Legislative Youth Advisory Council Announces 2022-2023 Members

Published 12:10 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2022

BATON ROUGE, LA – Some of Louisiana’s most outstanding students have been selected as new members of the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC). They will work together over the next year to influence the legislative process and make the state a better place for young people. A new council is selected annually and is composed entirely of high school students to address issues affecting the youth of Louisiana. It is overseen by the Louisiana Commission on Civic Education.
Now in its fifteenth year, LYAC facilitates communication between youth and the legislature and gives students the unique opportunity to be involved in the workings of state government. LYAC members have the opportunity to study, meet with elected officials, and propose legislation in the upcoming regular session.
Members of the council are selected from around the state and display a strong interest in civic involvement and leadership. These 31 students are dynamic, well-rounded individuals who undergo a rigorous selection process. Three top-scoring students serve from each of the six congressional districts. The at-large members are those with top scores from all congressional districts combined. The members must be in grades nine through twelve and enrolled in a public, private, or charter high school or participating in a home study program.
Members of the 2022-2023 Legislative Youth Advisory Council:
Congressional District 1
Sarah Heebe, Metairie Park Country Day School
  • Sarah Heebe is a junior at Metairie Park Country Day School in Metairie. Sarah is passionate about citizenship and service. She was recently elected student body treasurer. She also serves on the executive board of the Student Senate, on the service committee, and has previously served as class president. She is the founder of Country Day’s Current Events Club, leading weekly discussions about topics in the news. Additionally, Sarah volunteers at the National World War II Museum, where she enjoys meeting veterans and hearing their personal stories. At Country Day, Sarah is a member of the National Honor Society. She has participated in the regional and state Literary Rally for English II and has twice received gold medals in the National Spanish Exam. Sarah also participates in a variety of extracurricular activities at school, including varsity softball and trumpet. She has played the trumpet for eight years, played in the district honor jazz band, as well as the school jazz band. Sarah is excited to expand her platform, Reading Justice, to promote educational equity and literacy with LYAC.
Vaishnavi Kumbala, Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies
  • Vaishnavi Kumbala is a sophomore at Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies in Metairie. She is the editor-in-chief and founder of her school’s newspaper. She will also serve as an eco/soc presiding officer on Louisiana’s Model UN State Board, historian for Haynes’ Youth and Government and FBLA clubs, and underclassmen representative for Mu Alpha Theta. She will serve on FEMA’s National Youth Preparedness Council, representing Region 6. Her writing has won various regional, state, and national awards and was published in The New York Times, The New Orleans Advocate, and Gambit. She was the 2021-2022 Louisiana state winner of the VOD Contest. Her article about Hurricane Ida’s impact on adolescent mental health is in press at Teen Vogue. Additionally, Vaishnavi is involved with her school’s Academic Games team and has won multiple national champion titles. She also enjoys music and singing; was elected 2022-2023 Junior Treasurer for the LA Federation of Music Clubs, and has won local and statewide vocal awards. Vaishnavi is passionate about mental health awareness and providing more resources for teenagers and has discussed youth mental health with local and national leaders. Her website, which aims to expand mental health resources, will be showcased at the U.S. Capitol and won the LA-01 Congressional App Challenge. As a member of the LYAC, Vaishnavi hopes to work with her peers to bring more mental health awareness and provide more resources to help students across the state.
Brooke Richards, Mandeville High School
  • Brooke Richards is a senior at Mandeville High School. She currently serves as president of Youth and Government, a debate club where students use parliamentary procedure to debate mock legislation. She also serves as president of Political Thinkers, a club where students can discuss politics in a casual setting. She is the historian of her school’s drama club and is a member of the International Thespian Society. This summer she will be attending Girls State and volunteering as a camp counselor for her school’s drama camp. She is excited to work and collaborate with her council members to find solutions to issues facing Louisiana youth.
Congressional District 2
Diana Diaz, St. James High School
  • Diana Diaz is a senior at St. James High School in Vacherie. She was voted the 2021 Louisiana Girls Leadership Academy Ambassador and is an advocate for women of color in government. She supports Rise St. James, a nationally recognized environmental organization, that strives for environmental justice for the many residents of “Cancer Alley”. She has devoted her time to writing research essays and delivering speeches at their respective local events. Diana also has a profound love for the arts and is part of her school’s gifted art and theater program. She has participated in a number of school productions, both onstage and off. Additionally, she was named Overall Winner of the Louisiana Association of Festivals and Fairs Poster Contest in both 2018 and 2021 and has had her art displayed in the Governor’s Mansion. One of her greatest achievements has been writing and illustrating her own novel entitled Felicidad. Since her freshman year at St. James High, she has been recognized for her academic achievement. Diana is an active member of school organizations such as the Young Women of Distinction Program, “My Sister, My Friend” Mentoring Group, student council, library club, swim team, and more. Through LYAC, she is eager to work together with others to combat the pressing issues youth, and offer other first-generation immigrants the opportunity to make their voices effecting heard in our country.
Cali Jane Luetkemeier, Academy of the Sacred Heart
  • Cali Jane Luetkemeier is a senior at Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans. At Sacred Heart, she is a member of the National Honor Society and is involved in various varsity sports, including cross country, track and field, and soccer. She is the leader of the Hearts for Justice Club and served as the 2021 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Student of the Year for Sacred Heart. She is an intern at a local nonprofit, Eden House, and volunteered at Whole Kids Outreach in Missouri. Her work in a juvenile justice service project sparked a passion to seek change in the justice system and bring awareness to the issue of mass incarceration in the United States. She hopes to work with the Louisiana community and peers on justice initiatives to provide juveniles with resources and rehabilitative services as a member of LYAC.
Christina You, Benjamin Franklin High School
  • Christina You is a rising senior at Benjamin Franklin High School at the Katherine Johnson Campus in New Orleans. She has served on student council as president and a representative throughout high school. She is president of the Speech and Debate Team, co-president of the Society of Women Engineers, and an officer in multiple clubs at Franklin. She is the executive chair of the New Orleans Youth Advisory Board and is a grand prize winner in the Aspen Challenge with Krewe Du Cypress, a youth-led environmental education and advocacy organization. Christina is also the concertmaster of the Franklin Orchestra, which won Tier 1 sweepstakes at statewide competition, and a first violin in the Louisiana AllState Orchestra. She hopes to work with legislators, fellow LYAC representatives, and community members to improve inequalities in technology access and advocate for youth voices.
Congressional District 3
Sidha Kunada, Lafayette High School
  • Sidha Kunada is a senior at Lafayette High School in Lafayette. She serves as the Student Body President at LHS, secretary of the Lafayette Mayor-President’s Youth Advisory Council, and District Council Parliamentarian. In addition, she plays on the Lady Lions Volleyball Team and has earned multiple awards, including being recognized as a national semifinalist, while competing on the speech and debate team. Sidha is in the gifted and talented program, being active in visual and performing arts since she was eight years old. As a longtime Girl Scout, she has worked on various community improvement projects in partnership with organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, and United Way. She is passionate about environmental conservation and is continuing to learn about technical aspects of preservation as a NASA intern. Her goal is to advocate for initiatives toward environment protection and strengthening mental health support for Louisiana’s youth. She hopes to gain insight on state government policy and work with her peers to represent these issues as a member of LYAC.
Scarlett Osborn, Episcopal School of Acadiana
  • Scarlett Osborn is a sophomore at the Episcopal School of Acadiana in Lafayette. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has been committed to community development from a young age, setting up a fundraising campaign for community arts initiatives and teaching reading, singing, and dance in community centers in Cape Town. She is committed to environmental issues and has volunteered on a community-based wildlife conservation project in Zimbabwe. She is a recipient of the Acadiana Center for the Arts Jean Breaux Award that enables young artists to pursue advanced study of the arts. Drawing on her experience of environmental issues and community engagement in Southern Africa, she hopes to bring her unique insights to LYAC, working with her peers on environmental issues and the unifying power of the arts for drawing young people together.
Israel Netters, Southside High School
  • Israel Netters is a senior at Southside High School in Youngsville. She is an active member of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office Youth Advisory Board. She also is a member of her school’s speech and debate team, student council, Beta, Shades of Diversity, drama, and National Honor Society clubs. She placed second in US History at District Literary Rally and went on to compete at state. She hopes to be a leading contributor to the initiatives brought forward by LYAC.
Congressional District 4
Andrew Minagar, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • Andrew Minagar is a junior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport. He is an ardent believer in the benefits that collective action can have on solving societal issues. This belief has been fostered by his participation in his school’s Proyecto Comunitario, a club which seeks to tutor local ESL students in both Spanish and English. Moreover, he has become familiar with numerous issues that affect Louisiana’s youth through his experience as secretary and leader of the Data Committee for the Northwest Louisiana Teen Advisory Committee. Aside from his interest in policy, Andrew is deeply interested in the intricacies of neuroscience and has enjoyed performing physiological research at LSUHS for the past year, both of which are passions he will further develop at the 2022 Research Science Institute at MIT. He is an avid Quiz Bowler, having ranked first in Louisiana and in the top five nationally, and he was selected as a 2022 Coolidge Senator. In his free time, he enjoys studying languages and listening to bossa nova. He believes that LYAC will provide a unique opportunity for himself and others to collaborate and effectuate on issues that truly matter to Louisiana’s teen populace.
Jewel Bird, Parkway High School
  • Jewel Bird is a rising senior at Parkway High School in Bossier City. At Parkway she is involved in 4-H, Student Council, KPAW, Bossier Youth Leadership, NHS, Beta, Mu Alpha Theta, tennis, and serves as a red jacket. Throughout her high school career she has received many honors: in 2020 she was selected as a HOBY ambassador for her school. In 2021 she received the AP Scholar Award and was recognized as an outstanding 4-H club member for the 2021-2022 school year. Outside of school she serves as a Clover Ambassador for the Bossier 4-H Program, a member of the Bossier Parish 4-H Advisory Leadership Council, and served as the Civic Engagement Chair on the Louisiana 4-H Citizenship Board. Jewel also remains active within her community by volunteering at the Bossier Teen Court Program monthly, donating food and clothes, volunteering at seasonal community activities and more, and attaining 200+ hours of community service hours. Jewel has had the opportunity to attend several leadership conferences on the regional, state, and national levels, where she has shared ideas and made connections with people from different places. Notably, she was selected as a Louisiana delegate for the Southern Regional Teen Leadership Conference, in Tennessee, where she presented a workshop on the importance of Civil Discourse. As a member of LYAC, Jewel hopes to shine a light on issues that have long been neglected.
Faith Courville, Rice Field Christian Academy (Homeschool)
  • Faith Courville is a homeschooled rising sophomore from Kinder, Louisiana. She enjoys serving and participating in various organizations. She is a member of the Connections of Acadiana Co-op, which is based in Lafayette, Louisiana, on which she has served as editor-in-chief for both the yearbook and the literary magazine. In the 2022-2023 school year, she will be a charter member of Connections Chapter of the National BETA Club, an organization with which she has been involved in the past. She is also an active member of Faith Tabernacle Pentecostal Church (FTPC), particularly in the youth choir. Faith is also a member of the Francis G. Bulber Youth Orchestra (FGBYO). She plays flute with the Advanced Symphonic Orchestra. Faith has also participated in TeenPact, a week-long government class at the capitol. This year she placed at the district and state levels for the Louisiana Science Fair. Her project, “The Strengthening Storm” examined the impact between climate change and hurricanes, and received the 2022 NOAA Pulse of the Planet Award, the NASA Earth System Science Award, the National Geographic Cultivating Empathy for the Earth Award, and the American Meteorological Society Outstanding Achievement Award. She also placed at the district and state levels for the Louisiana Social Studies Fair for her oral history project, “The Hero Next Door.” As a member of LYAC, Faith looks forward to discussing the challenges presented by education and a changing climate as well as learning more about the legislative process.
Congressional District 5
Clayton Baden, Buckeye High School
  • Clayton W. Baden is a senior at Buckeye High School in Deville. He will be the Buckeye Student Council President for the 2022-2023 school year, Buckeye JROTC Battalion Commander, Buckeye FBLA chapter president, a Buckeye Educators Rising member, and a past member of the Buckeye Pride Marching Band. He won first place overall in United States history at the Louisiana District Rally and went to state rally in 2022. He hopes to work with his fellow youth to show the importance of youth and grassroots movements in politics locally and nationally to both youth and adults alike as a member of LYAC.
Rylee Beaudion, Alexandria Senior High School
  • Rylee Beaudion is a junior at Alexandria Senior High School in Alexandria. She is a member of many organizations inside and outside of school. She has served on Student Council since middle school serving as president. She has been a part of the Beta Club where she held the position of secretary. She is the co-captain of her high school danceline. Outside of school, Rylee is a member of the Youth Usher Association (president), Delta Youth Academy, National Honor Society for Dance Art (secretary), Jack and Jill of America Alexandria Teen Chapter (president), and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority CAPs. She is committed to decreasing teen violence and murders within her community and state as a member of LYAC.
Lauryn Smith, Varnado High School
  • Lauryn Smith is a junior at Varnado High School in Angie. She is the President of Varnado High FFA Club, Sentinel of Area IV FFA, and a member of Beta, NTHS, and NHS. Outside of school, Lauryn is the vice president of Brilliant Mindz nonprofit organization and works part time at the community center. She is passionate about creating resources for the community. As a member of LYAC, she hopes to bring attention to access to resources can help improve a community.
Congressional District 6
Samuel Adjei, University Laboratory School
  • Samuel Adjei is a sophomore at the University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge. He serves as treasurer of the ULS Youth and Government Club and has served as the secretary of the Student Council for two consecutive years. Samuel is also a research intern in the LSU College of Engineering High School Research program, where he will assist in developing new methodologies for performing cell-free protein synthesis. He understands the value of citizenship and community service through his involvement in the Beta Club and the National Honor Society. During the summer of 2021, Samuel created a curriculum for Mental Math and volunteered as a virtual teacher for elementary students across the nation in a virtual educational organization called Kindling Curiosity. As a LYAC member, Samuel looks forward to working collaboratively to maximize student and parent access to academic, vocational, and professional opportunities.
Holly Phan, Baton Rouge Magnet High School
  • Holly Phan is a junior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. She served as her sophomore class secretary and is currently president of her junior class. Holly is active in her school’s Mu Alpha Theta club where she is co-historian. In Mu Alpha Theta, she has placed in various individual and team events across the state. Additionally, she was part of the team that created the winning scrapbook and banner at state convention. She has also participated in the LSU State Science & Engineering Fair where she won first in the category Social Sciences for her project on how education affects organ donation registration. As a member of her school’s Beta club, she competed in the Beta state convention, winning second in fiber arts and qualifying for nationals. Holly hopes to work for increased equality in her home district and across the state to overall better her community.
Daniel Price, McKinley Senior High School
  • Daniel Price is a rising senior at McKinley Senior High School in Baton Rouge. At McKinley he serves as the class secretary for the student council and is a member of the MSH wrestling team. Outside of school, Daniel is a member of Baton Rouge’s Teen Court, served as a page for the Louisiana State Senate, is an active member of the Louisiana Leadership Institute, and is cofounder and current developer of Panther Student Association, an organization designed to bridge the gap between students and teachers. Daniel loves to read and analyze philosophy texts and have debates with his family and friends about the plethora of political topics. While on the council, Daniel plans to advocate for the importance of media literacy to his peers.
At-Large Members
Calvin Alexander, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • Calvin Alexander is a senior from Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport. He was elected class president for the past three years and was a lieutenant governor for the LaMissTenn Key Club District, where he led a recycling program for Northwest Louisiana. At Magnet, he founded the TED-Ed Student Talks Program and served as vice president of the National Honor Society for the past two years. Passionate about civic engagement, Cal works with The People’s Promise Youth Division, a nonprofit youth advocacy organization. Cal is also a dedicated violinist, having soloed with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and repeatedly served as concertmaster of the Louisiana All- State Orchestra. During the summer, he studies at the Perlman Music Program, where he is one of three students selected internationally to attend. As a member of LYAC, Cal hopes to promote environmental consciousness and advocate for equitable education, especially in the arts.
Ananya Bhatia, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • Ananya Bhatia is a senior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport. At Magnet, she is the founder of the TED-Ed Student Talks Program and president of GirlUp, UNICEF, Model United Nations, and National Honor Society. She has played the violin for twelve years through the Centenary Suzuki School and enjoys playing in school, college, and statewide orchestras. She holds an internship at the Caddo Juvenile Court, serves as an International GirlUp Teen Advisor, and was accepted to the School of the New York Times, all growing her interest in international affairs and public policy. Ananya is working to alleviate period poverty on the school and local levels, and she has testified alongside legislators and nonprofits in passing formative statewide policy. She is passionate about gender equality and reforming criminal justice. Through her second year on LYAC, Ananya hopes to advocate for the equality of all Louisiana students.
Elliott Gomes, Benjamin Franklin High School
  • Elliott Gomes is a junior at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans. He looks forward to serving his second year on LYAC. Elliott is a 2021 recipient of the Louisiana Public Broadcasting Young Heroes Award. He is also a member of the National Leadership Council’s servant leadership program and an active volunteer in his community. Additionally, Elliott has coordinated several community projects to raise funding for student tuition to PETALS School in Kenya. Elliott is the captain of his school golf team and a member of the basketball and Quiz Bowl teams. He is an avid reader and especially loves history books. As such, he is looking forward to working with LYAC to promote literacy and equity in education throughout Louisiana. Elliott is very grateful for this opportunity to represent Louisiana youth.
Sabrina Huynh, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • Sabrina Huynh is a senior at Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport. She has been involved in speech and debate for all four years and competed in the NSDA national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky in congressional debate. She has also been doing Mock Trial for the past four years and competed in a multitude of competitions such as the ULM Tournament and the Regional Tournament. Sabrina has been involved in teen court for the past three years, working as a juror, attorney, and bailiff to help reduce teenage recidivism in her community. She is also the president of the Interact Club and networked numerous service opportunities such as MLK Gardens, Shreveport Green, and the Renesting Project to help facilitate the needs of her community, and has dedicated over 300 hours to help improve her community. She is active in local politics and is the chief marketing officer of the Peoples Promise. She has also testified at the state capitol and school board meetings on a variety of issues ranging from redistricting, gender discrimination, and mask mandates. As a member of LYAC, Sabrina hopes to educate her peers on the importance of civic engagement and target educational reform, specifically sex education reform.
Jasmin Kumar, Benjamin Franklin High School
  • Jasmin Kumar is a senior at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans. She is the president of Feminist Club and leads an annual period product drive at her school. Jasmin has started a Young Democrats’ Club at Ben Franklin and enjoys volunteering with the Interact Club to give back to the community. Being vice president of Green Society, Jasmin strives to ensure greener school actions. She is an active member of TeenReach by Planned Parenthood, an education and advocacy opportunity. Through this program, she spoke on the radio to advocate the importance of sex education for youth. She works as an intern with the MyLASexEd campaign, promoting accurate health information. She has been dancing for 12 years and started competing seven years ago, placing highly in several competitions. In her downtime, one can find Jasmin immersed in a novel, inseparable from her dog, or hanging out with friends. She is proud to have been a member of LYAC last year and is grateful for her experience working with state representatives such as Rep. Landry and Rep. Hughes. Jasmin is passionate about advocating for her beliefs, as well as being an empathetic peer. She hopes to be impactful with her work on LYAC.
Isabella Lancaster, Mount Carmel Academy
  • Isabella Lancaster is a senior at Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans. She is an officer of the Multicultural Club. In which she and her fellow officers discuss different cultures and traditions and spread the importance of global unity and acceptance. Additionally, she has taken part in leading service projects this year which have provided children in Kenya with school supplies and water bottles. Isabella is also president of the Spanish National Honors Society. Through this club, she has helped lead a service project which supplied Christmas gifts to struggling immigrant families. Isabella is currently a member of the National Honor Society helping tutor younger grade level students. Additionally, Isabella is an ambassador at her school. Fellow peers, teachers, and advisors elected her into a leadership position as a spokesperson for new students interested in the school. Outside of school, she manages a social media account informing followers about current world issues. For example, the most recent posts have been about the Corona Virus Pandemic, global warming, women’s right to education in the Middle East, and rising tension between Russia and Ukraine. Last year, she was accepted into the Louisiana State Bar Association Suit Up for the Future, which is a program meant for students interested in a career in law. During this three-week program, students met with law professors from Loyola, LSU, and Tulane to learn how to argue a court case in real life. Not only did they argue a case in court in front of Judge Roby, but they also visited the DA’s office, shadowed attorneys from prominent law firms such as Deutsch Kerrigan, shadowed judges, and heard cases in civil, criminal, and appellate court. Isabella is a previous member of LYAC, the Council filed and presented House Bill 920 which served to include “acts of service” as a form of discipline, define willful disobedience, prevent out-of-school suspensions for nonviolent offenses, and allow students to make up work while suspended. Although the bill tied in committee and therefore was not further acted upon, she has high hopes for the potential of this bill and others brought to the legislature by LYAC in the future. Through her second term on LYAC, Isabella hopes to bring forth a positive change within the legislature and give Louisiana youth a stronger voice by advocating for them to the best of her ability.
William Li, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • William Li is a senior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport. He is the co-president of Active Minds and the webmaster of Key Club at Caddo Magnet. William enjoys competitive tennis and Mock Trial, both of which he has been involved in for over three years. His Mock Trial team placed 19th in the nation in 2022. William is currently interning under a lawyer to better understand law and ethics. He hopes to use both his experience of adolescents’ mental health and debate skills to work with his LYAC peers to effectuate increased awareness for mental health issues for Louisiana’s youth.
Isabella Mantilla, Academy of the Sacred Heart
  • Isabella Mantilla is a class of 2023 student at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans. She is a member of Sacred Heart’s National Honor Society Chapter, and through this she helps her peers with any academic help they may need as their tutor. She has been selected to attend the Suit Up for the Future High School Summer Legal Institute and Intern Program during the summer of 2022 where she will be shadowing lawyers and judges as well as interning at law offices. She is committed to advocating for others on social media and taking active measures within her own community. She is an active member of the Model UN club at her school, where she has presented to her school community about Critical Race Theory. As part of Sacred Heart’s Mock Trial team Isabella competed against other high school teams during this year’s competition. After competing, her team received personal advice and praise from people currently working in the law field. Isabella attended this year’s NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conferences, where she was able to speak with and learn from other students, and hear from inspirational speakers about diversity, inclusion, and being an ally. She is excited to work with her peers on various projects. She hopes to learn and grow from her diverse, intelligent group of peers, and work on initiatives to ensure all youth are safe within their schools.
Alexander Minagar, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • Alexander Minagar is a returning member of LYAC and a rising senior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport. He is a strong advocate for public speaking and local engagement, serving as the co-president of Magnet’s Model United Nations Organization and treasurer of the Teen Advisory Committee of Northwest Louisiana. Alexander is currently employed at the Louisiana State Health Science Center of Shreveport, where he researches in the Department of Physiology. Alexander greatly values education as part of Magnet’s Quiz Bowl team, which won the statewide tournament in 2022. In his first year with LYAC, Alexander spoke in front of the Commission on Civic Education, appeared on LBP’s Louisiana Public Square, and served on the Council’s environmental committee. Outside of the classroom, Alexander loves to read literary fiction and run long distance. He is incredibly grateful for another opportunity to serve on LYAC.
Shashank Nanjundiah, Baton Rouge Magnet High School
  • Shashank Nanjundiah is a junior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Baton Rouge. He is the treasurer of the Geopolitical Club at BRMHS. He hopes to collaborate with his peers on various educational initiatives, bring attention to the most crucial shortcomings of the state’s education system, and participate in relations between citizens and the government as a member of LYAC.
Colden Russell, Caldwell Parish High School
  • Colden Russell is a rising senior at Caldwell Parish High School. He is involved in multiple clubs at his school, including National Honor Society and Beta, where he actively participates in community service. In addition, he is the president of CPHS’s Student Council and the founder of Brighter Through Art, a club focused on using art to make a more inclusive and engaged student body. During the summer, he educates K-8 students across his parish as a student teacher for the Caldwell Parish Acceleration Summer Camp. Outside of school, he is the Global Affairs Director for Youth Climate Action Team Inc. He has been recognized as a Tulane Young Public Scholar and studied environmental justice at Tulane over the 2021 summer. This past year, he was also recognized as the state champion of the Louisiana Social Studies Fair. As a returning LYAC member, Colden hopes to continue using his position to improve Louisiana’s environment and youth representation.
James Stratton, C.E. Byrd High School
  • James Stratton is a senior at C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport. He is the president of student council and the student body. Through student council, James plans to establish a tutoring program to help freshmen remain successful academically as they adjust to life in high school. He is also an officer in Byrd Youth and Government, as well as the C.E. Byrd Chapter of Kiwanis International, and he is a three-year member of the varsity football team. James is a 2021 winner of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America Congressional Essay Contest. He also placed first in the Louisiana District Rally and third in the State Rally for United States History. James hopes to attend Tulane University, where he will study law and pursue a future career in government. Through his position on LYAC, James hopes to work with his peers to combat the staggering high school dropout rate in Louisiana and work toward ensuring all Louisiana youth a high-quality and well-rounded education.
Lauren Wiltz, Academy Of The Sacred Heart
  • Lauren Wiltz is a junior at The Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau. She is president and founder of the “Eating Around the World Club” at The Academy. She also founded the school newspaper, The Academy Advertiser, and acts as chief editor as well. Lauren is also a lead altar server at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Opelousas, where she has served since fifth grade. For the 2021-2022 year, Lauren was nominated for the Leukemia And Lymphoma Society’s “Student of The Year.” As a team leader, she raised $51,480.77 to help fight blood cancer and was honored to receive the LLS “Community Involvement Award” for her campaign. This year, Lauren was inducted into the National Honor Society. Lauren won first place overall in French III at the Louisiana District and State Literary Rallies in 2022. She was also a chosen participant in the Solidarity and Sustainability Virtual Exchange Program in 2021. Lauren has been a member of the Sacred Heart cheer squad for two years and is also a member of a nationally competitive cheer team. As a member of LYAC, Lauren hopes to work with her peers to encourage young girls to have confidence to enter STEM fields of study through various programs and community initiatives.