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  • STARS recipient Sawyer Lovato with his dad outside of the event.
  • Master of Ceremonies, Jace Glick, addressing the audience.
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  • An extensive desert bar was set-up for event attendees.
  • Senior Riley Thompson, nominated by Melanie Darter.
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  • Students line up waiting to receive their awards.
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  • STARS Award recipients.
  • Elizabeth Education Foundation event organizers and volunteers.
The 24th annual Elizabeth Education Foundation STARS Banquet was held on April 2 at the Elizabeth High School Cafetorium, in the nonprofit organization’s first in-person event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
STARS stands for Students Taking Accountability and Responsibility Seriously. Each year, Elizabeth School District students in grades 5-12 are anonymously nominated by teachers and faculty with around 50 chosen to receive the honor.
A STARS award recipient must demonstrate some of the following characteristics:
1. Model responsible behavior.
2. Spends time involved with clubs or organizations at school and/or actively supports the community.
3. Committed to learning, motivated to do well in school, actively engaged in learning, and cares about their school.
4. Places high value on caring and helping other people and accepts personal responsibility.
5. Makes good choices, has empathy, sensitivity, friendship skills, and resists negative peer pressures.
A student may only receive the STARS honor once in their academic career, though some students have received many nominations over the years. Past recipients serve as volunteers for the next year’s event.
The master of ceremonies for the event was Jace Glick, former Elizabeth Stampede president and longtime volunteer with the Elizabeth Education Foundation. He gave a speech at the start of the event to praise the students and their parents.
“This is my 14th year announcing for this event. I’ve been doing it a long time,” said Glick. “What I’ve learned over the years is that we have some of the coolest kids in the country and some of the best parents. I’m truly excited that we get to celebrate our students and everything good about the parents as well.”
Superintendent Douglas Bissonette also offered opening remarks. “Once a year it’s worth stopping and taking stock of these accomplishments of character. That’s why we’re here tonight, to recognize the compassion and commitment,” said Bissonette. “I want to thank the Elizabeth Education Foundation for making this event so successful. The Elizabeth School District wouldn’t be what it is without them.”
Bissonette continued to offer words of encouragement to the STARS recipients. “I hope this evening makes an indelible mark on you that when you look back on it, you remember that somebody noticed something in you that you can use as a source of encouragement for big challenges and a source of strength during hard times,” Bissonette said. “Recognize that you have talents beyond those that you may know. Years down the road, know that someone noticed something extraordinary and special in you.”
As the event continued, each student’s name was called and they walked across the stage. Glick read a paragraph written about the student by the nominating faculty or staff member. Each student received a medal as well as a certificate of achievement.
“Riley is a STAR. She models responsible behavior by dedicating herself to the task at hand. I have her in two classes, both of which have major research papers due within a few days of each other. These papers could easily be used as examples for future semesters.” explained Melanie Darter, family and consumer science teacher at Elizabeth High School, who nominated senior Riley Thompson. “Riley is a leader of class discussion, and she supports her classmates and encourages them to do their best. I am thrilled to nominate an empathetic, caring, and committed student like Riley Thompson.”
Later in the event, the Elbert County News caught up with Darter where she gave even more praise for Thompson. “Riley has had a lot of challenges and she has overcome them,” commented Darter. “Whenever I see her, she has a positive attitude. I really enjoy having her in class.”
The 2022 Elizabeth Education Foundation STARS Award recipients are:
● Caedyn Atwell
● Bradley Barnhart
● Dylan Baxter
● Meghan Benkendorf
● Whitney Benson
● Lily Brace
● Andrew Brown
● Marley Casaretto
● Tyler Christiansen
● Cooper Connelley
● Jaden Francis
● Parker Gaudreault
● Miguel Gonzalez
● Jennifer Grimes
● Carlos Antonio Guevara-Hudson
● Denzel Guevara-Hudson
● Kyle Gustafson
● Morgen Hubbs
● Bodie Jordan
● Alexander Kelty
● Leah Lave
● Masen Loeks
● Sawyer Lovato
● Stephanie Lunt
● Samuel Malakowski
● Rylan McNeil
● Emily Meyer
● Katie Millsapps
● Samantha Mowbray
● Daniel Page
● Isabella Pergeau
● Giovanna Perrault
● Khiya Philips
● Karli Pronske
● Aliana Quintana
● Emily Ramsay
● Chritopher Rediger
● Bailey Riniker
● Mayla Ruskauff
● Ozzy Santangelo
● Alexa Saucedo
● David Savage
● Casey Schaben
● Sarah Schmit
● Lily Settoon
● Sienna Snively
● Sophia Stillman
● Riley Thompson
● Amy Ward