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The 2010 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team 

Good things are happening in Arkansas schools.

click to enlarge ALL-STARS: The best of the best of Arkansas' high school seniors.
  • ALL-STARS: The best of the best of Arkansas' high school seniors.
Meet the 2010 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team.

It's the 16th year for the only statewide recognition of academic achievement.

The winners will be recognized this week at a ceremony at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a long-time sponsor of the program. They'll receive plaques, checks for $250 and be filmed for features on AETN.

Each year, we invite all schools public and private to nominate one male and one female senior student for the competition. Home-schooled students also can apply. The initial applicants are winnowed to a finalist round and veteran educators make the final selection of 10 males and 10 females for our team.

It's always difficult to make decisions. There are no losers in the dozens of nominees. Congratulations to all.

With this story you'll find a list of all nominees, by hometown, and the students who made the final round of judging. Bottom line: Good things are happening in Arkansas schools.


A helping hand
“I guess it's just in my nature to sit down and help people. One of my favorite quotes is ‘teaching is learning twice.' So I do that when-ever I can. I benefit more from helping others than they do.”

That pretty much sums up Yazan “Zee” Al-Fanek. This 17-year-old honor student came to Little Rock with his family, from Amman, Jordan, when he was 12. He didn't speak English at all, but learned quickly. He recently scored a 3 on his AP English exam, which is no easy feat, even for a native speaker.

“Now it's funny because I correct people on their grammar,” Zee says.

Jeannie Moss, the AP English Literature teacher at Mills, describes Zee's work ethic and passion for learning as “amazing.”

“There is a grant that pays students who score high on AP tests,” Moss says. “Zee qualified for some of that money this year and he didn't want to accept it because he doesn't think students should get paid to make good grades. So he decided that he would take out a couple of the teachers to dinner. He just has a great heart.”

When he's not at school, studying, playing violin in the school's orchestra or working on group projects, Zee volunteers his time, doing neu-roscience research at the National Center for Toxicological Research near Pine Bluff.

“The medical profession needs people who actually care and want to help out other people and that's what I want to do,” Zee says.


The quest for happiness
“Truth and lasting happiness are not final destinations, but a manner in which we should travel.”

When Bro. Richard Sanker read the words on the page he was pleasantly surprised. Sanker has been asking students about the quest for truth and happiness for years, but has never received a response like the one from Alan Baltz.

“That's the first time I've ever read anything quite like that from someone that age,” Sanker says. “He's so centered and so focused on the right things, it's beautiful to see. He's wonderfully humble about it. He doesn't walk around with his head in the air or anything like that. He's just a down-to-earth guy.”

And that manifests itself in the straight-A student's interactions with other students.

“He loves to communicate and he can relate to anybody,” says Sanker.

“I've always respected my classmates,” Alan says. “I have no enemies and a bunch of unexpected friends, which is great. I just try to be a buddy to someone that needs help. If there's a freshman that's struggling, I'm going to try to help them. We're here to get through this high school experience together and make it as good as possible, why not try to help each other out along the way? I've always been one to say, if you need something, ask me a question. If I can answer it, I will and that helps me learn too.”

Alan, a member of the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Catholic and an amateur ham radio operator, wants to make a living out of helping people by becoming a doctor.


Making it look easy
Christian Braunfisch strolls effortlessly along the sidelines of the soccer field of his high school. He's tall, thin, and, wearing the tie-and-blue-blazer Episcopal School uniform, looks like he just stepped out of the movie Rushmore.

“I don't know.”

That's what he says when asked what he wants to do with his life. Looking at his resume, you get the idea he'll have plenty of options.

“Once I get out of college I want to go out and do something crazy,” he says. “I want to work in London, or trade on the Asian markets, or do something that I won't be able to do later. But that's all subject to change.”

Honor council, class president, TV show producer, co-founder of the Mathletes, varsity soccer, 9 AP classes — and that's not even the whole list. Christian's got a lot going on to say the least. But according to those at his high school, he handles it with ease.

“This generation seems to be able to do a lot of things — text each other and do research on the Internet, type out their papers, keep up with their favorite show on TV, play their sport and stay on top of the rest of their subjects — and do it all at the same time. It's quite remarkable and Christian is definitely that kind of student,” says counselor Phil Hooper.

And though he may not know exactly what the future holds, he's not sweating it.

“I'm just ready for new challenges,” he says.


The write stuff
Though a lot of our Academic All Stars naturally gravitate toward math and science, Fayetteville High School Valedictorian Pete Brooks is captivated by stories and the written word. From a very young age, he recalls, he wrote and put on plays for his family — so many, in fact, that his parents eventually bought him a video camera so he could perform for himself. It's a love he has kept as he has matured, editing the Fayetteville High School literary magazine “Connotation,” and developing his fiction and plays into high art.

“I write something every day, even though it might be only an idea,” he said. “A lot of times I don't finish what I'm writing, not because I give up, but I think especially right now, with my age and my experience, I don't feel a need to finish everything … I like to think through things and tinker with them for my own enjoyment, and if I feel like I've gotten everything out of it personally, then I move on.”

That's not to say that Pete is a one-trick pony. Though he admits that science is his least favorite subject, he has excelled in every class he has taken, landing a 4.09 GPA and the number one ranking out of his school's academically competitive senior class of 531 students. Asked what he plans to do with his life, he says he's just happy to not have to worry about it right now.

“As far as careers go, my ideas of what I would do in the near future and in college haven't really rested on an end in a career,” he said. “For now, I know these things that interest me, and I plan on just exploring those and seeing where it takes me.”


Living history
For Southside High School's James Brown, history isn't something found in cloudy cases and dusty books. It's happening all around us, right now. And he plans to catch it while it's hot.

A fan of European history who hopes to be a college professor some day, he's well on his way to making some history of his own. Ranked third in his class of 540, James has racked up a 4.28 grade point average and an ACT score of 33. He plays French horn in the Southside Rebel marching and concert bands, which afforded him a rare honor in 2009: playing on the deck of the battleship U.S.S. Missouri — where the surrender documents of Japan were signed at the end of World War II — during the 50th anniversary of Hawaii statehood.

“Me being a history buff and everything, it was incredible,” James said. “It was so cool. I couldn't believe I was there where all that history had taken place, not very long ago in the past.”

For James, history is something that we're literally experiencing every minute. “It's not like you have to go into a lab to encounter history,” he said. “Each second that goes by is history.” Asked why he pushes himself so hard academically, he gives an answer that would probably make Doris Kearns Goodwin proud: “It's what I owe. I owe it to my friends, and all the people that have tried hard in my own life. They haven't just done what's enough.”


A match for Chopin
Ellen Eubanks sports an unblemished transcript, stuffed with As in the grade column, leaving her with an impressive 4.12 grade point.

When asked what drives her to maintain such a perfect streak of grades, the bubbly, personable Arkadelphia High senior laughs bashfully, saying, “Heck, I just really don't like getting bad grades!”

While her performance in the classroom is uniform, her extracurricular activities are undeniably varied: drum major for Arkadelphia's prestigious, prodigious marching band, member of the tennis and soccer teams, Quiz Bowl competitor, National Honor Society … the list goes on, and ever diverse.

She speaks about the months she spent wrestling with Frederic Chopin. Rather, wrestling with his “Nocturne in C Sharp Minor,” a delicate, expressive piece for piano with an intimidating amount of difficult polyrhythms. The complexities of the song made it difficult to memorize and, as Ellen says, without memorization, one can't perform the song with necessary nuance and expression. But, after months of tenacity and encouragement from her instructor, Carol Houston, she learned the pride of conquering a piece that's challenged pianists of every skill level for 175 years.

Having already enrolled (and excelled) in Latin and indoor climbing classes at Ouachita Baptist, Ellen plans on continuing her tenure as a Tiger, studying English. A fan of fantasy books from Tolkien to Brandon Sanderson, she sees herself either writing her own brand of escapist literature or acting as an editor at a publishing house.


Overcoming and excelling
Like a lot of people in this world, K. Amanda Carr has a painful past. Unlike most, however, she's not letting it slow her down. A victim of mental and physical abuse that she said left her feeling like a prisoner a lot of the time when she was younger, Amanda and her mother were eventually able to escape from their difficult situation at home. Some of the police and social workers involved in her case feared it might hold her back for life. In response, she resolved not to let it, and has succeeded in spades. She will graduate with a 4.44 GPA and is first in her class of 239 at Alma High School.

“I actually got asked the question the other day about what has been the most important lesson I've learned in life,” Amanda said. “And I just had to say that it's just to be strong. That sounds generic, but after everything I've gone through, it's just all you can do really. You've got to depend on others, but you've got to depend on yourself.”

In addition to her demanding academic schedule, Amanda finds time to volunteer at a long list of charities catering to victims of violence, including The Crisis Center for Women and the Morgan Nick Foundation. She picked the colleges she applied to based on the quality of their non-profit leadership courses, and plans on working in and hopefully leading a non-profit when she's older.

“I guess I have a perfectionist tendency,” Amanda said of her academic career. “It gives me a sense of accomplishment to know that I've done something for myself, and that it's going to pay off in the end. Maybe it'll help me to help other people in the long run.”


All-around senior
A sinewy senior from Rogers, Andrew Evans encapsulates the idea of “student athlete.” A multiple award-winning cross-country star who finds time to captain his team and lead his marching band's percussion section. Evans not only sports a hectic schedule and a crowded letterman jacket, but an astonishing 35 on his ACT, as well.

Anyone who went to high school knows it's easy for the exceptionally talented — both academically and athletically — to get a little cocky, but, as Shiloh Christian counselor Debbie Diehm reiterates, “He's enormously humble and unpretentious; you'd never suspect someone who flies under the radar so well to be so gifted.”

That's not to say that he keeps to himself, however. Diehm also applauds Andrew for his skills as a great encourager, a major trait which helped him lead his cross-country team to the 3A state championship in 2007. “He's always thinking of others first,” she says.

His modesty doesn't end at the school doors, either. A frequent volunteer, he's spent time in remote Honduran villages with his church, gath-ered school supplies for the underprivileged and works with Blessing Baskets, an annual Thanksgiving food distribution organization.

A student of math and the sciences, Andrew will continue his education (and running career) at Harding University, where he plans to study mechanical engineering.

When asked what drives him to consistently go the extra mile, Andrew, in his understated way says simply, “I'm just motivated to be the best I can be and I'll do whatever it takes.”


And a grant writer to boot
Like a lot of our All-Stars, Savannah Fletcher has a resume to make college administrators drool. She's a National Merit Finalist. She scored within a point of perfect on the ACT. She's set to graduate with a 4.39 GPA in the rigorous International Baccalaureate diploma program, which puts her atop a competitive Mount Saint Mary's class.

She's been a varsity cheerleader for four years. She's on the Quiz Bowl team. She's tutored students at Franklin Elementary and volunteered at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center. And lest you think everything Savannah does comes in service of padding said resume, Mount Saint Mary's counselor Tricia Davis reports that, even though she asks her students to tell her everything they do outside of the classroom that might be relevant to college applications, Savannah never mentioned perhaps her most impressive extracurricular activity — that she successfully navigated the Byzantine world of grant writing at 16.

The idea came after hearing from her mother about the Union Rescue Mission's financial woes.

“I didn't really have many resources,” she explained, “but I started researching extensively on the Internet and found possibilities. It ended up fruitfully.” The grant landed Union Rescue $2,000 and products from Maybelline.

Savannah says her ability to balance a full schedule is simply an offshoot of her personality. “I'm naturally driven. I like to be busy. I don't like to sit around. I want to feel like I'm accomplishing something.” Next on her list: Attending Vanderbilt, where she plans on majoring in biomedical engineering with a focus on pre-med.


Naturally competitive
The will to compete, a quality anyone who finishes first in her class must possess, comes naturally to Breanna Harris. Like from the womb, naturally.

Harris and her fraternal twin, Chelsea, have made straight A's since they started school, and throughout their high school career each has been jockeying to best the other in class ranking. But they've finished, predictably, tied for valedictorian. Asked, mostly in jest, if they'll alter-nate words in their graduation speech, Breanna said, “That's what we suggested, but we don't know if the counselor will go for it.”

Change is on the horizon for Breanna. Not only will she and Chelsea go to different colleges next year — Breanna is bound for the Univer-sity of Arkansas at Fort Smith, while Chelsea will head to the University of Mississippi (“I give them one semester,” their father Lesley Harris said, laughing) — it will be the first time Breanna isn't competing in sports. Basketball and track, in particular, have been her favorites.

This year she was captain of both teams at Riverview. “Speed is exhilarating,” Breanna wrote in her All-Stars' essay. “The feel of the wind passing through my hair or the patter of feet chasing after me creates a feeling I never want to lose.”

She said she'll apply that determination and devotion to moving fast to the classroom at UAFS, where she plans to go pre-med in psychology.


Doing it all
Stephanie Lim is itching for college. She got a taste in 2008, when she attended an eight-week summer school program at Harvard, where she says she made friends with people from all across the country (and Singapore), whom she still talks to at least four times a week.

She also managed to get a better grade than classmates from prestigious prep schools like Andover and Exeter in a class all Harvard fresh-man are required to take.

“I think that speaks well for Searcy High School,” she said. “I feel prepared.” Of course,

Stephanie should certainly feel free to take some credit herself. In 10th grade, in her free time, she started working with a professor at Hard-ing University's pharmacy department — analyzing data and statistics and writing — on a paper on amphetamine sensitization that they sub-mitted to the journal Behavioural Brain Research (it's currently in a follow-up round of editing). Also in 10th grade, she started a school com-munity service organization, Humanitarian Efforts for Life Progression. Through HELP, she organized groups to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, raised money for the Susan B. Komen foundation and started a recycling program at high school basketball games.

In addition to graduating first in her class, scoring a perfect 36 on the ACT and becoming a National Merit Finalist, Stephanie has been the clarinet section leader in band throughout high school. Somehow, she also found time to compete with the varsity swim team and play violin in the Harding University orchestra. As for a course of study at either Harvard or Princeton, she's not sure. “I like too many things.”

Work ethic
Helio Liu isn't being immodest when he mentions his work ethic. His teachers say the same. He says he'll spend a whole night reading about an esoteric subject such as “deinterlacing and frame rate correction in video” or spend five hours' work at home to make up for a wasted school period. His AP statistics teacher (one of 21 AP courses he's taken) says that when others are visiting at lunch hour, Helio is likely to be working on physics. “He wants to be the best,” his teacher wrote. “And IS number one in the state in statistics.” He's also leading his Science Bowl team to national competition this week.

The results of his hard work are a sparkling resume. Helio's had nearly perfect scores on both the SAT and ACT tests. He's a National Merit scholarship semi-finalist. He's a star in math, programming and engineering competitions.

He's not just a classroom grind. He plays viola in the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. He tutors other students in AP courses. And, teachers say, he has a quick wit. “You won't find traditional humor,” he says. “You'll find things like math jokes mixed with some strange irony.” Last summer at Governor's School, it was Helio who led a group that decorated the courtyards at Hendrix College with giant chalked Pokemon drawings.

Underneath it all is a seriousness of purpose. “I want to save the world,” he wrote in his application essay. “Not from aliens or terrorists, but from pollution and waste.”

He's interested in an academic career, which he sees as a freer environment than the private world. His early prep work includes the UAMS Medical Applications of Science for Health summer program and the UALR High School Research Program.

He'll graduate from Central No. 1 in a class of 527 students, with a grade point average of 4.54.


Reading is fundamental
Cara McCollum would shine anywhere with her straight-A average, 33 ACT score, AP courses whenever possible and top ranking in a class of 227. In a school district where poverty requires a major school focus on underachievers, she sparkles even brighter. “One of my biggest challenges has been creating opportunity,” she says. She's taken enough courses at the local community college — in voice, piano and other subjects — to qualify for an associate of arts degree. She encouraged Forrest City High to create an Advanced Placement course in studio art. Two years ago, she helped start the school's student government and now is its president.

Cara says her achievement started with a love of reading. She wrote in her All-Star application essay that books have taken her around the world, from Sierra Leone with child soldiers to California with Dust Bowl Okies. More concretely, the learning they inspired took her to the Duke Talent Identification Program, where she studied dystopian literature, and to the Interlochen Summer Academy, where she worked on creative writing.

Reading isn't a selfish pursuit. Cara started a monthly story time at the Boys and Girls Club. She donated more than 1,000 books to a children's library. She started a countywide Birthday Book program for poor children aged 5-10, an outgrowth of the Christmas-time Toys for Tots campaign. Parents who registered for toys also were provided a book. She later expanded the birthday book program to a local elemen-tary school, with a gift book for every child. Cara's work made her a finalist in the annual Daniel Cayce Award competition for youth volunteerism.

She isn't strictly bookish. She's a dancer and artist (a prize-winner in print-making and watercolor). She also sings, plays the piano and debates. Because of her love of literature, she thinks she'll major in English in college.


Hands-on
Corey Post arrived at Pulaski Academy in his junior year from Lexington, Ky. But, said counselor Cheryl Watts, “It's like he'd been here from the first.”

Pulaski Academy doesn't rank its students, but Corey's grades in AP biology, calculus, government, composition, literature and Spanish V range from 96 to 100. He's a National Merit semi-finalist.

He tells counselor Watts that he particularly likes physics because of the hands-on work at figuring out how things work. Hands-on is a good description for what Corey lists as his greatest achievement. He's been an active Boy Scout since the fourth grade, putting in 115 hours design-ing, supervising and laboring in the construction of a horseshoe pit for a retirement home as his Eagle Scout project.

Despite his strong inclination toward math and science (he's done independent work at his father's UAMS lab on cellular receptors), Corey has blossomed in the humanities, too. In History Day competition last year, he wrote and filmed a documentary on an early leader for Irish independence. The project reached the national finals. His success inspired him to take a senior thesis class, which requires original research and a paper of at least 50 pages. Corey is writing his on copyright infringement, with a focus on Internet data piracy. Outside the classroom, he's president of the school's Amnesty International chapter. He leads on ongoing project to teach others about the Republic of the Congo and to raise money through bake sales and solicitations for work there, such as by Doctors Without Borders. After the earthquake in Haiti, the Amnesty chapter quickly switched focus and raised $1,500 for relief efforts. And what would classmates probably remember most about Corey? Probably the day he showed his AP history class during a five-minute break how to solve the Rubik's Cube.


Good with kids
You can learn a lot when you're the second-oldest in a family of 12 children. Melissa Richardson has.

“I learned to be independent and responsible at a very early age and have been conscious of my position as a role model and leader for the rest of my family. Also, I have become a pro at babysitting 10 children at a time!”

She wasn't always so comfortable with her lot. She remembers being stared at when her mother picked her up at school in a 15-passenger van filled with chattering children and a crying baby.

“Those were the junior high days, those conformist days when you don't want to stand out for fear of ridicule. That's when my family was an embarrassment. It wasn't until I got past the ‘wanting to be normal' stage that I realized how much the experience of growing up in a big family has shaped my character.” (Seven of the 12 children are the biological children of Connie and Vernon Richardson. The other five were adopted from Russia.)

Melissa wants to be a child psychologist or psychiatrist. She seems well-equipped. She ranks first in a class of 531. She's co-editor of the school newspaper, a member of the honors choir, the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta, and president of the National French Honor Society. She was in the cast of the school musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” She's a volunteer at the Veterans Hospital, a youth music leader at her church, and the church choir pianist. She's a National Merit semi-finalist, an AP Scholar with Honors and ranked in the top 6 on a national French exam.


Looking up
Spencer Sharp loves cars, which is not unusual among people his age. The things he does to cars are unusual. For example, he's working with three classmates to convert six police cruisers to run on natural gas. “We hope to set an example for people to shy away from gasoline.” When he was in the seventh grade, he began dreaming about restoring a classic car with his dad. In the ninth grade, he found the car of his dreams — a 1971 Chevelle SS. His father bought it, and the two of them have worked on it for more than two years, “transforming a rusty eye-sore into a beautiful, reliable vehicle.” Spencer drives it to school. It's a constant reminder, he says, that hard work and determination pay off.

He hopes to work on even more sophisticated vehicles. He plans to major in aerospace engineering at Oklahoma State University, which has an aerospace program affiliated with NASA.

Spencer is president of Mu Alpha Theta and a member of the AP Academy, the Astronomy Club, the Ecology Club, the Spanish Club and the Spanish Honor Society. He's tutored other students in math and coached fourth-grade Quiz Bowl contestants. He's a National Merit semi-finalist and an AP Scholar with honor. He was one of eight Arkansans chosen to compete in a “Who Wants to Be a Mathematician?” contest hosted by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and he was a member of an Algebra II team that placed ninth in a national competition.


Stagestruck
Nicholas Stevens is involved in many activities at his school, but “What I am truly passionate about is performing. I love the stage. My greatest accomplishments in high school haven't been my grades or being voted Senior Class president. No, I am most proud of my performance in ‘Grease,' my work on the choreography for the choir's rendition of ‘The Pink Panther,' and the skits I created for the choir's annual Follies program.” Since he wrote that, he's added another star to his performing crown. Last month, he played Snoopy in a production of “You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

His other accomplishments aren't small either. Academically, he ranks first in a class of 165. His grade point average is 4.29 in what a coun-selor calls “one of the most rigorous courses of study we offer.” He's vice president of the Student Council, a member of the choir, the Beta Club and the National Honor Society, and works on the yearbook. He is the lone student representative on his school's Sitebase Council, which includes teachers, an administrator and a parent. He was a delegate to Boys State and a National Merit semifinalist. He's a worship leader at his church, and a volunteer at Fishnet Missions and the Costume Corner. Nicholas is “a driving force in every senior activity,” according to counselor Suzanne Knowles. She adds that he's also “fun, and can make many difficult situations enjoyable.”


Poet, math whiz, biologist
Almost in the same breath in which she describes herself as “more normal than a lot of people,” Ariel Teague notes that because of her passion for writing, “When I go home, my forearms are covered with notes or ideas. I love to write. It's my bread and butter. There is something undeniably right about a pen.” So it may come as a small surprise that the straight-A student and AP Scholar with Distinction, who exults “Ariel Teague Loves John Donne Forever,” is considering a pre-med track at Lyon College, which she'll attend on full scholarship. And that the third-place winner of the Poetry Out Loud contest is a Mu Alpha Theta member. But Ariel doesn't see a conflict in her love of literature and her scientific goals. “Some math,” she tries to explain to a reporter, “is not going to use integrals,” and she loves science. And while she says she'd jump off a bridge for her English teacher (Oretha Ferguson), she calls her biology teacher, John Ford, “amazing.” She has another reason to go into medicine: She'd like to do research in the disease that her mother suffers from, schizophrenia, a disease that took her mother from her home. In an essay, Ariel wrote, “If, one day, a little girl doesn't see her family ripped apart by such a disease, well, there's not much more I could honestly ask for.” This summer, however, she's going to take it easy. Sleep. Knit. Crochet. Try woodworking. Learn how to swim. Get ready to take Lyon College by storm.


Fulfilling dreams
Linda Porter, a counselor at Central High School who has worked for 35 years in education, says Yi Wu is one of the most highly moti-vated students she's ever worked with. It might be because, as Yi says, in Chinese culture “kids are supposed to fulfill their parents' dreams.” But, she quickly adds, though she feels a certain amount of pressure to succeed, “At the same time I want to do this, to get a good job and be successful.” Here's what the No. 2 student at Central High School can offer: A head for math — she finished all of Central's AP math offerings by the end of her junior year and so is taking Calculus 3 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock this year. A head for science — a research paper on which she is listed as the second author, “Arsenic Trioxide as Potential Treatment for Multiple Myeloma,” is under review for publica-tion in the journal Hematology. She speaks and reads Chinese. She is creative, enjoying buying clothing from the resale stores and then altering it to make it different (like the “hideous” dress she bought for $5, cut up and added gold to wear to the National Youth Conference in D.C.). And she can write, as her essay suggests: “While the rest of my girlfriends were busy batting their lashes at high school jocks, dreaming of the day when they could be declared the ‘alpha girl' with one of them hooked in their arms, I was profusely batting my eyes at the computer screen, trying to understand the Greek in front of me on something called the Annual Percentage Rate.” Yi must have figured it out, because, inspired by an AP economics class, she plans to major in business and get an MBA. Then, she wants to go into international business, perhaps as a liaison between an American company or organization and China.


Respects hard work
Ann Xu's childhood was slightly out of the ordinary. She grew up at the Shanghai Restaurant, owned and operated by her parents in Hot Springs. “I would go every day, and go to the library and check out two or three books. … I would just sit and read in my corner and eat food off the buffet.” Sometimes she sat with favorite customers; some of them taught her how to read. The regulars at the restaurant became her extended family, filling in for her grandparents in China, her brother 10 years her senior. (Ann extended her family herself — had her parents not stayed in China, she pointed out, they could not have had a second child.) The experience gave her respect for hard work, which must have been required to make straight A's at the state's school for students gifted in science and math. (“My friends tell me that I work too much,” she confided.)

Outside school, Ann is president of the national Rotary service club Interact, which has worked with the Boys and Girls Club in Hot Springs. In the gaps of time left over, she plays piano and flute. Ann thinks she may go into business law or medicine, but she is undecided. She knows this: “I want to be able to help people. I feel like a lot of people have helped me.” She's looking forward to college, what she calls “another door that opens.” She was trying to make a decision which door to enter as this issue went to press.



The Nominees

ALMA
Brooks Blanton
Alma High School


ALTUS
Priscilla Her
Westside High School

Justin McCormick
Westside High School


ARKADELPHIA
Ellen Eubanks
Arkadelphia High School

Will Sonheim
Arkadelphia High School


BALD KNOB
Amber Dugger
Bald Knob High School


BATESVILLE
Samantha Hallowell
Southside High School


BAUXITE
Chelsey Smith
Bauxite High School


BAY
Rebecca Lauren Rutherford
Bay High School


BEEBE
Judd Burns
Beebe High School

Sarah Martin
Beebe High School


BEE BRANCH
Brian Jackson
South Side High School


BEECH GROVE
Molly Elizabeth Young
Paragould High School


BENTON
Hayden Davis
Bauxite High School

Julia Davis
Benton High School


BERRYVILLE
Chelsea Taff
Berryville High School


BRYANT
Aaron Rice
Bryant High School

Olivia Ruple
Bryant High School


CABOT
Grace Coggins
Cabot High School

Spencer Sharp
Cabot High School


CAMDEN
Ryan Evans
Harmony Grove High School

Tyler Feemster
Parkers Chapel High School


CLINTON
Thomas Deatherage
Clinton High School

Annice Olejniczak
Clinton High School


CONWAY
Ann Catherine Corbitt
Conway High School

Nick Kordsmeier
Conway High School


CORNING
Seth Debord
Corning High School

Lindsay Wilcut
Corning High School


CROSSETT
Colby Harper
Crossett High School


DAMASCUS
Megan Bernhardt
Damascus High School


DELIGHT
Haley Halcomb
Delight High School

Kyler Kelton
Delight High School


DOVER
Jared Kanady
Dover High School

Brittany Walker
Dover High School


EL DORADO
Mallory Wooten
Parkers Chapel High School


ELKINS
Andrew Brink
Elkins High School


FARMINGTON
Blake Abrecht
Farmington High School


FAYETTEVILLE
Pete Brooks
Fayetteville High School

Grace Heymsfield
Elkins High School

Lindsay Nickell
Farmington High School

Melissa Richardson
Fayetteville High School


FORREST CITY
Cara McCollum
Forrest City High School

FORT SMITH
James Marshall Brown
Southside High School

Emily Coats
Northside High School

Dominic Phoumivong
Northside High School

Ariel Teague
Southside High School


GREEN FOREST
Bryce Hostatler
Berryville High School


HARRISBURG
Josh Fallon
Harrisburg High School


HENSLEY
Caitlin Renee Buchanan
Sheridan High School


HARRISON
Ashley Nicole Long
Bergman High School


HOT SPRINGS
Sierra Sunshine Mendoza
Cutter Morning Star High School

Karina Sanders
Lake Hamilton High School

Tawny Smedley
Hot Springs High School

Zachary Tilley
Lake Hamilton High School

JaCarri Tollette
Hot Springs High School

Ann Xu
Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts


HOXIE
Shayla Coats
Hoxie High School


HUNTSVILLE
Lindsay Davis
Kingston High School


JACKSONVILLE
Nicholas Stevens
Jacksonville High School


JONESBORO
Morgan Ann Caples
Valley View High School

Devin Griffen
Bay High School

Madison Mashburn
Nettleton High School

David Ramsey
Crowley's Ridge Academy

Neal Shannon
Nettleton High School

Reid Shelton
Valley View High School

Sarah Stidman
Crowley's Ridge Academy


JUDSONIA
Grafton Harrell
Riverview High School


KEISER
Alayna Bell
Rivercrest High School


LITTLE ROCK
Yazan Al-Fanek
Mills University Studies High School

Richard Allen
McClellan High School

Christian Braunfisch
Episcopal Collegiate School

Christopher Cranford
Hall High School

Shakiylia Dennis
Metropolitan Career Technical Center

Savannah Fletcher
Mount St. Mary Academy

La'Vada Gardner
McClellan High School

Rachel Garrett
Episcopal Collegiate School

Helio Liu
Central High School

Alayne Mayo
Hall High School

Corey Post
Pulaski Academy

Daniel White
Subiaco Academy

Yi Wu
Central High School


LONOKE
Michaela Brown
Lonoke High School

Andrew Gibbs
Lonoke High School


LOUANN
Laney Ward
Smackover High School


MALVERN
Tyler Robbins
Malvern High School


MARIANNA
Chris Young
Lee High School


MAUMELLE
Alan Patrick Baltz
Catholic High School for Boys

Daniel Joseph Hopkins
Arkansas Baptist High School


MORRILTON
Bailey Knapp
Morrilton High School

Tyler Priest
Morrilton High School

MOUNT VERNON
Autumn Paige Davies
Mount Vernon-Enola High School


MULBERRY
Amanda Carr
Alma High School


NORMAN
Chelsea Shelton
Caddo Hills High School


NORTH LITTLE ROCK
Chad Ballard
North Little Rock High School – West Campus

Bailey Lowrey
Arkansas Baptist High School

Katie Midkiff
North Little Rock High School – West Campus


PARAGOULD
Adam Norman
Paragould High School

PERRYVILLE
Lindsay Bean
Perryville High School

Lance Satterfield
Perryville High School


POTTSVILLE
Chanda Harrell
Pottsville High School


QUITMAN
Ryan Johnson
Quitman High School


ROGERS
Andrew Evans
Shiloh Christian School

Mallory Hudson
Rogers High School

James Kelly
Rogers High School


ROLAND
Andrea Schmitz
Pulaski Academy


RUSSELLVILLE
Grayson Taylor
Pottsville High School


SEARCY
Karli Blickenstaff
Harding Academy

Benjamin Buterbaugh
Searcy High School

Breanna Harris
Riverview High School

Stephanie Lim
Searcy High School


SHERIDAN
Cody Stothers
Sheridan High School


SHERWOOD
Kirsten Elliott
Mills University Studies High School

Joshua Persson
Sylvan Hills High School


SILOAM SPRINGS
Emily Anderson
Siloam Springs High School

Zachary Houston
Siloam Springs High School


SOLGOHACHIA
Eric Birkner
Sacred Heart High School


SPRINGDALE
Hannah Morris
Shiloh Christian School

Cydney Reed
Har-Ber High School


STAR CITY
Kelsey Postel
Star City High School


TONTITOWN
Thomas “Reid” Joseph
Har-Ber High School


TYRONZA
Jake Coffman
Rivercrest High School


WALDRON
Pedro Lopez
Waldron High School

Lidia Mondragon
Waldron High School


WEINER
Kain Green
Weiner High School

Mallory Jordan
Weiner High School


WEST FORK
Haley Vaughn
Greenland High School

Elijah Wolfe
Greenland High School
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Speaking of Arkansas Times Academic All-Stars

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