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ASMSA holds 23rd commencement

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts celebrated commencement for the 107 members of the class of 2017 during a ceremony May 27 at Horner Hall in the Hot Springs Convention Center.

The class of 2017 included eight National Merit Scholarship finalists; two Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology semifinalists and regional finalists; eight students who qualified for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, tying the record for the most qualifiers in the year, with five of the eight participants earning recognition at the competition; and more than 20 students who participated in the school's Research in the Park program or served as volunteers for Hot Springs National Park who were recognized as a group for their work for the park with the National Park Service youth group volunteer award.

Students in this year's class averaged a score of 30.6 on the ACT college entrance exam, the highest composite of any class in school history. Class members received $11.2 million in scholarship offers, pushing the total of scholarship offers made to ASMSA students to more than $215 million in the school's 23 years.

Lauren Capes, a senior from Booneville, encouraged her fellow graduates to continue to strive for success. She said they must all continue to have big dreams, which are an essential part of motivation, but they should not let those dreams dictate everything they do.

"Don't let them stop you from trying a new hobby, from branching out, from doing," Capes said. "After all, dreamers write stories about doers, but doers are the ones that go out there, both afraid and unafraid of what may come but facing it all the same.

"ASMSA has not taught us how to dream. It has taught us how to think for ourselves, how to evaluate our opinions and stances on different issues, how to manage our time, and most importantly, how to follow our heart. That the building blocks to discovery are not dreams, but rather passion and drive."

Hayward Battle, chairman of the ASMSA Board of Visitors and longtime practicing attorney and pastor, served as the main speaker for the commencement ceremony.

"I want you to realize that you will have plans and you will dream and I don't want to discourage about making great plans," Battle said. "In fact, you should plan, but realize that plans do fail.

"Sometimes things will unexpectedly happen. Sometimes things will fall apart and not work as you had planned out, but you must understand it is better to fail with a plan than to fail without one. Ask me why? Because you have a document to memorialize how not to do it next time."

Director Corey Alderdice related the Class of 2017's time at ASMSA to the fictional characters in "The Magicians," by author and Time magazine literary critic Lev Grossman. In the novel, one student, Quentin, is unexpectedly transported from an admissions interview for Princeton to Brakebills, the finest College of Magic in North America.

"You're unhappy when you see other students who are more than happy to take a C on an exam," Alderdice said. "You're unhappy when others around you are more concerned with which university will be playing in the Final Four than which university they will be attending in the fall -- if they plan on doing so at all. You're unhappy with anything other than your best possible effort."

Donald Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, and 2017 graduate Jason Ly, of Jonesboro and president of the ASMSA Student Government Association, also spoke at commencement.

Bobbitt praised the work and dedication of the faculty.

"This is a committed, inspired faculty," Bobbitt said. "This is more of a calling than a vocation. I believe this faculty has chosen as their life's work to share their considerable knowledge and indeed their experience with the next generation. I hope you will take this gift, graduates, and be inspired to share your gifts with others."

Ly reminded his classmates they had become a family.

"ASMSA gave us this crazy, disjointed, mess of a student body that not only has some of the closest friends you could ever meet, but also a family we could all rely and trust through two of the most grueling years of our high school career," Ly said.

"To everyone in this room, the students in front of you are the most kindhearted, talented people I could ever call a family. I urge everyone sitting in the student section to look around and see the faces that have become such an integral part of our last two years and hope that this is far from the last moment we will see each other."

Local graduates from this year's class at ASMSA were:

Bismarck

Joseph Filipek, Doyle Smith.

Hot Springs

Brock Davis, Diego de los Reyes, Amber DiPersia, Jackson Gregory, Nick Griffin, Ashley Kennedy, Gwen Kudabeck, Samantha Malone.

Malvern

Juliet Green.

Pearcy

Liam Johnson, Katie Welch.

School on 06/18/2017

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