Bastrop High senior Rachael Lara was recently named Morehouse Parish's twelfth grade Student of the Year, an impressive title for an impressive student, who has already put together a lengthy list of accomplishments. Her achievements can be seen on paper, but to truly understand the girl behind the honors, one must take a closer look, starting with how she spends her afternoons behind the school.
Various organizations can be seen practicing their skills on Bastrop High's property, each preparing their routines for future performances, each set apart from the rest by their unique talents. In almost every case, each clique holds one or two of its seasoned members above the others, because they reflect what the group as a whole strives to achieve. This person can be seen leading or even training the rest of the team.
Lara is that student who rises above her peers, under no indisputable terms. After school, a student can be seen commanding the school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Exhibition troop. Lara is categorized over that student, as the Battalion Commander.
The JROTC program prepares high school students for leadership roles, while making them aware of their rights, responsibilities and privileges as American citizens. Under the umbrella of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, JROTC programs are taught as elective courses at more than 3,000 high schools nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Rising to the top seems to be something Lara has done in other areas of her life as well. Her 3.92 grade point average has earned her the sixth spot, out of 196, of the students in line to graduate from BHS this year.
The fact that she was runner up her fifth grade year for Morehouse Parish's' Student of the Year, vindicates the academic habits Lara has preserved.
“My parents, Ron and Lori, congratulated me, but they weren't surprised,” Lara said.
Although she seems like a teen who has it all together, claiming multitasking to be her greatest asset, Lara admits she also has areas that need improvement.
“I'm a procrastinator,” she said. “I take too long sometimes. Eventually it gets done, though. I never miss deadlines.”
Lara said after graduation she plans to continue a career with the Army, or choose a different profession altogether. Like with her junior reserve training, the person with this profession helped shape Lara into the person she is today.
“I may be an English teacher,” she said. “I've seen what kind of impression English teachers make on students. Like with Mrs. (Mitzi) Quinn, she has influenced me in so many positive ways. I was in her classroom when I found out I'd made Student of the Year. She was the one who told me and she was the first to congratulate me.”
Lara is currently awaiting a JROTC scholarship which she plans to utilize at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where she'll major in English. With all that she's accomplished, Lara said the advice she would pass down to others if she could, is quite simple.
“Pay attention to everything around you,” she said. “Get involved in extracurricular activities and have a mentor . I think everybody needs a mentor. They help you to do your best, in whatever you choose to do.”