Mississippi College

MC Hosts STAR Students and Teachers

April 11, 2008

Two students from metro Jackson and a third from Lee County emerged as the big winners of Friday's "Education Celebration" hosted by Mississippi College.

A gifted piano player, show choir member, and varsity soccer player, Jackson Academy senior Bowen Zhou will receive a $24,000 college scholarship to finish as Mississippi's No. 1 All-STAR Scholar. The award amounts to $6,000 annually.

The latest honor for Zhou came at the Mississippi Economic Council's 42nd annual Student-Teacher-Achievement Recognition program. Each year, the MEC, the state's largest business and professional organization, spotlights stellar high school students and their teachers.

Zhou, 17, is considering either Princeton or the University of Pennsylvania as his leading college choices next fall. Medicine or business are potential career choices for the young man and Habitat for Humanity volunteer who scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. His high school average was nearly perfect - 99.7.

Education was stressed in his household at a very early age. His father, Xinchun Zhou, is a researcher at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, while his mother, Jinghe Zhou, is a biology professor at Tougaloo College. His STAR teacher at JA is Barbara Neely.

At the luncheon attracting 900 students, parents and teachers to MC's Anderson Hall, there were 20 outstanding students and teachers recognized.

Awarded a $20,000 scholarship to finish as the STAR student runner-up was Kathryn Maxwell, 17, a senior at Saltillo High near Tupelo. She plans to attend Vanderbilt University next fall to study engineering. Zachary Branson, 17, a Madison Central High senior, will receive a $16,000 scholarship to finish third. He is looking at several colleges, including Rhodes in Memphis, the University of Mississippi, and Sewanee in Tennessee.

To be eligible, STAR students are seniors who must score a minimum of 25 on the ACT and achieve a scholastic average of at least 93. They are chosen from more than 300 public, private and parochial schools in Mississippi.

Maxwell "is amazing," said Peggy Turner, her STAR English teacher at Saltillo High. "She's taking Calculus II on-line. What we don't offer, she gets. She worked and it is paying off."

The STAR scholarship, Maxwell said, will help pay for her education at private Vanderbilt in Nashville where the annual price exceeds $50,000. An engineering career is the dream for the Chicago native who's lived in five states. She's living in an area where engineers will be in demand for decades. Her home in Lee County is about ten miles from the Toyota auto plant being built in Blue Springs. "I like math and science and it just kind of fit," she said of her interest in engineering.

Getting the recognition as the state's runner-up at the MEC program, she said, is truly an honor.

As guests devoured the chicken, rice and chocolate cake at the large banquet hall at the B.C. Rogers Student Center, Branson was greeted by his STAR teacher, Deborah P. Reed. His parents and other well-wishers joined in to offer their congratulations. "He's worked very hard," said his mother, Susan Branson, moments after photographers clicked away.

STAR Scholarships are provided through a grant from the Kelly Gene Cook, Sr. Charitable Foundation, Inc. that supports religious, charitable, scientific and educational organizations in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The foundation was named for Cook, a civil engineer and founding partner in a pipeline-contracting firm in Texas. He died in 1989.

The STAR Teachers of the state's top three students each receive a $500 award. Each of the remaining 17 STAR students receives a $500 scholarship. Their STAR teacher each gets a $250 award.

Keynote speaker for the event was Carolyn Shanks, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi, Inc. MEC President Blake Wilson, Mississippi College President Lee Royce, MC Student Government Association President Aaron Graham, and state College Board member Robin Robinson of Laurel were among those saluting the STAR students and teachers.

PHOTO (left-right): Zachary Branson, Madison Central; Katherine Maxwell, Saltillo High; and Bowen Zhou, Jackson Academy.

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