Home of Heroes
Fort Polk Progress, as part of it's Education Initiative, recognizes 18-year-old Rebekah LeAnn Bennett, a senior at Simpson High School, and 18-year-old Sean Grady, a senior at Leesville High School, as the Vernon Parish School District’s 2014 High School Students of the Year.
LeAnn’s roots run deep in Vernon Parish and so does her commitment to her community and excellence in school. The straight A student is deeply involved in school activities and is a student leader.
Her favorite subject in school is science, and she says was inspired by her teachers.
'I love science,' LeAnn said. 'My ninth grade teacher really got me excited about science. I love to discover how things work and why they do what they do.'
Her parents, Roger, a forester, and Ramona, the principal at West Leesville Elementary School, as well as her other family members, have instilled in her values that she has utilized to become an outstanding student and citizen.
'I have always been driven,' LeAnn said. 'My grandfather was a motivation to me as a child. He was sick and was told that he would never recover. I saw him suffer, but he didn’t give up and he made it through. I learned to never give up. I want to work hard for my family because they have given me so much.'
Besides being an excellent student, LeAnn is involved in several athletic activities including cross country, softball, basketball and track. She has also been elected president of the student council and has served on the leadership panel for four years. Her community activities include Family Career Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), Fellowship of Christian Students and the Simpson Baptist Youth Group to name a few. She also enjoys 'friends, family reading, hunting and fishing.'
LeAnn has been awarded the Louisiana Scholarship and will be attending Louisiana State University-Alexandria in the fall where she will major in bio-chemistry with a pre-med concentration.
Sean, a homegrown Leesville talent, is the son of Zandra and Scott Grady who is retired from the U.S. Army. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is the recipient of several academic awards including the Louisiana Opportunity and the Northwestern State University Scholarships. He will attend Northwestern State in the fall where he will be majoring in Theater Arts with a concentration in Musical Theater.
'After undergraduate I plan to attend CRAS (The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences) in Arizona. After that, I want to perform,' he said. 'I want to go to Chicago or Los Angeles to perform. Eventually I want to get into directing and someday become an artistic director. I want to create art that’s focused on society. I want to inspire people to realize they have the power to change the world for the better.'
Sean’s favorite subject is English, and he is especially fond of creative writing and learning 'advanced English skills.' He says English is also the 'gateway to other subjects such as philosophy, the arts and history,' all of which are other subjects he enjoys.
Currently it seems Sean is everywhere on the sprawling campus. He runs the audio-visual equipment for just about every on-campus activity including sporting events; acts in school plays; announces for the soccer team; and for good measure, competed in soccer and cross country.
Off campus Sean is also busy. He is learning the technical components of the theater and is well-versed as a sound and lighting technician. Although he said that he does not want to be a 'techie,' he has the insight to know the skills he is mastering at a young age are marketable. He has also been involved with feeding the homeless at soup kitchens and is a member of a youth worship band.
Sean said he wants to be the best student and citizen he can be.
'In one word I can tell you why I am the person I am…Zandra,' he said. 'However, I have my own personal motivation. I have a sense of pride in myself and all that I do. I truly believe my intelligence is a natural gift and I am thankful for that.'
Sean says the list of scholarships he has received could be longer but he has turned down some to assist some of his fellow graduates.
'If I accept any other scholarships it will just reduce the money I get from Northwestern,' he said. 'I have turned down money from some sources so it can be given to another student.'
After 25 years of total service, Lieutenant Colonel Ed Williams retired from the US Army in 2011. His career concluded at Fort Polk as the Chief of Staff of JRTC and Ft. Polk and the Installation Command Inspector General. He is currently employed by Cubic Applications as an instructor at the Joint Readiness Training Center’s Leader Training Program. He is currently the Chairman for the Military Affairs Committee for the Greater Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce a life member of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and has received numerous awards and decorations, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and five Meritorious Service Medals.