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Student Innovator: Emani Payne finds love for art & robotics

RESERVE — Eighth grader Emani Payne is quiet, not one to seek attention, but St. John the Baptist Parish STEM Magnet faculty say her innovative spirit stands out in every classroom.

Emani Payne

Bright and creative by nature, Emani is on a quest to learn the intricate codes and programs that drive supercomputers.

Most of her knowledge comes from self-study on websites that teach coding. Emani participated in robotics at Garyville Magnet last year and provided guidance to younger students in the group, including master teacher Keila Joseph’s daughter.

Emani’s fascination with LEGO Mindstorms EV3 software is only one aspect of her all-encompassing love of learning, according to Joseph.

“Emani has this zeal about her,” Joseph said. “When she walks into a room, she lights it up with her presence. She sits off to the side, but she’s always willing to learn new things and help others.”

Algebra I teacher Honna Lora Hill said Emani is a group leader who works hard and never gives up.

“She’s an excellent student, and she always helps her peers out,” Hill said. “If I could have a classroom full of her, I’d be in good shape.”

Emani fuels her academic focus by looking to her family members as role models. Her two older sisters, Casey, 26, and Brittany, 23, hold higher degrees in pharmacy and microbiology, respectively.

Emani Payne holds up her cell phone, displaying a picture of an owl she drew.

While her mother, Aretha Payne, and late father, Darryl Payne, did not have the same educational experience, they instilled the importance of hard work in their three daughters.

“My mother has always pushed me to be a good person and to achieve what she couldn’t,” Emani said. “My father passed away two years ago, and he always maintained multiple jobs at once to provide for us.”

She intends to follow in the footsteps of her older sisters, believing education is a vital part to making a difference in the world.

Rather than becoming a pharmacist or a microbiologist, however, Emani would rather be a programmer or an artist.

Art has been a lifelong pursuit, and Emani finds herself drawn to charcoal pencils, watercolor and other challenging media.

She’s recently become interested in perfecting the semi-realism style through landscapes and digital art projects.

Computer engineering is an extension of her interest in STEM subjects.

“Such precise codes can make artificial intelligence, which is absolutely amazing when you think about how typing on a keyboard can account for so much,” Emani said.

Joseph admires Emani’s pursuit for self-discovery.

“Every moment she gets, she spends that time investing in herself,” Joseph said. “I could always find her with a PDF file on her computer with different novels or robotics. It’s amazing to watch her, and I think she’s a perfect representative of what this school is about.”

Emani has earned principal’s list on nearly every report card since kindergarten. Each year, she advances to the state-level spelling bee at Xavier University, and she was one of a few students to achieve perfect scores on the science and math portions of the LEAP test.

Emani is identified as gifted in academics, and she’s looking to become more involved in music, volleyball, robotics and STEM Club.

Emani Payne leaves her seat in May in the Edgard courthouse after successfully answering a question posed by Assistant District Attorney Orenthal Jasmin. She was one of more than a hundred participating students in the annual Law Day event.