Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.
Tired of bad news about kids and they schools they attend?
We have the antidote: The Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team.
They are 20 high school seniors — 10 young women and 10 young men — chosen by independent judges as the best of an outstanding group of nearly 200 nominees.
They are all top students. The collective grade point average is more than 4.0, when you take advanced courses into account. But these are students notable for more than good grades.
They are student body leaders, musicians, artists, outstanding athletes, prize-winning scientists, even an award-winning clothes designer. None of these achievements came easily. For some, the usual hard work was complicated by bouts with cancer and other obstacles.
These are, in short, good kids. Just ask any of the high school principals and counselors who nominated them.
Nomination forms were sent to every public high school and virtually all private high schools in Arkansas. Home-schooled students also are eligible for consideration. The nominations go through two screening procedures. The first screening produces a list of finalists, reported below. A group of educators then gathers to pick the winners from that group of finalists.
The winners receive a plaque, a $250 cash scholarship award and are honored at a ceremony hosted by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. This is the fifth year of the All-Star competition and brings to more than $25,000 the total awarded by the Arkansas Times to outstanding students.
This year's All-Star Team.TRANNY ARNOLD IV
Tranny Arnold IV lost an eye to retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer, as a small child.
But that didn't stop Tranny from begging his parents to let him play football. They finally relented, and Tranny played from seventh grade all the way through last year.
Nor did it stop Tranny from reaching for academic honors. The 18-year-old senior at Catholic High was selected for the LEAD summer business program for minorities, taking courses at the University of Arizona graduate School of Business. The selection was so prestigious, Tranny turned down a trip to the Arkansas Governor's School to make it.
Tranny, one of only three African Americans in Catholic's senior class, plans to continue his business studies at college. He's won bids from Princeton, Northwestern, Georgetown, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota. At press time, Penn was "in the driver's seat."
After college it's politics, Tranny said. "It's been an interest since I was young. ... I'd like to take a leadership role and to help others. The best way to serve them is to be involved in politics."
Tranny credits his parents' attitude for his academic successes. "When I was young my dad read to me before bed, and that helped me strive. My parents said, 'No Cs will ever come into this house.' " And they didn't — except for one, he recalls, in penmanship.
Virginia Arnold, Tranny's mother, said Tranny is "the greatest son in the world."
Her "gentle giant," as she calls him, surprises her with his maturity and poise. "He's so focused to be so young — it's like he's been here before."
In addition to his studies, Tranny has for many years volunteered at the St. Jude's Children's Hospital telethon. It was at the Memphis hospital that he was first diagnosed and treated, and he has returned there regularly over the years for checkups. He's been cancer-free for 17 years.
Tranny's looking forward to college and the challenges it will bring.
"It's time for me to branch out now and spread my wings," he said.AMANDA BAILEY
At the end of her freshman year in high school, Amanda Bailey was ranked 17th in her class — not bad for a large high school. But, she said, "I wanted more and I resolved to take action."
She could have chosen easy classes to boost her grades. "Instead, I challenged myself by taking harder classes that I knew would test my skills." Advanced placement classes also offer 5 points, rather than 4, for an A. Needless to say, those As don't come as easily.
But Amanda's rank slowly rose. Now, as graduation near, she stands second in a class of more than 500 students. While many coasted their senior year, Amanda went the other direction, with five advanced placement classes, all As, in English, biology, history, psychology and calculus.
The calculus course, necessary to improve her grade average, deprived her of the opportunity to have a free period meeting with fellow cheerleaders. "I can't think of too many girls who would do that," says counselor Mary Taylor. The psychology class cost her another favorite "leisure" activity — participating in a group that performs musicals in statewide speech competition.
"I can't sing," Amanda confides. But she had 10 years of dance lessons and that makes her a valuable cast member.
Her personality dictates achievement. "I'm driven and I'm impatient," she says. "I want to do it all." She just about has — National Merit Scholarship finalist, Governor's School, Girls State, cheerleader captain, a member of a team that tests Arkansas water quality, more advanced placement courses than any student in her school, volunteer work in a mentoring program for at-risk kids, student council.
"She truly sets a standard for excellence in academics and service," says counselor Taylor.LAUREN DANIELLE BAKER
Lauren Danielle Baker is an artist capable of expressing herself in almost any medium. She paints, sculpts, sings. She designs and paints the scenery for school plays and then acts in them. She even held a one-woman art show in Lepanto last summer.
Art, Lauren says, is "like therapy. It's how I express my feelings — through art and through singing."
Lauren says, "When my best friend died, I did one of the best things I ever did," a charcoal self-portrait.
But what she really wants to do with her life — what she's already doing -- is design clothes. She has designed prom dresses for herself and her friends, and this year, she designed graduation dresses for students at schools in Little Rock and Memphis.
Her artistic endeavors and loves haven't kept Lauren from being a good student at East Poinsett County High School, where she's sixth in her class. They haven't kept her from being active in her church, First Baptist Church in Lepanto or traveling with a youth missionary group.
And they haven't kept Lauren from being kind and compassionate toward those who are "different."
"She supports whatever she thinks is right," says Sharon Coburn, Lauren's school counselor. "She supports others' rights to have an opinion."
"She's very kind," Coburn says of Lauren. "However, she stands up for what she believes. She rarely gets mad. The only time I've seen her get angry was when she saw a student being abused, their differences not being accepted."
Lauren, whose mother is an artist, has tried to take advantage of every opportunity to take art classes.
Lauren says her favorite fashion designer is Donna Karan. "That's my dream, to work for her, or Dolce & Gabbana. The simplicity, I just really love that."JOSHUA D. BROOKS
Actually, Josh Brooks already has some practical business experience — he's the bookkeeper for his father's farm and his grandmother's cake shop. But he'll likely have a lot more. An active member of the Future Business Leaders of America, and vice president of the state chapter, he was recently named Mr. FBLA in Arkansas. He's considering further studies in accounting and mathematics at Lyon College, to which he received a full scholarship, but his choice of a major is still tentative.
Josh is president of the senior council, a member of the yearbook staff, and salutorian of his class. His community involvement includes volunteer work for Toys for Tots, the March of Dimes (he has been nominated for the organization's national youth council), and the Arkansas Rice Festival. This summer, he will work as an intern for U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson.
Quiz Bowl is "my passion," Josh says. He captained a Weiner High team that placed first in regional competition and third in state competition. He was one of five members of the 1998 Arkansas All-State Quiz Bowl Team. "I was told that I was the first ever selected to be on the team from a Classification B school. All of the other members of the team were from Classification 4A schools." (Class B is for the schools with the smallest enrollments. Class 4A is for the largest schools.) The Arkansas team finished eighth in national competition.
It did not all come easily, according to counselor Patricia Brashears.
"Josh is a developed leader," she says. "When he was younger, he suffered from a severe case of shyness. Josh developed his speaking skills and has excelled at a local, state and national level. He is an asset to our school and our community."MARY CLAIRE BUTT
"Full speed all the time." That's Mary Claire Butt's self-description and the record shows it — all advanced placement classes; cheerleading practice, which isn't over before golf practice begins; piano, which Mary Claire took up relatively late "just for myself."
She bubbles with accounts of activities past and future, including a summer studying political science at the Fulbright School in Fayetteville. Another summer, she spent two weeks in small Delta towns on a mission project. She painted the home of elderly sisters, ate with them and prayed with them. To find the sisters' windowsills nailed shut against intruders was an eye-opener for a young woman from sheltered Fayetteville. "It was like a new coat of paint turned their life around," she remembers. "We weren't the most wonderful painters in the world, but they thought what we did was wonderful."
Another fan is Barbara Prichard, director of Fayetteville's Gifted Programs, who says, "One of her most enduring traits is her capacity to juggle so many disparate activities and interests. Many females with her intellect fall into the trap of 'dumbing down' for peer acceptance, but she has not sacrificed her own capabilities yet has been one of the most involved and poular females in the school."
Mary Claire is top-ranked in a class of 448 and is a National Merit Scholarship finalist. She's been active in Students Against Drunk Driving, a church youth leader and a top scorer on the national Spanish exam. She has particular pride in leading her golf team to a better-than-expected fifth place finish in the state tournament. "I made up my mind not to let down myself or the team by folding under pressure and losing concentration." For Mary Claire Butt, that would have been unheard of.AMANDA S. CAIN
Community service has been the key to Amanda S. Cain's quiet success in high school.
"Since 1990," she says, "I have visited and entertained at nine different nursing homes one or two times a month with my clogging group, 4-H Club, and dance company." She's the first veteran clogger — one of a 5-member local troupe called the Double Steppers — to have been named to our Academic All-Star team.
She reckons she's put in more than 800 hours worth of community service since 1987, including volunteer work for school, church, civic, charitable, and hospital organizations (and even highway cleanup) — but she says, "My emphasis has (always) been on helping the elderly. The nursing home residents enjoy watching us perform. Sometimes they tap their feed and hum to the music. At first I was a little scared of the residents, but now I enjoy talking to them. I will always have special memories of them. I have adopted a grandparent at the Pioneer Nursing Home in Melbourne."
Amanda is first in her class of 50 at Izard County High School at Brockwell. She's a National Merit finalist; she finished sixth nationally in a Future Business Leaders of America competition in business communications; she's the state winner of the 4-H Club Citizenship Project; she's editor of her school newspaper, and an award-winning photographer and flutist. Her mother is a teacher at nearby Viola High School in Fulton County.
"She's one of those exceptional people who are so quiet and so proficient that they glide through school without ever receiving the appreciation they deserve," says Mickey Oliver, her guidance counselor at Izard County High.
Amanda is tentatively planning to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where she's already received two scholarships. She hopes to make a career in medicine but hasn't settled on a specialty yet.JUSTIN TYLER CARROLL
Even though he's still in high school, Justin Tyler Carroll's resume of academic and community-service accomplishments is already stunning.
He won national celebrity in 1995 when, just after finishing the eighth grade at Wynne, he won the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, and this year he won the $1,000 Prudential Spirit of Community Award as the top high-school volunteer in Arkansas, largely for his work in founding and coordinating his school's chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which builds and rehabilitates houses for the poor and elderly. It's the first high-school chapter in the state. If he wins the national competition for this award in Washington D.C. next month, he'll collect another $5,000.
The list of Justin's high-profile honors and activites runs to four closely spaced pages and the entries cover an astonishing range — from medical research during an internship at Boston Childrens Hospital in 1998 to the design and maintenance of a Spanish language computer webpage. He's pursued independent studies of piano and the Russian language, and studied languages and math in two summer residential programs at Duke University. He was the ASMS outstanding chemistry student last year, has won several national poetry competitions, was profiled in Business Week magazine last year as one of America's outstanding young community leaders.
Justin attended elementary and middle school at Wynne, and has carried a 4.0 gradepoint (unweighted) through the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences at Hot Springs the last two years. ASMS doesn't rank its graduating class academically and Justin only knows he'll finish in the top 5 percent of his class. He's bound for Harvard in the fall, and will study toward a career in medicine.JONATHAN L. CHISM
Jonathan Chism doesn't believe in stereotypes. And just because he was a stellar high school football player pursued by major college coaches, athletic prowess is only one of his many attributes.
Sandy Chavis, a counselor at Pine Bluff High School, says Jonathan is "a born politician." Last summer, he was elected governor of Arkansas Boys State, an honor he says is the most notable of his life ... so far.
"At first, many fellow delegates may have seen me as merely an athlete or football player, but I soon identified myself to be sincerely an intelligent young man with stern religious convictions," Jonathan notes.
He is active in the East End Church of God in Christ and speaks at Pine Bluff churches and schools, telling young people from kindergarten to college "about how God is working in my life personally."
Jonathan ranks ninth in a class of 435 at Pine Bluff High, and his success in advanced placement courses has helped him achieve a 4.4 grade-point average. He said no thanks to Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech and decided to pursue both his athletic and academic dreams at prestigious Rice University in Houston, where he'll major, naturally, in political science.
Making the move to the dual life of student and athlete at Rice "is just another step for me," Jonathan says. "I think I'm pretty disciplined in balancing my academics and athletics."
Not to mention his work in extracurricular activities, his church and such causes as the Youth Suicide Prevention Commission and the Youth-Adult Partnership administered by the city of Pine Bluff.
"I stay pretty active in everything and do everything I possibly can do," Jonathan says. "If anyone could be around me for very long, they'd find that out."ROSS EUGENE GLOTZBACH
Dog's best friend
When Ross Glotzbach's grandmother, Floy Luppen, told him last Thanksgiving that she'd share even her last meal with her dog, Snicker, Ross came up with an idea to both honor his grandmother and help the elderly. He started "Snicker's Friends," a sort of "Meals on Wheels" to provide pet food to low-income elderly who might be sharing their portions with their pets.
Ross' guidance counselor pointed to the 18-year-old's "innate kindness and modesty" in his All-Star nomination. But kind and modest doesn't mean this Central High School senior isn't brave and outspoken.
At last summer's Arkansas Boys State session, Ross got an earful of anti-gay, anti-black, anti-female talk. When a candidate for Boys State office got up in front of the assembly and made fun of the Asian woman who ran the cafeteria as part of a campaign speech, Ross responded, reminding the delegates that the United States is a nation of immigrants and that those who work hard and try to learn the language should be honored, not disparaged. Afterward, the other candidate and four of his friends cornered Ross in a hallway and challenged him to fight. He declined.
Now, by the numbers: A perfect 1600 on the SAT, 34 out of 36 on the ACT, 4.458 gradepoint average. Number one in his class. Winner of the Harvard Book Award and offered early admission to Harvard. A varsity basketball player in his sophomore and junior years!
Where does Ross see himself 10 years from now? "Hopefully I will have graduated," he said with a quiet laugh. "I'll be just about to start a family — I've looked forward to that. I hope I will have found a job that makes me happy."
No doubt, there will have been plenty of offers.CATHERINE MARIE GOFF
What defines Catherine Marie Goff? "My love of science," she answers quickly. "That's what I'm all about."
Daughter of a food science research specialist, Goff has graduated from childhood insect collections to a prize winning science project that earned her a trip to an international science fair this month.
Like father, Goff focused on food research. To oversimplify, she proved that an enzyme could test for hard-to-detect bacteria that is damaged, but not destroyed in the cooking process.
The discovery, which could have commercial application in the food industry, was like a Super Bowl victory for the young scientist. Her first positive result came at an 11 p.m. lab visit New Year's Eve. "I shrieked as I danced around the lab, my father standing cautiously to one side. I was glad he was there, even if he was drowsy, to see my first research success."
Catherine anticipates a life of more research, perhaps in medical imaging, "because it integrates all sciences — physics, biology and chemistry." The superior science facilities at the School for Math and Science lured her away from high school in Fayetteville.
She's made straight As in all the tough courses, become a National Merit Scholarship finalist, excelled in German, played alto saxophone in the concert band, worked in drama productions as a set designer and dabbles in art as a stress-reliever.
The close-knit nature of the boarding students at Math and Science, more restricted than kids back home because cars aren't allowed, allows students to learn a lot more about themselves as well as each other, Catherine says. "I think I'm a much more open person now."MARK GUINN
Mark Guinn has already achieved something that is no more than a distant goal for other high school seniors: He has his own business.
Nearly a year ago, Mark and a teenage partner opened CyberJoe's, an "internet cafe," in Siloam Springs.
"We have a fairly sizeable clientele of middle school and high school students who spend most of their time here playing games," Mark writes. "Our computers are set up on a local area network so that our clients can play most games with or against each other. In addition to computer repair and maintenance services, we also have a connection to the Internet which entertains frequent use."
Mark and his partner borrowed $13,500 to buy six computers, a printer and a scanner, and to rent the downstairs portion of a local coffee shop. "While our parents did have to cosign almost everything (at the time neither of us were 18), they didn't do any of the work for us. This is our business and we manage it ourselves." He'll close the business before he goes off to college.
Mark ranks first in his class at Siloam Springs High, where he maintains a 4.02 GPA. He is a member of the Academic Competition for Education (ACE) team and the National Honor Society, and serves as a mentor. He is active in church and youth groups and Habitat for Humanity.
Mark has worked for his school's technology co-ordinator since his freshman year, troubleshooting and helping build the school's computer network and web page. He has taken computer classes at a local college since his sophomore year, because his computer skills surpass what is available at the high school.ADAM HARRELL
Adam Harrell is first in his class of 363 seniors at El Dorado High School. His transcript is a solid spread of A's, and his 4.63 GPA (weighted) puts him right at the top of the academic overachievers who've come out of El Dorado High. He's headed for Harding University this fall to begin his studies to become a pediatrician, possibly back home in El Dorado.
He's an Eagle scout, and recently became an assistant scoutmaster of Troop 18 of the BSA in El Dorado. He's director of children's worship at the College Avenue Church of Christ in El Dorado, and coordinates the Sunday night services for the young people there.
Adam is president of the Spanish Club, a member of the National Honor Society, and a five-year cello player in the school orchestra — a big fan of both classical and rock music, he says.
He won the Renssellaer Math-Science medal last year, but says his proudest academic accomplishment was being named a National Merit finalist. "This recognition signifies meaningful community involvement as well as academic achievement," he says, and his guidance counselors at El Dorado High, Ann Hayes and Vince Dawson, cite "his unique combination of academics, personality, and his activities to look after and improve the wellbeing of others."
Adam grew up in El Dorado — aced every class in every grade of the public schools there, of course — and his mother and father are natives of the El Dorado area also.DENNIS HARRIS JR.
Hall's role model
Dennis Harris leads by example, letting his actions rather than his words guide the way. Ranked second in a competitive class of 229, Dennis obviously spends plenty of time in pursuit of academic goals, but he knows there needs to be balance.
"Basketball keeps me sane," says the starting point guard for the 1998-99 Hall High School Warriors. As do his regular Sunday night bowling adventures with his friends. Dennis' high is 197, but he was well on his way to a 200-plus one recent Sunday when a thunderstorm knocked out the automatic scoring machines and Professor Bowl closed. The anguish in his voice over the interruption proves his competitive nature.
Dennis is a board member for Arkansans for Drug Free Youth, and even his friends who haven't made the same choices "respect me and know that I don't do those things, and they don't do it around me."
Dennis won $650 in a Rotary Club essay contest while a freshman, delivering an address about the importance of having a close family. That same year, Dennis' mom, Jo Anna, became very ill, "and I had to take care of my three younger brothers," he remembers. "That made me grow up real fast."
His maturity and well-rounded personality have not gone unnoticed.
"Dennis is the rare student who exemplifies excellence in every endeavor," says Hall counselor Andrea Baxley. "In many areas, Dennis is naturally gifted. In those areas where his natural gifts are fewer, his desire to excel, willingness to work and problem solving skills lift him to the top."
While still weighing his college options, Dennis also is having to field questions about whether he'll play basketball in college.
"I'm basically just focusing on my grades," he says. "I can always play basketball on the weekends if I want to."ELIZABETH KELLEY
How many students are accepted to college the minute their application arrives? Are flown to campus and escorted around, all expenses paid? Not many.
It may have been all those As in advanced placement courses, her ease with physics and calculus, her gradepoint average of 4.5. Or her SAT score of 1330. Or the way she threw herself into her job as editor of the yearbook. That she's fluent in French, placing first place in the state in the National French Exam. And ... she's deaf.
Deaf last. That's how Elizabeth Kelley, 17, an accomplished and poised teen-ager, the salutatorian of Pulaski Academy's class of '99, would describe herself. As a normal teen-ager who loves to ski down the black runs with her dad, who loves to camp, who works hard at school and volunteers in the community.
Thanks to a cochlear implant (a device that transmits sound to her inner ear) and skill at reading lips, Elizabeth lives in the world of the hearing.
It hasn't been easy. Cochlear implants don't mimic the sound of hearing people. They transmit only a few frequencies compared with those that can be discerned by people of normal hearing. They must translate these sounds into language.
Elizabeth wasn't born deaf. She was a babbling baby — talking at 8 months, learning the alphabet by a year and a half. But at age 2, meningitis robbed her of her hearing.
Her parents, Clif and Shari Kelley, were advised to send her to the School for the Deaf to learn sign language. But little Elizabeth had once been able to hear — a big advantage for those choosing a cochlear implant. And that's what the Kelleys chose, a move that required them to teach Elizabeth to hear a new way. They used games and lots of practice; to promote her independence, they would not talk for her. When Elizabeth met someone, she did the talking. The Kelleys asked Pulaski Academy, where she's gone since she was 5, to treat their daughter like any other student.
Elizabeth excelled. Her only B came in a history class — her teacher had a beard, and she couldn't see his lips. Elizabeth has worked with other children with cochlear implants and talks to families considering the implants, teachers and speech therapists. "I tell them not to worry and to treat them like normal people. They are not dumb." When Elizabeth heads to Washington University at St. Louis this fall, she plans to volunteer at the Central Institute for the Deaf there.
Elizabeth plans on taking business courses, as well as continuing her studies in French — in France, she hopes. How does she see herself in four years? "I see myself being a professional," she said, perhaps in a job that combines her business and language skills. A career woman first, a deaf woman last.KASEY JOYCE MILLER
The hardest thing
A reporter asked Kasey Joyce Miller the hardest thing she ever had to do. Her response revealed she has learned a concept that people much older rarely grasp:
"The hardest thing I ever had to do was come to the conclusion that I won't always be the best at everything and to realize that the people who love me will love me no matter what my transcript says."
Her transcript says Kasey's an excellent student who has pushed herself throughout high school by taking a number of rigorous advanced placement and honors courses and maintaining a 4.043 grade point average.
Her counselor at Parkview, Paulette Landers, says Kasey's personality is "captivating. She is gregarious while unobtrusive, vivacious but calm — an unusual but very appealing combination."
Kasey herself wants to be a well-rounded young woman. She loves to dance and do volunteer work. Dancing is "a release. It expresses so many things that I want to say to my friends or my family. I'm not a very good writer. I can't sing. So what I have to express I do in the form of dancing."
Being able to combine dance and volunteer work makes Kasey especially happy, as when she was a choreographer for a local church dance company.
In addition to other activities, Kasey volunteers at the VA Hospital and has volunteered at CARTI and the Red Cross. Her leadership has been recognized several times, including through her selection to participate in Governor's School. She also is Beta Club president, a student council representative and a member of the National Honor Society, the drill team, Spanish Club and Key Club.
With so many interests, Kasey admits she's found it difficult to choose a college major. "I plan to go in and take a variety of courses and find my passion that way," Kasey says.MARIBETH MOCK
No dumbing down
Perhaps it was Maribeth Mock's "scientific nature" that led her to perform an interesting experiment in personality modification.
Tandy Cobb, advanced placement English teacher at Central, cites two attributes that underlie Maribeth's strength: "her unquenchable thirst for knowledge and her refusal to 'dumb down' as many gifted females do."
Maribeth, who acknowledges she's outspoken, says that, as an experiment, she did once seek to downplay her intellectual attributes. For two weeks, "I tried to just shut up whenever I wanted to say something," Maribeth says.
"For two weeks I was — for me — popular, but it wasn't any fun. I was just bored, so I quit.
"Generally, I'm just glad to find people willing to take me on my own merits."
Stanford, MIT and Cal Tech are willing to take her on her own merits, which are considerable; she's been accepted at each of those top-flight schools. Maribeth is leaning toward Stanford.
Maribeth's history teacher, Charlie Brown, asked what sets this senior apart, says, "She tends to be more inquisitive, which I guess is basic to her scientific nature. And she won't take assertions as necessarily true." Maribeth, Brown says, wants to know "where are the facts?"
Maribeth's standardized test scores are outstanding, she's ranked third in a class of 528 and she has taken a full complement of tough advanced placement classes.
But Maribeth is more than intellect. She has played French horn in the Arkansas Youth Orchestra Wind Symphony for four years. "I make time for my family, my religion, my music and my friends, as well as my school work," she says.
She notes that her religion, Unitarian Universalism, revolves around questions and examines other religions and cultures. "It's a good way of trying to understand others, then trying to understand your life," she says.CHARLES NALLEY
Captain of the football team. President of the National Honor Society. President and CEO of the Executive Business Games. President of the Friends of the Library.
Chuck Nalley has spent his senior year at McClellan High School as a leader. But he didn't take on those roles unprepared. "To be able to lead you have to learn to follow," he says. "You've got to spend time learning and watching and reading and doing hard work before you're ready to lead."
Some of that preparation came in Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif., where he participated as a delegate in the Future Business Leaders of America's National Leadership Conferences. Chuck counts his selection as one of four Arkansas students to attend the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Conference in Indianapolis in 1997 as one of the most significant achievements.
"Their goal was not to teach you what to think but how to think," he remembers. "You go to different workshops to learn about different cultures and different realities. What it makes you realize is that there are different realities than the reality you live in."
That point was driven home in a painful way recently when Chuck and all of McClellan High School had to deal with the death of classmate Devin Cuningkin. Serving as a pallbearer for a friend was a reality check for Chuck, for whom little had ever gone wrong. (He's made nothing but A's in high school and ranks second in his class. He's a star football player who'll walk on at the University of Arkansas as a deep snapper.)
"Devin was a special person to everyone who knew him, a real uplifter. He had a great spirit about him," Chuck says. "He lived life with great energy and a real love of life, and that makes me appreciate that I'm still here to enjoy it."KERI RAE STEFFES
How's this for an award?
"I like you," a little boy in Head Start told Keri Steffes. "You are nice and you read to me." Then he gave her a hug.
It was better than a trophy, she said. "I saw that I was really doing something worthwhile." And lots of it. She volunteers two to three hours each week at Head Start. How? A free period opened up during her high school day because of college level courses she was taking at John Brown University. She decided do spend the time productively. It's only a continuation of hundreds of hours of volunteering, including a summer of regular shifts as a volunteer at a local hospital.
It takes some fancy footwork to cover the ground Keri covers. But she's tap, jazz and ballet dancer. Her tap dancing team won a national competition last year with a number done to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
Keri also puts her feet to work as a midfielder and captain of the girls' soccer team, a program that got started in part because of lobbying from Keri and a few others. Her freshman year, she played on the boys' team because there weren't enough to field a girls' team.
Academics? She's only No. 1 in her class, a National Merit Scholarship finalist and a member of a couple of academic competition teams.
A job transfer moved her parents to North Carolina before her senior year began. They lived in a rural area that required Keri to attend three different high schools to get the accelerated classes she wanted to take. She decided to move in with Siloam Springs friends to complete high school.RACHEL LEIGH WHALEY
One for dad
Rachel Whaley remembers coming home from school in tears as a fourth grader after receiving her first B. She also remembers her father telling her that she had nothing to cry about. It's OK not to be the best, he said. Just as long as she had done her best.
When Rachel's father died in 1993, she decided "the most important thing I could do was to make him proud of me and to show others what an inspiration he was." Mission accomplished.
Guidance counselor Sarah Allen says "Rachel demonstrates her excellence across a veritable smorgasbord of academic activities." She's valedictorian of her class, a top scorer nationally in French, co-editor of the yearbook and a high enough scorer on the ACT test to earn one of the University of Arkansas's top academic scholarships. She's also been a regional winner in math and science competitions.
"Academics are very important to me," Rachel says, "but so are athletics and I try to balance those."
She was captain of the West Memphis basketball team, which finished second in the state. Rachel was a playmaking forward. Early in the softball season, the first basewoman was batting .400, the diamond equivalent of straight As. But she's a team player most of all. When a basketball teammate, an exchange student from Spain, found difficulty in her initial home assignment, Rachel brought her into her own home for the rest of the year.
Says counselor Sarah Allen, "The thing that I think is so unique about Rachel is that, with all this ability, as pretty as she is and as sweet as she is, she's so humble. You'd never know she has all this ability."
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