Leader Blues

Saturday, October 24, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cabot’s top students recognized

Students receiving awards are Paula Shepard (front, from left), Grace Coggins, Emily Foltz, Kelsey Loraditch, Josh McIntyre (back row), Spencer Sharp, Justin Blankenship, Brendon Tucker and Taylor Burrington.

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s top students, its National Merit semifinalists and AP scholars, were recognized during the Tuesday school board meeting.

Superintendent Tony Thurman noted that many of them had siblings who had also been honored for scholastic achievement and he gave credit to their parents. “You’ve done a wonderful job,” he told them.

National Merit semifinalists are the students from each state who score the highest on the PSAT given to juniors in October.

The semifinalists represent less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school seniors. Semifinalists are eligible to continue in the competition for 8,000 scholarships, worth about $33 million.

This year, 147 Arkansas high school seniors were named National Merit semifinalists. Seven were from Cabot, which ranked third in the state from among 244 school districts for the highest number of semifinalists.

Those semifinalists, who have already been offered college scholarships, are Spencer Sharp, Justin Blankenship, Grace Coggins, Katie Van Druff, Emiliy Foltz, Courtney Anderson and Hannah Norton.

Although many of Cabot’s 33 AP scholars graduated in May, several who are seniors this year attended the Tuesday evening meeting. Some were also there as National Merit semifinalists.

Cabot’s AP scholars who are still in school are Josh McIntyre, Spencer Sharp, Justin Blankenship, Brendon Tucker, Taylor Burrington, Paula Shepard, Grace Coggins, Emily Foltz, Kelsey Loraditch, Rachel Best, Laken Harrington, Thomas Medak, Gary Newman and Courtney Anderson.

The Advanced Placement Program provides AP scholar awards in recognition of the high achievement of students taking advanced placement (college level) courses and exams.

About 18 percent of the 1.6 million students worldwide earned an AP scholar award. Many Cabot students who are enrolled in AP courses will receive college credit for their work and scholarship offers even without the recognition of AP scholar or
National Merit semifinalist, said Jana Smith, coordinator of secondary pre-AP, AP and gifted and talented as well as director of the AP Academy that is in its first year.

The AP Academy was started to make sure students are ready when it’s time to apply for college. To be eligible, students must have a 3.5 grade-point average. They must take a minimum of eight pre-AP and AP classes of which three must be AP. They must work alone on a large community service project either alone or as part of a group.

When they finish the program, which starts in the 10th grade, they will, in theory, have a resume that will be hard for any college to turn down and know how to answer questions during interviews.

“We have found over the years that what many of these schools are looking for is community service,” Smith said, and not just helping with Cabot Cleanup or volunteering at church.

The 160 students who are now part of the AP Academy are doing things like volunteering at hospitals in Little Rock and working on the regional park that is being built in Cabot. “We’re showing them what they need to do so when they go for an interview, they’re ready,” she said.

The Tuesday meeting was the first for new board member Mark Russell, who was sworn in before the meeting started by Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman.

Russell of Ward lost his race for the school board in September to Corey Williams of Cabot but was appointed earlier this month to replace Jim Coy, who resigned because his work requires him to miss meetings.

Russell said during a phone interview after the meeting that he was pleased that the board decided to name him to the position.

“Even though I lost the election, I was still very interested in serving,” he said. Russell called the board’s decision “prudent” considering that the election had just been held.