PSD’s STAR student Jackson Norris uses his choice for teacher to memorialize RHS band director David Snipes

Valentine’s Day wasn’t just about sweethearts for a trio of local students honored for their academic achievements for the 2018-19 school year.

It was also about remembering an educator who made a real impact on the lives of young people throughout their high school careers.

Polk School District’s STAR Student for 2019 Jackson Norris (who also took the honor for Rockmart High School) said the teacher he chose for this year’s honor will always remain with him as a mentor. This was his way of providing a memorial for Rockmart High School band director David Snipes, who died unexpectedly at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

“Ever since he came to Rockmart – he came my 8th grade year – I had him ever since for my four years,” Norris said. “He had a huge impact on my character and all my motivations. He was a real mentor to me.”

A soon-to-be graduate of Rockmart High, Norris hopes to pursue a career in Chemical Engineering once he finishes his studies at Georgia Tech. The top-scoring SAT student who is also in the top 10 percent of the senior class has already been accepted to the university in the heart of Atlanta. He’s the son of Maria and Jimmy Norris.

He served as a member of the Rockmart High School marching band during the fall, and last year was one of the members of the Yellow Jackets boys tennis team who provided assistance to wreck victims. The team stopped on Highway 27 on their way home from a South Georgia playoff victory to help when a man became pinned under a truck.

Norris said he hopes students take his experience of hard work and determination as an example of what they can achieve if they put their heart into their education.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for academic achievements like this,” he said. “If you consistently try and make the effort, you’re going to get a reward.

As STAR Student, Norris will go on to represent Polk School District at a regional level against others in Northwest Georgia.

Snipes was band director for three years at Rockmart High School, having joined the district after a stint at Cartersville City Schools and Rockmart Middle School. He was also a graduate of Rockmart High School’s Class of 1991.

His wife Melissa was on hand for the ceremonies last week to receive awards in his memory from the Polk County Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, who co-sponsor the program locally.

Norris was joined in honors by fellow students at Cedartown High on the school level with two tying for the honor this year. Cayden Frye and Ebrahem Abdul-Rahman were the co-STAR students for the school year, and nominated STAR Teachers Phillip Babb and Jennifer Cupp.

Cayden Frye brought along his mom Wendy to help him celebrate the honors last week. He said he’s submitted his name to several schools but hasn’t made a final decision on where he wants to continue his education but will focus on pursuing engineering.

“It feels like the hard work paid off,” he said.

His compatriot being honored is the son of Wael and Heather, he remained persistent in his goal toward achieving high honors academically at Cedartown High School.

Abdul-Rahman also isn’t fully decided on where he wants to go to school, but has a clear career path in mind: one day he wants to be arguing in a court of law as an attorney.

“Anyone can do anything if they persist,” he said.

Floyd Polk Medical Center also provided gifts to students for being named the STAR Students representing Polk County.

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