Simran Kang and Calyn Lamanno, eighth grade students at Sterlington Middle School, were honored during the latter part of the last school year by the Duke Talent Identification Program, also known as TIP. According to Duke TIP, it is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to serving academically gifted and talent students.

Kang and Lamanno were part of the seventh grade talent search, which is in its 34th year. This search seeks to identify academically excellent students based on standardized test scores achieved in elementary or middle school. The candidates selected during the search are then invited to take the ACT or SAT exam as seventh grade students.

Within Ouachita Parish, 50 students participated in the testing portion of the program. Of those 50 students, 21 qualified for state recognition. Kang and Lamanno represented Sterlington as part of the 21.

Both of these middle school students earned an award for scoring at or above the national average of recent high school graduates on at least one portion of the ACT. Simran Kang also qualified for grand recognition by scoring a 29 on the English portion of the ACT.

Each young woman was recognized at a special ceremony hosted at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

Both Lamanno and Kang enjoyed the experience of attending the event, being recognized and listening to a speaker from the school.

"They had a student from Northwestern speak," Lamanno said. "He let us know what it was like to go the university."

According to Kang, the student was a former Duke TIP participant.

Kang plans on taking the ACT again soon while Lamanno said said she will probably wait until high school before retesting, but both young women have ambitious plans for the future.

Lamanno hopes to go into education and become a teacher of some type while Kang is looking toward a career in the medical field. Right now she is considering researching disease, practicing medicine or both but said that high school should help her refine those plans and could change them.

According to Duke TIP, both students should have left the program with greater insight into their academic abilities, so the future should remain bright.