Apr 11, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Department of Education tonight named the 2019 Students of the Year and honored all 21 regional finalists for the prestigious award during a ceremony at the Louisiana State Museum. The overall winners, one student from the elementary, middle and high school grades, were selected based on criteria that measure academic achievement, leadership skills, character, and service to their schools and community.

"These students are among the best and brightest in Louisiana," said State Superintendent John White. "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 include:

Elementary School (5th Grade)
Mallory Byrd 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 does gymnastics, sings for her church and for nursing home residents, and serves her community through projects like Operation Christmas Child, which provides boxes filled with Christmas toys to children in need, and various church-sponsored activities. She has won numerous awards for her academic and artistic success. She enjoys visiting the library, helping to care for her neighbor's horses, and exploring her ancestry. She hopes to one day become a science teacher, as well as a church pianist and choir member.

Middle School (8th Grade)
Ashley Green 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 has won numerous awards for her academic achievements in events like Literary Rally and the science fair, and for her creative talents. Ashley enjoys reading, photography, traveling and solving puzzles. She is passionate about fundraising for cancer research and has donated her birthday money to Mary Byrd Perkins Cancer Center for several years. She hopes to one day become a photojournalist, inspirational speaker or crime scene investigator.

High School (12th Grade)
Keyana Zahiri 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, and has served in leadership roles in various other organizations. 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 has won numerous awards for her academic, artistic and athletic talents. She hopes to one day become a cardiothoracic surgeon and participate in Doctors Without Borders.

The process of selecting winners begins at the school level. All public and approved non-public elementary, middle, and high schools across the state are asked to submit one candidate from the 5th, 8th, and 12th grades. These students then compete with their peers at the district level and may advance to the regional competitions, where regional finalists are chosen to advance to the state level.

View a list of all 2019 regional finalists.

Each regional finalist then submits a portfolio and completes a written composition the day of the award ceremony. An independent selection committee also interviews the finalists to evaluate their communication and critical thinking skills before selecting the winners at each grade level.

Learn more about the annual competition.

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