124 welcomed at LSMSA’s annual Matriculation Ceremony

The Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) recognized 124 new students representing 39 of the state’s parishes during its annual Matriculation Ceremony on Sept. 1.

The incoming class has an average GPA of 3.9 and an average ACT score that is six points higher than the average exiting ACT scores from graduating seniors in the state of Louisiana. Five students joined the class of 2024, 45 joined the class of 2025, and 74 inaugurated the class of 2026. They walked across the stage and signed the official roster of LSMSA, cementing their place in the school’s ever-growing history.

“I hope that you sense already what it can mean for you to soar with the eagles,” said Executive Director Dr. Steve Horton, imploring the new students to look to the future. “No ceremony of any academic stature is complete without words from someone who appreciates the accomplishments of our youth who will grow to be our country’s leaders.”

Former Louisiana School executive director Dr. Patrick Widhalm delivered the keynote address. Recently retired as Ben Franklin High School’s head of school, Widhalm began his LSMSA career in 1985, teaching major and minor study piano, giving recitals, and accompanying students for the next eight years before accepting an opportunity in 1998 to help found the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities where he served as dean of arts and academics. In 2001, Widhalm returned to LSMSA, serving 15 years as LSMSA’s longest-serving executive director.

Widhalm spoke about the students’ choice to attend the Louisiana School, comparing it to “the road less traveled,” written about by Robert Frost. 

“Each of you has chosen this road for a variety of reasons,” said Widhalm, citing the opportunities to get an outstanding education, to grow in a tolerant and accepting place, to compete and cooperate with others like you, and to have front row seat at the Natchitoches Christmas Festival. “The road ahead is long, and you’re just starting it. I encourage you to make all your decisions with care, understanding, and respect for others and this institution.”

During his speech, Widhalm challenged students to use the Rotary service organization’s 4-way test to help guide their decisions: Is it true? Is it fair to all concerned? Does it build goodwill and better friendships? Is it beneficial to all concerned?

“Dr. Alost and Rep. Long envisioned this school to embrace students from all areas of our state,” concluded Widhalm. “You belong here.” 

Senior Class President William Huguet (’24) offered new students a few important tips, “Learn to stay hydrated, do not be afraid to try something new, and have fun. I hope all of you find the home that 5,584 Eagles before us have found.”

The processional was performed by the LSMSA Instrumental Ensemble conducted by Dr. Al Benner, with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Mackenzie LaCombe (’24). Kameron Friddle (’24) sang the National Anthem, and Phillip Voorhees (‘24) led the crowd in singing the Alma Mater. Following the ceremony, students returned home with their families for the first Extended Weekend of the academic year. To view the event, visit https://livestream.com/lsmsa/matriculation23.

LSMSA, ranked one of the World’s Best Boarding Schools by Fortune magazine, is a tuition-free, public high school for high-achieving rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a nominal room and board fee to cover housing, meals, and campus activities. The LSMSA Foundation offers assistance for families in need to ensure no eligible student is denied the school’s 40-year legacy of a premium college-level living/learning experience. For more information about the Louisiana School or to submit your application for enrollment, visit http://www.LSMSA.edu.