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New student tops WSJE: Malanah Morris, 11, shares her goals

EDGARD — Malanah Morris thought she was just going to a regular old Beta Club meeting when she and her fellow members of the newly organized group filed into the office of West St. John Elementary School principal Chantell Walker.

A few moments later, Walker dismissed the students and asked Malanah to stay behind.

Malanah remembers what happened next.

“She just said, ‘We’d like to congratulate you for being student of the year,” Morris said. “I was so excited. I get to interact with everything. If something’s going on, I get to be a part of it and represent my school.”

Among the qualifications for student of the year are grades, leadership, extracurricular activities and test scores. Candidates also participate in an interview by a panel of teachers who ask questions.

If such a process is a predictor of leadership skills, Malanah has a bright future.

She certainly didn’t hold back.

“They asked me what I would change about my school,” she said. “I said I wouldn’t change a thing, just make sure they keep good teachers in the system to make sure it doesn’t mess with our education.”

Malanah, 11, is a fifth grader after transferring last school year from a small private school in St. Charles Parish. It was a great decision for her — and she can tell you why.

“I wasn’t able to ride the bus to my old school,” she said.

“I wanted to come here because I wanted to have the experience of riding the bus. Another reason I wanted to come (here) is I wanted to get to know the kids in my neighborhood and in my community, because this is where I live. I wanted to come over here and meet some new friends.”

Now that she is part of the Rams student body, she is thriving. She said her favorite subject is math — division in particular. In addition to the Beta Club, Malanah is on the student council and helps tutor fellow students.

“Malanah is a phenomenal student,” Walker said.

“She exemplifies everything you want to see in our students. She is passionate about education. She is a hard worker in and out of the classroom. I just can’t say enough about her. It just takes one meeting with her to see what type of person she is and she’s going to be in the future.”

While Malanah is all business in the classroom, she is a self-described girly girl, with bright pink shoes to prove it.

“I like my poofy dresses and my shiny shoes,” Malanah said. “I have to keep my perfume and my lotion.”

She also loves to sing. She performed a solo during the school’s Christmas program and will perform with other students during upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. She also got a karaoke machine for Christmas.

“I’ll sing until 10 o’clock at night,” she said. “My mom is like, ‘We do have neighbors.’ I like a lot of different artists — Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Fantasia. I guess I feel like, if someone has a voice, they should use it.”

The precocious 11-year-old said she has plenty of time to decide her future.

“I want to be a nurse but at the same time I don’t want to be a nurse because I’m kind of squeamish,” she said. “I do like my hair and my nails, though. Whatever I do, I will be successful.”

Another of the interview questions Malanah received was, “Who is your role model?”

Without hesitation she replied it was her mother, Melanie Taylor, an operations manager at St. Charles Community Health Center.

“She’s successful in what she does,” Malanah said. “She always encourages me to do my best. Whenever I feel like I can’t do anything, she always encourages me. She can tell if I’m aggravated and she can help me feel better. She’s a good person to have around you, especially if you always need somebody.”