Students who excel both academically and in extracurricular activities are a rare breed. Many exemplify almost superhero qualities with their strengths and character, and all at such young ages. Cenla has no shortage of exceptional young talents whose stories could fill volumes. So, we enlisted the help of school principals, administrators, counselors and superintendents to nominate students they feel represent the best of the best. Time will tell, but among these super students may be a Fulbright Scholar or a Rhodes Scholar. Future Olympians may be included in this group of students or even a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
Each of Cenla’s Super Students share exceptional traits that impact their schools, school districts, parishes and the state. Their remarkable achievements stem from their dedication to learning and enrichment, both inside and outside the classroom setting. All the educators we polled agree that what makes these students standout is more than just a high grade point average. With the passion, heart and drive for success, Cenla’s Super Students represent the best of the next generation.
Senior Ashley Mitchell, the pint-size powerlifter dynamo from Alexandria Senior High School, will represent Team USA in early September in the International Powerlifting Federation Championship in Prague. At 4-foot-9-inches tall, the 94-pound athlete has been breaking and setting new powerlifting records. Ashley is a three-time state champion and regional champion. She broke the deadlift record, bench record and squat, bench and deadlift regional record. “At state, I squatted 253 pounds, benched 145 and deadlifted 319 pounds,” Mitchell says about the new state record.
Powerlifting is both mentally and physically demanding, but Mitchell, who is an honor roll student and former cheerleader, is up to the challenge. “To me it’s about life’s obstacles and to overcome it is the challenge,” Mitchell says, adding that she has a good support system. “God, my family, my coach and my powerlifting team all keep me motivated,” she says.
Eleven-year-old Annie Beard dreams of being a gymnast for the USA Olympic team one day, and with her focused dedication, she evokes that can-do spirit to enable her to accomplish her goals. “Annie is in the gym 36 hours a week training,” her mom, Jennifer, says about her daughter’s fortitude. The Alexandria natives spends a great deal of her time in Dallas so Annie can have access to elite gymnastics training. The Elite program consists of regional and national training programs and competitions designed for athletes aspiring to represent the United States in international competition. Despite the grueling hours in the gym, Beard still maintains straight-A’s in her school work.
Annie started in gymnastics when she was 3 years old. “She has a natural ability, and loves to compete and perform. Her eyes light up and she has a big smile on her face at competitions. She doesn’t get nervous,” her mom notes. At the Level 9 State Championships, Beard scored the highest All-Around score of any Level 9 gymnast. She placed first place in vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor competitions. Recently, Beard was nominated as a Top 5 finalist for 2015 Gymnast of the Year on MeetScoresOnline. In 2014, Beard was ranked in the top five for the International Gymnast Magazine Gymnast of the Year as a Level 8 gymnast. At the 2015 Level 9 Region 3 Championships, Beard earned first place All-Around, and first place in vault, beam and floor competitions.
This coming season, Annie is looking to compete in Level 10/Elite. Level 10 collegiate gymnastics is the highest level in the USA Gymnastics Jr. Olympics Program. She is hoping to make the U.S. National Team through a performance at the U.S. Championships. In her sights is the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and with her talent and motivation, her dream could become her reality.
Hailey Teal, who graduated from Grace Christian School in May with a 4.13 grade point average, is not only a super star student academically, but a star in the sports arena, too. She was a softball extraordinaire on her school’s Lady Warriors softball team. Before graduation, Hailey accepted a full scholarship to play softball at Bossier Parish Community College. She was named the most valuable player on the all-district 6-B team.
Teal played on Grace Christian School’s varsity softball team from sixth-grade through her senior year. She made first team All-District for softball from the seventh-grade through the 12th grade. Teal earned a position on the All State softball team throughout her high school years. In addition to softball, she competed on the varsity cross-country team from the seventh grade through the 12th. Teal also made the All-State cross-country team four times. She was on the varsity track team from seventh grade through 12th, and won two state championships. An all-around star athlete, Teal also played for her school’s varsity basketball team for grades 7th through 12th. She was on the All District basketball team one year.
In addition to her scholastic and athletic achievements, in her senior year, Teal served on the Student Council and was active in Beta for two years. Teal, known for her enthusiasm, likes to cite one of her favorite quotes: “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”
Third-grader Zoe Jane Miller is in the gifted and talented program at Cherokee Elementary School in Alexandria. She received first place last year in the Accelerated Reader program. “I love school,” gushes Miller. Besides reading and math, Zoe, who is consistently on the straight-A honor roll, writes stories. The little author has notebooks filled with stories. When she is not creatively writing, Miller dances competitively in jazz, hip hop and ballet. She is on the dance team at Vicki’s Dance Center. Her principal says Miller consistently models Cherokee’s 3-Rs: respect, responsibility and right, as well as the school’s virtues: self-discipline, honesty, compassion and perseverance.
Cullen Phillips, a sixth-grader at Our Lady of Prompt Succor School in Alexandria, is an avid reader and budding artist. His teachers say he is one of the “friendliest” students in the school who is always willing to help others. “I love to learn and the teachers at my school make it fun,” Cullen enthuses. An honor roll student, Phillips is active in Boy Scouts Troop 6 and plays intramural basketball. At only age 11, Phillips notes the value of the written word, “I love to read. It’s my favorite subject in school.”
Stanley Celestine, Jr., an outstanding junior at the Louisiana School for Agricultural Sciences in Bunkie, engages elementary school students in a mentoring and educational program designed to improve their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “In 2013, I started an original non-profit organization called ‘We Teach STEM’ to reach out to underserved communities,” Celestine says, noting the acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and math. By August 2014, his initiative was adopted by the Avoyelles Parish School Board and implemented at six of the district’s schools. Stanley’s work in the ‘We Teach STEM’ program reaches more than 1,300 students. He was recently selected as a Youth Service America honoree in recognition for his achievements, and he teaches science lessons in after-school programs and conducts workshops in several of the area’s libraries.
In March, children’s network Nickelodeon selected Celestine as the recipient of the Halo Effect award for his work in STEM. He received a $5,000 grant for his education program and a $5,000 scholarship for college. Stanley recently started a research project called “Healthy Avoyelles” and organized a back-to-school health fair. A state 4-H officer, Celestine was selected to attend a national conference as a delegate. In addition, Celestine was named a Louisiana National Child Awareness Ambassador and was awarded a grant to represent the state at a conference in Washington, D.C. in mid-September.
Miracle Romar, an eighth-grade student at Avoyelles High School in Moreauville, exudes enthusiasm around her school campus. “I love that I get to learn every day. I like coming to school and getting involved,” Romar says. Her winsome ways serve her in good stead. Being on the cheerleading squad seems to fit her personality. “I try to be a very friendly person, and try to show lots of school spirit,” gushes Miracle. A strong Christian faith helps Romar in her daily walk, she says. Her teachers say they can always count on Miracle to be a positive role model at the school. An honor roll student, Romar is also active in the school’s Beta Club.
Aaliyah Hudson, a sixth-grade student at Marksville Elementary School, has a genuine thirst for knowledge, and it is that craving that has made her a super student in Avoyelles Parish. “I absolutely love school. I like how the teachers motivate me to learn, and I love to learn,” enthuses Hudson. A Beta Club standout, Aaliyah is in the gifted and talented program. Last year, she received an award in every school subject. She was selected as the Student of the Month recipient multiple times, and she was named Student of the Year for the 2014-15 school year. She is active in the 4-H Club, and is looking forward to the challenges that await her in this new school year.
Mallory Crawford, the 2015 valedictorian of Grant High School, continues to excel in her studies at the University of Louisiana at Monroe on a full scholarship. Never having missed a single day of school, Mallory was recognized at a Grant Parish School Board meeting with a Perfect Attendance Record for 13 years. During her years at Grant High, Crawford achieved numerous honors and received various accolades for her accomplishments. She served as president of the Future Farmers of America for two years, spearheaded the return of the Ag Day event for third-graders district wide, and organized a petting zoo, along with planting seeds and cow milking lessons.
A well-rounded student, Crawford was active in Beta, the Student Council and Fellowship of Christian Students. She was elected Miss Grant High School for outstanding service and played varsity basketball all four years. Her senior year, Crawford was All-District basketball first team and led the Grant Cougars in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. She was named basketball All-State honorable mention. Additionally, she made the Academic All-State Composite team. Crawford was the 4-H Club president her junior and senior years. This past year, she was selected as the Grant Parish High School Student of the Year. Mallory gives a lot of credit to her parents for her success in school, “My parents really supported me in everything. My advice to students is to find something you like in school, work hard and stick with it.”
Emily Savell, a freshman at Grant High School in Dry Prong, stays involved in as many extracurricular activities as she can. Last year, as an eighth-grade student at Grant Junior High, Savell served as the president of the Beta Club. She plans to remain involved in Beta this year. “Our Beta club really cares about each other. We are like a family. We prayed together before we competed,” says Emily, noting it is good for students to be involved in some activity at their school. At GHS, Savell sings in the high school choir and is active in the 4-H Club. She earned a second place ribbon in the pecan cookery dessert division in the 2015 Central District Commodity Cookery Contest in Alexandria. For the 2014-15 school year, Savell was named the Grant Parish 8th-grade Student of the Year.
Caleb Florice, a sixth-grade student at South Grant Elementary School, was selected last year by the school board as the Grant Parish 5th-grade Student of the Year. Distinguishing himself academically, Florice, an avid reader, is a rising star in the school’s Beta Club. He placed first with his science project in the annual science fair last year, and he is a member of the 4-H Club. In addition to his academic achievements, Caleb also plays offensive tackle in the Red River youth football league. The teachers at his school say he is the kind of student they can count on to be a motivator in the classroom and a friend to everyone.
Anna Catherine Coleman, a sixth-grader at Northwestern State University Middle Lab School, has quite an artistic flair. Her artwork pieces have been displayed in the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion three times. “I like to be creative and original,” pipes Coleman. A Christmas ornament she painted has hung on the governor’s Christmas tree the last two years. Anna has been the American Cancer Society art contest winner for two years, with her artwork auctioned at a fundraiser event. In addition, her paintings have been on display in the Natchitoches School Board office.
Anna has served as a Student Council representative, the 4-H Club secretary and as a member of the Quiz Bowl Team. She is active in the Running Club and in K-Kids, a Kiwanis-sponsored service club. On the principal’s list, Coleman is a Club 500 member for obtaining a perfect score on the LEAP ELA and math tests. Outside of school, Coleman thrives in extracurricular activities. She has a lead role in the First Baptist Church of Natchitoches drama team and has been a FBC children’s choir member for seven years. Her piano recital competitions have earned her a gold cup at Federation, the equivalent of a superior rating at rally. In addition, Coleman plays city league softball and basketball.
Jada Aldredge, a ninth-grade student at Lakeview High School in Campti, was the Natchitoches Parish Eighth Grade Student of the Year. She is consistently on the Principal’s List straight A-honor roll. Jada is the type of student who likes to help others, her teachers say. Since the fourth grade, she has helped other students by tutoring them in math. She is a member of the Quiz Bowl, the PBIS Swamp Club and played on the school’s basketball team last year. Aldredge is a cheerleader for the 2015-16 school year. She is also active on the school’s debate team. At her church, Aldredge participates on the Praise Dance team and sings in the youth choir.
Senior Reginald “Reggie” Paige extols the value of his service in the Natchitoches Central High School JROTC. He is currently the Battalion Sergeant Major. This is his fourth year in the JROTC, and he says the experience has helped shape his life. “It has made me a better citizen,” Paige says. His teachers say he is a modest young man with a “fine moral character” they wish could be duplicated in others. During the summer, Paige volunteered his time to help the school janitor paint classrooms and move furniture around. “I like to help people around the neighborhood. I will cut their grass, help in the garden or help at church,” Paige adds. He has held various leadership roles in the JROTC and has served on the JROTC Color Guard.
Trenton “Skylar” Downs, a senior at Natchitoches Central High School, plans to join one of the branches of the Armed Forces after graduation. A delegate to Boy’s State and an honor roll student, Downs is known to the district’s administrators as a student who volunteers for additional duties at his school. As a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, Skylar has visited nursing homes and volunteered his time to help. He received the Rotary Club Key Club award. His freshman and sophomore years, Downs served on the NCHS JROTC Color Guard. Although he was active in JROTC, Downs is not in the branch this year. He has played on the school’s tennis team for the last two years, and went to state competition in tennis last year.
Colton Conley, a sixth-grader at Northwestern State University Middle Lab School, has received many academic awards as well as extracurricular honors. Enrolled in the gifted and talented classes, he is on the Principal’s List. He is a Club 500 member for a perfect score on the LEAP math test. Math happens to be his favorite subject. “It feels good to achieve good grades. Knowing my strong side is in math, I am looking forward to advance math with some challenges,” quips Conley. Last year, Caleb participated in the Quiz Bowl. He is a member of the K-Kids club that specializes in reaching out to help others. “It feels great when you do something to help others,” Conley says. The K-Kids made cards for veterans recently and picked up trash in their community. Conley, a DARE honors graduate, is involved also in the city league baseball, soccer and football leagues.