Category Archives: Accolades

Two MSM Students Score 36 Composite on ACT

Two Mount St. Mary Academy students have scored the top possible composite score of 36 on the ACT pre-college test.


Anna Kate Manchester and Audrey Cummins, both juniors at Mount St. Mary Academy, earned the rarest of ACT scores this year. According to a report from ACT, Inc., only 2,760 students in the class of 2017, or 0.136 percent of all test takers, scored a 36.


The ACT is made up of four sections of multiple-choice questions, which test students’ knowledge in English, mathematics, science and reading. There is also an optional writing test that measures essay composition skills. Each of the four sections is graded on a scale of 1-36, and the Composite score is the average of the four multiple-choice test scores.


“My heart was pounding so quickly,” said Anna Kate. “I did not expect to get a 36 the first time I took it.”


Anna Kate said she initially took the test in seventh grade at Christ the King as part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP). When she signed up to take the ACT in June for the first time as a high school student, she bought a test preparation book and took multiple practice tests in math and science, the subjects where she felt she needed extra help.


Anna Kate plans to study international relations in college and has her sights on attending Harvard, Brown or Duke University. Her advice to underclassmen on taking the ACT is to try not to stress out about it.


“I think lots of people get in their own head,” said Anna Kate. “They try to rush through the test as quickly as they can, without paying attention to what it is the test is really asking them to do, because they’re just making sure they get it done in the time limit. I think taking a deep breath and sitting down and doing what you need to do is my best advice.”


Audrey’s preparation consisted of taking the ACT Test Preparation class offered at Mount St. Mary Academy during the first semester of the school year; she said her composite score improved by four points after taking the class. Audrey took the ACT in February for the fourth time and said her main goals this time were staying focused and raising all of her scores.


While currently taking a higher level math, AP Calculus, Audrey said the algebra and geometry they studied in the ACT Prep class were extremely helpful for reviewing information she had forgotten, and class emphasis on time-saving and test-taking tips and techniques assisted her in picking up her pace. For the English and reading sections of the test, Audrey expressed appreciation for the material she learned in ACT Prep from MSM English instructor Kathy Smith.


“In reading, she taught us to skim the questions before you read [the paragraphs],” Audrey said Ms. Smith taught them in addition to the English grammar rules and sentence structure, and she added, “So if one of the questions says vocab, you can go back to that line and write the question number to remind you to go back and do them when you read the line. Tricks like that.”


Audrey said she is still narrowing down her college choices and plans to attend the college trip Mount St. Mary is offering later this spring. She would like to study biology and medicine, and while some of the schools Audrey is considering include Pepperdine, UCLA, Georgetown and Washington and Lee, she is keeping her options open and looking into the college tuition savings and bigger opportunities that accompany her perfect score.


“I was completely surprised,” said Audrey about discovering she had made a 36 composite score. Even when others expected it from her, Audrey did not expect it from herself. On elevating what she thought was possible, she said, “I can achieve goals way higher than I ever thought I could.”





MSM Senior Wins Top Art Award, Thea Scholarship

Meredith Muller, MSM senior and art student, won the first place $4,000 visual arts scholarship in the Thea Foundation annual scholarship competition. Each year the program awards 30 college scholarships totaling $79,500 to Arkansas high school seniors from across the state in order to impact the lives of the state’s youth through art. Thea scholarships are matched or exceeded by more than 20 education partners in the state and the region who may additionally match up to $20,000 over four years for first-place scholarship recipients.


More than 200 high school seniors from across the state of Arkansas entered the Thea Foundation 2018 visual arts scholarship competition, and only ten were chosen as recipients of scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $4,000. This years theme was, “A visceral moment, occluded by one’s intellect.”


Meredith’s self-portrait in oil, “Polarity,” depicted the confusing and tumultuous experiences involved in the transition to adulthood. Her Artist’s Statement described the struggles many adolescents face when deciding right and wrong “in a society full of moral grey area.”


Meredith described the red light cast on most of the subject’s body as leading away from good decisions, and she explained, “The ‘visceral moment’ depicted would be to want to follow the path of least resistance and go along with the rest of the body even if it leads somewhere damaging in the end.”  While the posture and positioning demonstrated the conflict within, Meredith explained that “the head alone is straining against the rest of the body to face the blue light, which symbolizes the logic, reasoning and intellect which combat those negative forces.”
Meredith’s painting was chosen the first-place winner on Saturday, March 3, when students gathered at the Thea Foundation in downtown North Little Rock to display their work to a panel of judges. Winners were selected based on the artist statement, interpretation of theme, and the originality and design of their work.


When asked what this experience has meant to her, Meredith said, “I’m super grateful overall, not just for the judging, but for everything in general — that I’ve been able to go to a school like this, to have the foundation to get me where I can pursue these things and succeed. Ms. Nolley’s an amazing teacher, and I probably never would have been able to thrive as an artist if I hadn’t had a teacher that noticed my potential and took the time to try to grow that.”


While Meredith said her plans will incorporate art at whichever college she chooses to attend, Thea scholarships are not awarded based on a student’s intent to major in the arts nor are they limited to the visual arts alone. High school seniors skilled in performing arts, film, fashion design, creative writing and slam poetry are encouraged to apply for scholarships as well. More information about Thea scholarships can be found on the Thea Foundation website:


The 2018 visual arts winning works are on display through April at the Thea Foundation in downtown North Little Rock.  Congratulations to Meredith and all of this year’s Thea scholarship recipients!






MSM Senior Receives President’s Volunteer Service Award

Sydney Casavechia ’18 has been honored for her exemplary volunteer service with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.


The award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country, was granted by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. Mount St. Mary Academy nominated Sydney for national honors this fall in recognition of her volunteer service.


Sydney spent nearly 300 hours volunteering at Camp Aldersgate, an organization dedicated to serving individuals with special needs and senior adults in a camp environment.


“These kids have impacted me more than I have them,” Sydney said. “At first, I thought service was just ‘the act of helping others,’ but I now understand that how you apply yourself in someone’s life can actually alter your perspective and have a bigger impact on your beliefs.”


The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer service.


“The recipients of these awards demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities,” said John  Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “By recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer activities, wee hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community.”


“Demonstrating civic responsibility through volunteerism is an important part of life,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “These honorees practice a lesson we hope all young people, as well as adults, will emulate.”


Prudential Spirit of Community Award applications were distributed nationwide last September through middle level and high schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and Affiliates of Points of Light’s HandOn Network. These schools and officially-designated local organizations nominated Local Honorees, whose applications were advance for state-level judging. In addition to granting President’s Volunteer Service Awards, The Presidential Spirit of Community Awards selected State Honorees, Distinguished Finalists and Certificate of Excellence recipients. Volunteer activities were judged on criteria including personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal growth.





MSM Odyssey of the Mind Team Advances to State Competition

The MSM Odyssey of the Mind team is headed to the state competition after a first-place win at the regional tournament on  Saturday, February 24, at Martin Luther King Elementary.  They will advance to the state tournament held April 7, 2018, at George Junior High School in Springdale.


Odyssey of the Mind (OM) is an international problem-solving competition designed for pre-school through college-age students. Unlike Quiz Bowl or other like competitions, OM has a creative interpretation element and an interpretive solution to a multi-stage long-term problem.  This year’s problem, called “Mockumentary! Seriously?” requires teams to create a mockumentary-style performance of a piece of classic literature.


Since 1999, the Mount St. Mary Odyssey of the Mind teams regularly have been awarded first or second place in regional and state competitions.  The Regional OM competitions lead to state competitions, which lead to national and then the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals.

We wish these girls the best as they move on in their OM journey to the state competition!

(Pictured left to right):  Bianca ’18, Isabella ’20, Breanna ’18, Emily ’19, MaryClaire ’18, Abby ’19, Meredith ’18
Not pictured: Audrey ’20 (manager)



Six MSM students chosen for All-State Choir

On February 17, six students from Mount St. Mary Academy attended the 2018 Arkansas American Choral Directors Association All-State Clinic in Hot Springs. The students — Lexi Caruthers, Clara Cordell, Anna Kate Manchester, Regan Moss, Leah Paige, and Carol Stover — represented Arkansas’ top vocal performers as part of the All-State Choir.


The students spent two days in intense rehearsals with singers from across the state, directed by prestigious choir directors from around the country. On Saturday they performed an incredible concert to showcase the music they learned.


“This is such an amazing accomplishment for these girls and a highly rewarding experience for all of their hard work,” said MSM Choral Director Chelsea Frazier.  “It means they are the best of the best in the state!”


The Concert Belles will perform at the Choral Performance Assessment later this month. Under the direction of Ms. Frazier, the vocal ensemble has received superior ratings at both the regional and state level for three consecutive years. In 2017 the Concert Belles earned two Best In Class awards — Best Medium Female Chorus and Best Medium Chorus Overall.





MSM National Merit Finalist Announced

Mount St. Mary Academy is proud to announce that senior Katie Strickland has been named a National Merit Finalist in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Competition. Katie is among 15,000 high school seniors nationwide who has met all the requirements to advance to Finalist standing and continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships.


More than 1.6 million students nationwide entered the Merit Program as juniors by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. High scorers were designated as Semifinalists in the fall by scoring in the top one percent among students taking the PSAT.


Congratulations, Katie!




MSM Senior Named National Merit Semifinalist

Mount St. Mary Academy student Katie S. has been named a Semifinalist in the 63rd annual National Merit® Scholarship Program. She is among the 16,000 Semifinalists who represent the top one percent of the Class of 2018. Last fall, about 1.6 million juniors across the country entered the 2018 National Merit Scholarship competition by taking the PSAT qualifying test.


These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth about $32 million that will be offered next spring, according to a news release from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.


Grateful for the opportunity, Katie says, “It helps to see my hard work in academics has truly prepared me for life ahead, and it motivates me to continue working toward my goals in the future.”


Steps in the 2018 Competition

About 15,000 seniors will be announced as Finalists in February. To advance to the finals of the scholarship program, students must show a record of consistently high academic performance throughout high school while also earning SAT scores that confirm their earlier performances on the qualifying test. Their high school principal must also write a recommendation.


National Merit Scholarships

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2018. Every Finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit® $2500 Scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 230 corporations and business organizations for Finalists who meet their specified criteria. In addition, about 190 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,000 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for Finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

Best of luck to Katie!



Student Body President Named Girl of Distinction for Women’s Hall of Fame

MSM Student Body President Stephanie V. received the distinct honor of being named one of five “Girls of Distinction” who attended the 2017 Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony held on August 24 at the Statehouse Convention Center.  The Girls of Distinction were invited to meet the members of the third class of Hall of Fame inductees and join in celebrating and honoring the historical impact these great women have made in the state of Arkansas.


The Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame (AWHF) honors women whose contributions have influenced the direction of Arkansas in their community or the state, preserves the history of their accomplishments and provides women encouragement and inspiration. In 2016 the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, founders of Mount St. Mary Academy, were honored as members of the second class of inductees.


Stephanie met Governor Asa Hutchinson and was asked to escort 2017 honorees to the stage in the Wally Allen Ballroom, where they received the public recognition. Of those she assisted were past President and CEO of the Arkansas Community Foundation, Pat Lile, and several members of the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters. Other 2017 inductees, contemporary and historical, included Maya Angelou, renowned author, poet, actor, performer and human rights activist, and Elsijane Trimble Roy, Arkansas’s first woman circuit judge and the first woman on the Arkansas Supreme Court.


Stephanie described her experience with the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame:  “It was very inspiring and made me see how women from all backgrounds are so involved in the community and have paved the way for a younger generation of girls to do the same. I saw how through faith in God, hard work and perseverance, women can accomplish amazing things.”


Stephanie will serve as the 2017-2018 Mount St. Mary Academy Student Body President, leading and helping to manage the Student Council. She has served as a Mountie Messenger student ambassador for three years and is a member of the National Honor Society, National Beta Club and Interact Club.


Two MSM students accepted to UAMS HEALERS program

Must be Mount Girls!  Cameron H. ’19 and Lexi C. ’18 were accepted to the UAMS HEALERS program (Health Education Active Learning Experience for Regional Scholars). The HEALERS program is a hands-on, interactive program open to high school students in Pulaski County who are interested in serving the community through the medical field. Out of hundreds of applicants only twelve students are selected each year to participate in the program; this year’s HEALERS program will be held from June 12 to June 23, 2017.


The HEALERS program allows students to:


  • Learn and ask questions about a variety of medical careers directly from a professional in that field.
  • Learn how to administer first aid to accident victims to include bandaging, control of bleeding, splinting and spinal immobilization.
  • Learn how to administer Basic Life Support (CPR).
  • Demonstrate a better understanding of medical terminology.
  • Demonstrate an increased awareness of teenage health-related issues, enabling each individual to make better informed decisions based on scientific data.
  • To gain experience in a clinical setting through active volunteering.


Congratulations, Cameron and Lexi!



May Publications Feature “Head of the Class” Graduates

During the month of May, several Mount St. Mary Academy seniors were recognized for their outstanding academic achievements.


The Arkansas Times selected Caroline C. to be included among the twenty-one 2017 Academic All-Stars honored as the “best and brightest high school students in the state.”  The Academic All-Stars were honored on April 24th at a ceremony at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with plaques and $250 cash awards. Read more in the Arkansas Times article.

May issue of Arkansas Times: 2017 Academic All-Stars


Claire A., Caroline C. and Katie O. appeared in the “Head of the Class” feature of the May issue of Little Rock Family, which highlighted many talented students from high schools throughout Little Rock and the Central Arkansas region. Read more at Little Rock Family.

May issue of Little Rock Family: 2017 Head of the Class


We congratulate these young women, and all of our graduates, for their hard work and academic achievements as well as their extracurricular and volunteer contributions in our state.


MSM Science Teacher Wins Stephens Award

Mount St. Mary Academy science instructor Marcella Melandri received the Stephens Award by the City Education Trust at a reception on Monday, April 24. Eight high school seniors and five teachers from Little Rock schools were recipients of the 2017 Stephens Awards, which recognize teachers and students with $5,000 scholarships to outstanding students and $8,000 cash awards to selected instructors.


Ms. Melandri has been teaching for the past nine years at the Mount, where she has taught Biology, Honors Biology and IB Biology. She also co-sponsored the HoneyBelles team that won first place in the Lexus Eco Challenge, a national STEM competition, and she has accompanied students on trips abroad.  Congratulations, Ms. Melandri!