. I have also witnessed him become indignant at the travesties of injustice that we discuss in class; he recognizes where society could be improved, and he has a sincere desire to seek changes that will benefit all. He is one of the most remarkable individuals that I have had the privilege to teach, to watch grow up, and to see him become the young man who makes his parents, his family, and this teacher extremely proud."Duchesne plans to attend Georgia Tech in the fall to study bio-medical engineering and computer science. His goal is to create the world's first artificial appendix. With his previous track record, it is likely he will be able to accomplish this goal, too.