T. H. Harris Middle School Student Named Star Academy “National Student of the Year” 


Metairie, LA, June 7, 2023 . . . T. H. Harris middle-schooler Sarthak Shah has been selected as the Star Academy “National Student of the Year,” a distinction awarded to only one student from among all Star Academy programs across the U.S. Star Academy is a “school-within-a-school” acceleration program that incorporates a STEM-inspired, hands-on, project-based curriculum. It was established at T. H. Harris in August 2022. 

“There are so many remarkable students sitting in Star Academy programs across the country” said Heidi Broussard, Education and Data Support Specialist for NOLA Education. “The National Star Academy Student of the Year application process is highly competitive, and we reviewed the applications of many worthy students, narrowed the list to five finalists, and ultimately decided that Sarthak embodies everything you want to see in a Star Academy success story.” 

Star Academy serves students who might thrive in a non-traditional classroom setting and would benefit from a different approach to the core curriculum, which inspires and engages them in learning. 

“I had repeated first grade, so I was behind my peers,” said Sarthak.  “I also had problems in my home life and some bullying at school that dragged down my academics. But Star Academy has let people see what I am really capable of.” Like most of the students in the program, Sarthak completed both 7th and 8th grades in a single year at Star Academy and will be entering high school in the fall. 

Sarthak’s impressive resumé includes playing trombone in the school band, a gifted-and-talented program for theater art, karate, student council and devoted participation in his religious community. He wrote and directed a short film, for which he won the Founder’s Circle Award from the statewide Film Fare organization. He is a “straight A” student, and won the Superintendent Award for academic excellence.  

Within the Star Academy program, students are exposed to over 100 careers within one academic year. Sarthak shared that upon graduating high school, he plans to attend college to become an actuary. 

“Sarthak is always eager to accomplish and always seeks feedback on how to improve himself,” said Phyllis Jason, Teacher at T.H. Harris Middle School. “He has consistently exhibited excellence in academics and proven his appreciation for the gift of education.” 

Sarthak credits the hands-on, project-based approach to learning for his success at Star Academy. “Especially with science and math, I found it hard to grasp the concepts because you are not seeing how they apply to the real world,” he explained. “You’re just sort of swallowing things and then repeating them. But when it’s hands-on you really understand what it is you are learning, and you learn from your mistakes as they happen.” Star Academy ties what students are learning to real world careers so they understand how the knowledge they are gaining might serve them in the future. 

“Star Academy is about providing students with the tools and hands on experiences to excel in a non-traditional educational setting which allows students to be exposure to different opportunities.” said Sarah Gros, Education Support Specialist. “Sarthak is the perfect example of a student who excelled with the right opportunity. He truly deserves this honor.” 

About Star Academy 

Star Academy is a “school-within-a-school” acceleration program for students who are academically at-risk or would benefit from a non-traditional approach to learning. It uses a hands-on, project-based, STEM-inspired curriculum to re-engage learners who have fallen behind, accelerating them up to two grade levels in a single year while improving their attendance, behavior and test scores. The core curriculum aligns with local, district and state standards. Star Academy also exposes students to employment possibilities, relating their learning to potential careers so they understand its relevance to their success in life.  

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