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The 2000 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team 

The best of the best.

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
Age: 18
Hometown: Des Arc
High School: Des Arc High
Parents: Robert and Barby Abney
College plans: Rhodes College, Memphis, international relations

WELL TRAVELED

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
Age: 17
Hometown: Monticello
High School: Arkansas School for Mathematics and Science
Parent: Toni Boyd
College plans: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, computer science.

WEB HEAD

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.

He's a straight-A student, National Merit winner and had a near perfect scorer on the SAT college entrance test. He's been a winner in a competition among national science schools in web design competition and a second place winner in computer science in both mathematics and State Science Fair competitions.

His most significant achievement was being chosen in a national competition to design a web page for the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology. He was flown to New Jersey and given the run of a lab created by Princeton University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He joined a team of top students to create a dynamic new web page.

His science fair project -- a semantic parser system for reply formation. In plain English: he came up with a way to generate poetry by computer and to analyze poetry to see if it was computer made or generated by human.

He is, says Quiz Bowl coach Jody Musgrove, a "unique individual," who makes a statement with his buttoned top button and his system of carefully rotating clothing for equal wear. You get the feeling that Jordan's personna is something of a put-on, though it's true he can speak fluent Klingon and has never been stumped by a Star Trek question.

When Jordan went recently to a weekend camp for members of Arkansas's state quiz bowl team, he drove several teammates in a car that once had been junked for use as a chicken coop, then re-converted to auto travel by Jordan. "He did it for $60," said Musgrove. "He said he spent a lot of the money on deodorizers."

ANDREW BRILL
Age: 18
Hometown: Fayetteville
High School: Fayetteville
Parents: Howard and Katherine Brill
College plans: Undecided

GOES TO HELP

For an 18-year-old, Andrew has been a lot of places — and not as a tourist. He has made church mission trips to Mexico, Romania, Honduras and the southwestern United States. On his most recent trip, to Honduras, he helped put roofs on houses. Sometimes he works with children in orphanages. Of his Romanian experience, when he was one of a group of 30, he writes:

"I quickly learned about uniting for a common goal, be it building fences, serving homeless children food, beating a group of Romanians at soccer or giving away Bibles. I saw both the defeated stare of a homeless seven-year-old cradling a newborn and the smile of an elderly deaf woman as we talked and I gave her a New Testament and a hug."

The most important thing he's learned from his mission work? "How big the world is, and that Fayetteville, Arkansas, is not the center of it."

Andrew has a gradepoint of 4.2 and ranks first in a class of 1,460. His academic honors include National Merit Semifinalist, AP Scholar with Honor, winning the 1999 National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award, and being a Rotary Superior Student and a Presidential Scholar nominee.

He is a member of the student council, assistant sports editor of the school newspaper, participates in intramural athletics, and is a member of Students Against Drunk Driving, Mu Alpha Theta, and School Bible Study. He has organized a blood drive and canned-food drive as well as the high school homecoming parade.

Barbara Pritchard, director of the gifted program at Fayetteville High, writes: "Andrew follows two extremely gifted siblings who set a standard difficult to follow. One might think that being the third child in this family could be a foreboding detriment to equal accomplishment, but that has not been the case with Andrew."

Whatever college he chooses, Andrew's major will be "something in the liberal arts," he says.

TOBY CHU
Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High School: Central
Parents: Bettina E. Brownstein, David Z. Chu
College plans: Undecided

BUBBLING OVER WITH RAINS

Her personality is as large as her SAT scores.

Toby Hung-Ying Brownstein Chu, an effervescent 18-year-old who bubbles over with ideas and opinions and observations, is an AP class-acing, Klezmer-band playing, soccer ball-kicking girl who once, she says, was shy. That was in kindergarten. She outgrew it. "I've gotten so much louder and more annoying!" she exults. "I'm more comfortable."

Comfortable with being a student whose Asian features and Jewish heritage have confounded certain people over the years. Now, she wrote in an essay for the Times, "I manage to function as an almost normal human being."

Almost normal, except for a 4.8 gradepoint average, a Wellesley Book Award win, and a fascination with evolutionary biology. At Duke University last summer, Toby threw herself into a biogeography project that studied the way species diverged and evolved in the Galapagos.

While Toby's "really sociable" and is wild about soccer -- she's captain of the Central's varsity team and crowed about their victories over Pulaski Academy and Mount St. Mary's -- she's also somewhat of a grind. "I've always pushed myself hard. I can't say it's my mom or my parents or my school, it's me who's pushing." A "B" grade on a paper can be devastating ... and if she doesn't feel she deserves it, she'll tell her teacher so. "It's their fault," she laughs. "They taught me to question authority."

Toby's trying to decide which of the seven colleges that accepted her to go to. She's leaning toward Duke, but is planning to visit Amherst before making up her mind. And she hasn't ruled out the University of California at Berkeley or UC San Diego.

Then again she might skip a year and go to France. "There might be a chance I could be an au pair," she says. But first, she'll work this summer, at the Dunbar Community Garden (she hopes) in early summer and later at a DNA-research lab at the City of Hope Cancer Research Hospital in Duarte, Calif.

She'll try to wedge in some volunteer time at Camp Aldersgate, for the fourth summer in a row. Her mother's observation: "She's incredibly hard working ... very intellectual. And she's as kind as can be. And that's as important as anything."

KEZIAH COOK
Age: 17
Hometown: Fayetteville
High school: Fayetteville High
Parents: Ken and Laurie Lake
College plans: Harvard, chemistry

HEAD IN HE STARS

She's off to Harvard, Keziah Cook is. But first she'll spend the summer at Northwestern University outside Chicago running data through computer programs she devised to locate variable stars.

"I'd describe her as a modern-day renaissance woman," says Fayetteville High counselor Barbara Prichard. Because this is a 17-year-old who scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT, who plays guitar, softball and volleyball, who has worked at the local hospital and Habitat for Humanity and goes to the UA for math courses. "There is hardly a facet oflife she has not touched and participated in," Prichard said.

Her NASA-funded summer job notwithstanding, Keziah plans to study chemistry at Harvard. Physics lost out, she says, "because I was trying to think of something I could do to help people."

Chemistry should help her pursue a career in medical research, perhaps pharmacology.

Already, Keziah has worked on behalf of others. Last year, when Fayetteville's mayor vetoed an ordinance that would have prevented discrimination against homosexuals and the issue went to a public vote, she volunteered to work for passage of the law with the Campaign for Human Dignity. Though the proposal was soundly defeated, Keziah wasn't critical of the community. "I just think they didn't understand it on the ballot," that they saw the word "homosexual" and balked.

Keziah isn't given to false modesty. Asked if she has always been a serious student, she acknowledges "I've always done well." At Northwestern last summer, she was on her own: "I called my mom every day for the first week," she said, but soon "adjusted to cooking meals, shopping for groceries, and making my own rules. ... I'm confident that I will be able to manage my own affairs and support myself after I leave home."

So are we.

SALLY M. EDWARDS
Age: 17
Hometown: Gentry
High School: Gentry
Parents: Mary Droho and Ed Balluck
College Plans: Hendrix College, biology.

LUTE BUILDER

Sally Edwards will be valedictorian of her high school class without attending a single class the spring semester. Having acquired enough credits to graduate -- along with National Merit finalist stature -- she took off for a semester of study in England.

In England, Sally built a lute, a musical trip back in time from her high school career, when she led the Gentry band as a very modern drum major. Why? "It used to be part of Celtic and Renaissance music, something I love. I want to bring it back a bit." Now she's working to learn to play the instrument she made during her three months in Devon.

As drum major, charging onto the field in a sequined uniform was a challenge to Sally, a clarinet player. "I'm, by nature, more a retiring academic," she says. But she felt more confident as the job went on and, as a farewell to the bandsmen she led, sent them all personalized cards and gifts at Christmas. The response overwhelmed her. "People cried, told me they loved me and surprised me with presents of their own."

Sally pushed herself in other ways, trying softball despite being "quite inept;" earning a blue belt in taekwondo, attending summer camps for gifted students and scoring best student awards in English, history, science, Spanish and band. One of her favorite summer programs took her down into Ozark caves.

Sally has a penchant for fun and dons a Viking helmet and Brunhilde braids at the slightest provocation. But she's best known for her academic skills. One Gentry teacher, known for checking work closely to be sure students haven't copied from Internet sources, says there's no one Sally could copy from to make her work better.

"If Sally is not an Academic All-Star, then Gentry High School will never have one," said Principal Earl Rowe. She is and it does.

ALLEN FROST
Age: 17
Hometown: Conway
High School: Conway
Parents: Jack and Sarah Frost
College plans: Swarthmore College, "probably" English literature

FUTURE TEACHER

"Something in me wants to be a teacher," Allen says. "My dad was for a little bit, my mom is a teacher, it's just kind of in my blood. Whatever I major in in college I'll get a teaching certificate. I think that might be one of those ways I'd like to give back to Faulkner County."

With a gradepoint average of 4.18, Allen ranks first in a class of 522. He has been chosen by his classmates to deliver the commencement address. He was a National Merit semifinalist and ranked first in the state on the National German Exam.

But school is more than academics, Allen knows. An oboeist, he was named outstanding musician in the school band and was first chair in the all-state band, as well as playing with the Arkansas Youth Symphony. He has been in many school theater productions, and had the lead role in three. He was vice president of the Beta Club, president of the German Society, a world finalist in Odyssey of the Mind, a member of the Quiz Bowl team, a member of the National Honor Society, vice president of his class and a member of the Student Congress.

And life is more than school. Allen is a member of the youth council at First United Methodist Church in Conway, a member of the Conway Civic Orchestra, was attorney general at Boys State, and attended Arkansas Governor's School. For five years, he has participated in an Ozark Mission Project through his church. "Each summer, we go to a camp in a rural area. We fix up old houses, paint them and do yardwork for elderly people who can't afford to pay for it."

JOSHUA HILL
Age: 17
Hometown: Brinkley
High School: Brinkley High
Parents: Elye and Lue Ella Wilbon
College plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, political science then law

EARLY BLOOMER

Of Josh Hill, school counselor Eisadore Branch writes, "From the time he was a toddler, he let his intellectual light shine. He amazed his parents and relatives with his ability to read — at two years of age. Ever since, he has always been a step or two ahead of his class."

Josh himself recalls that when teachers discovered him reading grown-up newspapers in kindergarten — mostly the baseball news, he says — they took him around to read to first-grade students. When he finished kindergarten, he was promoted directly to the second grade.

Things like that can cause resentment among peers. Not so with Hill, Branch says. "Joshua displays so much academic prowess that it's hard to beat him. He displays such good character that it's hard to dislike him. It is no wonder that his classmates voted him 'Most Likely to Succeed.' "

Josh has a 4.0 gradepoint average and ranks first in his class of 84. He is a member of the French Club, the National Honor Society and the Quiz Bowl team. He was named to the Quiz Bowl All-Arkansas Academic Team in May 1999, and this year he was the top player at the Quiz Bowl state camp. He was the Arkansas Geography Bee champion in 1996. In July 1999, he received a DAR Good Citizen Award. He has participated in highway cleanups and Christmas food drives, and worked in a tornado relief drive after nearby Wheatley was stricken in January 1999. "The National Honor Society collected items like soap and paper towels to keep hygiene up," he says.

And, unsurprisingly given his early interest, he plays baseball, a pitcher on the Brinkley High Team. Also unsurprisingly, he knows his stats. "I'm 6 and 2 this year with a 4.02 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 12 walks. Don't ask about my batting average, though."

He plans to be a defense lawyer, possibly in Little Rock "where there are many clients in need of good lawyers."

DAVID C. KALE
Age: 18
Hometown: Fort Smith
High School: Northside
Parents: Jo Ann and Robert Kale
College plans: Tulsa or Stanford

ON TRACK

David C. Kale not only sets high marks in the classroom, he continues to breaks marks on the track oval and cross country course.

Kale runs the middle distances — 400 and 800 meters — for the Northside track team. He broke three school records in junior high, and at Northside he set the school's cross country (5-kilometer) mark, running it in 16-minutes, 20-seconds. Kale, having won the Class AAAAA indoor 800 meters earlier this year, has his sights on an outdoor record. He has run a 1:56 so far.

His athletic success, coupled with his academic prowess has had such universities as Arkansas, Duke, Brown and SMU calling. Kale, though, has his choices down to taking a president's scholarship to the University of Tulsa or a partial scholarship to Stanford University.

"My running has brought me attention from some schools, and with the academics that's opened up a great opportunity," he says.

Growing up in a household with a anesthesiologist father and an RN mother, Kale says he's been steered away from a medical future toward research. He plans on majoring in biochemistry and Spanish.

"I would love to go down to South America and do some research in the rain forest, specially with my interest in the language and culture," he said, adding that a career as a university researcher would also be appealing.

Away from Northside, Kale says he enjoys his work on the executive committee of the Mayor's Volunteer Council.

"He's probably one of the brightest human beings I've met in my life," Northside guidance counselor Brenda Partin says. "He was already blowing out the top of the math scores before he entered Northside ... He's a well-rounded person. Not many people do the volunteer work, the athletic work and the brain work."

Kale is ranked second in his senior class and has never made less than an A.

"My parents have always taught me an A is not good enough, that I shouldn't settle for an A when it isn't my best effort," he said. "Never settle for less than my best effort, that's always been my perspective."

ELIZABETH ANN LAMBIE
Age: 18
Hometown: Bono
High School: Westside
Parent: Elaine Lambie
College plans: Harding University

ALL THAT JAZZ

Elizabeth Ann Lambie not only knows who Thelonius Monk and Bill Evans are, she says she aspires to play piano like those jazz greats. She plays piano in the Westside High School Jazz Ensemble, when she's not playing a variety of percussion instruments for the band.

When she begins her college education at Harding University, she says she hopes to continue with jazz band and classical piano.

"When I was young, my parents wanted me to take music lessons, and it was that or the violin," she says of the piano. "We had a lady at the preschool who taught it and I just liked it."

Along with band, Lambie also is active in the school's drama class and recently had the role of Clairee in "Steel Magnolias." Between band and acting, finding study time grows difficult, she admits, and nights can run as long. Then there is her community-service work; she is treasurer of the school's Interact Club, sponsored by the local Rotary Club.

But Lambie had the studying part down long ago. The Quiz Bowl captain is on track to graduate as Westside's valedictorian.

Her summer work at Jonesboro's St. Bernards Regional Medical Center, where she shadowed doctors in various specialties, has made a career in medicine her goal.

"I hope to eventually work overseas as a missionary in Africa," she says. "I've thought about opening a clinic in the U.S. for people who can't really afford to go to the hospital or don't have insurance."

A piano or drum set will likely be nearby.

"Elizabeth is an important part of our band program, not only for her talent but also for her leadership skills," says Westside's band director, Rod Plunkett. Other Westside administrators rave about her commitment and ability to bring out the best in others.

"I have always been impressed with Elizabeth's ability to analyze difficult algebra, or geometry problems, but I have always been more impressed with her attitude, generosity and kindness, not to mention her great sense of humor," says Westside math teacher Mack Ramsey.

JONATHAN LIGHT
Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High School: Central
Parents: Shelly and Kim Light
College plans: Yale

MEETING A CHALLENGE

Through schoolwork always has come easy for Jonathan Light, like every student he ran into a major a challenge last year. An advanced placement chemistry teacher he admired greatly became ill with leukemia and died. The class was passed from substitute to substitute, even to one who had not taught chemistry.

It was during that traumatic period that Light decided if he was going to continue a string of A's in advanced placement courses, he would have to teach himself. The work paid off with a maximum five on the test.

"It was the first time in my school career when I really had to work hard at something," he says. "Before that, things always came to me pretty easily. But by scoring that five, I proved to myself that even when my goals don't come easily, I can still attain them."

Light seems to succeed in all he tries. He's participated in square dancing, even teaching it for two years. He practices an hour every week with the St. James United Methodist handbell choir — "It's my only musical interest and I just insist on doing something I really enjoy," Light says. "Every summer we go on a tour or a handbell festival, and that's always fun.

His father and brother achieved black belts in taekwondo, and Light began following their lead five years ago, eventually reaching second degree black belt under instructor Buddy Hudson. "It isn't as natural as the studies, but I have a good body frame for taekwondo," he says.

Light isn't sure he'll continue with the martial arts when he attends Yale University beginning next fall. But Light has his goal set on majoring in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, he says. After that, he hopes to attend medical school and eventually study neurosurgery. Light has worked as a summer research assistant at UAMS.

"It's not an easy path, but I'm just interested in medicine and I find the human brain fascinating," he says.

Light's only B in school came in handwriting in the second grade, but even that shortcoming will be fine for a doctor.

COOPER MACK
Age: 18
Hometown: Rogers
High school: Rogers High School
Parents: John and Harriet Mack
College plans: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Arts and Sciences, New York, art

'HIS OWN GUY'

Cooper Mack, his English teacher says, isn't just an artist who feels; he's an artist who both thinks and feels. "He's got not just a creative mind, but it's like a combination of a creative mind and a logical mind," Jo Barnes says.

Kathleen Riggs, the Rogers High School counselor who nominated Mack for All-Star status, says, "He's not real hung up on bringing a lot of attention to himself. ... He's his own guy." In nominating Mack, Riggs also called him "tenacious, thorough and meticulous."

Cooper's an Eagle Scout, football player, baseball player and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. But he also possesses a 4.235 grade-point average, is class salutatorian and enjoys absurdist literature and the works of Plato and Aristotle.

Oh, and he really likes to weld and is very good at it.

The welding? Well, that's an element of Cooper's art. He welds materials as part of his artistic presentations. Mostly, though, he likes photography, particularly the slightly obscure form known as pinhole photography.

Cooper says that his rigorous high school course work, including nine advanced placement classes, enhanced his creation of art. For example, the chapter on metals and chemical formulas in AP chemistry helped in understanding the metallurgy he used in welding class which helped him with his art. Cooper sees connections.

Cooper is thrilled that he'll be attending the Cooper Union, though he doesn't know whether he'll become a professional artist. "I understand just how few people get to be professional artists," he says. Maybe he'll be an architect like his father, but "art will always be a strong influence."

EMILY B. NEAVILLE
Age: 17
Hometown: Rogers
High School: Rogers
Parents: Ellen Turner Neaville and Dr. Gary Neaville
College Plans: University of Chicago, Stanford or Brown, no specific major.

SENSE OF SELF

Emily Neaville says the greatest achievement of her high school career was not a "single amazing feat" like climbing Mount Everest, but achieving a sense of self. And that self, according to her teachers, is an independent, confident, striving, but unassuming student.

Maybe it was junior high, which Emily describes as a "hellish maelstrom of medieval hierarchies suspended in an almost total absence of rational thought." Having escaped that "black hole," she set about establishing an identity "which allows me to transcend the standards set by my peers."

And that she does routinely. She's a National Merit finalist, fourth in her class of 229 (she could be higher, but she decided not to pursue every single AP course just to gain an advantage in the grade-point race), a near-perfect scorer on the SAT and a top scorer in the school on the American High School Mathematics Exam.

Her passions include music and, as you might guess, writing. She's orchestra president, a newspaper staffer and a member of the swim team and Multicultural Club. Outside school, she plays in her church handbell choir and the North Arkansas Youth Symphony.

Journalism might figure in her plans, too. She volunteered to write a newspaper story about the federal Office of Civil Rights' review of her high school's efforts to teach English to the burgeoning number of immigrants in the area. It's a subject that also engages her in the Multicultural Club.

"There's going to have to be a massive change in attitude," she says. "But there are so many people raised in homes where parents tell them the only good person is a white person." The Multicultural Club members share experiences and heritage. They learn that people are, well, people.

In Rogers, she says, things are getting better. Students like Emily don't hurt.

KRISTINA PARTRICK
Age: 17
Hometown: Fort Smith
High school: Southside High School
Parents: Larry and Diane Partrick
College plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

'A GIVING PERSON'

Kristina Partrick's showing on the all-important standardized test scores approaches perfection: 1540 on the SAT, 34 on the ACT. Her grade-point average is 4.2353, to be precise. Some might take these impressive numbers as indicating high intelligence and maybe not much else.

But Kristina's high school counselor, Judith Akins, says that Kristina's more than her scores. "She's a lovely young lady -- personally, academically, just all around," Akins says. "She's a very giving person. ... "She's not left brain or right brain. She's both."

A brief interview with Kristina confirms Akins' opinion. She raised money to alleviate world hunger by fasting herself for 30 hours. Kristina says she learned that after a few hours you don't get hungry, but after a few more hours you become very hungry. Her fast gave her insight into how others feel "who go for days without eating." It helped give her compassion.

She loves theater. In her junior year Kristina played the lead in the Southside drama department's production of "The Mouse That Roared." That experience, she writes, "gave me the opportunity to work hard at something that didn't come as naturally to me as academics." The experience also gave her confidence, she says.

Kristina, who has won a Sturgis Fellowship from the UA, is considering becoming a doctor specializing in family practice so she can help the sick in rural areas.

She volunteers at day-care centers and nursing homes. She has worked at the local Salvation Army.

But what makes her laugh?

"A good book, my friends," she says. She thinks for a moment and notes that she goes hiking most Sundays in area parks with a friend. "He always tries to catch a lizard for me. It never really works. That makes me laugh." Then Kristina laughs and the interviewer laughs. Her joy is infectious.

GRACE RICHTER
Age: 17
Hometown: Hot Springs
High school: Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences in Hot Springs
Parents: Wilhelm and Ingrid Richter
College plans: Washington University in St. Louis

'THE EPITOME OF GRACE'

Paula Branch, a counselor at the residential high school the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences, says that Grace Richter's parents must have been prescient when they named their newborn. "She's the epitome of grace," Branch says. Branch says Grace exemplifies the adage, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

That "stick" may be Grace's brains. She's got a 4-point and the high test scores. But in a competitive school of exceptional students, Grace stands out, Branch says, not just for her academic performance but for her contributions to the community -- the high school community and that of Hot Springs. "Grace is far from being a nerd," Branch says bluntly.

Grace helped found and served as president of only the second school-sponsored Junior Civitan Club in Arkansas. The Junior Civitans help the disabled, Grace says, "but we do all kinds of community service." She tutors mentally disabled people just because "I'm helping to make them happy."

She also knows something of the so-called real world, having worked as a car hop at a fast food chain for three summers. Asked what she's learned from that experience, Grace says "patience and humility."

Grace has visited and been offered a scholarship to Cornell University but is leaning toward Washington University. She wants to major in biochemistry, with plans to enter medical research or medical school and become a doctor.

Her vision isn't grandiose. Should she enter research, she knows that the people who've made the big discoveries have had a lot of help. "I don't expect to find any big mystery all on my own," Grace says. "I guess I won't be saving the world or anything, but I want to be someone who can make small differences."

But remember, though Grace speaks softly, she carries a really "big stick" -- brains and heart.

MICHAEL ALEXANDER ROACH
Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
Parents: Robert B. and Mary C. Roach Jr.
College Plans: Notre Dame or Rhodes College, undetermined

HAPPY EDITOR

Michael Roach ranks first in his graduating class of 187 at ever-tough Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, and he was incidentally first in his Ninth, Tenth, and 11th grade classes there. He took home a number of national math and Latin studies awards this year, and he's student body secretary, and a member of the Mayor's Youth Council. His SAT score of 1570 closely approached perfection.

For all that, Michael says his favorite high school experience was editing the Catholic High yearbook last year.

"A yearbook is a truly monumental undertaking," he wrote on his Arkansas Times Academic All-Star nomination form. "During the planning phases and the first few weeks of work, the entire task seemed completely overwhelming. However, the long and tedious process made the completion of the book very meaningful. In addition, the long creative process allowed me to grow personally. It gave me a practical opportunity to cultivate leadership skills.

"The orchestration of such a large-scale production was a rewarding part of my education. I had helped to create something that would be a part of my school long after I graduated. I had helped write a chapter in school lhistory. In fact, I had overseen the production of one of the few links many people keep with their high school."

Michael has narrowed his college choices to Notre Dame and Rhodes College in Memphis, where he has a sister in attendance. He plans to study English and physics primarily, and hopes to complete his studies with a graduate degree from a law school or business school that will lead him to a chosen profession.

He might also try his hand at some literary undertaking, he says.

BRANDI ANN SCHLUTERMAN
AGE: 18
HOMETOWN: Barling
HIGH SCHOOL: Fort Smith Northside
PARENTS: Louis and Susie Schluterman
COLLEGE PLANS: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, math studies.

SISTER ACT

Two years ago, Brandi Schluterman of Barling watched in admiration as her older brother Heath won an Arkansas Times Academic All-Star award. This year it's Brandi's turn. The popular Fort Smith Northside High School cheerleader became an All-Star largely on the strength of her academic accomplishments.

She's fourth in her graduating class of 463, with a gradepoint average of 4.16. She completed the most challenging college preparatory program offered at Northside, including becoming the first female student there ever to score a perfect "5" on the advanced placement Chemistry II test. Her math scores on the ACT pretty much cracked the bulb.

She's a National Honor Society member, a National Spanish Honor Society member, and president of the Honors Chemistry Club. On that same day last year when she aced the AP chemistry exam she was elected captain of the Northside cheerleading squad. It was the biggest day of her life so far, she says. "Now when I'm stressed out I can look back and know if I made it through that day I can make it through anything," she says.

Brandi is a volunteer Little League cheerleader coach, and a volunteer elementary-school tutor.

Brandi hasn't developed any serious career plans, though she says she will concentrate on math and science-related studies when she enters the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in the fall.

She'll will be the last Academic All-Star from the Schluterman family -- at least for a while. Her sister Rachel is in the third grade.

MICHAEL STURTEVANT
Age: 18
Hometown: Dardanelle
Parents: James and Patricia Sturtevant
College plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, music, history

HORN BLOWER

Michael Sturtevant's special academic interest is music. He plans to study it at the University of Arkansas, in the hope of eventually becoming a professional jazz saxophonist. If that doesn't work out -- or even if it does -- he thinks he'd like to do some college-level music teaching.

"The most significant achievement of my high school career," he writes in his Arkansas Times Academic All-Star nomination form, "has been helping in the establishment of an official jazz program at Dardanelle High School. I have always had a deep love of jazz, as well as a great appreciation for the impact that music has on our culture.

"As I entered high school, I saw a profound gap in our school's curriculum: we had no jazz progrm whasoever. This amazed me because Dardanelle has always been a gtesting ground for new programs. I and two of my friends took it upon ourself to begin a new tradition at Dardanelle, and after four years of hard work, what evgan as a simple gathering of students after school has become a permanent part of Dardanelle's music program."

Michael is incidentally first in his class of 112 at Dardanelle with a cumulative grade point average of 4.17. He won the president's award for academics there, and the Phi Beta Mu bandsman of the year award. He's been active in several community arts enrichment organizations. He was recently awarded a $3,000 band scholarship by the University of Arkansas. He's been a basketball player and a teachers' aide at Dardanelle, and his model transcript is heavy with liberal arts and science credits.

DAVID A. TERRY
Age: 18
Hometown: Fort Smith
High School: Southside
Parents: Rex and Ginger Terry
College plans: University of Arkansas, history and French and biochemistry.

A PROTOTYPE

David Terry puts it simply, but indisputably accurately. "I'm smart. I enjoy learning and school." His record could just as easily speak for itself.

David is the second of Rex and Ginger Terry's kids to be named to the Academic All-Star Team, following his sister, Anna, a winner in 1996 and just back from a year of study in Germany. But only your record, not relationships, counts and David was an easy pick.

Top-ranked in a class of 510 students with a 4.56 average, David will have completed 12 Advanced Placement and nine Honors classes by the time he graduates this spring.

First place is familiar terrain for David. He's finished first in the state mathematics contest four years running. He's a member of the Quiz Bowl team that won a state championship in 1999. A piano student for 11 years, he's won superior ratings as a soloist each of the last two years (an elegy by Rachmaninoff is his favorite piece) and found time to add his musical skills to his church choir and handbell choir.

Add to that, says counselor Dianne Jeffery, a sense of humor, modesty and maturity and you have what teachers describe as "the prototype of the perfect student."

A National Merit scholar, Terry is one of many All-Stars who look back on Arkansas Governor's School as one of their top experiences. He credits it with moving him from an oversimplified view of politics. "It really opened my eyes to the diversity of ideas," he says. "I had been real closed-minded. I still consider myself conservative, but more flexible."

David, home schooled through the sixth grade, has won a prestigious Bodenhamer scholarship at UA, which means all expenses paid, plus spending money, plus a year of study abroad. That's where his plans to study French come in.

SUSANNAH J. WRIGHT
Age: 18
Hometown: Hot Springs
High School: Lakeside
Parents: Judge John H. Wright and Cynthia E. Wright
College plans: Vanderbilt University, medicine.

BIG HEART

How does Susannah Wright do it? Not just the National Merit finalist honors or her ranking right at the top of a class of 180 with a 4.47 gradepoint. Not just the student organizations.

There's also her monthly stint with Habitat for Humanity, doing everything from leveling foundations to laying sod to put needy people in homes. There's her work at First Step, a school for people with disabilities. She spends an afternoon each week working with four autistic children, aged 5 to 9. And there's community service galore in Key Club, including work at the Arkansas Senior Olympics and coordinating a pet therapy program for nursing home residents.

Says her mother, Cynthia Wright, "She has a very big heart. And to satisfy that heart, she needs to do all these things." In the end, she says, it's not that her daughter does so much. "Some people just need to do much."

Volunteer work is a requirement for high schoolers these days. Some take only a swipe at it. Susannah has worked with her Key Club every Saturday for two years on housing rehab work, including such things as installing insulation and painting. "It's an amazing experience when you can meet the people whose houses we're building and see what a difference it makes," she says.

But the competition here, finally, is about academics. And there, Susannah also does much. Her counselor, Frances Lancaster, says Susannah wins academic awards in nearly every class she takes, acing such classes as Advanced Placement Calculus, Chemistry and English.

She helps other students with what her mother says amounts to a private homework hotline and frequent study groups. "She knows how to make studying fun," her mother says.

Susannah is also captain of the Lakeside Quiz Bowl team, a position reserved not only for the brainiest, but quickest, of academic competitors.

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