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Carrollton seniors Esslinger, Camp earn top academic honors
Cali Jones

Even with a strong class of academic seniors at Carrollton High School this year, two still had to rise to the top in performance to claim the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian. 

Belle Esslinger earned the top honor — valedictorian —for finishing her career at CHS with the highest average while Walker Camp was recognized for earning the second highest average to be designated the salutatorian for the Class of 2023. The announcement was made Thursday preceding the commencement ceremony. 

Belle’s passion for science landed her in the Governor’s Honors Program her junior year, further fueling her fascination for learning. Walker is an Eagle Scout and also an alum of the prestigious Governor’s Honors program. He is a pianist and saxophonist in the Trojan Band. Both Belle and Walker were nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholar Awards.

Belle, the daughter of Bill and Debbie Esslinger, will attend Georgia Institute of Technology this fall. Belle was a member of National Spanish Honor Society, HOSA, FBLA, and served as treasurer of Key Club. She was a National AP Scholar with Distinction and received the Georgia Certificate of Merit.

Walker, the son of Andrew and Molly Camp, is also attending Georgia Institute of Technology this fall. He plans to major in biochemistry. He was a member of the Anchor Club, National Honors Society, Bring Change 2 Mind, Math Team, Spanish Club, and Student Council. 

CHS Principal said he thinks the two students will go far in life. 

"Belle and Walker are the epitome of students who seize every opportunity to succeed,” said Lyle. “Their efforts have paid off and I am confident they will go far. I am proud to call them alumni of Carrollton High School."

Crews named Exemplary ESOL teacher
Cali Jones

An English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher who works at Carrollton Elementary School is one of 60 teachers across the state to be recognized as an outstanding ESOL educator. 

ESOL teacher Leigh Crews poses with her class at Carrollton Elementary School.

Leigh Crews received the 2023 ESOL Exemplary Teacher honor presented by the Georgia Department of Education. English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is the state-funded language instruction educational program for eligible English Learners (ELs) in grades K-12 in Georgia public schools. As an ESOL teacher, Crews focuses on developing her English Learners’ academic English proficiency to support success in school.

Crews began her career at Carrollton City Schools in 1990 and has served at all four schools teaching ESOL. During her career, Crews recalls “two-schooling” four different times and served multiple schools in one day.

Crews obtained her Master’s in Spanish/Secondary Education in 1994 from the University of West Georgia. Outside the classroom, she has served as the president of the Carrollton City Schools chapter of the Georgia Association of Educators since 1996. She has also been the coordinator of the district spelling bee for years.

CES Principal Dr. Kylie Carroll said Crews is dedicated and passionate about what she does. 

“Mrs. Crews is an exceptional teacher with a heart for students,” said Carroll. “She’s committed to helping English Learners succeed in the classroom and beyond. Additionally, Mrs. Crews embraces parents and the community in her role as a seasoned and respected educator. She’s truly a gem!”

Carrollton City Schools Director of Federal Programs Ginger Harper said Crews is deserving of the recognition.

“What makes Mrs. Crews exemplary is her effort to build meaningful relationships with both her students and their families,” said Harper. “She loves her students and values how she can work with them and their families to make a difference in their lives. She has made it her mission to support students in achieving English proficiency and academic success, helping students develop social and emotional well-being, and by providing a nurturing and inclusive learning environment. Her contributions to her students, her school, and the wider community have made a lasting impact on many.”


CUES students make special friendships through CCS Education Foundation instructional grant
Cali Jones

A pen pal relationship can be used to improve literacy, learn more about other countries and lifestyles, and to make friendships. As with any friendships in life, some remain pen pals for a short time, while others exchange letters forever. Some pen pals even arrange to meet face-to-face — such as the fourth-grade students in Carrollton Upper Elementary School teacher Whitney Meigs’ classroom. 

Students in Carrollton Upper Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Whitney Meigs’ class became pen pals with individuals in the Carroll County Training Center (CCTC). The students got to meet their pen pals in person earlier this week. Pictured from left are Ron Bickers, Ava Derbecker and Angelique Hernandez Madrigal. 

When the Carrollton City Schools Education Foundation opened the Instructional Excellence Grant application window at the start of the school year, Meigs had a special idea to pitch. She said she was inspired by a school that had paired with another school for students with autism to become pen pals.

“I immediately thought of the Carroll County Training Center (CCTC) and Advocates for Remarkable Citizens (ARC)," said Meigs. "After speaking with a member of the CCTC board, I developed a plan for my students to become pen pals with the individuals at the training center.”

The CCTC is a place where adult citizens with physical and intellectual disabilities can go during the day to participate in activities to increase their self-help skills, skills for daily living, social skills and adaptive skills.

“My main goal was to build a classroom community that understands empathy and inclusion of everyone,” said Meigs. “With the letters, we were able to work on skills like writing complete sentences and spelling, but we were also able to learn about how simple acts can make a huge impact on the world around us. Students proved to me that they truly understood what this program was all about and how to treat all people, no matter the circumstance.”

The students in Meigs’ class were able to meet their pen pals face-to-face earlier this week. The students asked personal questions, read to them, played a game and enjoyed refreshments.

“Getting to meet our pen pals was definitely my favorite part of the whole project. I loved seeing my students interact with the clients at CCTC and how kind they were,” said Meigs. “Walking around hearing the conversations made my heart burst with pride. All students were truly engaged in the conversations with their pen pals.”

CUES Principal Stacy Lawler commended Meigs for her efforts with the project and said he is proud of the students for what they accomplished. 

“Mrs. Meigs did a fantastic job with this project that encouraged our students to be inclusive, empathetic and kind to all people,” said Lawler. “I was beaming with pride as I watched our students engage with their pen pals and I know they walk away from this with knowledge and skills that they will continue to build upon in the years to come.”

One student in Meigs’ class said meeting her pen pal was an experience she will never forget.

“It was one of the best days of my life because I got to meet someone who was very kind. I felt in my heart he was like my family,” said Ava Derbecker. “I loved painting rocks with him. I couldn’t really understand some of the things he said, but he had the same kindness in his heart and tried to do his best like everyone else. Honestly, it was beautiful!”

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