Seven seniors from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) were announced as Finalists in the 64th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
The students are Colt Crain of Zachary, Jayaditya “Jojo” Deep of Natchitoches, Will Heitman of Baton Rouge, Lucien Maloney of Mandeville, Zachary Schleter of Lake Charles, Shivam Shah of Bossier City and Benjamin Walker of Mandeville.
Once named a Semifinalist, students submitted a detailed scholarship application in which they provided additional information about their academic successes, involvement, leadership, and accolades. The application process for becoming a Finalist included submission of recommendation letters, essays, and qualifying ACT/SAT scores.
All seven students will have the opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 scholarships worth more than $31 million, which will be awarded later this spring.
Crain is president of the French Club, an officer for SPEAKS and a member of the Science Club and Future Scientist Program.
“Becoming a Finalist is a culmination of years of hard work and determination,” said Crain.
Earlier this year, Crain was awarded a full-ride scholarship to attend a two-week summer program at Excelia Group La Rochelle in France. While he has an affinity for French, his career goal is in the field of engineering.
“I aspire to be a biomedical engineer and hopefully start a biotech company,” he said.
Jayaditya “Jojo” Deep
Deep is currently president of the Math Club and also serves as a volunteer coach with MATHCOUNTS. He aspires to be a researching mathematician, philosopher and author and has been making strides toward this goal.
“I have been fortunate enough to be successful at mathematics competitions,” expressed Deep. “I qualified for the USA Junior Mathematical Olympiad and won first place at the LSU High School Mathematics Contest.”
In addition, Deep is also an academic peer tutor, school ambassador, a member of the basketball team and a volunteer with the Ben D. Johnson Educational Center, a non-profit which aspires to make social and economic success accessible to all residents in the Natchitoches area.
Deep was humbled to be accepted as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.
“I am grateful to be among so many other talented individuals and am proud to represent my school,” said Deep.
Heitman currently serves as president of the Student Government Organization.
“Under my leadership, the SGO has purchased new equipment for the dorms, created a school-wide Netflix account and hosted mental health events,” said Heitman. “I've also pushed for campus sustainability through Arbor Day plantings and improvements to the recycling program.”
Heitman’s true passion is robotics. He has been involved in robotic research at Northwestern State University’s (NSU) engineering school, attended an international robotics conference last year and participated in a month-long summer program at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which allowed for him to focus on self-flying drone technology.
“I want to help put a robot in every household,” he said. “This would mean designing, building, and selling them.”
Maloney’s interests lie in the field of technology.
“I want to work in the field of computer science, more specifically with web development,” Maloney expressed. “I have already completed some front-end web development work while at LSMSA, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I look forward to continuing it into the future.”
Currently, Maloney is a computer science peer mentor. This semester, he is taking a dual-enrollment course in Certified Ethical Hacking at NSU, which he expressed as one of his favorite classes. For him, as well as many other Finalists, being selected to continue in the National Merit Scholarship Program provides a wider range of college options.
“Being a Finalist is important to me, because it opens up opportunities that may have been previously blocked by financial barriers,” he stated.
Schleter currently holds the position of Editor-in-Chief of the school’s newspaper, The Renaissance. He is also a member of the Spanish National Honor Society and the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club. In the last year, he had won several awards in various academic competitions.
“Last school year, I earned a district medal in Biology II and Journalism at the Northwest Louisiana District Literary Rally,” said Schleter. “I also won a silver medal for the Level 3 National Spanish Exam.”
After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in public relations or strategic communication. He expressed excitement at being selected as a Finalist.
“For me, being a Finalist reminds me of how much I have grown as both a person and a student at LSMSA,” said Schleter. “If I were at my home school, I probably would not have had a strong enough essay or enough extracurricular involvement to earn the Finalist title. LSMSA ultimately allowed for me to become a well-rounded person who is worthy of being a National Merit Finalist.”
Shah is currently a member of the basketball team, the ultimate Frisbee team and a senior class senator, and he was inducted into the National Honor Society. He is also the secretary of Project Polio and the co-president of Operation Smile on campus.
“In the future, I hope to eventually create my own medical practice and work as an orthopedic surgeon,” expressed Shah.
“It is an honor to represent LSMSA and be recognized as part of such a small number of students across the country.”
Walker is a member of the volleyball team, swim team, the Student Activity Board and Cheese Club. He is also a member of the Eagle Scouts.
“I engineered a way-too-comfortable hammock in a Prudhomme dormitory,” he said, referring back to skills he had acquired as a scout.
Last summer, Walker assisted in providing a two-week technology camp for refugees in Sweden.
“He’s tenacious, and if he wants to go for something, he’ll do it,” said Senior Lecturer of Math and Computer Science Sanjeetha Peters, who led the camp. “I needed somebody with that kind of mindset—someone who was flexible and could go with the flow but could get things done.”
One of the qualifiers to become a National Merit Scholarship Finalist is to receive high marks on the ACT/SAT. LSMSA’s class of 2018 posted a composite ACT score of 29.2. To join LSMSA for the 2019-2020 school year, visit www.LSMSA.edu/apply