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State champion runners, football players, musicians and award-winning scientists. They are all represented among the 20 members of this year's Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team.
Now in its seventh year, the recognition program is the only statewide salute to academic achievers. We've given more than $35,000 in cash prizes since the program began.
Every high school in Arkansas is invited to nominate a male and female student for consideration. Two rounds of judging produce the winners, 10 males and 10 females.
The winners will be honored at a reception next week at UALR. They also will receive cash prizes and plaques. If history is a guide, many of them will continue to excel. Previous winners have gone on to win prestigious prizes, including the Rhodes Scholarship (Anna Terry of Fort Smith and the University of Arkansas). This year's winners:
Center of attentionDAINE THOMPSON BENNETT
Daine Bennett is the original BMOC (big man on campus) at Lonoke High School.
He's academically first in his class of 117. He's the senior class president. His classmates voted him Outstanding Senior. He's the varsity football star, one of 13 in Arkansas to received the Hooten's Arkansas Football Magazine Scholar Athlete award, and he wasn't your standard hotshot quarterback or linebacker: he was the center. He was also a four-year stalwart on the Lonoke High school conference championship baseball team. He's an Eagle Scout. He's taken home all the future business and farm management awards. He's a Big Brother mentor, and the youngster you see raking old people's yards and delittering the prairie roadsides of thoughtless classmates' butts and Dr Pepper cans is most likely to be ol' Daine. He is, according to his counselor at Lonoke High, Carol Rudder, one of the all-round most popular young people ever to have come out of Lonoke.
Daine counts the Scouting as his best achievement. He's been in the program since kindergarten, and it taught him perseverance, the quality he likes best in himself. When others have given up on a project, and he has wondered himself if it might be just too hard, that's when he sets his jaw, he says.
The last five summers Daine has worked full-time on his father's farm, and he says the hard physical work, in contrast to the rigorous academic schedule he has carried, has given him a nice perspective on life that he will take to UA-Fayetteville in the fall.
Present-day Renaissance manJAMISON W. BREWER
A recent weekend was typical for Jamison Brewer, said Barbara Prichard, director of the gifted program at Fayetteville High School.
"He began by traveling on Saturday to all-region choir tryouts, where he was selected for First Choir by audition. On Sunday morning at 8 a.m., he sang at his church and also played bass guitar and cello in other musical selections for multiple services. He left church to attend a citywide celebration to sing with the select-performance ensemble. He then rushed back home, changed into a tux, and was off to sing an aria in Italian at the Arts Center."
Jamie is all-state in both choir and orchestra, and a veteran vocalist in school and community musical productions. Academically, he's first in his class of 449 at Fayetteville High School, and his academic specialties have been science, math, and languages. He's copped a record number of writing awards in this community that loves its writers. As an ordained elder at First United Presbyterian Church, he's done an extraordinary amount of counseling and outreach church work and has still found time to play on the school's top-ranked varsity tennis team.
"He's our present-day Renaissance man," Prichard says.
Jamie has two older sisters, one of whom was a Presidential Scholar. His family has provided a foster home for 14 children who, Jamison says, "generally had troubled pasts and uncertain futures." He's tried to provide role-model support for all these temporary brothers and sisters, especially the girls, who, he says, often have suffered "from the lack of self-confidence that can lead to victimization by men later in life. As a foster brother, I've tried to provide them with higher expectations in regard to how they should be treated by the men in their lives." In turn, he says, they taught him "an invaluable lesson... how fortunate I am to be a part of a loving and stable family."
Low brass science whizHUGH CHURCHILL
Music and science are among Hugh Churchill's favorite interests, and he is mulling a career that would include them both. He anticipates a double degree studies program at Oberlin College in tuba performance and physics, and already has envisioned himself an old science teacher who oom-pa's at his leisure for sanity's sake or a concert tubist who does science on the side to keep the bills paid. Either one would make him happy, he says.
Hugh is first-chair tuba in the all-state band and first-chair bass guitar in the all-state jazz band, a proud member of the Tubists' Universal Brotherhood Association, and a science student whose projects have been featured at colleges and in shows across the country. His principal scans the youngster's academic vita with a low whistle, then describes him simply as the most accomplished student he's seen come through Conway High.
It's indicative of Hugh's breadth that he barely mentioned those principal interests in his Arkansas Times Academic All-Stars nomination-form essay. Instead, he focused on a recent venture into geneaology, helping his grandfather to write a book of his family history. It gave him a whole new perspective on who he was and where he'd come from, and inspired a second such project, looking into the lives and times of another branch of the family.
Hugh's father is vice president for academic affairs and dean of Hendrix College, and his mother is a kindergarten teacher. He has an older brother and sister both academically distinguished. He's fifth in his class of 558, his SAT a mere 1580 (1600 is perfect). Spare time he'll likely be out doing home repairs for the poor, old and disabled on behalf of his church or the Habitat for Humanity. Secret cheerleader
A donor of timeLAURA JANE CONLEY
Laura has wanted to be a doctor since she was "2 or 3 years old." Her first exposure came during visits to the hospital to see her grandparents. She followed that with three summer camps for pre-medicine — in Arkansas's AEGIS program, the M*A*S*H camp in Fort Smith and the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Houston.
While in Houston, she learned about the dire need for organ donors, and when she returned home to Morrilton she started an organ donation drive, distributing information and donation cards at dances and other community events. "There's such a huge need," she said. "I thought maybe I could help."
The class valedictorian has a few other things on her plate, as president of her class and the Science Club, the French Club and the Library Club. And as first chair flute, mock trial team member, and singing in theatrical presentations.
After school, Laura has shone a light on Morrilton, counselor Patty Rainey says, as the town struggles to keep its chin up after the Levi-Strauss plant closing. The 18-year-old presides over the Conway County Community Center Youth Advisory Center, which she helped found; the group organizes dances, cleans up yards, is building a hiking trail, planting trees.
So we had to ask: What do you do in your free time? "I don't have any free time," Laura said, laughing. "I sleep, I guess." But then she remembers, it's tennis season and she's also got rehearsals for "Into the Woods" ... and well, she does collect porcelain bowls, a hobby her dad started inadvertently by bringing her bowls home on business trips. (She's got close to 200 now.)
She'll have some fun this summer, though: She'll travel to Florida with the Panasonic Quiz Bowl team and to Ohio, to the National Beta Convention, a spot she won by winning the state English competition. Then it's off to Hendrix, and pre-med courses to prepare her to become an allergist.
Does it allDAVID JOSHUA DEITZ
David Deitz writes with flair, sings in his church choir, wants to be a doctor. He's savvy, chatty, and despite his medical leanings has all the makings of a CEO. Organized, "a good time manager."
These all-around qualities perhaps propel the number 1 student at Mills to be one of eight teens across the country named named to the College Board, a student advisory panel that has input into the Scholastic Achievement Test. His trips to New York City for meetings — he'll make four in all — have made quite an impression on him, from his fascinating Russian pro ping-pong player cab driver to the "awesome" Big Apple itself. In an essay for the Board, he told them "I'm realistic [and] I can mediate and come up with compromises." He also "talked about the kids I'm going to have and the names they're going to have — Darcy and Daniel, in keeping with the DD initials he enjoys." (With such an early interest in kids, it's no surprise that David wants to be a pediatrician.)
When he's not jetting off to New York, David might be found completing his Eagle Scout badge, putting together disaster relief kits for the Red Cross, or running varsity cross-country, which he says he does to stay in shape for the varsity soccer team. Meanwhile, he's handling six Advanced Placement classes. His counselor, LaJuana Green, notes his juggling of all his duties: "Recently, he was so excited about being the lead performer in his church musical. He was working on essays for college, practicing for the musical and taking care of his siblings while his parents were attending college classes. Did he complain? No, he just told me, 'Mrs. Green, I'll have everything that you need by tomorrow.' ... David will be one of the great success stories of the future."
That future might be at Duke University, though his mother would like to see him go to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he's got a free ride and is a Sturgis Fellowship alternate.
Secret cheerleaderANN GLOTZBACH
If you've ever had a bad day that was turned around by an anonymous expression of cheer, you might have Ann Glotzbach to thank. This Princeton-bound and all-around intellect apparently has a heart as big as her SAT scores. She sent her first note at age 14, to an elderly neighbor she'd heard sigh over her mail — bills and junk mail, nothing personal.
Since then, Glotzbach says, she's sent the notes to friends, family members, teachers — anybody she thinks needs an encouraging word. She's sent hundreds — typed if they're to friends, so they won't recognize the handwriting.
This desire to stay anonymous reflects Glotzbach's overall humility, a characteristic that counselor Leslie Kearney says "adds to her aura."
We did pry this self-description from the teen-ager: Quoting a poem she wrote in the 10th grade, Glotzbach said, "I'm a curly-haired carrot top with the heaviest book bag in school." That heavy load has produced a National Merit Semifinalist win, the Wellesley Book Award, the National Council of Teachers of English Writing Achievement Award, school awards in Spanish, art history, calculus.
Talk about level-headed: this is a student who is neither right- nor left-brained, but all-brained. She plans to study linguistics and math at Princeton, where her older brother, Ross, a 2000 Academic All-Star, also attends school. Teachers, listen up: Glotzbach attributes her math prowess to the great instruction she got from her second-grade teacher in Memphis, who believed that girls could do just in well in math as boys if taught the right way.
Counselor Kearney, who likes to tease Glotzbach for being the "perfect girl," predicts great things from the teen-ager, who is always "looking out for others, doing what will be to the benefit of the many instead of just for herself." What does Glotzbach predict for the future? That she'll be happily married, a mother and the inventor of something that everybody needs — "like the Slinky."
A quiet leader
HOMETOWN: Little Rock
SCHOOL: Catholic High School for Boys
PARENTS: John and Karen Goree
COLLEGE PLANS: Washington University at St. Louis, pre-medicine.
Johnathan moved with his parents to Little Rock when he was a sixth-grader. Enrolled in a small private school where most of his classmates had known each other for years, he was also the only black student in his class. He came home despondent one day, his father John Goree recalls. "He had been unable to make friends. I told him to keep trying. The very next year, he was voted student council president."
The pattern would repeat itself at Catholic High School, where he bested six other candidates in the election for student body president. He was also named captain of the Rockets' football team and chosen outstanding defensive lineman in his conference, which includes some of the state's biggest high schools. He was consistently double-teamed, Coach Doug Pilcher notes. And Brother Richard Sanker, the school counselor, remarks that his most unusual role was being a cheerleader in rallying the team and school around the Rockets, who've suffered through a 3-17 record the last two years. But he's a quiet leader, says his mother. "He leads by example."
Johnathan's career is about a great deal more than football. He was elected to represent the school at the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation leadership program. He continues to provide time and money to support a community football league in North Little Rock that provided a happy playground for him when he first came to town.
His high SAT scores earned recognition in the National Achievement scholarship competition, a program that honors top minority students. His other academic activities include the Quiz Bowl team, Mock Trial competition and the Model UN
The future? "I'm pretty sure I'll major in biology and take up the pre-med route. Right now I see myself as an orthopedic surgeon. When I was in the fifth or sixth grade I decided I wanted to be a doctor. They are role models. I kind of always wanted to do the same sort of thing."
MEGAN MARIE KALE
HOMETOWN: Fort Smith
SCHOOL: Northside High
PARENTS: Jo Ann and Dr. Bob Kale
COLLEGE PLANS: Stanford, major undecided
All the Academic All-Stars are active. It's doubtful that any are more physically active than Megan Marie Kale. She's the AAAAA state champion in the girls' 800-meter run. She was a starting guard and team captain for the basketball state champion Lady Bears. And she's a member of the BigBad JittaCats swing dance performance team.
"A lot of peers think I am crazy because I run all the time and swing-dance on Saturday nights," she writes. "They don't understand why I have kept myself out of the drinking scene or why I drive several hours on Sundays to attend a Crisis Center board meeting. My only answer is that I want to go places, do things, and learn so that I can fulfill whatever purpose I may have in life. I certainly can't do that from my couch, can I?"
She can do such things at Stanford, where she'll join her brother David as a student. She was pleased by acceptance. "Stanford has 18,000 applicants. Only 13 out of every 100 are accepted." She'll run track at Stanford. Her major is undecided, but might be "English literature or creative writing."
Megan is a National Merit finalist, an AP (advanced placement) Scholar, president of the chemistry honor society and a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish honor society. She volunteers with Special Olympics, is a Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Ambassador, and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Grizzly Pride (a substance-free service group). She's also a member of the Mayor's Youth Volunteer Council Executive Committee and the Northwest Arkansas Crisis Center Student Advisory Board, a Girl Scout helper and an usher and eucharistic minister at Christ the King Church.
Brings in crop
CALVIN KING JR.
SCHOOL: Lee High
PARENTS: Sarah and Calvin R. King Sr.
COLLEGE PLANS: Tennessee State University, Nashville; electrical engineering
"I have accomplished what I don't think many people of my age have accomplished," Calvin Richard King Jr. writes. And he's right. A member of a longtime farming family, and involved in youth programs of the Arkansas Farm Development Corporation, he learned that loans for young farmers were available through the United States Department of Agriculture. In the summer of 1998, he applied for and received a $1,700 loan to raise soybeans.
"I rented the land and equipment, bought the seed and fertilizer, managed the crop and did the bookwork," Calvin said. "I worked the crop with the help of my uncle and dad." After harvesting and selling the crop, "I had enough to repay the loan and make a pretty good profit."
Calvin's high school counselor says that "Calvin's greatest asset is his people-skills. He has a special presence that he brings into a room. He cares about others and is able to translate this into action."
He does all right academically, too, ranking first in a class of 120. Through a dual-enrollment program, Calvin is attending both Lee High School and Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas in Helena. He'll already have about 20 hours of college credit when he enters Tennessee State University in the fall.
Calvin is captain of the Quiz Bowl team, an after-school tutor, vice president of the Beta Club, treasurer of the Future Teachers of America, and a member of the Gentlemen's Club, Young Educated Men's Club, Youth Outreach Club, Senior Class Officer Advisory Committee, Art Club, Spanish Club, VICA and the Lee County Collaborative Action Team. He ushers at his church and participates in nursing home visitation as well as community cleanups and canned food drives, and delivers Christmas presents to elderly neighbors.
SCHOOL: Conway High
PARENTS: Rahul and Kaberi Pal Mehta
COLLEGE PLANS: Undecided
Paulomi ranks first in her class of 558, but that's not the first thing people who know her talk about. Her principal says: "It is remarkable that someone so young can provide leadership and guidance to classmates who are as much as three years older than she is or to children in elementary school. Paulomi has devoted herself to spending close to three hours weekly as a mentor in an after-school program for children at the local Boys and Girls Club. Many of these children aspire to follow in her footsteps as a musician, academician and friend."
Paulomi herself chose to talk about her work at the Boys and Girls Club, with children ranging from kindergartners to fifth-graders:
In one case, she helped a boy with a learning disability who was struggling with a recitation. "After a lot of time and effort on both our parts, he finally mastered it. As I watched him on stage, a week later, perform perfectly in front of a large audience, I felt a great surge of pride."
It's not that she doesn't have other things to do. She is concertmaster of the school orchestra, captain of the Quiz Bowl team, president of the National French Honor Society, president of the Student Physicists of Conway, treasurer of the Beta Club, a member of the National Honor Society, a volunteer in the school library, a member of the Faulkner County Youth Leadership Institute, and a performer for the local Orpheus Club.
At press time, Paulomi hadn't chosen her college. Wherever she goes, she'll "probably" be a pre-med major.
HOMETOWN: Pine Bluff
SCHOOL: Pine Bluff High
PARENTS: David and Ann Nixon
COLLEGE: Hendrix or Washington and Lee University
Carol Nixon a bit of a performer. She's part of the high school's renowned a cappella group, the Pine Bluff Singers, and is spending the spring working on a couple of singing skits in the school's annual Follies.
For her French III class last year, Carol and a fellow student wrote, directed and performed a play about Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.
"It ended up being a comedy," she said. "We got very creative with it. There were a couple of serious parts and we had to speak French. We used Barbie and Ken dolls for the execution scene, and we introduced modern elements into it. It was fun."
But the only performing Carol likely will do in her career after college will be in the courtroom. The top-ranked student at Pine Bluff High envisions going to law school. She also enjoys history.
The middle child among five girls, Carol says she never felt pressured by her family to succeed academically, though it runs in the family. One sister was class salutatorian; another was in the top five. She notes a younger sister is very artistic.
"I never felt I had to live up to anything," she said. "If anything, my parents pushed me to relax."
Her church group took a mission trip to Chicago last year, where Carol worked in an inner-city soup kitchen for the homeless. It helped her realize, she said, "that people are basically all the same. It was enlightening. I didn't think I would have anything to talk about to them, but I found it was very easy to talk to someone and learned not to be afraid of people different from me."
Carol has a 4.67 grade-point average. High school counselor Sandy Chavis says, "She's taken advance courses and never tried to take the easy route. She always demands a lot of herself. She's a pleasant young lady and just a joy to be around."
HOMETOWN: Little Rock
PARENTS: Richard Rapp and Francine Bruyneel-Rapp
COLLEGE PLANS: University of Pennsylvania
Justin Rapp's background might indicate a political future. He was part of Dunbar Junior High's Young Democrats club, the first of its kind at any U.S. junior high, and he worked at U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers' retirement dinner. He met former President Clinton, and he even worked on Al Gore's campaign. Delving in the political arena made him "definitely want to vote every opportunity I get," he says.
But for now, Justin would rather teach high school calculus and write books — at least after making enough money in information technology or telecommunications. "Part of why I like [technology] is it's so broad and I will have a lot of options when I get out of college."
Justin, who scored 1570 out of 1600 on the SAT and ranks No. 1 in Central's senior class with a 4.509 grade point average, has been accepted into the Jerome Fischer Program in Management and Technology at Penn, a program that culminates in a degree in engineering and business. He is a National Merit Finalist.
Education seemingly has come natural to him, Justin says. "It was not always easy for me, but if it wasn't, I had the motivation to work hard."
Taekwondo is among his hobbies, though a busy summer and senior year curtailed participation. He also started working part-time at U.S. Pizza this spring.
Central's mock trial team allowed Justin to play a doctor — talking, dressing and acting like one — though he knows from growing up with both parents as doctors that the field isn't for him. Neither is acting, though he "enjoyed messing around pretending I was someone else" in the mock trial. In national mock trial, Justin played a 70-year-old man who believed in ghosts.
Justin, a Belgian citizen whose mother was born there, says he enjoys helping young people — he's participated in Camp Dreamstreet in Mississippi, where counselors work one-on-one with disabled children. "I can't think of anything I've worked at that I've been more happy to be a part of."
HOMETOWN: West Memphis
SCHOOL: West Memphis High
PARENTS: David and Elaine Robinson
COLLEGE: Undecided among Duke, Stanford, Harvard, Emory, Washington University
In February, a West Memphis High School senior was being chased by many of the big names in college football. This spring, many of the big names in college academics are seeking another West Memphis senior.
And like classmate De'Arrius Howard had earlier this year, Akira Robinson will enjoy a "signing day" when he decides from among full scholarship offers from Duke, Harvard, Stanford, Emory and Washington University in St. Louis.
"Eventually, I want to go to medical school," says Robinson, who plans to major in biomedical engineering or biotechnology. "I just like helping people, using my knowledge to assist others."
The top-ranked student at West Memphis High, who spent a semester last year at the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Science in Hot Springs, has given back to younger students in West Memphis, participating in Seminar for Success and speaking to gifted and talented students in elementary and junior high school. "We showed them a lot of ways to benefit from technology," he said.
In a foreign language festival during his sophomore year, Robinson learned a French poem and articulated well enough to win first place. That French experience was put to good use in a trip to Paris, as well as Switzerland and London, last summer with the French Club.
Last summer was a busy one for Robinson, who also participating in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's MITES program, a selective, rigorous six-week immersion for high school students in the scientific world. It cut a little into his tennis game, but Robinson says it was well worth it spending time and learning with 60 similar students from around the country. West Memphis school counselor Sarah Allen says the camp "really sparked him, it just set him on fire."
Allen adds, "As bright as he is and as much as he's accomplished, he's so humble. He's always learning."
More than a techie
BRIAN D. ROWE
SCHOOL: Arkansas School for Mathematics and Science
PARENTS: Steve and Donna Rowe
COLLEGE PLANS: Baylor University
Brian Rowe set his sights on the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences in Hot Springs because he wanted to take advantage of the school's computer classes.
Now a senior, Rowe has taken his computer education a step further. He's put theory into practice in a big way.
He is now a veteran computer programmer and the network administrator for the school's Environmental and Spatial Technologies Lab. Rowe also worked a summer building and repairing computers and networks and carrying out other important tasks.
But Rowe isn't simply a tech-head.
His other interests include athletics, the French horn, Spanish and religion.
"Most of the time I'm trying to find just the right mixture of work and play," he says. "It is just a matter of sticking to it and trying to get as much done as I can."
ASMS guidance counselor Paula Branch said Brian stands out because of his commitment to the community. He's one of a handful of students who host a television call-in show to help other students with homework questions.
"He is just one of those great all-around kids who has a high level of morals and standards that he lives by," she said.
Brian is a member of the National Honor Society, the National Spanish Honor Society, the Fellowship of Christian Students, Teenage Republicans, Quiz Bowl and the ASMS Wind Ensemble.
He could've accepted a chancellor's scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, but Brian plans to major in computer engineering and computer science at Baylor. After college and graduate school, he says, he might like to start his own software company or return to Arkansas and work to improve the standard of technical education in the state.
Effervescence and intellect
SCHOOL: Fayetteville High
PARENTS: Christine and John Ryan
COLLEGE PLANS: Swarthmore College
As a sixth grader, Tammy Ryan found herself at a loss. She couldn't understand a word the teacher said.
The teachers spoke German. Tammy didn't.
"It was pretty hard," she said in the understatement of the year.
Tammy and her family spent the better part of a year in Germany just outside Dresden, and she went to a German school where German was the language of instruction.
Now a senior at Fayetteville High School, she speaks fluent German. But that's not all she's done since sixth grade.
Tammy is an accomplished vocalist, a National Merit semi-finalist and a National Honor Society member. She has been a Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Merit Student, a Rotary Club Honor Student and an AP Scholar with Honor.
She has performed with numerous choirs. She is a high school literary magazine volunteer and is active in her church as a Sunday School teacher and Youth Group member.
"She is a wonderful combination of effervescence and intellect," said Fayetteville's Gifted and Talented Program director Barbara Pritchard. "Her travels, of course, have developed in her a tolerance for and appreciation of diversity and cultures well beyond what one usually sees in one so young."
Since 1996, Tammy has taken Summer Studies Program courses at Duke University focusing on Japanese, world religions and acting. She has also studied moral philosophy in a Brown University program.
Tammy is also an active member of the high school's Gay-Straight Alliance.
"She does not do this for attention-getting or as a 'statement' experience but from a true and deep moral belief about the sanctity of all persons no matter their orientation," Pritchard said.
In her future university studies, Tammy hopes to major in religious studies and music.
No more stage fright
CARY LEE SIMMONS
SCHOOL: Rector High
PARENTS: Ralph and Rebecca Simmons
COLLEGE PLANS: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
Cary Simmons will be the Rector High School valedictorian when he graduates in May. He has been a student leader and a dedicated community worker. He was junior varsity football captain and a varsity player. He is a member of the National Honor Society, the Science Club, the German Club and the marching band.
Simmons is also a volunteer for the Red Cross, Toys for Tots, literacy and drug education programs and takes part in church activities. He has won numerous academic and community service honors.
He's worked on his family farm and as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant.
How does he get it all done?
"I don't think he watches TV," said Karen Cagle, his high school guidance counselor.
But Cary's proudest achievement to date involves a personal challenge — a selective form of stage fright that struck only when he tried to play piano in public.
"I was not afraid to act, sing or talk in front of an audience," he says, "Whenever I played the piano in public, my hands turned as cold as ice and began to shake."
He joined a First United Methodist Church choir as a singer. And after two years, he was asked to serve as the choir pianist.
After weeks of practice — and a fair measure of determination — he turned in a flawless opening night performance.
"Failure was not an option," he said.
Cary plans to major in architecture at the University of Arkansas.
"I like to draw, and I really think architecture would be the perfect balance of everything I like to do," he said.
Achievement runs in the family. Cary's older brother Jody was an Academic All-Star in 1995.
Avoids the hazards
HOMETOWN: Little Rock
SCHOOL: Pulaski Academy
PARENTS: Harold and Ellen Simpson
COLLEGE PLANS: Rice Universty. Engineering.
"I love everything," declares Elspeth. The record affirms her.
Twice a state high school women's golf champion, she was playing in a national tournament in Orlando, Fla., when she got a phone call informing her that she'd won a national essay contest, and $11,000, from the National Peace Institute. She also won All-American honors in golf, by the way.
Her prize-winning essay is a good example of how intellect, as much as an athletic skill, can avoid hazards. Elspeth took a controversial position, particularly for a founder of an Amnesty International chapter, that the U.S. must work to preserve regional and global security, even at the expense of humanitarian aid. Her discussion of this hard-line stance, from practical applications in hot spots ranging from Korea to Colombia, display a zest for problem-solving. That zest also explains her interest in an engineering career.
Elspeth loves computers. She designed a website for a friend's hockey league. And one of her happiest experiences was a three-day grind, with little sleep or food, to rebuild a robotics project with teammates from UALR at a regional competition in Chicago. When they arrived, their project didn't work. So they did, nonstop. "What's scary is, we just had a great time."
A National Merit finalist, Elspeth has nothing but As on her high school record and near-perfect scores on the ACT and SAT tests. And those As were compiled in a schedule packed with advanced placement courses.
Hooked on the notion of engineering by a seventh-grade course in computer programming, Elspeth isn't locked into a lab grind. She also stood out as a debater in Model United Nations — "calm, demure and composed on the outside and an aggressive opponent who shrewdly and impressively argues her case," said one teacher.
She views her essay prize as her greatest achievement in high school. It was, for her, "a validation of everything I had been working on in my writing." In between golf, homework, robotics and all the rest.
Dances with bacteria
HOMETOWN: Little Rock
SCHOOL: Mills University Studies High School
PARENTS: Charles and Mary Kathryn Stein
COLLEGE PLANS: University of Arkansas, chemical engineering or pre-med.
Sarah stands out everywhere, from the ballet stage, where she's tiptoed and twirled since the age of 3, to the school restroom. Yes, restroom. It was there and around the water fountains that she gathered data for a prize-winning microbiology experiment.
Sara studied the types of bacteria found in around faucets and public fountains. "I found lots of different types." Don't ask.
Her excellence in science, and everything else, has won Sarah a Bodenhamer Fellowship to the University of Arkansas, an all-expenses-paid ride plus valuable perks. Students don't reach that pinnacle without hard work. In Sarah's case, this has meant 40 hours of dance practice in a week to prepare for "The Nutcracker." It has meant practicing for orchestra, completing assignments for the school yearbook, serving on the student council, volunteering at UALR's summer program for bright children and acing her advanced placement courses.
What would friends say if asked about Sarah? "I'm the one who keeps up with all the schedules and make sure the work gets in and makes sure everyone brings what they're supposed to bring to school."
Sarah will finish high school No. 2 in her class, by the slimmest of margins. She couldn't work in one more advanced placement course, where an A would have tied her for first place with another perfect student.
She'd prefer it not be mentioned — dismisses it as an obstacle, even — but teachers note that Sarah has a hereditary hearing loss that restricts the range of pitches she can easily distinguish. To sort through the sounds requires focus, she says. In that, her ability is acute.
"She is really precise, careful about everything," says her mother. Dance is her pressure relief valve, says her school counselor. But you get the idea that the pressure is satisfying in its way. Says Sarah: "I have a lot of commitments, lots of homework. But I like being able to get it all done and do it all well."
Clears hurdles perfectly
HOMETOWN: Fort Smith
SCHOOL Southside High
PARENTS: Larry and Glenda Weigand
COLLEGE PLANS: Vanderbilt, chemistry.
Lauren admits she doesn't have great speed. But when she suddenly shot up to 5 feet 10 inches, taller than most fellow gymnasts, she switched to another sport, track. And her specialty became the hurdles.
"She uses her brain to do the little things that get the maximum out of the body," says counselor Dianne Jeffrey. The hurdles are a technique event, with everything from the counting of steps between hurdles and form crucial to the final outcome. The outcome is usually at the head of the pack for Lauren, who's been state champion in the 55-meter indoor hurdles and a top finisher in the 100-meter and 300-meter outdoor events.
But this is an academic competition and that's where Lauren really shines (though she's also a starter on her school's state championship volleyball team).
The big three of high school tests are the ACT, SAT and PSAT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying tests. Lauren's scores were, respectively, 36, 1600 and 240. In case you didn't know, that means perfect in each case. Each year, a handful of scholars notch a perfect score in Arkansas in one or the other of the tests. But trifectas like Lauren's are rare.
"I really think she has the potential to do something really important," says Jeffrey, who's seen many top scholars over the years at Southside. Lauren brings not only brains but work ethic to the table. "A circle-toothed saw would not be equal to her," says Jeffrey.
Lauren started her high academic trajectory early. Languishing in a standard seventh-grade math class, she joined some other bright students in a special accelerated class. "It was interesting and fun and challenging. My interest in science followed logically from that."
She's been a winner in chemistry, Spanish, engineering, math, Knowledge Master and Quiz Bowl competitions. She was a delegate to Girls Nation and, of course, a National Merit winner.
Lauren is one of those young people who easily could have moved ahead of her peers and skipped grades. But her parents decided not to accelerate her path through school. Given an opportunity to skip elementary grades, she said, "they decided it was better in the long run to stay on a normal path." Depends on what you mean by normal.
SCHOOL: Arkansas School for Mathematics and Science
PARENTS: George and Susan Wilhoit
COLLEGE PLANS: Caltech, engineering.
When Sarah's counselor describes her as neat, she uses quotation marks, to emphasize the dual meaning. She's neat, as in impressive, with skills in music, science and writing that would be the envy of almost anyone. She is also just plain neat, described as the "most meticulous" student at ASMS by her counselor, Paula Branch.
Sarah herself calls herself obsessive-compulsive. Her room is fanatically neat, unlike most teenagers' slums. And she developed those habits early. After sitting through a college lecture with her mother at the age of one, her mother remembers: "Sarah told the instructor, 'no, no, no.'" On shopping trips with her mother, she'd often get separated, lagging behind to straighten up messy displays of goods. "I can't stand it when the angles are wrong," she says.
Both parents are engineers, so Sarah came about her precise ways with some help from genetics. She was chosen in a competitive program to do independent scientific research last summer at Georgia Tech. Working in earth and atmospheric science, she dug in the muck of a muddy creek searching for clues to a clogging problem. The work in soil permeability might have important environmental implications. It was also the basis for a prize-winning science fair project this year.
"Sometimes intellectual achievement involves getting one's hands dirty," she comments.
Sarah's hands stay busy, too, playing the oboe. And her feet fly on the cross-country course as a member of the team at nearby Hot Springs High School (the athletic outlet for ASMS students).
Though math and science are obvious strengths on Sarah's resume, she retains a passion for humanities, too. She's particularly proud of her senior thesis, comparing the poetry of Sappho and Emily Dickinson. She sees them as "authentic female voices," artists who didn't have to succeed by becoming "more male." There's something of a parallel for Sarah, who has been the only female in computer science and computer networking classes in high school and hopes to attend a college that is 70 percent male. "That really plays into my senior thesis, about being intelligent and on a high level of thinking without trying to become more masculine to achieve that."
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