By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
Catholic schools throughout Louisiana will have an exciting opportunity to shine the light on the best of their students during the inaugural Louisiana Catholic Student of the Year Program. The statewide competition — the first time among diocesan Catholic school students only — will debut on March 3, 2023, in Lafayette.
The program is designed to recognize outstanding students in grades 5, 8, and 12 who have demonstrated excellence in discipleship, leadership, service, citizenship, and academic achievement.
The decision for Catholic schools to sponsor their own Student of the Year Award came about after recent changes to the Louisiana Department of Education Student of the Year process.
“The biggest factor in the decision was the abolishment of a non-public category in the traditional state competition,” said Martha M. Mundine, Deputy Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Louisiana Catholic School Student of the Year Coordinator. “All seven of our dioceses cover more than one geographical parish and exist in more than one public school system. To be included in the same categories with the public regions, all dioceses were competing in anywhere from three to five regions.”
The Louisiana Catholic Student of the Year Program is open to Catholic schools in the state’s seven dioceses — Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Shreveport, and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The new format will allow each diocese to compete as one entity, sending one representative for each grade — 5, 8, and 12 — to compete at the state Catholic School Student of the Year level.
Mundine said the competition will be similar to past competitions, including portfolio and writing assessments as well as interviews, but noted unique opportunities for extra guidelines.
“Having a competition solely for Catholic schools enables us to include additional criteria according to Catholic school standards and benchmarks, especially in the area of discipleship,” said Mundine.
To be selected as a Student of the Year, a student must earn a cumulative 3.2 grade point average during the past three years and first grading period of the current year.
Students compete with their peers at the school system level before advancing to the Diocesan Student of the Year regional competition. A total of 21 finalists from the regional level — one elementary, middle, and high school student from each diocese — will advance to the state competition on March 3.
Prior to selecting the three state winners, students will participate in the writing assessment and interview to be conducted by a panel of judges chosen by diocesan superintendents or designees. State winners will be submitted to Louisiana BESE board for announcement following an awards reception in April 2023.
Mundine offers a few words of advice for any student competing in the state finals: “By virtue of being selected to represent your school, you exude the characteristics of a model Catholic school student. Just be yourself and let Christ’s light shine through you in all that you do.”