Andrew LaFrance was as shocked to win Starkville Schools” STAR Student award as he was to win top broadcast honors at a recent state convention.
LaFrance, a senior and student journalist at Starkville High School, was awarded top broadcaster honors at the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association conference earlier this month despite Starkville having no broadcast program.
That was a judging error. His STAR status was not, but was still a surprise.
LaFrance, who fell one point shy of acing the ACT, scoring a 35 out of a possible 36, didn”t know the STAR Student award existed until he won it.
“I hadn”t heard about the award before. I suspected I had the high ACT score (at SHS) but they had never said mine was the highest,” he said.
Furthermore, LaFrance wasn”t even thinking about his ACT score because he had scored his 35 during his junior year of high school. This year has been all about money.
“I”ve been focusing on making sure to keep my GPA up. A drop could hurt my scholarships and I”m trying to find as many scholarships as I can get,” he said.
Luckily, STAR status opens up a new opportunity. LaFrance and his chosen STAR Teacher, R.J. Morgan, will travel to Jackson April 21 to meet with STAR students from around Mississippi and try to bring home a chunk of $70,000 in scholarships offered by the Mississippi Economic Council.
But Andrew will be fine if he comes home with just a trophy. He has close to $50,000 in scholarships waiting on him at Mississippi State University and another $10,000 from Paccar, where his father works.
Morgan said LaFrance, never one to skate by on his natural talent, earned all of those scholarships.
“You can”t outwork Andrew LaFrance,” said Morgan, faculty advisor to the Jacket Buzz student newspaper. “He”s just that special mix of maturity and intelligence. He manages a demanding schedule with sports and extra-curriculars. This semester he couldn”t find a spot for journalism, but has demanded assignments for each deadline and has written some really great stuff for us.”
LaFrance, by the way, also took home a third place award for newswriting from MSPA and was named a National Merit Finalist this year.
Morgan taught LaFrance two years ago in his social studies class shortly after LaFrance moved to Starkville from Mill Creek, WA. LaFrance said social studies and history are generally his weakest subjects, but Morgan packaged the information in a way he found interesting.
Morgan says Andrew”s critical thinking skills are his greatest asset and he can see Andrew applying them as an engineer. LaFrance is hoping to put those skills to work as a video game developer, which could land him back in Washington around the Seattle area where high-tech jobs are common.
LaFrance enjoys sports, playing on SHS” tennis and bowling teams this year, but he has a passion for video games.
“I wouldn”t say I”m one of those heavy, obsessive gamers, but I do play a lot,” he said. “I want to be a part of that industry. I like the idea of creating something hundreds of thousands of people can take part in.”
LaFrance plans to attend MSU starting this summer, majoring in computer programming and physics.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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