Jonas and Micah Baamonde have been able to impart some wisdom to friends and fellow students figuring out how to apply themselves in a new educational landscape.
The Luling brothers have been home-schooled all their lives, and with many others now learning from home on a full or part time basis, the question often posed is how one keeps focused and on schedule outside of a traditional daily classroom setting.
“When COVID hit, a lot of them were like, ‘How the heck do you do this?’” said Micah. “How do you study, how do you focus your attention in class … I tried to help as much as I could.”
These are skills the siblings seem to have locked down rather well, as the two have excelled both in their studies and as positive forces in their community. The two recently were honored by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), an organization recognizing top scholars for their academic efforts combined with leadership and community involvement. The organization was founded by Claes Nobel, senior member of the family that established the famed Nobel Prizes.
“It really wasn’t expected, and I’m really honored by it because it’s not something you apply for, but you have to be nominated and chosen,” Micah said. “I was really elated. I thought it was really cool that they recognized two home-schoolers, because a lot of people don’t really look at that as being part of that absolute (traditional) schooling system.”
For sure, the two stay busy. Both are leaders in Teen Pact and mentor younger children, encouraging them to be aware of their civic responsibilities. They are also each student leaders in the Institute of Cultural Communicators, honing their skills in speech and debate. They often serve the community, particularly through church outreach. In the athletic arena, Micah wrestles, while Jonas runs cross country.
Jonas hopes to one day go into engineering. He recently was accepted into the NYLF Engineering Program, though due to COVID he’ll have to wait for next summer to attend.
“I think chemical engineering sounds pretty interesting,” Jonas said. “I feel like I’ve had a lot of positive encouragement toward that, people letting me know I have what it takes to be successful if I apply myself. There are a lot of different avenues I could take with it, but probably chemical engineering is the thing I’d like to do most.”
Micah, meanwhile, has aspirations to one day become a photographer for National Geographic. He was one of just nine interns chosen nationally to be part of LEWA’s Young Conservationist Program in Kenya, and has been a junior zookeeper at Aububon Zoo for five years.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was always interested in nature,” Micah said. “I loved to flip through an animal dictionary and pay attention to different wildlife. When I was 12, I started volunteering at the zoo and worked my way up from there.”
Volunteering is something they both find great reward in, be it helping to rebuild and revitalize broken and decayed playgrounds, helping families reset or rebuild after natural disasters, or stocking and distributing food for the hungry. Sometimes, it’s as simple as playing bingo with the elderly at a local assisted living facility or nursing home.
Part of that drive to help others, Jonas said, comes from their parents, who were impacted heavily by Hurricane Katrina and found grace in the kindness of others as they picked themselves back up.
“Their church reached out and served them, and I think that sparked a flame,” Jonas said. “They passed it down to us.”
One of their most rewarding shared experiences came on a mission trip through their church to Nicaragua, where they worked to enrich the lives of children there.
“It was the only time I’ve ever left country, and probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” said Jonas. “The nicest houses had tin roofs … eight people in a small hut, and half of the kids didn’t have shirts to wear. After going there, it made me realize how good I had it compared to a lot of people. One day we brought the kids to the market, another a water park … watching how excited they were to see people and get to enjoy themselves, and the smiles on their faces, it really left an impression on me. I’d love for us to go back one day.”