The 2005 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team 

The Times honors 20 of the state's brightest seniors.

Some things don't change. Or maybe they have changed a little, for the better.

We're proud to introduce today our 11th Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team.

We've never had higher average SAT scores, more National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists or more all-around energetic achievers.

It is, we think, a pleasant reminder – on the heels of a contentious legislative session marked by debates on education – that Arkansas high schools do produce outstanding graduates.

As ever, we sought nominations – a maximum of one male and one female – from every high school in the state. Two rounds of judging, the final by a group of educators, produced our winners. They will be honored at an awards ceremony this week at UALR with plaques and cash prizes.

The guidelines for selection are simple: academic achievement augmented by achievements outside the classroom and other personal accomplishments.

AETN will be on hand again this year in its partnership with us to recognize academic achievement. The All-Star team is the only statewide program to recognize top Arkansas students, though there are many that recognize athletic accomplishments.

AETN will film the ceremony. It has also been at working producing feature segments on several of our honorees. They'll be shown periodically on the state's public television network.

With this year's team, we will have distributed more than $55,000 to All-Star winners. Here they are:

Age: 17
Hometown: Conway
School: Conway High School West Campus
Parents: Greg and Tina Antley
College plans: Baylor, University of Arkansas or Washington University; major uncertain

Busting stereotypes

Of the long list of extracurricular activities Christina Antley participates in, one stands out — not because of its difficulty, but because it's a bit unexpected for someone with such high academic achievement.

Christina is a cheerleader, and has been since the ninth grade. Cheering at ballgames is "one of my favorite things," she said. The competing stereotypes — unsocial bookworm and ditzy cheerleader — don't bother her, but she said she knows other people still cling to them.

"It's good that I can maybe influence younger girls that you can have both," she said.

Or, that you can have all three. Christina also plays flute in her school's marching band, which makes for awfully busy football games.

"I cheer through the whole game, and then at halftime I go out on the field and march in my cheerleading uniform," she said.

Christina ranks first in her class, and is a National Merit Finalist. But she seems to be most proud of her accomplishments in the arena of community service, and her guidance counselor, Sheila Counts, also wrote about that aspect when she nominated Christina.

"Her academic success is obvious, but her greatest asset, I believe, lies in her strength of character, maturity, and high moral standards," Counts wrote.

As president of her school's National Honor Society this year, Christina organized a number of service projects, including shipping packages and cards to 10 Arkansas soldiers in Iraq who weren't receiving any mail.

An essay about a day she spent helping an elderly man clean up his yard won an essay contest sponsored by the Clinton School of Public Service — a school she hopes to attend one day.

Christina said she envisions a career of founding community service organizations: analyzing a need, setting up an organization to meet it, and then training other people to run it.

Age: 18
Hometown: Fayetteville
School: Fayetteville High School
Parents: M.T. and Behnaz Bararpour
College plans: Not sure, pre-med

Master of two worlds


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