Matthew Powell had a big decision to make before he finished high school.
Would he stay in Texas to start as a freshman at Southern Methodist University (SMU) or go to Notre Dame in Indiana?
Powell, 17, a student at Lewisville’s iSchool High recently received scholarship offers from seven universities including Baylor University, Drexel University, Georgia Tech and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The scholarships amounts totaled $650,000 between all the schools.
“I am going to be attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. I am planning to study engineering,” he said.
Born in Dallas and raised in the Lewisville area, Powell is one of 27 students selected to receive the four-year Hunt Leadership Scholarship from SMU. Rose Torres, administrative coordinator of the scholars program said 489 students applied for the coveted scholarship this year.
“We are very excited to have Matthew join us this year,” Torres said in an e-mail, “Mrs. Hunt, our sponsor, interviewed him and was very impressed.”
According to its scholarship’s website, the scholarship is granted to students based on their extraordinary leadership and community work their academic achievement.
Jacqueline Powell, Matt’s mother said she was thrilled with her son’s scholarship and school acceptance.
“We went to a lot of schools and he wrote tons of essays and it paid off,” she said, “It was such a hard decision to make, and they are two amazing schools.”
Even before coming to iSchool High, Mrs. Powell said her son had always been a hard worker.
“He was a great student before, but it elevated once he got to iSchool High,” Mrs. Powell commented.
Powell came to iSchool High in 2009 to begin his junior year. His previous school, American Heritage Academy, a private school in Carrollton had closed due to budget concerns, Mrs. Powell said.
In trying to find a new location, Mrs. Powell said she wanted a school that would allow her son to reach his full potential.
“One of the things I love about the high school is that students can grasp what they are learning and how they are going to apply that in the real world,” she said.
The small classes, the individual learning and having a good relationship with his teachers, Powell said, were essential to his educational advancement.
“The setup was not much different from my previous school,” Powell said. “It was the same size as my other school. I was already used to a small environment. Mainly, the difference [at iSchool High] is the teachers.”
Powell believes teachers at iSchool High were more accessible and had a greater interest in seeing him succeed.
“I felt I could come to them whenever I needed help. They could be my mentor, my friend and also my teacher all at the same time. They did not have to be some teacher who was standoffish from her student and not have a relationship with them,” Powell said.
At iSchool High, not only was Powell able to maintain an impressive grade-point average, but also take part in the school activities. Last fall he joined two classmates as part of their school’s engineering team led by their engineering teacher Jerry Price. Powell described his experienced as unique and stressful, but he said working on their robot until 1 a.m. days before the completion was worth it.
iSchool High’s Innovations team earned first place in the regional competition of the Texas Computer Education Association’s (TCEA) Robotics Competition. The win granted the team a spot in the 2011 TCEA State Competition in the April.
“We ended up getting fourth in state,” Powell said about the statewide competition results, “It was a big accomplishment, and it is our first year ever entering the competition.”
When he was not in the classroom, Powell participated as a juror in Lewisville/Flower Mound’s Teen Court two times per month for about two hours. According to its website, Teen Court is an alternative, voluntary program which offers teen offenders an opportunity to make restitution for most of their offenses through community service.
“When a teen is convicted for a Class “C” misdemeanor, they are tried by a jury of their peers. Their sentences would count a certain amount of jury term and certain amount of community service hours,” Powell said about the program.
Before trying teen Court, Powell has spent three years volunteering on the Carrollton Youth Task Force, an organization that helps teens learn about municipal government and provides them community volunteer opportunities.
Last month, Powell returned from Germany where he had spent two weeks as part of his school’s foreign exchange program. In October, Powell and his family hosted two German students at their home, they became friends and from then to June, they kept in touch.
“From October to June I spoke to them a lot,” he said about keeping in touch with Fabian Kulawik, one of the students from Germany, “I spoke to his mom and his brother and I plan to keep in touch with them and all the kids I met on the trip.”
Powell graduated from iSchool High with a 4.57 grade-point-average while participating in special programs and conducting community service. He was his class’ student council president, organized the school’s first junior/senior prom and was the assistant coach to Quest Middle School boys basketball and track teams.
The summer before he completed his senior year, Powell took part in the U.S. Navy Seabees Engineering and Construction Camp in California. His mother said it was that program that solidified what her son wanted to do for his future.
Now Powell, the youngest of two, is well on his way to becoming the family’s first mechanical or aerospace engineer. His sisters’ 22-year-old Candace is studying pre-med at Baylor and Ebony, 23, is studying psychology and business at a university in Oklahoma.
Powell said his mother, Jacqueline and his father, Victor, owners of NeoGenesis Consulting, Inc., an oil and gas company, have always stressed the importance of education. Mrs. Powell will be starting a resource website to help parents and students get all the information they need in order to prepare for college.
“Education is not a destination, it is a journey and you are always learning,” Mrs. Powell said, “I told Matthew to be always be open to learning, because education never stops.”