The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts celebrated commencement for 106 members, including A’yanah Jefferson of West Helena, of the Class of 2018 on May 26 at Horner Hall in the Hot Springs Convention Center.
The Class of 2018 earned $15.3 million in scholarship offers as a group and posted an average ACT composite score of 30 as a class. Thirty-four members of the class were eligible for the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship, while six students were named National Merit Finalists with two receiving National Merit Scholarships.
Other achievements of members of the class included three students named U.S. Presidential Scholarship candidates, nine seniors qualified to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, four qualified for the state Senior High School All-Region Band with one also qualifying for the All-State Concert Band and the All-State Jazz Band, and numerous other accolades.
The event also featured remarks from seniors Zane Colvin of Wynne and Louis Lammers III of Blytheville as well as Arkansas first lady Susan Hutchinson.
Lammers shared an ancient proverb which states that a person alone may be overpowered, yet two can defend themselves. However, a cord of three strands is not easily broken. The Class of 2018 had a three-stranded cord that held it together, Lammers said. “As we consider the end of our days at ASMSA, we can certainly attest that it has taken that three-stranded cord to hold us together and see us through. And because of the strength of our three-stranded cord, we have not been broken,” he said.
The first cord, friendship, was the strongest of the strands, Lammers said. When the students first arrived two years ago, they didn’t know each other. “Today, I would guess most of us would walk through fire for each other,” Lammers said. “Our differences define us and draw us together.”
The second strand was the faculty and staff members who “have carried us through every day, guided our decision-making and prepared us for the next chapter of our lives. We have been blessed to sit in classes with some of the most passionate high school teachers in this state,” he said.
He said that ASMSA teachers are awesome because they pair their phenomenal subject-area knowledge with their compassion for the students. “We have created unbreakable bonds with professors and established lifelong relationships,” Lammers said.
The third strand of the cord was the support of people at home, including friends, neighbors and especially family, Lammers said. Our families “were brave enough to let us go. They saw in us a potential for independence before we ever knew what we were capable of. Our previous teachers and counselors, our grandmas and big brothers, our moms and dads and dogs and cats were all willing to take a risk on us at an early age to make this school a reality for us,” he said.
Colvin spoke about the opportunities ASMSA students are offered they would not have at their previous schools. The opportunity may have presented some unique challenges, but they weren’t enough to keep them down, he said.
“Through all of this, we persevered. And I’m sure we will persevere through more challenges as we move through these next stages of our lives. … But if we keep to the pattern, we will succeed,” he said.
First lady Hutchinson encouraged the graduates to use the education they received at ASMSA and their future education to do good in the world. People can use knowledge for selfish and evil reasons, she said, but choosing good will get a person through life.
Hutchinson said she hoped each of the students had the opportunity to find their voice in the arts — whether it was through music or painting or some other form of arts. As a child in a large, blue-collar family in Atlanta, her mother ensured that Hutchinson learned to play the piano. Lessons cost a $1.
“They sacrificed for that. Blue collar. Bunch of kids. They worked hard. Mom made sure my dad doled out a dollar. You understand when I was growing up you didn’t even make $1 an hour,” she said.
Members of the Class of 2018 listed from local counties are:
Lee: Taylor Robinson of Marianna
Phillips: A’yanah Jefferson of West Helena
The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts is one of 16 public residential high schools in the country specializing in the education of academically gifted juniors and seniors. Located in historic downtown Hot Springs, the school is a campus of the University of Arkansas System. For more information about Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, visit www.asmsa.org or call 1-800-345-2767.