107 graduate at ASMSA’s 23rd annual commencement ceremony

3 months ago

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts celebrated commencement for the 107 members of the Class of 2017 during a ceremony May 27 at Horner Hall in the Hot Springs Convention Center.

The Class of 2017 celebrated many achievements, including eight National Merit Scholarship Finalists; two Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology Semifinalists and Regional Finalists; eight students who qualified for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, tying the record for the most qualifiers in the year, with five of the eight participants earning recognition at the competition; and more than 20 students who participated in the school’s Research in the Park program or served as volunteers for Hot Springs National Park who were recognized as a group for their work for the park with the National Park Service youth group volunteer award.

One of the most impressive achievements of the class came on the ACT test. This year’s class averaged 30.6 on the college entrance exam, the highest composite of any class in school history. Class members also received $11.8 million in scholarship offers, pushing the total of scholarship offers made to ASMSA students in the school’s 23 years to more than $215 million.

Despite all of the achievements by the class, Lauren Capes, a senior from Booneville, encouraged her fellow graduates to continue to strive for success. She said while they must all continue to have big dreams, which are an essential part of motivation, they should not let those dreams dictate everything they do.

“Don’t let them stop you from trying a new hobby, from branching out, from doing,” she said. “After all, dreamers write stories about doers, but doers are the ones that go out there, both afraid and unafraid of what may come but facing it all the same.

“ASMSA has not taught us how to dream. It has taught us how to think for ourselves, how to evaluate our opinions and stances on different issues, how to manage our time, and most importantly, how to follow our heart. That the building blocks to discovery are not dreams, but rather passion and drive.”

While each of them may have a plan today for where they will go in life, they should not be afraid to change that path, she said.

“Don’t be afraid if you start to leave the road you paved for yourself. Don’t be afraid to let your passions get redirected, to have your opinions change, to go on an adventure, to be kind, to go crazy, to be diligent, to breakup, to make up, to pull yourself up when you fall down, to throw yourself down, to reach for the top, to be content where you are, to laugh when you fail and cry when you succeed. Don’t be afraid to be you,” Capes said.

Hayward Battle, the chair of the ASMSA Board of Visitors and a longtime practicing attorney and pastor, echoed those sentiments. Battle served as the main speaker for the commencement ceremony.

“I want you to realize that you will have plans and you will dream, and I don’t want to discourage about making great plans,” he said. “In fact you should plan. But realize that plans do fail. Sometimes things will unexpectedly happen. Sometimes things will fall apart and not work as you had planned out. But you must understand it is better to fail with a plan than to fail without one. Ask me why? Because you have a document to memorialize how not to do it next time.”

He told the graduates to choose to face their fears and not to be afraid to fail. “Failure is inevitable, but make it a temporary detour rather than a permanent distraction or excuse. Don’t stop, but come back with another plan,” he said, advising them to choose to be happy even in times of failure.

“In more cases than not, happiness leads to success. You don’t always have the power over some of the things that happen to you in your life, but you do have the power to how you respond to those things. Choose to be happy. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, who will have faith in you, who will believe in you,” he said.

Director Corey Alderdice related the Class of 2017’s time at ASMSA to the fictional characters in “The Magicians” by author and Time magazine literary critic Lev Grossman. In the novel, one student, Quentin, is unexpectedly transported from an admissions interview for Princeton to Brakebills, the finest College of Magic in North America.

Quentin spends five years at Brakebills. On the night before graduation, the dean of the school posits that Quentin and his classmates undertook the study of magic because they were unhappy. In some ways, the students in the Class of 2017 were unhappy as well, Alderdice said, though for different reasons.

“You’re unhappy when you see other students who are more than happy to take a C on an exam,” Alderdice said. “You’re unhappy when others around you are more concerned with which university will be playing in the Final Four than which university they will be attending in the fall—if they plan on doing so at all. You’re unhappy with anything other than your best possible effort.”

Alderdice said the true value of an education isn’t the piece of paper earned after a specific set of years. Rather it is the connections, hours of hard work, moments of insight and ability to persist when others will not that will be remembered and more valuable in the future.

He also encouraged them to continue to draw inspiration and support from the individuals who have been there for them throughout their life—whether it is educators, family, friends, coaches or many others.

“They will help fill that spot in your chest when the natural fire within is not enough alone,” he said.

Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, and Jason Ly of Jonesboro, president of the ASMSA Student Government Association and a member of the Class of 2017, also spoke at commencement.

Bobbitt praised the work and dedication of the faculty who worked daily to guide the students in independent, unique scholarship.

“This is a committed, inspired faculty. This is more of a calling than a vocation. I believe this faculty has chosen as their life’s work to share their considerable knowledge and indeed their experience with the next generation. I hope you will take this gift, graduates, and be inspired to share your gifts with others,” Bobbitt said.

Ly reminded his classmates that through their experiences at ASMSA they had become a family.

“ASMSA gave us this crazy, disjointed, mess of a student body that not only has some of the closest friends you could ever meat, but also a family we could all rely and trust through two of the most grueling years of our high school career,” Ly said.

“To everyone in this room, the students in front of you are the most kind-hearted, talented people I could ever call a family. I urge everyone sitting in the student section to look around and see the faces that have become such an integral part of our last two years and hope that this is far from the last moment we will see each other.”

Students in the Class of 2017 by county are:

Arkansas: Baylee Byers of Stuttgart and Matt Murry of Stuttgart.

Benton: Lillianna Jones of Ferrisburgh

Boone: Kim Sloan of Harrison

Calhoun: Levi West of Thornton

Craighead: Kyle Antonio of Jonesboro; Carly Collins of Jonesboro; Jansen Cullipher of Jonesboro; Ambria Holler of Jonesboro; Jason Ly of Jonesboro; Caelan Miller of Jonesboro; Olivia Stone of Jonesboro; Claudia Vestal of Jonesboro; and Justin Vestal of Jonesboro.

Crawford: Chayne Ball of Alma; Paige Green of Mulberry; and Rebecca Parham of Alma.

Crittenden: Morgan Dillon of Marion and Cali Keck of Marion

Faulkner: Phillip Bryan of Conway; Amanda Lee of Conway; Madeline Leicht of Conway; and Taylor Mosley of Conway

Franklin: Zoe Cameron of Ozark; Joseph Davidson of Ozark; and Storm Gardner of Ozark

Garland: Brock Davis of Hot Springs; Diego de los Reyes of Hot Springs; Amber DiPersia of Hot Springs; Jackson Gregory of Hot Springs; Nick Griffin of Hot Springs; Ashley Kennedy of Hot Springs; Gwen Kudabeck of Hot Springs; Samantha Malone of Hot Springs; and Katie Welch of Pearcy

Hempstead: Lana Thurman of Blevins

Hot Spring: Joseph Filipek of Bismarck; Juliet Green of Malvern; Liam Johnson of Pearcy; and Doyle Smith of Bismarck

Jefferson: Will Duke of Pine Bluff; Devin Howard of White Hall; and Ivana Tanzil of White Hall

Johnson: Michael “Shorty” Gipson of Clarksville

Lincoln: Madison Brown of Star City and Makiya White of Grady

Logan: Lauren Capes of Booneville

Lonoke: Avery Bell of Austin; Spencer Hazeslip of Cabot; Nathan Herring of Cabot; Nick Herring of Humnoke; Chloe Long of Cabot; Jackson Prichard of Cabot; and Megan Tustison of Carlisle.

Miller: Makayla Allen of Texarkana

Montgomery: Jamie Carmack of Oden

Newton: Ryan Faught of Jasper

Phillips: Malcolm Vincent of Barton

Pike: Jada Hunter of Delight

Poinsett: Kennedy Neely of Weiner

Pope: Gracie Musgrove of Dover; Jeremy Smothers of Russellville; Zachary Ward of Russellville; and Carter Williams of Dover

Pulaski: Sharon Amole of Little Rock; Tenzing Briggs of Little Rock; Kenny Duran of Little Rock; Will Hopkins of Little Rock; Logan Jones of Maumelle; Tim Lee of North Little Rock; Nick Nahas of North Little Rock; Krishna Patel of Little Rock; Chilton Streett of Little Rock; Christ Tran of Little Rock; Logan Watts of Little Rock; and Lauryn White of Little Rock

Randolph: Rachel King of Pocahontas

Saline: Jessi Amason of Benton; Noah Balushi of Alexander; Carson Cato of Bryant; Brandon of Cox of Bryant; Jakub Jilek of Alexander; Lauren Lessenberry of Benton; Dillon Meaders of Benton; Landon Middleton of Bryant; Caleb Miller of Bryant; Joe Sartini of Benton; and Alex Smith of Little Rock.

Scott: Will Owens of Waldron

Searcy: Hailey Campbell of Leslie

Sebastian: Alanah Claybaugh of Huntington; Lynn Duong of Fort Smith; Solomon Lisk of Fort Smith; and Zack Tomlinson of Lavaca

Sevier: Samantha Antley of Lockesburg

Sharp: Tyler Brightwell of Cave City; Charni Hunt of Ravenden; and Christopher Lowery of Hardy

St. Francis: Stanton Dillahunty of Hughes

Union: Martin Boerwinkle of El Dorado and Daven Sipe of Smackover

Washington: Jared Harris of Fayetteville and Tristan Tompkins of Springdale

Woodruff: Emily Grisham of Augusta

Yell: Briston Yarbrough of Danville

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