Board honors top students

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 28, 2002


LULING – Three St. Charles Parish students will proceed to state competition as Student of the Year, after having been selected from among schoolwide Students of the Year, who were honored Wednesday by the school board.

Regional competition is coming soon, with those winners to be announced March 22, said Regina McMillan, public information officer. State winners will be announced April 24.

Elementary School Student of the Year for the St. Charles Parish public school district is Paul Joseph Hymel, 10, a fifth-grade student at Lakewood Elementary in Luling. He is the son of Merlin Jr. and Susan C. Hymel of Luling.

Middle School Student of the Year is Kala Brione Keller, 14, an eighth-grade student at Harry Hurst Middle School in Destrehan. She is the daughter of Keith and Valerie Keller of Destrehan.

High School Student of the Year is Holly Hernandez, 18, a senior at Destrehan High School. She is the daughter of Frank and Penny Hernandez.

“You are our future leaders, and we know that,” Superintendent Dr. Rodney Lafon told all the school winners in a reception prior to the board meeting.

Elementary School

Paul Hymel, a native of Jefferson but almost a life-long resident of Luling, got a jump-start on his education. He was promoted to second grade after nine weeks of first grade. He has maintained his Principal’s List designation since third grade, meaning straight A’s.

His other activities include playing piano and trumpet, singing and sports, including baseball, soccer, basketball and football. He also enjoys hunting and fishing.

In his application essay, Hymel wrote: “I have learned a lot about different ‘types’ of friends. There are friends whom you choose, and ‘circumstantial’ friends whom you don’t always choose. The friends that you choose are usually more like you in interests and choices you would make. Friends either make you or break you. It’s important to choose them wisely.”

Asked how he would have changed his education, Hymel responded, “They should group classes, according to abilities. It would be more fun learning.”

Hymel is active in Holy Family Catholic Church, with choir and youth organizations. He hopes to become a biologist or an engineer.

Middle School

Kala Keller hopes to become a professional athlete, while also professing her faith in God. When she expressed an interest in sports as a preschooler, she was signed up for soccer, softball and basketball. Since then, her St. Charles All-Star team placed third in national competition. She is also involved in Beta Club, dance team, Wetlands Watching and Student Leadership Action Corps.

Keller is passionate as well about gun control, stemming from the shooting death of a cousin. “That just kills me inside to know the pain and agony that a family has to face for something they didn’t even do.”

In addition, her faith, strengthened at King Solomon Baptist Church, inspires her to share her faith with others through witnessing. “Therefore, I took it upon myself to tell all of my friends about the Lord. If I see them doing something ungodly, then I’ll always try to take them off to the side and help them to understand what they’re doing wrong,” she wrote in her application essay.

Asked how she would have changed her education, she replied, “I would eliminate the ‘politics’ in the classroom and have a balanced education for everyone.”

She is also involved in tutoring, D.A.R.E. and AAU track.

Her plans are to become a computer engineer or an athletics-related career as a coach, physical therapist or personal trainer.

High School

Look to the airwaves of the future for Holly Hernandez, who has her sights set on becoming a television news broadcaster. Meanwhile, Beta Club is one of the focuses of her time, currently serving as Louisiana State Beta Club vice-president.

Her immediate plans are to major in mass communication at Louisiana State University, and she cites her older siblings as role models.

“My family is very important in my life,” Hernandez wrote in her application essay. “My parents give me guidance and advice, but they are always supportive of my final decisions. My three older siblings are also wonderfully helpful and inspirational. Both of my brothers have graduated college and have successful careers. They are both members of the United States Air Force, and they are willing to stand up and fight for our country. They are true models of citizenship to me. My sister is currently a sophomore in college, and I am sure she will eventually have a successful career also.”

Asked how she would have changed her education, Hernandez replied, “I would have more interaction in classes and more discussion. And writing is very important.”

Her activities also include working out, tennis, volleyball and rollerblading, as she continues “to dream big and shoot for the stars.”

The following students were also recognized as Students of the Year for their respective schools:

Elementary – Kevin Benoit, Carver; Paige Bradley, Norco 4-6; Greer Legardeur, Cammon; Stephanie Nagele, Schoeffner; and Edwin “Buddy” Trauth, R.J. Vial.

Middle – Ashley Erskin, Cammon; Mechelle Pollard, Landry; and Timothy Sliwinski, J.B. Martin.

High School – Craig Matherne, Hahnville.