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The 1998 Academic All-Star finalists

From a 'slow learner' to cancer survivor, top students all.


Was it hard to choose the Academic All-Star team?

Consider one of the finalists who didn't make the final cut, Mindy Lasater of Clarksville, who attends Russellville High School.

Her high school years were marked by more than a 4.0-gradepoint average and Girls State.

"In July of 1993," she writes, "the lump on my neck and the mass in my chest prevented me from going to the AAU National Basketball Tournament in Tennessee." She had been an MVP in Arkansas, but a diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma kept her home from Tennessee and threatened her future.

"My life-long dream of playing college ball was in danger. So I asked the Lord if he would give me the desire of my heart and let me play basketball. He did. During treatment I went to practice every morning at 7:30, drove two hours to Children's Hospital for chemotherapy and radiation and then threw up all the way home. I was bald, had blue radiation marks on my face and neck, but I had a starting position on the team and I made it to every game. My coordination was off, and I was slower than usual, so I had to work harder to keep up. Because of that, I am a better player today. And the kids who made fun of my appearance actually did me a favor, because I grew in sensitivity toward others."

The rest of the story: Mindy has signed a four-year basketball scholarship at Arkansas Tech University.

The following students also reached the final round of judging in the 1998 Academic All-Stars competition.


Eliaser Ramon Chaparro, Little Rock, Pulaski Academy. A clarinetist since the fourth grade, he made all-region band as a 10th grader and was named best member of his school's jazz band. A National Merit and National Hispanic scholar, he played football, throws the discus in track, works on the stage crew for school musicals and volunteers in several community and church projects.

Grant Maxey Cox, Marianna, Barton High School. Twice a member of the all-state Quiz Bowl team, Grant is No. 1 in his class, student body president, newspaper editor, and all-region bandsman and member of the track and baseball teams.

Nathan A. Feezor, Maynard High School. In addition to ranking at the top of his class, Nathan is a successful businessman who took out a loan for what has turned into a growing, and successful cattle feeding operation. Other activities: active in club that monitors local water quality; built a new Welcome to Maynard sign.

William F. Goodbold IV, Fountain Lake High School. A National Merit scholar who tops his class, Nathan counts as his great achievement parlaying hard work, including summer workouts, to make himself an all-district football player, despite being "not an athletic person."

Roy Richard Ha, Osceola, Arkansas School for Mathematics and Science. A math and physics whiz and a National Merit scholar, Roy overloaded himself with classes as a freshman and sophomores to get to fun stuff--"Differential Equations." Semi-finalist in the Presidential Scholars Program.

Ben A. Hood, Benton, Bryant High School. He started an Ecology Club at his school, which recycles paper, aluminum and plastic and also organized campus cleanups, planted trees and bulbs and placed concrete benches and planters on campus. No. 1 in his class of 362, he plays soccer and tennis.

Chad Lakey, Adona, Perryville High School. Despite the burden of caring for parents terminally ill with lung cancer in his junior year (they died three days apart), he worked on, hoping to achieve their dream that he go to college. He'll finish fifth in his class, is the top-rated male, played football and is president of the National Honor Society.

Scott LeBlanc, Calion, Norphlet High School. An Upward Bound summer program for math and science lit a fire under Scott, who was chosen the top student in the program. Known for his hard work, he's worked in area storm cleanup and high school landscaping. Editor of the yearbook, president of both the Chess Club and National Honor Society.

Hunter Naylor, West Memphis High School. First in his class, Hunter hasn't missed a day of school in five years and works just as hard out of school in World Changers, a Southern Baptist group in which young people pay to go to different parts of the country to provide volunteer labor on homes of the needy.

John Clinton Ritchie, Sheridan High School. President of the National Honor Society and the Young Democrats, among other clubs, Clint is known for service to others--as football and baseball trainer, but moreover as a community volunteer. He's volunteered hundreds of hours as a Little League helper and hundreds more working at school concession stands and tutoring math and Spanish students.

Paul C. Ryals, Clarksville High School. An "outsider" who moved to Clarksville in high school, he overcame his shyness in new surroundings to participate in cross-country and tennis, several clubs and be chosen as the school's delegate to Boys State. He ranks second in his class

Daniel Sears, Marianna, Lee Senior High School. State scholar athlete of the year, Daniel does it all--football, basketball, baseball, track, pep band, Quiz Bowl and Honor Society. Accepted to both West Point and the Naval Academy.

David Nicholas Smith, Jacksonville High School. A contributor to his community, he helped put on a dance and run a concession stand every week at a center for elderly people. President of the National Honor Society and the top Marine Junior ROTC cadet, he ranks seventh in his class.

Todd Strawn, Atkins High School. No. 1 in his class, Todd's not just a joiner of numerous school clubs, but a beginner--leading the way to the school's first dance, a new dress code and new student government. He's created a web page for his Future Business Leaders club, though he already is a business leader, the youngest member of the Atkins Chamber of Commerce.

Tyler Jacob Vaught, Siloam Springs High School. Despite multiple surgeries, casts and crutches to overcome club feet, Tyler became a varsity golfer and a Boys and Girls Club volunteer. An honors graduate, he's won an academic scholarship and hopes to study sports administration.


Celeste Marie Alexander, Pine Bluff High School. Second in Pine Bluff's class of 423, she won the Arkansas Junior Miss scholastic award. An all-American cheerleader and band member, she also has been president of the Student Council Executive Board and a volunteer church pianist.

Tiffany A. Ball, Little Rock, Hall High School. A senior year transfer who gave birth during her junior year, she rapidly became part of her new school as member of the National Honor Society, FBLA and newspaper staff, among others. Finished fifth in class of 225 and won a UA chancellor's scholarship. Volunteered in nursing home.

Katie Butler, Marion High School. A National Merit scholar and yearbook editor, she has a dramatic flair. She participated in 13 plays, from the "Diary of Anne Frank" to "Peter Pan" and was a member of a traveling repertory troupe, in between being captain of a Bible quiz team and taking church mission trips.

Lena Byrne, Farmington High School. A straight-A student, she won acceptance to Up With People and is raising $15,000 to be able to participate in the group's world tour. A top equestrian, she was a judge and champion in several Future Farmer competitions.

Penny Lee Cook, Evening Shade High School. Top-ranked in her class, she's also helped her family since the death of her mother in a car crash. Headed to Texas A&M to study marine biology. Yearbook editor. Presidential Fitness Award.

Jamie Caryol Creekmore, Fort Smith, Southside High School. Leadership of Fort Smith Volunteer Youth Council earned her national recognition in the Points of Light Youth Conference. Recruited 90 volunteers from around the city for community service. Church deacon, Key Club officer, Special Olympics coach.

Jennifer Leigh Davis, Hatfield High School. Placed in special education in the fourth grade, she caught up and then some, finishing first in her senior class with straight As, while coping with the difficulties of getting around on crutches because of spina bifida. President of Beta Club, member of state champion Quiz Bowl team. Pianist at church bible school.

Devan Marie Guillory, North Little Rock, Mills University Studies High School. A cross-country runner and Latin Club president, she also has been a church pianist and volunteer at St. Vincent's North Outpatient Center. Hearing impaired, she finished with an A+ average.

Kellie Nichole Long, Maumelle, Oak Grove High School. National Merit scholar and accomplished actress, she lists as a top achievement her three years of work in High School Heroes, an anti-smoking program aimed at kids. Third in her class.

Shelly DeAnna Smith, Sherwood, Jacksonville High School. A National Merit scholar and yearbook editor, she piled up credits in a number of volunteer organizations in her school, church and community. She led the effort that created the Service Learning volunteer program at her school.

Amber Rachelle Standridge, Clarksville High School. A National Merit scholar and twice an all-American cheerleader, she is the school's top vocalist and president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Works with elementary kids in anti-drug program.

Rebecca Lynn Teague, Searcy, Harding Academy. A 4.0 student, she's a distinguished singer and performed this year at Carnegie Hall, in addition to singing at many weddings and funerals. Track, tennis, cheerleading, drama and volunteer work in tutoring and with the elderly are among her activities.

Jana Lynn Thompson, Siloam Springs High School. Since seventh grade, she's coped with a rare bone disease that required total hip replacement, but has maintained high grades in demanding honors courses, despite frequent absences. A National Honor Society member and prize winner in science fairs and FBLA competition, she also works more than 20 hours a week at a local drug store.

Erin Elizabeth Walker, Springdale High School. Top-ranked in a class of 589, her counselor says she distinguished herself with leadership, including as president of her class. She led a project to raise money for a party and gifts for Head Start children.

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