A fifth grader at Luling Elementary was one of five elementary school finalists for the Louisiana’s Student of the Year award. Kevell Byrd was named the parish’s Student of the Year and then went on to win the regional competition, which matched up students from across southeast Louisiana.
Byrd is an award-winning pianist, a clarinet player in the Luling Elementary Band, a girl scout and a Flipnastic participant. She is also a member of 4-H, Mt. Zion youth ministry, Mt. Zion youth choir and the Luling Elementary Beta Club. She has been on the honor roll for three straight years and has picked up a number of academic awards including first place in the Young Author’s Contest for poetry. Byrd has volunteered her time locally by baking and serving cupcakes at the St. Charles Parish Health Unit/Access Health Fair.
The 11-year-old Luling resident has set her sights on becoming the President of the United States as well as pursuing a career in music.
The journey to the state Student of the Year competition began for Byrd in December 2013 when she was named the elementary Student of the Year for St. Charles Parish Public Schools. From there, she went on to win the regional competition where she competed against elementary school students of the year from 13 other parishes.
Byrd’s father, Kevin Byrd, said his daughter’s success can largely be attributed to her drive.
“She put in a lot of hard work. She is very diligent in her tasks at hand and doing everything she has to do to get herself academically in position to be successful. All we did was basically support her and make sure the platform is set for her to make sure that she can get everything she needs. She just works hard, she is very independent and very self-motivated. She takes charge,” he said.
Kevin said accompanying his daughter throughout the regional competition was a whirlwind.
“Through the events you had to do a writing prompt, you had to present a portfolio and be interviewed by your peers at which time she was successful again and became regional Student of the Year, which made her eligible for state finals,” he said.
On April 16, Byrd went on to the state competition and competed against five other regional winners. Though she didn’t win the state award, she impressed everyone she met.
“She did a wonderful job. She had some great interviews and she was able to be interviewed by a Baton Rouge TV station and did a great job in representing St. Charles Parish, but she came up a little short,” Kevin said.
Byrd’s mother, Shantrell, said it has been an interesting ride so far and there is more yet to come.
“We are excited. We have no idea where this journey is headed, we just know it is going to be great. She is initiated, she is motivated, she is passionate and we are excited. We are just enjoying watching her develop,” she said.
Byrd said she is appreciative of all of the opportunities she has had when competing for the Student of the Year. “It was very good experience and I learned about how education ties into other people and how education is very important because kids these days are the future,” she said. “They have many bright ideas and the Student of the Year program taught me a lot about how to be a leader and all about the newest things that happen in a generation because of education.”
Byrd has already begun preparing for her next shot at the state Student of the Year competition that will come when she reaches 8th grade.
Part of that is engaging in more community service hours. For the upcoming school year, Byrd is getting serious by starting a non-profit organization called RISE. The aim of the organization will be to provide school supplies to low income children.
“My non-profit organization is named after my favorite song I love to play on the piano which is called ‘Rise.’ The song is to encourage other kids about how you can rise above things that you just need to work hard and never give up, so my organization is going to give clothes and school supplies to students at Luling Elementary because of how much they gave to me,” she said. “My belief is that if you have all of your certain needs taken care of you can focus more on education.”
Despite the Student of the Year competition being over, Byrd is still receiving attention for what she has already accomplished this year.
After returning from Baton Rouge, Byrd was asked to appear on a statewide Cox TV interview program that will air on Cox channel 4 from May 10 through 15 and on May 7 from 7 to 10 a.m. she will play the piano and sing for the Cox Inspirational Heroes program.
Shantrell said the Cox producers were so impressed by her daughter’s initial interview that they asked her to come back for the musical performance during which she will perform “Rise.”
“Kevell will be performing to encourage other students because she has excelled academically and she extends herself to he community. The other students wanted her to perform and be an inspiration so that they can rise above their challenges and circumstances to excel academically as well,” she said.