The Louisiana Department of Education awarded three 2019 Students of the Year and honored all 21 regional finalists at an award ceremony last night held at the Louisiana State Museum. The annual awards program recognizes one student from the elementary, middle and high school grade levels based on academic achievement, leadership skills, character, and service to their schools and community.
“These students are among the best and brightest in Louisiana,” State Superintendent John White said in a press release. “We applaud their many accomplishments, both inside and outside of the classroom, and we are pleased to celebrate each of them, along with their proud families, teachers, principals and districts.”
The 2019 Students of the Year are:
Mallory Byrd– Grade 5, Elementary School Category
Mallory attends Hayden R. Lawrence Upper Elementary School in Rapides Parish. At school, Mallory participates in the academically gifted and talented visual art programs and maintains a 4.0 GPA. She is the current President of the 4-H Club and assists the preschool music class. Outside of school, Mallory is involved with gymnastics, sings for her church and for nursing home residents, and serves her community through projects like Operation Christmas Child, which provides boxes of gifts to children in need.
At her young age, Mallory has already won awards for her academic and artistic success. She hopes to one day become a science teacher, and a church pianist and choir member.
Ashley Green– Grade 8, Middle School category
Ashley attends Houma Christian School, part of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. At school, Ashley participates in the academically gifted program and maintains a 4.0 GPA. She is the current President of Beta Club and has held leadership roles in 4-H Club, Early Act Club and the Parish Advisory Council. She is also the mistress of ceremonies for events like the school’s Veteran’s Day program. Outside of school, she plays the flute and keyboard, practices and teaches Tae Kwon Do, volunteers at nursing homes, and acts as an altar server at her church.
She also has won awards for her academic achievements (Literary Rally and the science fair) and for her creative talents. Ashley hopes to one day become a photojournalist, inspirational speaker or crime scene investigator.
Keyana Zahiri Grade 12, High School category
Keyana attends Benjamin Franklin High School, part of Advocates for Academic Excellence in Education, Inc., in Orleans Parish. At school, Keyana participates in the academically gifted program, maintains a 4.0 GPA and scored a 35 on her ACT. She is a National Merit Semi-finalist and an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction. She is the current President of Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honor society, President of Key Club, Vice President of National Honor Society, President and Coach of Academic Games, and Captain of the swim team.
Outside of school, Keyana plays classical piano, practices Japanese Shotokan Karate, and participates in community service activities like Youth Rebuilding New Orleans and the local Special Olympics. She recently organized a New Orleans STEM Day for 50 middle school students, and she has served as a Research Intern at the Louisiana Cancer Research Center. She hopes to one day become a cardiothoracic surgeon and participate in Doctors Without Borders.
“The Department of Education recognizes that many outstanding students are enrolled in public, private, or charter schools throughout the state of Louisiana. To acknowledge these accomplishments, the Department, in conjunction with the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, annually honors one incredible fifth, eighth, and twelfth grade student based on their leadership, academic performance, achievements, citizenship, and service to the school and community.
Students are selected by their school and submitted to the local education agency/diocese level; these nominees are then forwarded to a Regional Selection Committee. The resulting eighteen finalists then compete at the state level. The winner of the three grade levels are announced on the evening of the final day of competition.
Students compete at the district level and may advance to the regional competitions, where regional finalists are chosen to advance to the state level.
Each regional finalist submits a portfolio and completes a written composition the day of the award ceremony. An independent selection committee interviews the finalists to evaluate their communication and critical thinking skills before selecting the winners at each grade level.