Being recognized on the state level may be a shining light in what has turned into a difficult final year of high school for three Bartow County seniors.
Brendan Luginbuhl from Adairsville High School, Lydia Wiedetz from Cartersville High School and Abigail Matthews from Woodland High School were among the 295 graduating seniors from across the state to be named 2020 Georgia Scholars Monday by State School Superintendent Richard Woods.
“It is always special to recognize a new class of Georgia Scholars, but I have to say it is even more meaningful to recognize these students from the Class of 2020,” Woods said in a news release. “In the face of disappointing circumstances and delayed plans, these students have displayed great resilience, maturity and grace. I am honored to recognize their accomplishments and wish them well as they proceed into futures that, despite this temporary setback, are still worthy of great hope.”
Through the Georgia Scholar program, the Georgia Department of Education identifies and honors high school seniors who have achieved excellence in all phases of their school, community and home life.
The scholars, who receive a seal for their diploma, must meet eight different criteria to be selected: earn at least 22 units of credit in specific courses; have a minimum combined score of 1360 on the SAT or a composite score of 31 on the ACT; have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.75 on a 4.0 scale in core classes; be 18 on or before Jan. 31, 2020, and registered to vote if a U.S. citizen; have a letter of reference from an adult outside the school or family; have participated in at least three different competitive interscholastic activities; have been appointed or elected to positions of leadership in at least two different organizations at school; and have shown leadership skills in a minimum of two different organizations outside school, including holding a leadership position in at least one of them.
Luginbuhl, son of Jason Luginbuhl and Sabrina and Ray Tucker, said he was “really surprised” when he found out he’d been selected as a Georgia Scholar.
“I was one of two students who qualified from my school, but even when I was filling out my application, I wasn't sure I'd be selected,” he said, noting he applied in December or January.
His dad was the one who informed him of the honor.
“I found out when my dad texted me a screenshot of the Bartow County School System’s Facebook announcement and when he came up to congratulate me,” he said.
AHS Principal Bruce Mulkey said he’s “so proud of Brendan for yet another recognition as he ends his stellar high school career.”
“Brendan is an amazing young man who sets the standard for everyone around him,” he said. “Brendan leads by example every day in the classroom and in the halls.”
At Adairsville, the Cartersville resident was captain of the wrestling and track teams; a leader of the national champion JROTC Raiders as well as the drill team and color guard; a mathlete; STAR student; will be an honor graduate; and is eligible for a Zell Miller Scholarship, according to Mulkey.
“To add the Georgia Scholar recognition to this list of accomplishments is icing on the cake,” he said. “The bottom line is that I could go on and on, but these honors don't begin to describe the type of young man he is. Here’s the best compliment that I could give Brendan – he's the type of young man that I hope my son becomes.”
Luginbuhl, who plans to attend The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, in August so he can graduate and commission to the U.S. Army, added he is “really thankful for my teachers and mentors for pushing me to be all I can be and giving me the tools I have to be successful.”
Wiedetz, who applied for the award in January, said she received an email from her counselor, Dr. Chaja Pinkard, Tuesday morning “informing me that I had been named a Georgia Scholar.”
“It was a nice surprise to learn that I had been named a Georgia Scholar,” she said. “I am proud to represent Cartersville High School and the Class of 2020.”
CHS Principal Shelley Tierce said the administrators and faculty are “proud of Lydia and her accomplishments.”
“She has always challenged herself academically while participating in high school athletics, numerous clubs and serving her community,” she said. “Lydia is most deserving of this honor, and her award means the world to me as her principal because she represents everything Cartersville High School tries to instill in every one of our students.”
The daughter of Clark and Alison Wiedetz of Cartersville was a four-year varsity letterman on the girls’ tennis team; a two-year member of the swim team; vice president of the student council executive board; treasurer of the Beta Club; member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honorary and robotics team; was named a Class of 2020 senior superlative and chosen as the DAR Good Citizen for 2020; and participated in the Bartow County Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Program.
She also is an active member of Sam Jones United Methodist Church and its youth program, participated in the Experiential Leadership Institute through Camp Glisson the past two summers and volunteered as a counselor for GROW day camps.
Wiedetz said she plans to attend Auburn University in the fall and hasn’t decided on a major yet, “but I hope to do something in the nonprofit field.”
Matthews, daughter of Jennifer and Jeremy Matthews of Cartersville, found out about her award from social media.
“It's a funny story because me and my mom were just talking on the couch when she suddenly goes, ‘I can't believe this! Did you know you were a Georgia Scholar?’” she said. “We saw it come across the Woodland Marching Wildcats — a WHS band Facebook group — and then from Woodland High School's Facebook page so that was a very comical way to find out.”
Winning a state honor was a satisfying achievement for Matthews, who applied in January after counselor K.K. Smith discussed it with her and other students, “and one thing led to another, and I got the application in just in the nick of time.”
“It's pretty rewarding to be recognized for four years of a lot of hard work, especially considering how different my senior year was than what was planned,” she said. “It's nice to get recognition as well as a seal for graduation.”
WHS Principal David Stephenson said Matthews has “distinguished herself in all facets of Wildcat excellence, from academics to the arts to athletics.”
“Most impressive to me is Abigail’s service to those who come behind her,” he said. “She never hesitates to offer support to younger students and call attention to the contributions of others. Her service-minded approach has ensured that Woodland and her community will be enriched by her excellence for many years to come.”
At Woodland, Matthews was the band captain of the marching band, principal clarinetist of the wind symphony, founder and leader of the clarinet choir, president of the Beta Club, band president of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and a leadership member of the National Honor Society.
She will be attending Washington University in St. Louis to study biology and psychology, “in the hopes of becoming an OB/GYN down the road,” she said.
Matthews said she is grateful to the teachers and staff at Woodland.
“The past few weeks have been exceptionally difficult, but despite all of that, they have stayed strong and active with their students through social media and other platforms,” she said. “So I want to thank them for their never-ending support for every single one of their students during this hard time.”