Seven seniors receive STAR student award for 2020

Prep’s 2020 STAR Students and their STAR Teachers: (Left to right) Olivia Moore and Olivia Clapp with Ms. Beth Watts, Hannah Grace Biggs with Ms. Lauri Byrd, David Crews with Ms. Cori Ciaccio, Jimmy Underwood with Mr. Hunter Upchurch, Nicholas Dean with Ms. Kimberly Van Uden, and Leigh Hardin with Ms. Marsha Hobbs.

The class of 2020 has seven Prep students that have been chosen for Mississippi’s Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition, or STAR, Program. According to the Mississippi Economic Council, the STAR program encourages scholastic achievement among the state’s high school students and recognizes outstanding teachers. To earn this prestigious honor, a student must be a regularly enrolled senior completing his or her last year of work, have an overall ACT composite score of at least 25, and have an overall average of 93 or above their freshman through senior years. After being chosen, students must select a teacher to be honored with them who has contributed to their success. While becoming a STAR student is a great academic achievement, the top 20 STAR students are named as ALL-Star Scholastic Scholars, receiving a $1000 scholarship. This year, Ms. Lauri Byrd and Mr. Hunter Upchurch were chosen for the first time as STAR teachers. 

STAR teachers talk about their students:

“Each of my star students holds a very special place in my heart. I remember mathematical conversations, life lessons, and college decisions that we discussed. They have allowed me to share in their joy as they graduate from college, start careers and families, and continue their intellectual pursuits. Nicholas Dean, my 2020 STAR, will be no different, and like the others, he has taught me more than I probably taught him. I was honored when Nicholas asked me to be his STAR teacher.” 

Ms. Van Uden


“I am so honored Leigh chose me as her STAR teacher. I have great respect for her as a student and as a person, and she will represent our school well as she pursues further studies. I will miss our advisory time together the most when we had a chance to discuss life outside of Jackson Prep.” 

Ms. Hobbs


“I am proud of all the students who received STAR Student recognition and especially honored that David asked me to be his star teacher. I have truly enjoyed teaching AP chemistry to David and our entire class this year. We were able to have fun and tackle some complex chemistry topics. David’s success in AP chemistry demonstrates his high reading, analytical and reasoning aptitudes, and I look forward to seeing how he uses those skills in the future.”

Ms. Ciaccio


“I’ve known Jimmy Underwood since he was a tenth-grader in my AP European History class, and I’ve also worked with him as a college counselor. It was a great honor for Jimmy to choose me as his STAR Teacher! He’s such a bright, curious student, and I’m so proud of the high school career that he’s had. Jackson Prep is truly a better place because of Jimmy! I can’t wait to see what he does in his collegiate and career pursuits!”

Mr. Upchurch 


“I am honored to be the STAR teacher for both Olivia Clapp and Olivia Moore. I was privileged to teach these girls for multiple years and in small classes, so I was able to really get to know them and watch them grow into the beautiful young ladies that they are now.  While the star student program honors students for their ACT scores, these girls also excel in all their classes, in athletics, and especially in character. I can’t wait to see the amazing things they accomplish in the future, and I’ll be able to say that I played a small part in their journey. I’m so sad that our current situation prevents us from celebrating all the students and teachers at the STAR Celebration.”

Ms. Watts


“Being chosen by Hannah Grace Biggs as her STAR teacher was such an honor. Hannah is such a hard-working young woman. I love the passion that she brings to everything she does. In chemistry class, her photography brought our class to life. She is talented not only academically but musically and artistically as well. Her drive has certainly paid off for her in high school, but more importantly, it will continue to bring her all the success life has to offer. Can’t wait to see where life takes you Hannah Grace!”

Ms. Byrd


The STAR program holds a celebration every year for STAR students and teachers. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, every event has been canceled. The Mississippi Economic Council, the group who manages the program, had announced that all public events were canceled through March 31, and events would be rescheduled if the situation allows.