The best and brightest of Christian, Trigg, Todd and Caldwell counties gathered Tuesday at Hopkinsville Community College to be recognized as Academic All-Stars.

“With so much competition among schools on the athletic level, it is sometimes easy to ignore and lose sight of the core purpose of our schools — academics and preparing students for their next step in life,” said Taylor Hayes, publisher of the Kentucky New Era, which organizes the annual competition with the Rotary Club. “Recognizing academic performance and achievement should never be taken for granted.”

Through the program, there were individual nominations for 43 eighth-graders from 11 middle schools and 59 high school seniors from eight high schools.

The nominations were broken down into 12 divisions, four identical disciplines each at the high school and middle school levels with four additional disciplines for the high schoolers.

All of the nominees were honored Tuesday night, but a winner was declared for each of the eight disciplines at the high school level.

Each school participating in the program was allowed to nominate one student in each discipline. The nominees then put together an academic resume of sorts and were judged based on their achievements, extra-curricular activities, nomination letters and personal essays.

Of the 59 senior nominations, three were for Robert Aleman, a student at Fort Campbell High School.

“I got English first, and thought that would be it,” he said.

However, to his surprise, he also received nominations in the math and science disciplines.

Aleman has aspirations to become either a mechanical engineer or biomedical engineer. He said he used the same essay for all three of the entries and just “focused on science.”

As such, it’s not much of a wonder that he won the largest scholarship of the night, Amfine Chemical’s $1,500 prize for the science discipline.

In all, $15,000 was given away in scholarships and prizes, along with two iPads and two chamber of commerce gift cards. The runners-up each received a $100 gift card from United Southern Bank.

To decide the high school winners, the judges met at HCC and were each assigned a specific discipline. The middle schoolers were not judged.

The judge were given a packet of the nominated students’ work and choose the winners based four primary areas. Fifty percent was decided by core academics, 30 percent extracurricular activities along with leadership roles, 10 percent autobiographical essay and 10 percent nominator’s recommendation letter. The points were totaled, and the top three entries were recorded.

The student with the highest number of points won that discipline.

“I truly appreciate (the judges’) commitment to this task and their willingness to participate in this great event,” said Alissa Young, dean of Academic Affairs at HCC and the chief judge. “I have said this before on multiple years, but it remains to be true. You truly are an outstanding group of young people. I had judges who literally sat in that room for a long period of time contemplating the contents that they saw before them and remarking about how extraordinary you all really are.”

The keynote speaker for the night was Kelley Workman, executive vice president and chief credit officer at Planters Bank.

“Your teachers had obviously a lot of star students that they could have selected to nominate, but there’s something about you that made them select you, so congratulations not just to the nominees but to the parents because I know they’re really proud, and they should be,” she said.

Reach Heather Huber at 270-887-3238 or

Quickinfo: Winners

Arts — Grace Donaldson, Caldwell County

Career and Technical — Tyler Young, Caldwell County

English — Gretchen Powell, UHA

Foreign Language — Kloe Freeman, UHA

Journalism — Sally Smith, UHA

Math — Trey Lachance, UHA

Science — Robert Aleman, FCHS

Social Studies/Economics — Alex Keys, UHA

Quickinfo: Honorable mentions

Arts — Natalie Iannaggi, CCHS

Career and Technical — Nekiya McNear, FCHS

English — Rachel McClain, HCA

Foreign Language — James Stitt, HCA

Journalism — Anna Beth Riggs, HCA

Math — Thomas Kandler, Caldwell County

Science — Clark Adams, Trigg County

Social Studies/Economics — Helen Gibson, Trigg County

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