Two Woodlawn High School Seniors were recently recognized by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board for receiving national honors.
Joshua Serio and Ray Sierra attended a reception on Thursday, October 17, 2019 before the monthly school board meeting. The seniors were then recognized at the meeting, along with other twenty-seven other EBR students.
Joshua is in the Gifted Program at Woodlawn High and currently carries a 4.3 GPA. He was recognized as a National Merit Semifinalist. There are approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the nation, and these academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered in the spring. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. About 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.
Over 1.6 million juniors in about 22,000 high schools entered the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2017 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.
Ray, who is also in the Gifted Program at Woodlawn High, carries a 4.5 GPA. He was recently selected as the 2019-2020 Student of the Year at Woodlawn High. Ray was recognized as a National Hispanic Scholar and was also recognized as a National Merit Commended student. The National Hispanic Recognition Program recognizes approximately 5,000 Hispanic/Latino juniors each year as National Hispanic Scholars from among the more than 400,000 juniors who take the PSAT. As with the National Merit Scholarship Program, NHRP uses the junior year PSAT/NMSQT as the qualifying test. Students must carry a minimum 3.5 GPA to be considered for the recognition.
More than two-thirds (about 34,000) of the approximately 50,000 high scorers on the PSAT/NMSQT® receive Letters of Commendation in recognition of their outstanding academic promise. Commended Students are named on the basis of a nationally applied Selection Index score that may vary from year to year and is typically below the level required for participants to be named Semifinalists in their respective states. Although Commended Students do not continue in the competition for National Merit® Scholarships, some of these students do become candidates for Special Scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses.
In addition to their academic success, both Josh and Ray have excelled outside of the classroom while at Woodlawn High. Josh is a four-year letterman in the sports of football and baseball. Ray has lettered in the sports of football, baseball, powerlifting, soccer, and track during his time at Woodlawn High. He also is a member of Beta Club, National Honor Society, and Youth Legislature.
After graduation in May, Josh plans to attend Louisiana State University and major in Engineering. Ray expects to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology and major in Aerospace Engineering.
Woodlawn High’s Youth Legislature went to the Louisiana Youth and Government Youth Legislature Conference for the second year in a row. The conference was attended by over 400 Louisiana students. Woodlawn was represented by Brennan Burleigh, William Casey, Luca Gambelli, and Lauren Stevens.
William Casey waits to be acknowledged at the 2017 State Youth Leg Conference.
Each Woodlawn student had a bill introduced in committee, but each of the four bills did not make it past committee. Of the nearly 200 bills introduced to committee, only forty bills made it to the house floor..
Despite their bills being defeated early on in the process, each student joined in the conversations about other bills during the remainder of the conference. Students debated for well over thirteen hours over the next day and a half, made coalitions with students from other schools across Louisiana to help their bills along, lobbied for causes they believed in, and made friends across the state that they can keep in touch with beyond this conference.
Woodlawn’s Brennan Burleigh was voted as the Louisiana Youth and Government House of Representatives Floor Leader for the 2017-2018 Louisiana Youth and Government State Board and will be attending multiple meetings and gatherings leading up to next year’s Youth Legislature Conference. Brennan will also be applying to attend CONA, The Conference on National Affairs, held each summer for Youth Legislature participants.
The Louisiana YMCA Youth Legislature conference is three-day conference held each spring that engages high school students from across the state at every level of state government. Students assume roles in all three branches of government and the news media as they debate issues of local and state importance. Through the conference, they gain first-hand knowledge of the democratic process and develop leadership and presiding skills.
Lauren Stevens at the 2016 Youth Legislature Conference.
Youth Legislature is a student-led conference where State board officials are elected by their peers to plan and preside over each conference. During the conference, delegates assume control of the Louisiana State Capitol building, as they become members of the House, Senate, Executive Branch, Supreme Court, and Press. First-year delegates receive intensive preparation as members of the Novitiate program, which provides training in bill writing, parliamentary procedure and debate. Senior members of the legislature prepare for the conference by authoring legislation on a topic of their choice. At the conference, they will have the opportunity to present and defend their idea as it wends its way through the legislative process and potentially to the Governor’s desk. At the conclusion, the conference recognizes outstanding delegates, those whose legislation has been signed into law, and those students elected or selected to lead the next Youth Legislature. With over 50 years of proud tradition in the state of Louisiana, the YMCA Youth Legislature conference is the state’s premier opportunity to engage and educate youth in the political process while preparing them for the leadership opportunities of tomorrow.
The WHS Youth Legislature students that will be attending and presenting bills are President, Lauren Stevens whose bill deals with Driver’s Education in Schools, Brennan Burleigh, whose bill deals with the controversial topic of LGBTQ rights, William Casey whose bill deals with Sex Offender laws and lastly our school’s Italian foreign exchange student, Luca Gambelli who will be taking on education with his bill.
Last year both Burleigh and Stevens’ bills were successful in getting passed by both houses and signed by the Governor presiding over the Louisiana Youth Legislature.
by Madisyn McAlister, Staff Reporter, ’18
In the aftermath of the tragic flood, Woodlawn High School rose up to provide support to victims of the flood.
Woodlawn High School faculty and students came together to help students, teachers, and the community affected by the flood.
“I instantly offered help,” says Heidi Fendlason, junior at Woodlawn, when asked about her experience with the assistance offered by the school. This assistance included offers of clothing, food, and gutting her house. The faculty even collaborated to create a check-in Google doc to assess need amongst faculty and students.
Morgan Watkins and Johnasia Smith help distribute food.
Starting the Tuesday after the flood, Woodlawn High School began handing out food to flood victims and quickly started collecting donations to hand out school materials, cleaning supplies, and basic necessities. At least 1,500 meals were donated by City Pork, The Chimes East, Cast Iron Kitchen, and Tramonte’s. Woodlawn’s own Mrs. Pearl and Mrs. Switzer also helped by cooking spaghetti. Donors of other food and supplies include the Stevens family, The Screen Shop, LSU History Department, the Jett family, Pelican House, University United Methodist Church, Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University, Peak Performance Fitness, Spectrum, Woodlawn Middle School, Kelly Slate, and Pam Brown. The school has received over $2,990.00 in total monetary donations. A large donation of $1,025.00 and cartloads of school supplies came from Jacksonville State University. A small go fund me account was also created to raise money to go towards supplies and collected donations from people around the country; this effort raised $1,965.00. The school has also partnered with local churches for assistance in handing out supplies.
Though every faculty member helped out any way they could, Ms. Heyer commented, “I reached out to Ms. Miller and Ms. Smoo on a daily basis” when talking about assistance regarding organization of the donations and making sure every student and teacher had access to anything they needed. This also included a ‘Panther Pop-up Shop’ set up here at school. This temporary clothing store provided high quality professional wear for the Woodlawn faculty who lost clothing in the flood.
Many clubs, teams, and other organizations within the school were heavily involved in flood relief efforts. Woodlawn High School’s football team spent many hours helping flood victims clean out their damaged homes. Panthrobotics accepted donations from other robotics teams throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas at their annual Red Stick Rumble event, as well as helped teammates clean out their homes. The school’s cheer team, Pantherettes, Beta Club, National Honors Society, and Youth Legislature sorted out the many donations and often helped pass out food to victims.
Although on-campus efforts ended August 19th, Woodlawn and the Old Jefferson community continued to provide meals on the weekends and supplies as needed.