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The 2003 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team

They're at the head of the pack.


With high school graduation dates fast approaching, it's time again to look at the cream of the Arkansas high school class of 2003.

For the ninth year, the Arkansas Times has assembled an Academic All-Star Team, comprising 10 males and 10 females from public and private schools across the state.

Some of our winners are simply perfect, with flawless scores on the most rigorous college admission examinations. Most of them are at the top, or very near the top, of their high school classes. They've excelled at the most demanding courses and still found time for music, basketball, soccer, track and scores of other extracurricular and community activities.

They were nominated by their schools and passed through two rounds of judging. The winners were chosen from among 40 finalists in a day of judging by a four-judge panel. The judges were Sam Blair of Little Rock, a retired high school guidance counselor; JoNell Caldwell of Little rock, a member of the Arkansas Board of Education; Lynn Harrison, supervisor of gifted education in Sheridan, and Dr. Johanna Miller Lewis, chair of the History Department at UALR.

This year's competition was co-sponsored by the Arkansas Educational Television Network, which helped us get word out to the schools. AETN is also preparing feature films on some of the winners.

The winners will be honored with a reception this week at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. They'll receive plaques and cash prizes.

Remember that being nominated is a high honor in itself. Each school may nominate no more than one male and one female senior. All the nominees are listed in this issue.

If the past is prologue, some of this year's winners will go on to greater successes. One previous all-star is a Rhodes Scholar. Many of others have won top academic prizes, including being nominated for a Rhodes.

Enjoy some good news about Arkansas education.

Age: 18
High School: Bentonville High
Parents: Terry and Vicki Berry
College plans: Dartmouth

While working 28 hours a week at Wal-Mart, Terry has still found time to serve as president of his sophomore, junior and senior classes; run on the track team (conference champion in the 400-meter dash as a sophomore); co-found the Black Student Union at BHS; operate the sound equipment at his church and be a Star Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. He's a member of the ACE (Academic Competition in Education) team, the Art Club and the National Honor Society. A school counselor described him as "talented," "sociable," "inquisitive" and "a good listener."

Terry recalls running the 400-meter dash at the conference championships his sophomore season. "My body moved faster than my mind thought possible," he writes. "When I crossed the finish line, many things had happened. I had won the conference championship, run my best time ever (50.7 seconds), and fallen only two-tenths of a second short of tying the school record, set in 1976.

"I still had two years to shave only two-tenths. Nothing could stop me. Well, almost nothing ... A few weeks into my junior season, a torn ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] devastated my dreams of breaking the record.

"One year, one surgery, and months of painful rehabilitation later, I am living my dream again. My knee will never fully heal. It pains me, and my progress is frustratingly slow. But I am still running. That is my greatest achievement. I may not beat the record, but I have beaten my injury. I can live without having been the best, but I refuse to live without having been my best."

Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High School: Catholic
Parents: Larry and Debbie Brady
College plans: Georgetown or St. Louis University, with a "probable" major in history or political science.

Ben Brady is in the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Catholic High, and as a member of the JROTC Color Guard he has presented the colors at many local civic and athletic events. He's also a member of the Model United Nations. That may help explain the positions he took as a participant in the International Relations Program for High School Students at Georgetown University in Washington.

"The highlight of the weeklong program was a crisis simulation which centered on Iranian development of nuclear weapons and its effect on an ongoing invasion of neighboring Iraq," Ben wrote. "I debated various policy options with other students in a mock advisory panel for the president. During our debates, I found myself trying to check others' inclination to use military force as a first response."

"I've always been a patriotic sort of person," Ben says, but I don't think war is something you should rush into."

Ben is a straight-A student who ranks first in a class of 180 at Catholic High, where he's president of the study body. Other activities include being news editor of the student paper, quiz bowl and Beta Club. He's a National Merit finalist who does frequent community service, including collecting money for The Helping Hand and doing yard work at the Ronald McDonald House. He's an altar server and CYM member at Christ the King Church.

Brother Richard Sanker, guidance counselor at Catholic High, says "Ben is a highly intelligent, practical and friendly young man who has earned the admiration and respect of his peers."

Age: 18
Hometown: Rogers
High School: Rogers High
Parents: Ellen Leonard, Paul Knutson, Don and Mary Bridges
College plans: Tulsa, University of Arkansas or Ithaca College.

"My high school's newspaper, the Mountie Spectrum, is lucky enough to be one of the few high school papers where real-life topics can be explored in writing and an accurate representation of students' situations can be printed — no matter how unpleasant their candid experiences may be.

"This year, our paper has printed stories on teen pregnancy, sex in the media, abusive relationships, on-campus drug usage and homosexuality. The last of the five proved to be the most controversial. After a two-page story was printed telling about the lives of a gay male student and a bisexual female student, many members of the town were upset over the more-than-just-school-spirit portrayal of life the Spectrum provides.

"As editor of the paper, I took full responsibility for the situation. I spoke to many irate community members, and am proud to say that most of the conversations reached mutual understanding. I contacted the Student Press Law Center to find out what the Spectrum's rights were so my staff and I would be prepared to defend ourselves as much as necessary.

"Thankfully, the situation ended well. Despite the negativity of some people's reactions, I am glad that I was involved — dealing with this problem has helped me gain a much more broad and intense feeling of responsibility for my actions and decisions, no matter how small."

Libby ranked first in a class of 615 and was a National Merit Finalist and a member of the National Honor Society. Besides journalism, her school activities include Thespian Society and forensics team. She won first place in costume design at the Arkansas Thespian Festival. She's a Red Cross volunteer and a member of the Friends of the Rogers Historical Society.

Age: 17
Hometown: Scott
High School: Lonoke High School
Parent: Jean Davy
College plans: Currently weighing scholarship offers from the University. of Miami, and University of Arkansas, pre-med/physical therapy

Seventeen-year old Marcos Davy figures that if he can beat cancer, he can beat anything.

In February 1994, when he was nine years old, Marcos noticed a lump on his leg. It turned out to be malignant fibrous histiocytoma; in other words, cancer. The months – and the treatment — to come saw Marcos' weight drop to 72 pounds. But in the end, he emerged from the hospital healthy, and determined to make something of himself.

And indeed he has. As far as anyone knows, Marcos is the only black student in the history of the school to be ranked in the top five of his graduating class, holding down a 3.95 GPA, serving as president of the National Honor Society chapter, and logging the school's highest PSAT score two years running.

Too, despite a slightly shrunken muscle in his left leg, the result of his bout with cancer, he serves as the varsity basketball team captain, often using his car to taxi teammates to and from practice. On top of all that, he's got a part-time job at Wal-Mart, for spending money and to help his mother with the bills.

This fall, Marcos will head to college, with the eventual goal of a degree in physical therapy (payback, he said, for the kindness shown by therapists to him, as a scared little boy). Still, he can't help but gloat a bit over his high school experience.

"I remember one time I told somebody who came through my line at work that I was in AP calculus," Marcos laughs, "And they got this shocked look on their face like, 'What are you doing in that class?' Like, 'You're not smart enough to be in there!' I get a lot of motivation from people who think I can't do it."

Age: 18
Hometown: North Little Rock
High School: North Little Rock High School
Parents: Dewayne and Joann Anderson
College plans: University of Arkansas, physics/mathematics

As physics whiz Hannah DeBerg could probably tell you herself: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In her case, however, the famous law can be paraphrased a bit: 3 equals 1.

That is, three years of sweating over the books at North Little Rock High School equals a rank of No.1 in this year's 545-student graduating class, not to mention a 4.15 GPA, She earned those stellar grades while pursuing a curriculum that would have most fine arts majors in a fetal position: advanced placement courses in mathematics and physics.

Still, for all her academic success, Hannah is no shrinking violet. Since 9th grade, she has been matching her considerable wits with others, front and center on her school's debate team.

"It's really nice to talk to other people who care about politics," she said, "And the speaking skills I've gotten from [debate] have really been valuable, because you learn how to communicate with others and be persuasive."

Pursuing her passion for debate has led Hannah to the head of the class, and to the head of the 2002 Arkansas Student Congress, where she was elected speaker of the House. And an object in motion will remain in motion: this fall, Hannah's headed to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where she has a tidy fellowship awaiting her.

Her answer to why she pushes herself so hard is as easygoing as she is. "I like taking challenging classes. I like it when I can't solve a math problem on the first try, or I have to think about a physics problem for a few hours before the answer comes to me. I guess I just like learning."

Age: 17
Hometown: Jacksonville
High School: Wilbur D. Mills University Studies High School
Parents: David and Vicky Evans
College plans: University of Arkansas, biology and pre-med

Looking at her transcripts, the determination of Mills High's Megan Evans is pretty easy to see.

Her bio comes with a ready-made metaphor. In the 10th grade, looking to get into shape for soccer, Megan joined her school's fledgling cross-country running team, along with about 20 other girls. After a few weeks, the numbers began dwindling. By the time tryouts were held in Megan's junior year, only two girls showed up. By her senior year – even though track meet rules stipulate each school must have five runners in order to officially compete -- Megan ran alone, the captain of a team of one. "I just ran, all by myself," she said, "I had support from the guys' [cross country] team, and they would come and watch me and cheer me on."

It's a drive to succeed that lasts long after her running shoes come off, as evidenced by her 4.35 GPA, a score of 35 on the ACT, and a cushy scholarship at Fayetteville, where she'll begin her studies to be a doctor.

Still, like her running, it's not about the trophies. Asked what makes her insist on academic success, Megan can't explain why she works so hard when good enough is fine for most people. "I've never thought about it before," she said, "I'm motivated to succeed, and I just wanted to do well in school so I could have a good future for myself."

She sounds more surefooted when she talks about her extracurricular passions: distance running and soccer. To hear it from her, soccer is as delicate and beautiful as the dance of cells. "It combines the running with working with a team, planning it out," she said, "You really have to focus on your teammates, and find a way to weave yourself through all the players and find an open spot, to find a way to get the ball into the goal."

Age: 17
Hometown: Fort Smith
High School: Southside
Parents: Randy and Debbie Kern
College plans: University of Arkansas, chemical engineering and Middle Eastern Studies

If you're a college recruiter or a fan of Ripley's Believe It or Not, there's only one thing you need to know about Fort Smith's Jamie Lynn Kern: academically, she's perfect. Like around 15 other high school students nationwide last year, Jamie was able to pull off perfect scores on the PSAT, SAT and ACT.

Statistically, said Jamie's father, they've heard it's close to winning the lottery and then immediately being struck by lightning. Then again, says Randy Kern, the impossible is commonplace for Jamie, who started reading the great Russian authors in the fourth grade. "She wanted to read 'Anna Karenina'" Kern said, "You know, the Dostoyevsky book. [It's] about 900 pages, and so I was amused. I thought, 'She's just going to open this book and flip through it'. And all of a sudden, I realized she's about 50 or 60 pages from the end."

Jamie seems overwhelmingly normal. She likes hanging out on her family's farm, and laughs uncomfortably when congratulated on her academic success. Like any graduating high schooler, she's bubbly about college next fall, though her studies will be a cut above those of your average freshman: a double major in chemical engineering and Middle Eastern Studies ("I think Arabic would be a fun thing to learn," she says earnestly). With her future in the bag, at least for the next four years or so (she's won of the UA's top academic scholarships), this spring will find Jamie accomplishing a dream that has largely been put on hold by her nose-to-the-grindstone study habits: acting.

She'll be portraying Peter Pan in a production at the Fort Smith Civic Center. "I'd watched the movie so many times before I tried out," Jamie said, "I really wanted to be either Peter Pan or Wendy, because I really wanted to be able to fly." She's already soaring.

Age: 18
Hometown: Cabot
High School: Cabot
Parents: Bill and Judy Key
College Plans: University of Arkansas or Harding University, biochemistry.

On paper, shyness doesn't seem to be a problem for Kate Key. Third in her class at Cabot High School, Kate participates in school musicals, band (making All-Region band from 1999-2003 and All-State this year), and has been a student council representative for the last two years.

But Kate says she realized at a school play audition in 5th grade that she had to muster up the courage to try for success. She's most proud of the accomplishments that required her to overcome fears. "I ultimately decided that the experience was more important to me than the doubts and fears," she said.

"She's the kind of student principals love to brag about," said Cabot principal Robert Martin. "Kate excels in and out of the classroom."

Besides her studies and school activities, Kate also volunteers at the Cabot Manor nursing home and reads to elementary students. She's active in her church youth group and service organizations such as Key Club.

Martin said she accomplishes it all with a smile on her face. "She's just a sweet-spirited young lady," he said.

In her free time, Kate likes to go out with friends and find new things to do. In Cabot, she admits, "is kind of hard." On her own, she likes to write short stories and read "everything from Jane Austen to Jack Kerouac."

The National Honor Society member is trying to decide between the University of Arkansas (where she has received a prestigious Sturgis Fellowship) and Harding University. Kate said she'd like to study biochemistry with an eye toward medical research. "I'm really good at science and I like to write. I figure medical research will give me the best of both worlds," she said.

As Martin describes her, "she has the mind of a scientist and the soul of an artist."

Age: 18
Hometown: Springdale
High School: Springdale
Parents: Greg and Lois Korbe
College plans: University of Tulsa

Really, it's just coincidence that Sam Korbe plans to become a doctor and a golf pro.

The Springdale High senior has began playing in golf tournaments at the age of 10, just a year or two before he got glasses in the sixth grade and wound up doing a science project on the human eye.

"My dad has always said I can do well in both golf and school," Sam said.

And he has done both. He was selected as a Scholastic Junior All-American, an award based on golf performance and academic achievement that's given to 10 boys in the country each year. He'll graduate at the top of his class, and plans to attend the University of Tulsa on golf and academic scholarships. Sam said he plans to major in physics or chemistry and then go on to medical school to study ophthalmology.

"I do my best in my school work because I know that's something solid, a foundation to have," Sam said. "But [golf] is where I aspire to do great things."

And he's learned from great golfers, wrote Todd Ballinger, Sam's AP literature teacher. One day after Ballinger handed back essays covered in red ink, Sam likened the students' situation to Tiger Woods' after he decided to change his golf swing.

"He then gave some insight into the joy of gaining command of a new level of skill that eventually led Tiger to an unprecedented four straight Majors victories," Ballinger wrote. "Sam can explain and apply such an example because he has dedicated himself to living such an example."

Sam is also very close to his parents and younger sister, and is active at St. Raphael Catholic Church. "My family has been my source of strength in all times," he said. "My family and God."

Hometown: Fayetteville
High School: Fayetteville High School
Parents: Parag and Meena Lala
College plans: Cornell or Michigan, biology and political science.

Fayetteville's Nupur Lala could probably quit now and still have a pretty decent spot in the history books, not to mention a pretty good resume.

In 1999, when she was in the 8th grade and living wth her family in Florida, Nupur spelled the word "logorrhea" to win the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Yes, the Big One. To boot, it just so happened that while she was getting ready to compete for that title, Nupur was approached by two documentary filmmakers who wanted to follow her progress, which led to her being featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Spellbound." What did you do in the eighth grade?

Still, Nupur's not one to rest on her laurels. The years since her Spelling Bee win have seen her move to Fayetteville, and her list of accomplishments grow. For the past 3 years, she has been first violin with the Northwest Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra. She has earned a first-degree black belt in taekwondo, and this year will see her acting as a volunteer at the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. She's seventh-ranked in a class of almost 500 students and a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

Last year, during the 2002 election season, Nupur served as a volunteer with the Arkansas Democratic Party. During that election, Nupur said she fell in love with the political process. After finishing her studies to be a doctor, Nupur said she hopes to revisit the political realm, melding her love of science and politics to help solve one of the biggest public policy challenges facing the United States today: What to do about health care?

"I see there's a lot of problems right now with health care in America," Nupur said, "There are many different ways to fix it, and I want to get an idea of how to fix it in our kind of society."

Age: 18
Hometown: El Dorado
High School: El Dorado
Parents: Donna and DeWayne Mahurin
College plans: University of Florida, sports management

Like many high school athletes, Heather Mahurin dreams of making it to the pros.

She just doesn't dream of making it there with a number on her back.

"I want to run a team," said Heather, who plans to earn degrees in sports management, business and law. Her first choice: the St. Louis Cardinals.

Although she has a GPA of almost 4.7 and an excellent SAT score, Heather listed earning a letter in soccer her sophomore year as a significant achievement in her life.

"That's come the hardest to me, I guess," she said. She was relatively new to the game, and had to compete against girls with years more experience. "It's kind of the thing I had to work the hardest for, so it's the thing I appreciate the most."

Vince Dawson, the counselor who nominated Heather, said that despite her love for sports, she's not competitive academically.

"She makes the teacher's job pretty easy," he said. "She tries to help other students. She would rally the whole class to do well."

Two years ago, Heather co-founded a Young Democrats chapter at her school.

"All we had was a big Republicans group," she said. "We decided we really wanted a club that focused on learning about issues."

Members studied differences between the two parties on issues like economics and the environment, and campaigned last for local candidates and gubernatorial candidate Jimmie Lou Fisher.

Heather said her academic success has come as a surprise to her friends.

"When all the National Merit [results] came out, they said things like, 'I never knew you were that smart!'" she said. "I'm involved in other stuff that's not necessarily 'smart kid' stuff ... I'm social, I'm a sports fan. I'm not a bookworm stereotype."

Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High School: Central
Parents: Dr. and Mrs. Malay Mazumder
College plans: Undecided, but has Cal Tech, Stanford, MIT and Yale among his choices.

At the age of 18, Mark Mazumder has already applied for a patent for original ideas he researched for a new kind of cardiovascular stent that would resist reblocking of the arteries.

But don't take that to mean he's definitely headed for a career in biomedical engineering.

"I might do something like music," he said. "I like to do so many things. I guess I'll have to pick something sometime."

The interest in cardiac stents — devices that are implanted in blocked arteries to clear the blockage — started in the ninth grade, when he got to watch x-ray images of a stent at work.

"Often, the original blockage builds up again," Mazumder said. Stent research "is a huge industry. They're putting billions of dollars of research into trying to solve this problem."

Mazumder's father, a physics professor at UALR, put him in touch with local experts and he began researching his own ideas.

"They told me my ideas were original enough to get a patent," Mazumder said. "That's no guarantee it will work."

Mazumder's school counselor, Ann Graves, said she's impressed with his focus and wide-ranging interests. "He's kind, witty, he can talk about anything," she said.

Mazumder ranks a close second in his class at Central High School with a grade point average of 4.39, and scored a near-perfect 1590 on the SAT.

His research has brought him several prestigious science competition awards, but Mazumder said it's the possibility of creating something that will help people that motivated him to invest much of his free time during high school.

"One thing remains most important to me — the opportunity to benefit others through engineering and advances in the field of medicine," he wrote in his application essay.

Age: 18
Hometown: Fayetteville
High School: Fayetteville
Parents: William and Anne Miller
College plans: Middlebury, Carleton or Amherst

The hardest assignment of Martin Miller's high school career didn't involve a project. It didn't even involve a grade.

As a sophomore, Martin auditioned for the lead role in a community theater production called "Bang Bang, You're Dead," about a high school boy who kills his parents and then goes on a shooting rampage at his high school.

"It took a lot out of me," the Fayetteville High School senior said. "You're trying to portray a killer, but still you have to see that there's some division in his mind, that he's not just this cold-blooded caricature."

Learning about the "impossible motivations" of such characters is what motivates Martin to commit to the hours and weeks of rehearsals for drama productions in addition to a rigorous academic load.

"When you're a teen-ager, you haven't seen much through the eyes of other people," he said.

Martin said he hasn't decided what to study in college, but knows it won't be drama.

"I'm kind of one of those people who's going to be a freshman figuring things out," he said.

English is a possibility, he said — not surprising, given that he scored a perfect 800 on the verbal section of the SAT exam. Math isn't in the running, despite an SAT score of 730 in that subject.

"I can do math — I just don't like it as much as other subjects," he said.

Barbara Prichard, head of the gifted and talented program for Fayetteville schools, said she doesn't often see the combination of academic accomplishment and artistic talent that Martin has.

"I like the fact that he is aesthetic in his view of life, yet he's also scholarly at the same time," she said.

She credits his family, and Martin doesn't disagree.

"My motivation was that at least in the environment I grew up in ... it didn't really feel like work," he said. "They made me feel like it was something I wanted to do instead of something I had to do. That's an important distinction."

Age: 18
Hometown: Maumelle
High School: Little Rock Christian Academy
Parents: Chris and Julie Paulsen
College plans: Purdue, entomology

Chris Paulsen remembers how he felt the day about 10 years ago when he found out he could actually have a career studying insects.

"I was thrilled," he said. "I knew then that was what I wanted to do."

For now, Chris' interest in entomology has had to be worked in among a challenging class load and time spent mentoring a second-grader at Jefferson Elementary and activities at Fellowship Bible Church.

He conducted an experiment for an advanced biology class this year on how the acidity of water affects mosquito larvae (too much and they die; too little and they grow more slowly).

"We were very careful," Chris said. "We kept them inside jars with mesh covering the tops so they couldn't get out."

Chris said he wants to devote his career to similar kinds of research. That may involve finding better ways to control pests like mosquitoes and roaches — or discovering new treatments for diseases.

It also will be a way of glorifying God, Chris said.

"The only reason I have an interest in insects is because God has given it to me," he said. "Using it instead of squandering it would bring glory to God."

Chris is a conscientious young man who uses all his abilities, said Principal Tom Hughes.

"He is a young man of tremendous academic ability, strong character, and has a desire to be a positive influence in his future world community," Hughes wrote.

Chris already has racked up an impressive record: a GPA of 4.39 in the two years he's been at Little Rock Christian (his family moved from Plano, Texas), scores of 1500 on the SAT and 33 on the ACT, stints on school tennis and soccer teams.

"I do my best not to slack — ever," Chris said.

Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High School: Mount St. Mary Academy
Parents: Burton Gee and Cheryl Squires
College Plans: St. Louis University, University of North Carolina or Tulane, biology and pre-med.

Mount St. Mary Academy guidance counselor Sister Lisa Griffith says that "Kate Squires is one of two students that stand out as top-notch kids" in her tenure at St. Mary's. And it's not hard to see why.

Kate is at the top of her class with a 4.535 grade point average. She also scored a 35, one point shy of perfect, on her ACT and a 1510 on her SAT, where 1600 is perfect. But what stands out in Griffith's mind is Kate's ability to relate to people "where they are."

"She's as concerned about others as she is about herself," said Griffith. When Kate learned she had received a scholarship from St. Louis University, she didn't mention it out of concern for how it might affect others waiting for news.

Caring for others also manifests itself through Kate's volunteer work. Kate is a tutor for Building Bright Futures and Catherine's House, as well as volunteering at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

"There's a satisfaction in seeing things I do help someone else," Kate said.

Her favorite volunteer effort, though, is coaching her sister's 7th grade parochial league basketball team, which she has done for 2 years.

"They're 14 little girls who have so much fun and you never know what's going to come out of them," she said.

The varsity cross-country athlete said she loves to run and hang out with her friends, who consider her the responsible one. "I'm the one they come to for advice. I'm sure how good it is sometimes, though," she said.

Kate is also a National Merit Finalist. While she hasn't decided which college she'll attend, she does have definite career plans.

" I wants to be a doctor that specializes in adolescent medicine," she said. "There's a big need for doctors who work with kids from 12 to 18. Those are different years."

Age: 18
Hometown: Marion
High School: Marion
Parents: Bobby and Theresa Stabbs
College Plans: Rhodes College, English or business administration.

When you ask Brent Stabbs about his college plans, he replies, "I had planned to attend the University of Hawaii to major in surfing, but that fell through."

Marion High School principal Wayne Fawcett says that's just an example of Brent's dry sense of humor. "He's very tongue in cheek," Fawcett said.

Brent also knows how to conduct himself with more gravity. Fawcett describes how Brent, while serving on prom committee, accompanied Fawcett on visits to potential sites for the event. "He handled himself with ease in an adult situation most people his age aren't exposed to very often," Fawcett said. "He's an exceptional young man, a quiet and reserved leader behind the scenes."

Even though he's first in his class of 183 students with a 4.09 GPA, Brent's not the type who puts his nose in a book and studies all the time. The National Merit Finalist and AP scholar also participates in mock trial, the school choir and is advertising editor for the yearbook. He has also been a volunteer for EastArk Enterprises' Special Olympics events for the last three years, and gives free guitar lessons.

Brent likes to play music to relax. He and three of his friends formed a rap group that has morphed into an acoustic duo. His musical tastes run from indie bands you haven't heard of to pop princess Kylie Minogue.

As for a potential career in music, Brent doesn't think so. "Music is my passion," he said, "but doing it for a living might take the relaxation part away. I try not to take things too seriously and just have fun."

Brent has received a Morse Scholarship from Rhodes College.

Age: 17
Hometown: Little Rock
High School: Mills University Studies
Parents: Charles and Mary Kathryn Stein
College Plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, chemical engineering.

It was old hat for the Stein family when Caleb Stein was chosen as an Academic All-Star. His sister Sarah received the honor in 2001. But Caleb's accomplishments speak for themselves.

"He comes from a family of very strong students," said Mills High School counselor Linda Tucker. Tucker also speaks of how well balanced Caleb is. "Caleb is that student you immediately think of when there is a special nomination to make. He is a true scholar, a leader, a musician and an athlete," she said.

"My passion is to do everything and be good in a lot of things," Caleb said, and it shows. Not only is he ranked second in his class at the Mills University Studies High School Scholars Program, but Caleb has earned the distinction of being one of the few to earn the title of AP National Scholar as a junior.

This is a distinction that Caleb said he was most proud of.

What is most amazing to his teachers is that he took the AP World History exam his junior and scored a 5 – without having taken the class.

"The class wasn't even offered until his junior year, but he decided to sign up for the test and studied on his own," said teacher Jaime Rollans. Rollans said Caleb plans to do the same thing with the AP Human Geography test this year.

Besides academics, Caleb is also active in cross country track; soccer and football; student council and orchestra. He's also an Eagle Scout and active in the church choir and has performed in musicals such as Bye Bye Birdie and the Wizard of Oz. For Caleb, playing violin and participating in sports takes his mind off the academic stresses.

Caleb will attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he's received a Bodenhamer Fellowship.

Age: 18
Hometown: El Dorado
High School: El Dorado
Parents: Bill and Deborah Stobaugh
College Plans: Duke, Emory, Yale, Georgia Tech or Vanderbilt, chemical or biomedical engineering

Robert Stobaugh, who is first in his class at El Dorado High School, scored a 1470 on his SAT, with a perfect 800 score in math, a perfect mark he matched on the SAT achievement test in math.

He's always had a knack for numbers. When Robert was in the fourth grade, his father introduced him to the Kumon Method, an individualized learning program that emphasizes learning at your own pace. Robert credits Kumon with accelerating his math skills.

But principal Bonnie Haynie said Robert is a unique person. "He has a whole other side a lot of math kids don't have," she said.

Robert is a three-year starter on the varsity soccer team, and was named defensive player of the year in 2001. He is also vice president of the Teen Republicans, and spent hundreds of hours volunteering at the South Arkansas Arts Center, YWCA kids camp and Habitat for Humanity. Robert is also a National Merit Finalist, an AP Scholar with distinction, a Bausch & Lomb science award winner and has attended the National Youth Leadership Forum.

Robert said he likes to think of himself as a normal person, not an insular math and science geek. "My relationships with people are my greatest satisfaction," he said. "I don't want to sound like school isn't important, but there are other things in life that are important, too."

Robert hopes to study either chemical or biomedical engineering. His father is a chemical engineer, so he's always been interested in the field. Eventually, Robert wants to wiork in life sciences, maybe in biomechanics or stem cell research. "There's a lot of development happening and a lot of possibilities for helping people in those fields right now," he said.

Age: 17
Hometown: White Hall
High School: White Hall
Parents: Bob and Betty Tully
College plans: University of Arkansas

KT Tully isn't often stumped, not even when a University of Arkansas interviewer for an honors scholarship asked her to relate "Hamlet" to current events. (She won the scholarship.) But she paused for a minute when the same interviewer asked how she managed to be so confident and comfortable, finally answering, "It's just the way I was raised, I guess."

She was raised to do well. And she does so in arenas were stage presence is important and mistakes are instantly apparent.

"My mom said if they were going to buy me an expensive instrument, I was going to practice," KT remembers of her start on the piano. And practice she did, since winning six superior ratings in annual music clubs competition.

A three-point-shooting guard, she captained the White Hall basketball team to the state playoffs. She'll be back on the track this spring, once a cracked rib fully mends, for what she hopes is a state championship in the metric mile, the 1600 meters. She finished third last year.

She pursues these passions with single-minded determination. Assistant Basketball Coach Steve Edwards, who met her when she was a fourth-grader, calls her a gym rat. "If we come back from a road trip at 10:30 p.m., she'll stay in the gym shooting until we run her off." KT will leave practice willingly on only two conditions — for piano lessons or, this year, to coach three peewee basketball teams at Redfield.

She hopes to walk on the Razorback basketball and track teams, in between sampling "a little bit of everything" on the academic side. Pressed to choose a favorite field, she finally nominates Spanish. But her test scores are uniformly high. She's a National Merit Scholarship finalist, a member of the Quiz Bowl team, and finished first in a class of 192, with a 4.23 gradepoint.

Age: 17
Hometown: Arkadelphia
High School: Arkadelphia
Parents: Ross and Mary Whipple
College plans: Davidson College, biology and pre-med.

Steve Patterson sponsors the Student Council at Arkadelphia High School, of which Margaret Whipple is president. He also sponsors the Quiz Bowl team, which Margaret captains.

"Some are more outspoken," Patterson says. "Some are flashier. But leadership is also about listening and making decisions. She listens to all sides and then makes quick decisions that are usually right."

Her decisions leave a legacy.

Margaret, who'll graduate No. 2 in a class of 148 with an A-plus average, dreamed up a drive to establish a memorial fund to a student who died after struggling with muscular dystrophy. The fund will provide financial help to other students who face challenges.

A Girl Scout for 11 years, she's led a three-year drive to raise more than $20,000 to preserve the city's historic Girl Scout hut, built in 1939.

Margaret came by her philanthropic bent from her family, who are active in the local Ross Foundation. One byproduct was the CONE (Class of Ninety-Eight )Foundation started in 1998 to get young people involved in philanthropy. Margaret now has a leadership role in the group, which raises money, matched by the Ross Foundation, to give grants for school and community work. The work has ranged from Ouachita River beautification to a project supporting Heifer International..

Asked to write an essay for admission to Davidson College about herself, Margaret chose to write about being a middle sister, thus letting her talk about her sisters. "I've never been good at answering questions about me," she said. "I try to think about other people before I think of myself."

Says principal Odas Parsons, "Margaret is a genuine humanitarian." Cheerful, too, he adds, even in the face of multiple knee surgeries to correct a congenital bone problem. Which, by the way, hasn't kept her off the tennis team.

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