The Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) completed its 19th year of EXCEL June 1-25. Eleven students were invited for admission into the Louisiana School starting in the Fall of 2021.
The EXCEL Program is a special four-week summer program for new students that improves their foundational skills and prepares them for success in rigorous courses. It was created in 2003 following concerns that the LSMSA educational experience was not available to students from under-resourced rural and inner city schools. Modeled on the federal Upward Bound program, EXCEL identifies potential students who might otherwise fall below the line in the LSMSA admissions process.
Each year students with high GPAs (motivation) but lower than normal standardized test scores for admission (knowledge gaps from an under-resourced home school) are invited to participate in an intensive four-week summer bridge program.
This year, EXCEL organizers adopted a "1 +3 model,” which consisted of 1 week of virtual instruction and three weeks of an in-person campus experience. Since some students were still in school, the virtual week became EXCEL Orientation, a time in which students met each other via Zoom and instructors seized the opportunity to introduce their respective courses. After the orientation week, students came to stay on campus and conducted three weeks of in-person instruction.
Students undertook a rigorous academic schedule that mimics a normal LSMSA schedule. They completed non credit coursework in English, Biology, Visual Arts, Math, Mindfulness, Critical Reading, and CPS/Test Prep. To work them physically as well as mentally, they were also able to take Boxing classes.
Faculty and staff leading EXCEL courses included: Kelly Lankford, Dr. Jason Anderson, Jocelyn Donlon, Erykah Wells, Kim Cain, Chris King, and Katie Summerell. TA’s were comprised of LSMSA and EXCEL alums. They were Dylan White, Sebastian Guerrero, John Guillory, and Marissa Ramsey. Boxing instructors were Johnathan Roberts and Kelvin Samuels.
Even though students were quite busy, they had time to volunteer at the Natchitoches Food Pantry. Besides volunteering, students learned about the significance of Juneteenth and also traveled to the R.W. Norton Gallery, a private art gallery in Shreveport, where instructors connected what students viewed in the gallery to course content.
The EXCEL students also collaborated with the students of STEMrichment, in which they learned team-building skills by solving elaborate "escape room-style puzzles,” which were designed by Randy Key.
The annual EXCEL banquet was held at Lasyone's restaurant, where administrators and instructors were present to celebrate each student's success in the program.
“The motto on the school’s crest is Praecellemus, which means ‘We shall excel,’” said Executive Director Dr. Steve Horton. “The use of the first person ‘we’ emphasizes the personal nature of the achievement we expect from our students. Offering the challenge of a robust, incomparable, and transformative educational experience, the Louisiana School prepares students to chase and capture all of their academic, cultural and career aspirations.”