Eighteen outstanding young people will come to Baton Rouge from all over the state on Wednesday, and three will leave as Louisiana students of the year.
The winners for elementary, middle and high schools will be announced Wednesday night during a reception at the Louisiana State Museum.
Six students are competing in each school category, where the judges will assess academic achievement, leadership skills, character and service to school and community. Spotlighted below are the three high school students in southeast Louisiana
Senior, age 18
Mandeville High School, Mandeville
PARENTS: Donald Flanigan and Debra Hainkels
Along the way to Wednesday’s competition for Louisiana Student of the Year, Patrick Flanigan has amassed a résumé that reads that like a “what’s what” of civic and government opportunities available to teenagers.
He is senior class president at Mandeville High and was junior class president before that. He is a Louisiana delegate to the U.S. Senate Youth Program, which brought him to Washington, D.C., recently. He is president of the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council. He is also co-president, with his girlfriend, of his high school’s Youth and Government Club.
Not surprisingly, Flanigan was keen to start voting as soon as he turned 18. It wasn’t so easy.
He tried to no avail to register right before he turned 18 to avoid a 30-day waiting period. Finally registered, which he did online, he tried to vote absentee for his first election. He couldn’t. When you register online, the first time you vote has to be in person, he said.
“Even though the law says that 18-year-olds can’t be restricted from voting, you’re restricted from voting,” he said indignantly.
Flanigan traces his interest in politics to fifth grade when Sen. Mary Landrieu visited his school.
Despite an entourage of important adults, when she met little Patrick, she paid attention only to him. Still she doesn’t automatically win his support in this fall’s election. Flanigan said he first wants to watch the debates between her and challenger U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge.
“I’m absolutely insistent that I have to give Bill Cassidy and his absolutely radical Republican friends a chance,” he said.
Flanigan’s independence began young. For instance, years ago, when asked for his favorite number, he instinctively chose six.
“Seven was too mainstream, so I went one down,” he explained. “Everyone else was choosing seven.”
In addition to his interest in politics, Flanigan plays tennis for his school and recently appeared in a school production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” playing the villainous Rev. Parris.
“I absolutely loved slipping into his evil, conniving little shoes every night,” Flanigan said.
Like many high-achieving students, he has trouble fitting it all in. His recent D.C trip, for instance, came at a cost.
“I missed a week of school,” he said. “I’m still not quite back up to speed in Calculus 2.”
While being considered for student of the year is a “great honor,” Flanigan puts more stock in college acceptances — it’s between Georgetown and Princeton. Still, it’s the realization of a long time goal.
“I remember in kindergarten seeing the Student of the Year got a whole page in the yearbook and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be great!’” he recalled.
St. Joseph’s Academy, Baton Rouge
PARENTS: Dan and Marcia Marsh
Audrey Marsh, like many of those competing to be Louisiana Student of the Year, has a lot of interests, many she does quite well.
“I like everything,” said the 18-year-old senior at St. Joseph’s Academy. “That’s why college decisions and deciding what I want to major in, that’s so hard because I don’t know what to eliminate.”
But along the way, eliminate she has.
So Spanish, which she’d taken for years, went to the wayside in favor of art and honors classes. Volleyball also got put on the shelf. The long practices, tournaments and summer club season finally became too much.
“It was just all year round,” she explained. “I didn’t think that’s what I wanted to do afterwards, after high school.”
And so, too, with boys. She’s dated, but relationships tend to run aground thanks to all her other commitments.
“I can’t really give the time that it would need,” she said.
So what’s left? Art, for starters.
She’s had four years of studio arts at the Catholic girls high school, learning how to draw, paint and make pottery. She likes computer-generated art, but it’s not her first love.
“There’s something just about having actual paint brush in my hands that I really like,” she said.
She won a recent art contest and the Audubon Nature Institute plans to use her submission as its logo for the next year. One of her illustrations was included in the 2013 Louisiana-focused “Pot & The Palate” cookbook.
Art also connects with another interest and possible college major: biomedical engineering. Specifically, she’s interested in creating prosthetic limbs.
“Prosthetics is about design, and that’s a big part of my life,” she said.
She links her interest to a cousin of hers who has Down’s Syndrome. She also has volunteered recent summers at the Baton Rouge version of Camp Shriver, a summer athletic program for those with disabilities.
She has a handful of college options, including LSU, but also Tulane University, where older sister Rachel, who also went to St. Joseph’s, is studying English.
Marsh said she enjoys people, but more watching, than talking. Atypical of teenagers, she not a fan of most social media.
“So many people I see are just continually trapped in that,” she said. “So at lunch I want to have a conversation with someone, and they are too busy checking their Facebook!”
Senior, age 18
Lafayette High School, Lafayette
PARENTS: Irfan and Rabia Alam
Faiz Alam’s love of chemistry has set him on a path toward medicine.
“There’s so much to be discovered in the field of medicine,” the 18-year-old said. “It’s a groundbreaking and revolutionary field.”
At Lafayette High, he’s spends his time outside of class involved with the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Science Club and serves as vice president of the Math Club.
After school, he heads over to Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Lower School where he works with younger students as part of a nonprofit after-school program called Reach. As part of the program, the younger students are encouraged through activities to develop problem-solving skills. He joked the job experience has helped improve his patience with his two younger brothers, Mustafa, 13, and Ibrahim, 9. The job has also revealed to him the power of mentoring and the importance of encouraging young children to develop their talents, he said.
“It shows you how much potential kids have,” Alam said. “All you have to do is get it out of them. There are so many kids who are brilliant and don’t have the opportunity to show that brilliance. That’s what Reach builds upon — making sure that kids reach their full potential.”
Alam’s schedule has slowed in the past few months.
In the fall, his time was divided between applying for colleges and taking freshman-level courses in biology and chemistry at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette while working in the after-school program.
This semester, he’s had more time for leisure reading and listening to music with his friends. Their genre of choice: movie scores with “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Inception” among his favorites.
“A very undervalued aspect of every movie is the soundtrack,” Alam said.
His academic and leadership accomplishments earned him ULL’s Penelope W. and E. Roe Stamps IV Leadership Scholars Awards program scholarship, which covers the full cost of his attendance for four years at the university, as well the potential for a $14,000 stipend to cover study abroad and other learning opportunities, he said.
The scholarship incentive would be difficult to pass up, but he said he’s also considering two out-of-state schools — University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech.
He spent part of last week in Baton Rouge on LSU’s campus as part of the university’s spring invitational to take placement exams and tour the campus. The visit left him feeling like purple and gold would color his future.
On Wednesday, he’ll return to Baton Rouge for his final interview in the Student of the Year competition, and said he’s proud to represent Lafayette High and the region.
“I am very honored,” he said.
While he sees himself as a doctor in the future, Alam said he may explore chemical engineering in college before making a final decision.
That’s what college is about, he said.
“There’s so much freedom in college to study what I want to study,” he said.