LAFAYETTE — Three Acadiana-area teens are among the finalists for the Louisiana Department of Education’s top students of the year and they will be honored Tuesday in Baton Rouge when the overall winners in the three grades will be announced.
Beau Chene High School senior Brandon Rodgers and two Lafayette eighth-grade students, Brooke Badeaux of Sts. Leo-Seton Catholic School and Sarah Beth Cagle of Edgar Martin Middle School, were selected as regional finalists for the annual competition.
A total of 18 regional finalists representing fifth-, eighth- and 12th-graders from public and non-public schools were selected based on academics, leadership, service and character. Regional finalists were selected from a pool of school district-level winners. The experience has allowed the local finalists time to reflect on their futures and interests, they said.
Brandon Rodgers, 18
SCHOOL: Beau Chene High School, Arnaudville
FAMILY: Kelia Singleton-Guillory and Simon Guillory
HOBBIES: Trumpet, software coding
This summer, Brandon Rodgers will leave Sunset to settle into his new life as a chemical engineering and biomolecular engineering student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“I’m looking forward to being away from home — finding a true sense of identity away from my parents and seeing how the real world is,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers’ goal is to become a processing engineer because of his love for chemistry and calculus.
“I hope that I can be involved in some kind of research in my first year,” he said. “With science majors, it’s tough to get involved with research early.”
Rodgers is involved in school organizations, such as Interact, a high school community service club for Rotary International and Future Business Leaders of America.
Rodgers also serves the St. Landry Parish community as a member of the Youth Services Planning Board and the Chamber of Commerce’s Youth Leadership Council. In school, he also gets a chance to hone his technology skills as a member of Beau Chene’s “Geek Squad,” students who troubleshoot issues for the school during computer science class.
Brooke Badeaux, 14
SCHOOL: Sts. Leo-Seton Catholic School, Lafayette
FAMILY: Trista and Ben Badeaux
HOBBIES: Dance, tumbling, acting, reading
Brooke Badeaux has had a busy week juggling rehearsals for her role in her school play and her dance team tryout at her future school, Teurlings Catholic High School, where she will be an incoming freshman in August.
Badeaux also pursues her interest in acting through a community group, CYT Lafayette or Christian Youth Theater. Offstage, she is part of CYT’s theater troupe’s High School Youth Pursuing Excellence group.
“We do a lot of community work and try to be good role models for younger kids in CYT,” Badeaux said.
In school, Badeaux said she enjoys history and she views high school as an opportunity for new experiences. Career-wise, Badeaux is set on becoming an orthodontist.
Her interest is fueled in part by a cousin now in dental school, but also helping children.
“I like the idea of helping kids fix their teeth,” Badeaux said. “Some children are so self-conscious about their teeth or their smile. I like the idea of helping them to get straighter teeth and not being afraid to smile.”
Sarah Beth Cagle, 14
SCHOOL: Edgar Martin Middle School, Lafayette
FAMILY: Parents Scott and Karen Cagle and brother, Marshall, 10
HOBBIES: Fencing, tennis, horseback riding, barrel racing, reading
Baton Rouge-born Sarah Beth Cagle moved to Lafayette in 2011 and quickly embraced her new school.
“The staff is very involved in the education of students,” she said. “It’s very friendly atmosphere and they welcomed me, which I hadn’t had at other schools.”
Cagle will attend Lafayette High next year and participate in its gifted program.
“I’m hoping to be in the AP classes and it will be more of a challenge for me,” she said of Advanced Placement courses. “A challenge in knowledge is awesome.”
As part of a youth group at Asbury United Methodist, Cagle is involved with raising money and awareness about local programs that help those in need.
Cagle said she has a passion for learning, but is particularly fond of the sciences and math and plans to study genetics. She said she previously considered veterinary medicine, but realized “very young that I wasn’t very good with blood or innards, so I tossed that out the window.”
“I remember reading an article in National Geographic about genetics and genetic mutations and it sparked my interest,” Cagle said. “It was very interesting and since then, I’ve been trying to learn all I can.”