Going above and beyond
Students pursue their dreams through music, research
Countless youth in Calcasieu Parish will finish 2018 with plenty of accomplishments, but three have gone above and beyond in pursuing academic and artistic accolades.
Two high school seniors were honored for their musical achievements, while one college senior got the chance to take part in a biology-based research internship.
Jakylyn Bowers, a senior at LaGrange High School, will represent Calcasieu Parish for the upcoming Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in February. After competing against more than 10,000 students internationally, Bowers will sing in front of representatives from college and professional music programs.
“I’ve always had the dream of going somewhere big to showcase my talents,” he said. “I sing with a purpose of trying to go somewhere with it, and New York City is definitely a big opportunity.”
During the five-day trip, Bowers said he hopes to be picked as a soloist or conductor in one of the choir’s selections. Being a soloist would be a “true honor,” but conducting would be a “dream come true” because he eventually wants to be a vocal music teacher, he said.
Bowers said LaGrange choir director, Janie Williams, motivated him to teach.
“When I look at her, she shows me a woman of integrity, motivation and determination,” he said. “She helps kids get through the day.”
Bowers said he hasn’t decided on a university, but he has been accepted into McNeese State University. He has also applied to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Xavier University.
Sarah Medwick, a senior at Sulphur High School, was named Louisiana’s top high school clarinetist in November after being selected as first chair in the All-State Band. She has studied music and clarinet since late elementary school.
“I want to do this for the rest of my life,” she said. “I want to be able to inspire others.”
Along with taking private clarinet and voice lessons, Medwick rehearses weekly to prepare for her performances with the high school band, and the Francis G. Bulber Youth Orchestra and Glad Tidings Church orchestra.
“I’ve definitely had to pick and choose what I’m going to allow into my life and what I’m going to make time for,” she said.
Sacrificing her time for music has been worth it, Medwick said.
“At the end of the day, it is a love of music,” she said. “But it feels like even more than that. You can’t really isolate it to one thing. It’s having a great performance and inspiring somebody else to feel how you feel.”
Medwick’s work ethic also gave her the chance to study with world-renowned professional clarinetists from the National Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
She has received numerous national offers to study music after high school and is currently weighing offers from McNeese and Louisiana State University. Medwick said she plans to study music and foreign language to prepare for a career as a professional musician.
Claude Albritton, a senior at Xavier University and a 2015 graduate of Sam Houston High School, was selected for a prestigious research internship at the University of California at San Diego. Albritton, a biology major, studied molecular and cell biology under UCSD’s Brian Zid to determine how molecules and cells react to stress.
He spent eight weeks working full-time with Zid, an experience that he said positively shaped his outlook on his career goals.
“You want to choose a career that doesn’t feel like a job, and for me the lab is just that,” he said. “I love research. The nine-hour days didn’t shift my outlook. I understand, now, how serious it can be.”
UCSD’s research training academy lets students study under research professionals, but Albritton said his special interest in molecular biology gave him the opportunity to build upon his professor’s research. After hearing Albritton’s ideas, Zid expanded the scope of their research question.
“Part of the project was actually my contribution too,” Albritton said. “So that made me feel really good. Like, I actually did something to make this whole idea come together.”
Though the team did not conclusively answer the questions to their study during the eight weeks, Albritton said, the critical thinking skills he first developed in his advanced high school courses, and then strengthened in college, served him well in the professional laboratory.
“I had been told time after time to take this (school) seriously,” he said. “I really took it all to heart and wanted to be as focused as I could be. It’s one thing to just have information in the back of your head. But if you don’t know why it’s important, you can’t translate that into actual work.”
Albritton has applied to multiple graduate programs including UCSD, University of Notre Dame and Vanderbilt University. He will graduate in May and plans to pursue graduate studies in immunology.
Claude Albritton conducts research in a biology laboratory at the University of California at San Diego.
Sarah Medwick performs at Sax in the City 2018. She has studied music and clarinet since late elementary school.
Jakylyn Bowers, a senior at LaGrange High School, will represent Calcasieu Parish for the upcoming Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in February.