Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
Their cumulative grade-point average is well above 4.0.
None ranks lower in his or her high school class than No. 4.
They excel at all academics, clearly. But there are musicians, actors, athletes, community volunteers, even a lute builder, among them.
They are the Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team 2000, the sixth since we began the program in 1994. This year's contest brings to more than $30,000 the amount of cash awarded to winners in what is the only comprehensive recognition of academic excellence in Arkansas.
We send nomination forms to all Arkansas high schools, public and private, in December and again in January. The nominees (one male and one female are allowed from each high school) are put through two rounds of judging. A preliminary round produces about 50 finalists, who are then judged by a panel of professional educators.
From the finalists, 10 male and 10 female winners are chosen. The choices are always difficult. As you'll see, those not chosen are also outstanding.
As ever, merely being nominated is a high honor. Following are profiles on the cream that rose to the top. They are to be recognized at an awards ceremony this week at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.ELIZABETH ABNEY
Libby Abney really doesn't like dissecting animals. Especially cats. "I've had too many pets to do that."
And while she enjoys basketball, especially pick-up games, she'd really rather be watching the girls' team, cheering on her sister.
But Libby does what's right. She shunned the cat, but she's dissecting a pig. And she stayed on the team -- until she hurt her foot -- because she knew it was good exercise and would "build character."
Natural smarts and a habit of working hard has served Libby well. Number one in her class at Des Arc, wait-listed at Harvard, the 18-year-old National Merit finalist got to pick and choose between scholarship offers, finally selecting Rhodes College at Memphis.
"She is one fabulous young lady," anatomy teacher Judy Bone said. Besides being smart, Libby is "well-mannered and goal oriented and never turns in anything less than perfect." And though Bone knows Libby would rather do anything else than slice into a sheep's eye, "she gives it her all" in anatomy class.
Libby credits her parents for making sure she's exposed to a wide range of experiences, by traveling to Europe, Florida, the West -- even Little Rock. "My dad took me to the Bruce Springsteen concert and a week after that we went to see La Boheme," she laughed.
And though Libby says it feels like she spends all her time at school, she also enjoys tennis and trips to the mall with her friends. "We do spend hours there."
Libby plans to study political science or international relations at Rhodes. Would the Des Arc student body president be interested in a career in politics? "I'm not sure ... that takes a lot more thought and planning," she said. "I'd kind of like to work in the foreign service" instead.
Doubtless, if that's what Libby wants, she'll do all the right things to get there.JORDAN BOYD-GRABER
Looking for the next dot-com tycoon from Arkansas? You could do worse than bet on Jordan Boyd-Graber, if his resume, laden with scientific achievements, is any guide.
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