LOOKS BRIGHT: Ory students earn national Beta status

Published 12:14 am Saturday, July 8, 2017

LAPLACE — Some people go to Disney World for the magic.

Others go for the thrills.

LaPlace youngsters Rosie Bourgeois and Erik Mender Jr. went to Disney World last month for a national competition.

They both came home winners.

Rosie and Erik, both 11 and rising sixth graders at John L. Ory Communications Magnet Elementary School in LaPlace, are members of the school’s first Beta Club.

Erik Mender Jr. and Rosie Bourgeois made their marks at the National Beta competition in Orlando, Fla.

Both competed in the school’s Book Battle competition, which requires students to read a series of books by a certain date then take a test about the subjects.

They won, earning themselves and fellow classmate Charlee Palmer, a spot in the Book Battle at the state convention in Lafayette.

“We didn’t place,” Erik said. “Which was bad.”

The two scholars did also compete in some of the other competitions held at the state convention, though, and this is where the two take different paths.

Rosie, the daughter of Amanda and Todd Bourgeois, is a whiz in language arts. Her mom, who also is the counselor and co-Beta Club sponsor at Ory, encouraged her to enter the essay competition.

After mulling it over for a while, Rosie wrote a lengthy essay on what it means to be a Beta leader in today’s world, artfully weaving examples from her favorite subjects — Disney and Harry Potter — into her narrative.

“It took a long time,” she said.

“A long time.”

Erik, the son of Erik Sr. and Alicia Mender, favors math, despite his mom’s job as a language arts teacher at Ory.

“I don’t know where he came from,” Alicia joked.

He stuck to the math competition, going into a small room with a bunch of other kids his age and taking an hour-long test.

“It wasn’t too bad,” he said. “I finished in about 45 minutes.”

At the awards ceremony, Rosie and Erik were directed to go beside the stage and were handed pieces of paper informing them that Rosie had finished first and Erik had finished second in their respective competitions.

It took another minute or so for everyone to realize they had just earned a trip to the National Convention in Orlando. Amanda was stunned. She had just booked a girls-only trip as a surprise for Rosie and her younger sister, Emma.

“I wasn’t going to tell them about it because I wanted to surprise them,” Amanda said.

The Disney trip was full of more surprises.

Rosie forwarded her winning essay from the state competition to the national competition without any changes.

Erik, meanwhile, had to go into another room to take another math test with a bunch of other youngsters from across the country.

“I thought there was going to be like a hundred kids,” Erik said. “There was only about 30 or so.”

The next day, the Mender family tried to rush to the rather loosely scheduled awards ceremony while the Bourgeois family headed to Animal Kingdom with FastPasses for the new Avatar ride.

Alicia Mender said she entered the awards ceremony just as it ended.

“We went to the stage to ask about the results,” she said.

Erik finished in the top 10. Rosie finished second in the nation.

“They said ‘We’ll give you (Rosie’s) award,’” Alicia said. “I was blowing up Amanda’s phone but she wasn’t answering.”

Amanda said she heard the phone ringing from her backpack, but she was strapped into the ride.

“We had just sat down on the ride,” Amanda said. “We had waited two hours. I could hear it in my bag but I was strapped in.”

Not long after, Amanda got the news and told Rosie.

“She just said, ‘OK Cool,’” Amanda said.

Said Rosie: “It’s Disney. You can’t make people think you’re crazy.”