BRIGHT FUTURES — Nederland graduate earns once-in-a-lifetime Lamar University scholarship

Published 12:13 am Tuesday, June 30, 2020

NEDERLAND — Nederland High School graduate Kristen Baker is one of the new Presidential Mirabeau Scholar’s for Lamar University.

The full-ride scholarship, worth $80,000, covers eight semesters of tuition, room and board, books and other necessities. It is the most competitive and prestigious scholarship offered at the four-year university.

Presidential scholars are required to submit a letter of interest, three letters of recommendation, earn an SAT score of at least 1300 and pass a rigorous interview process.

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“I feel beyond blessed to have received this scholarship,” Baker said. “Before getting this scholarship, I only felt stress about making sure I had the money to go into higher education. Now, with that weight lifted off my shoulders, I only feel excited about learning new things at college.”

Nederland graduate Kristen Baker received the highest scholarship, the Mirabeau, at Lamar University for a full ride.

Baker also received the MPAC Senior Scholarship and Westernaires Senior Scholarship from Nederland High School.

The 17-year-old lives and breathes dance. As a part of the Keely Jardell’s School of Dance, and the Westernaires, Baker has been dancing for nearly 15 years.

“I took all styles of dance including ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, clogging, pointe and lyrical,” Baker said.

Keely Jardell’s competes at dance competitions across the state and at a national level.

The Westernaires drill team at Nederland High School is a football halftime show tradition at Bulldog Stadium.

“I joined this organization because I have always loved to dance,” Baker said. “Since I was little, I have seen those girls dance on the field, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that, too. This organization teaches discipline, dedication and teamwork.

“It will forever hold a place in my heart. This organization and the people who are a part of it have made me who I am today. I have been so grateful to be a part of this Nederland tradition.”

Westernaires Director Laura Kendrick said she was glad to have Baker on the team for the last four years.

“She was one of the hardest workers,” Kendrick said. “She always had her grades as a top priority and gave it 100 percent in everything she did. She balanced drill team and school and always had clear goals, just an overall great kid.”

Her squad voted Baker as the most outstanding senior for the 2019-2020 year.

“She was always there to help if someone wasn’t getting a dance move down,” Kendrick said. “She was always there to aid any member that needed her or needed help in general.”

Stepping out of her dance shoes, Baker soars in academics and volunteerism.

The Nederland native is a longstanding volunteer for the Relay for Life.

“Relay for Life is the signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society,” Baker said. “I have been a part of this organization since I was born, since my parents were both a part of it. In fact, I took my first steps at my first Relay for Life event.”

Baker also graduated at the No. 3 spot in her class with honor society cords.

“I’ve always loved to learn,” she said. “Learning new things is exciting to me, so I think the importance of my educational journey is less about the end goal and more about the ability to learn from a variety of professors and subjects.”

In the fall, Baker will begin studying for her bachelor’s in general business. She hopes to follow in her dad’s footsteps and own a business.

Friends and family describe Baker as hardworking, thoughtful, dependable and caring. Embarking on her new journey, she shared a final piece of advice for incoming freshmen, seniors and NISD students with her favorite quote: “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself,” by George Bernard Shaw.

“I’ve always been confused by the idea of people needing to travel to live life to the fullest,” Baker said. “I’ve always thought that life is the little things that pass you by when you aren’t paying attention. I vowed to myself that I would always pay attention to the small moments in my life because these are the moments that will ultimately create who I am.”