The 1998 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team 

Go to the head of the class.

Here they are again, 20 good reasons to feel good about Arkansas high schools and the students they produce.

The Arkansas Times is proud to present its fourth Academic All-Star Team.

There's not a grade-slacker in the bunch, but the honorees are chosen for more than their homework skills. They are great musicians, great athletes, committed community volunteers, budding scientists, stellar role models, funny and the apples of many parents' eyes.

Nomination forms are sent annually to every high school in the state, public and private. We also seek nominations of home-schooled students. Only seniors are eligible.

School counselors and principals are allowed to nominate two seniors--one boy and one girl — from each high school, regardless of size. They supply grades, test scores and accounts of significant achievements. We also ask the nominees to write a brief essay on their accomplishments.

The nominations are reviewed by two independent panels of professional educators and others interested in education. From a group of 50 finalists, the top 20--10 boys and 10 girls--are chosen.

Following are capsule biographies of the winners. We've also given a bit of extra attention to the other finalists, along with a complete list of all nominees. The All-Star Team will be honored at a reception this week at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. They'll receive plaques and cash awards, bringing the amount rewarded since the program began to more than $20,000.

Read on and be inspired.

In the rain forest

Age: 18
Hometown: Fort Smith
High School: Southside
Parents: Dr. and Mrs. Mike Berumen
College plans: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, pre-med.

The summer after his sophomore year, Michael Berumen went to Costa Rica with a group of students to do tropical ecology research in the rain forests, as part of the Duke University Talent Identification Program. "This experience had a profound impact on my life," Michael says. "We were able to work hands-on with several scientists undertaking their own research projects. Extreme specialization in a field exposes one to new ideas and problems never before addressed.

"Much of our time was spent adventuring in the forests, comparing various habitat zones, and listening to lectures or presentations. We visited banana plantations, and saw firsthand the destructive efforts of mismanaging the forests. We also visited places where environmental groups worked with the natives to harvest and cultivate the forests in ways that will keep them viable for many generations. Living in the same conditions as the natives (i.e., without hot or running water, electricity, etc.) really made me aware of how much we take for granted. Someday I hope to return to the Costa Rican rain forests, the place that cinched my desire to pursue scientific interests."

At Southside, Michael was president of the National Honor Society and organizer of many service projects through the society, vice president of the Senior Council, secretary of the Physics Club, and a member of the varsity quiz bowl and varsity soccer teams. He ranked fourth in a class of 483 and could have competed for the top spot, his counselor says, except that he chose to take some courses at Westark College that were not available at Southside.

Michael participated in numerous volunteer activities with the Fort Smith Area Catholic Youth Ministries, the Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity, and the Boys Club, where he served as a soccer coach for two seasons. He has won major academic awards in mathematics, algebra and Spanish, among others. His counselor, Sherma R. Granger, says "Michael gives total effort to everything he does."

Full-immersion American



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