Stephen Jayakar KETK Student of the Year Winner

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East Texas high school administrators nominated a senior from their school for the 2016 KETK / Hutto Orthodontics Student of the Year Scholarship program. The nominated student wrote an essay, “How have your high school experiences and accomplishments prepared you for the future.”
 
Stephen will receive a $2,500 scholarship to UC Berkeley College of Engineering from Hutto Orthodontics.
 
Below is Stephen Jayakar’s Essay:
 
 
“So what do you think this book means, Stephen?”  After the crazy load of summer reading I had for my first year of International Baccalaureate (IB) English, I didn’t realize I would have to speak in front of the class about it.  Glancing at my notes, I piece together a thematic statement and get an encouraging nod from the new teacher Mrs. Childers.  “Alright class, I want you to continue the conversation, and no raising of hands.”  We were introduced to the Socratic circle: an uninterrupted train of thought in the classroom.  At Longview High School (LHS) and through the IB program, I was exposed to curricula and teaching styles that were nothing short of world-class and I was able to entertain and nurture my love for learning. 
 
I quickly fell in love with the violin as a young student and have devoted much of my formative years to classical training.  Foster Middle School and LHS have offered me infinite potential to pursue my musical interests in their orchestra programs and I eventually assumed the leadership position of Concertmaster, or the first chair, for a number of years.  If I hadn’t participated in the robust school orchestra program offered by LHS, it is very likely I would not have been exposed to competitions such as the TMEA All-Region Orchestra Competition or the UIL State and Regional Violin Competition.  
 
One class I always sat still in was math, and it showed.  In fourth grade, I was accelerated by the Indiana school system and fostered a deep love for the subject.  When I moved to Longview in 2010, Foster Middle School was the only school that would accommodate my math requirements.  As a seventh-grader, the school placed me with the “big-boys” (eighth graders) and I finished Geometry with strong scores.  Even more significant was how both Foster Middle School and Longview High School coordinated during my eighth grade year.  Despite the numerous difficulties involved, the middle school principal, Mr. York went out of his way to team up with Mr. Brewer, our beloved LHS principal, and arranged for me to take Algebra 2 with Mr. Hovan on the high-school campus.  This one investment by both school systems was invaluable to me, and I cannot show enough appreciation for just how much this changed my life.  With the alternative being taking math classes that I had already passed, this action reflects just how much the school system really cares about students constantly learning.  
 
As a bright-eyed freshman, I signed up just like all of my friends for Mr. Mosley’s engineering classes under the Project Lead the Way curriculum.  What I didn’t realize is that I dived straight into college-level engineering courses, and I struggled through them.  Who knew that sorting marbles with a robot was so difficult?  These courses, while difficult but doable under Mr. Mosley’s excellent tutelage, netted me college credits for Digital Electronics, Introduction to Engineering Design, and the Principles of Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology.  Also, the classes gave me a foot in the door to the Technology Student Association competition, in which I competed at the national level during my freshman and sophomore years.  I had an amazing experience both years, and got to learn how to compete as a team.  With our Open Source Software Development team, we won the competition at the national level!  
 
I do believe that this experience with engineering studies played a big part in me being awarded the SEAP research scholarship with the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, Ca the summer before my senior year.  I was privileged to research with Professor Zhao on Lexical Link Analysis. The process of Lexical Link Analysis data mines social media, finding words often paired together and inferring semantic groups of words from their context.  That was a summer well spent and now I had research under my belt. During this time, I learned how to ride a bike to work, how to properly salute, and how to corral unintuitive data into digestible orbs.  It was great fun.
One math teacher that encouraged me greatly was Mr. Harbison.  Mr. Harbison specifically prodded me into taking Calculus BC, and I can’t be happier that I followed his advice.  LHS accommodated me yet again, allowing me to take Linear Algebra at LeTourneau University and I had a great experience there with Ms. Knouse as my teacher.  Also, I really could have no better person to teach me Chemistry than the young Bryce Standridge.  A bit of a secret: Standridge is really a high school student masquerading as a teacher.  Despite the rigorous IB curriculum for Chemistry, we managed to have little breaks playing ping pong on lab tables, or throwing playing cards at each other from across the room.  LHS is one of the few schools to have a developed Latin program.  Describing Mr. Charles Parsons is a difficult task; I resort to quoting J.R.R. Tolkien.  He was “never late, nor is he early.  He arrives precisely when he means to.”  Filled to the brim with culture and dignity, there could be no one more apt to teach the ancient language of Latin.
 
During my senior year, I was nominated for the Presidential Scholarship from the White House for my SAT scores and academic success in high school.  They nominate 4,000 students nationwide out of 3.3 million high school students.  I was honored and humbled by the nomination. I can directly attribute my perfect reading score to Mrs. Childers.  Through the incredible body of work we completed in her class, her guidance transformed how I viewed different forms of literature.  We would get paper handouts daily and spend time analyzing literary works, from Macbeth by William Shakespeare to “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles.  I cannot thank her enough for her teaching (and her handouts, even though at times they were innumerous) throughout these two years.  
 
Longview High School offers a tremendous number of extracurricular and curricular programs, and I cannot thank it enough for all it has given me.  I had the opportunity to experience the Interact Club for our football team. Go Lobos!!.  As such a great school deserves, my peers have also been nothing short of excellent.  I enjoyed the competitive spirit that such excellence births and I am honored to be the #1 student as of now, and have been for the last five semesters.  All of my instruction and hard work at LHS were quintessential in my acceptance into the University of California Engineering College at Berkeley, and I will be attending there in the fall.  Go Bears!!

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