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Cream of the crop

Magee, Sultana excel as Students of the Year
Thursday, January 28, 2021
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Ten-year-old Ruston Elementary School student Avery Magee, left, was recently named Elementary Student of the Year in the Lincoln Parish School District, while 13-year-old A.E. Phillips student Arisha Sultana, right, took home Middle School Student of the Year honors.

Editor’s note: Watch for another feature on Lincoln Parish High School Student of the Year Hana Le in an upcoming edition.

One wants to be an interior designer, the other a surgeon. One was born in Ruston, the other in Bangladesh. One dances, and the other sings.

What Avery Magee and Arisha Sultana have in common, however, is having recently been named Student of the Year in Lincoln Parish.

A 10-year-old attending Ruston Elementary School, Avery is the district’s Elementary Student of the Year, and Arisha, 13, represents A.E. Phillips Laboratory School as the parish’s Middle School Student of the Year.

While the particulars are quite different, both Avery and Arisha have participated and excelled in a host of activities in their young lives, and their diverse experiences have shaped who they are and who they aim to become.

Avery Magee

An honor roll student at RES, Avery has taken part in things like 4-H, cross country and spelling bees, but her oldest passion is dance, something she’s done since 2013.

“I love to do dance because it makes me happy, and I feel that I can be me when I go to dance,” she said.

Having trained in ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop, she said hip hop is her favorite because it’s fun and challenging.

Avery has taken first place in social studies fairs at her school and regionally at Louisiana Tech University. She also volunteers with the Touch Ruston ministry at her church, First Baptist Church of Ruston, which provides Thanksgiving meals for the comunity, delivers groceries to those in need around Christmastime, and other charity activities.

“I love to help people and give them gifts,” she said.

When she’s not competing or volunteering, Avery said she likes to do makeup and play video games, with the latter even inspiring her goal for a future career.

“I hope to go to Louisiana Tech and become an interior designer,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed designing houses on my favorite video games.”

Apart from her many activities and accolades, Avery’s mother, Tara Magee, said a constant positive attitude is one of the main things that stands out about her daughter.

“She’s always happy and smiling,” Tara Magee said. “She has a kind heart and loves her family and friends. We were so proud that her school chose her for this award.”

Arisha Sultana

Born in Bangladesh, Arisha’s family immigrated to the United States when she was just months old, and they have lived in Ruston ever since.

Arisha’s father, Shaurav Alam, is an assistant professor of engineering at Louisiana Tech, and Arisha said her early exposure to technology and her parents’ shared love of STEM fields helped shape her passion for STEM activities like robotics and coding.

In 2019 Arisha was captain of the A.E. Phillips robotics team that won the RARC Sumo Competition, a robotbuilding contests that pits teams’ creations in a sumo-like battle of strength.

“Seeing as it was our first competition and our team won, it was really a thrill,” she said. “When I think about it now, it all feels like a blur, but I think that even if we hadn’t won, it would have been a really fun experience in general.”

Arisha spent two years in the Ruston chapter of Girls Who Code, a national organization aiming to reduce the gender gap in STEM industries by helping young women develop their interest in those fields.

She helped her team design a music recommendation app based on their “wildly different music tastes” and also started designing a horror video game before the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way.

“But since then, I’ve made contact with one of my teammates,” Arisha said. “She, some other girls and I have started working on a little adventure game of our own, so all is not lost. We hope that despite COVID, we can continue working on projects like this.”

Overall, she said objective, concrete subjects like math are her favorite.

“There’s something about the way math always has a straightforward answer and explanation that I just really like,” Arisha said.

At the same time, however, the young teen is also involved in many activities on the more creative side of the spectrum.

She has years of experience in both theatre and choir, has served as an officer in AEP’s Spanish Club, and often draws and plays the ukelele in her spare time.

“For the last three years, I’ve been performing at the Dixie in their summer Jr. plays, and the fact that I usually only knew two or three people there really helped to pull me out of my shell and shape me into the person I am today,” she said.

A top placer in multiple science Olympiads and fairs, Arisha said she hopes to go into the surgical field, both because she wants to help people and she wants the opportunity to study the human mind and body at a high level.

She said her heart “absolutely stopped” when it was announced she had been chosen as district Student of the Year, noting she couldn’t have done it without support from her friends, family and school.

Her parents said much the same.

“We are very proud of Arisha and appreciate the support of all her teachers and friends with whom she grew over these years at A.E. Phillips,” Alam said.