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2014 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team 

The 20th top 20.

It's time again to meet our judges' choices for Arkansas's top 20 high school seniors. The class of 2014, our 20th, is a dizzyingly smart bunch, with rarely a B on their transcripts and near perfect test scores. They fill their lives with far more than studies; when they're not in school, they're shadowing doctors, building robots, growing exotic plants, playing in orchestras and volunteering overseas.

Back in 1995, we created the Academic All-Star Team to honor what we called then "the silent majority — the kids who go to school, do their homework (most of it, anyway), graduate and go on to be contributing members of society." Too often, we argued then, all Arkansans heard about young people was how poorly they were faring. Or, when students did get positive attention, it came for athletic achievement.

As you read profiles of this year's All-Stars, it should be abundantly clear that good things are happening in Arkansas schools and that academic achievers deserve to be celebrated.

To mark this milestone anniversary of Academic All-Stars, we checked in with alumni to see how far the promise of high school excellence has taken them. As you'll see on page 26, today, alumni are doctors of every variety, research scientists, international aid workers, award-winning teachers, critically acclaimed filmmakers — the dozens we managed to contact are spread out around the world doing fascinating, meaningful work.

Who knows where the future will take this year's All-Stars? We can say with some confidence that most of them will attend a ceremony at UALR this week where they'll be honored with plaques and $250 cash awards.

The final deadline for college decisions has not yet arrived. College plans listed here are, therefore, not set in stone.

HYTHAM AL-HINDI

Age: 18
Hometown: Jonesboro
High School: Jonesboro High School
Parents: Ahmad and Manal Al-Hindi
College plans: Vanderbilt University

A future without borders

Sitting in a peaceful classroom, it might be hard to believe that there are places in the world where people are dying for a drink of water, or a plate of food, or the right to go to school. One scholar who keeps those truths in mind every moment he's in class, however, is Hytham Al-Hindi. The state student actions coordinator for Amnesty International, Hytham helps plan protests and student actions all over the state. Hytham said that helping people around the world has been a passion of his from a young age. This year, for example, he has been active in discussing and staging events in opposition to U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East, and advocating for the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Hytham said it's amazing that people have the power to change the life of someone on the other side of the world. "Just a couple of people who take the time to write letters and petitions can save the lives of people who are oppressed for their beliefs," he said. "I really think it's humbling and empowering for anybody, even if you're in high school, to do something like that — to help people around the world just by doing activist work." Hytham currently has a 4.33 GPA and runs on Jonesboro High School's track and cross-country teams. He has been accepted into the Ingram Scholarship Program at Vanderbilt, which will allow him to work in the summertime with groups like Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations. He plans to become a doctor, and said his parents have been a huge influence on him. "They always taught me to try your hardest, no matter what situation you're in," he said. "They've taught me to just look to the future and do your best in the present."

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