Growing up, school was always a refuge for Clay Hunter.
"My teachers really encouraged me to succeed," said the South Gwinnett High School principal.
As the product of a single-parent home, Hunter said educational professionals provided for him what his family "could not give."
The 10-year veteran of the local system said his time with Gwinnett County Public Schools has allowed him to give that support back to students in the community.
As evidence of his efforts, Hunter was recently recognized as the state's Parent Teacher Association's Outstanding High School Principal for 2011 for the state of Georgia.
Hunter said being a principal means "you can have the chance to make a huge impact and I enjoy that challenge."
Added Hunter: "If I can do for these students what has been done for me, that is a life well lived."
Karen Ness with Georgia PTA said being named the outstanding principal of the year is a unique honor.
"It's the administrator who really goes above and beyond," Ness said. "They have to really be special to be selected for this."
Several local PTA's were also recognized by the Georgia PTA within the Gwinnett district including Couch Middle's PTSA and Taylor Elementary's PTA, which both got second place.
Those chosen as Model PTAs included Annistown Elementary, Camp Creek Elementary, Cedar Hill, Craig, Jackson, Puckett's Mill, Taylor, Roberts, Couch Middle and Parkview High.
Those receiving accolades for Best Ideas were Pharr Elementary and Trip Elementary.
The state association also recognized 2011 Dacula High School graduate Danielle Wilkerson as a scholarship winner.