April 28th, 2017


The Mississippi Economic Council sponsors the Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) Program to encourage scholastic achievement among high school students. The STAR Program emphasizes scholastic excellence and recognizes the teaching profession. STAR students are chosen based on having the highest ACT score in the graduating class, along with other academic achievements. Each STAR student selects a STAR teacher.  Jackson Academy’s 2017 STAR student and teacher are (from left) Dr. Dennis Conklin and Nancy Usey. The celebration for star students and teachers is April 27 at 9:30 a.m. at the Jackson Convention Complex.

Over 500 STAR Students and STAR Teachers will receive recognition from MEC’s M.B. Swayze Foundation at the celebration. The top 20 STAR Students –The ALL-STAR Scholars – will receive scholarships, and their STAR Teachers will receive awards provided by the Kelly Gene Cook, Sr. Charitable Foundation. The highlight of the event will be the naming of the Mississippi ALL-STAR Scholar for 2016-2017 school year, winner of the coveted $24,000 Cook Foundation Scholarship.

Read further for inspiring thoughts from Nancy and Dr. Conklin:

How do you feel about being selected STAR student?

Nancy: Being selected as STAR student feels like a nice acknowledgement for my hard work throughout these years of high school. I very much appreciate the recognition and the confidence that comes with it.

How do you feel being chosen as STAR teacher?

Dr. Conklin: I am profoundly honored.  Nancy has had some outstanding teachers here at Jackson Academy, so to be selected from such an incredible group of educators is a truly humbling experience.

What about Nancy makes you proud that she was chosen as STAR student for Jackson Academy?

Dr. Conklin: I think that everyone who knows Nancy knows that she is a gifted young lady, but what people might not realize about her is that she genuinely embraces and enjoys a challenge. When a wall is placed in our path I think we often turn around or complain about the wall.  Nancy is excited to discover ways to get over, around, or through the wall. So it is not just her intellectual ability that makes her who she is, but it is her inquisitiveness, determination and willingness to take on new challenges that makes me most proud of her.

How did you make your decision about which teacher to select as STAR teacher?

Nancy: Dr. Conklin’s class pushed me to up my game in a way I hadn’t previously been required to do. His history class not only taught me about the subject, but also equipped me with the tools I needed to form my own opinions and to back up those opinions with hard evidence. Overall, Dr. Conklin taught me how to think for myself as an individual.

What qualities does Nancy possess that other students could emulate?

Dr. Conklin: To confront challenges in their lives in the same way.  We will always have walls placed in our path whether academically, socially, spiritually, or something else and embracing the challenge makes us stronger when we do reach the other side. I also think that her interest in hearing different perspectives is something we can all learn from.

Any thoughts about what you like about teaching at Jackson Academy or the learning environment here?

Dr. Conklin: To piggyback on the last question, I am so happy to be part of the team of outstanding faculty we have here.  Not just do the teachers here do a marvelous job at their craft, they (we) are equally committed to creating an environment that stimulates not only academic development, but social and ethical development as well. On top of that, JA really is a family.  If somebody is hurting or needs help in any way, there are always a slew of folks ready and eager to lend a hand. I feel blessed to be a part of our community.