BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Department of Education released the names of 21 students selected as regional finalists in the state's annual Students of the Year competition.

The 21 students selected include one fifth-, eighth- and 12th-grader from each of the state's seven regions and represent public and nonpublic elementary, middle and high schools across Louisiana.

This year's finalists from the Baton Rouge area include:

Grade 5: Collin Sprouse, South Walker Elementary School, Livingston Parish

Grade 8: Madeline "Maddie" Temple, West Feliciana Middle School, West Feliciana Parish

Grade 12: Mary Barrow, West Feliciana High School, West Feliciana Parish

The finalists will convene at the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge on April 10 for an awards ceremony and the announcement of the state Students of the Year winners from each grade level.

"Both students are hard working, smart, well-rounded and kind individuals. They represent their schools, our community, and our region very well. We wish them the best as they compete at the state level," West Feliciana School Superintendent Hollis Milton.

"The Department of Education applauds these 21 regional finalists for being recognized as some of the top students in Louisiana," said State Superintendent John White. "This is a tremendous accomplishment, and we are proud of their hard work and leadership."

The annual competition has multiple steps. First, all public schools and nonpublic schools are asked to submit one candidate from their student body. Students then compete with their peers at the school system level, and winners advance to the regional competitions.

At the regional level, students are selected based on criteria that measure academic achievement, leadership skills, character and service to their schools and communities. Regional selection committees also use student-made portfolios of accomplishments, along with student writing samples and interviews, to assess the communications and critical-thinking skills of each candidate.

Prior to selecting the three overall state winners, a state selection committee made up of K-12, higher education and community leaders also reviews the students' portfolios and writing samples and conducts interviews with them.