Highest ranked senior attributes success to family


Senior Joshua Shields, or as his peers refer to him “Duke”, completes his high school education with the highest GPA in the school and a full-ride scholarship to Duke University. Shields acknowledges that the hours spent studying and completing  scholarship applications has been worth it because he now feels free from financial stress. Shields is able to relax as his senior year comes to a close because of a program called QuestBridge.

“Questbridge is an extensive, in depth application, and if you become a finalist then you can rank different schools,” Shields said. “I matched with Duke through that program.”

He has passed each AP class and exam he has taken so far. Shields also maintains the highest GPA in the school. 

“It’s definitely been a struggle to get to that point, but in the end I’d say it was worth it,” Shields said. 

According to senior Luke Lightner, Shields has always stood out among his classmates intellectually, even at a very young age.  

“I could see his potential because it was really easy for him to beat me at chess,” Lightner said. “In GT [Gifted and Talented], he was always the one that would finish first and so seeing that you could tell that he was going to be really smart when he was older.”

Shields takes pride in his achievements, and has been able to see them validated through his extensive list of awards and honors. 

“I am a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar, QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, Recipient of the Arkansas Seal of Biliteracy, AP Scholar with Honors, AP Scholar with Distinction, and a National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar,” Shields said. “I will receive the AP Award of Excellence that they’re about to give out, and then I’ll also be in the Governor’s Scholastic Honors Delegate that’s coming up.” 

Shields said that his drive to exceed expectations and continue working towards his goals comes from his family.  

“I do it for my parents,” Shields said. “My grandparents come from El Salvador. They worked hard all their life, so I guess it is an effort to repay them. I also feel like the pressure comes from myself because of the feeling that I need to live up to the standards that I hold myself to.”

These standards, according to Shields, are inspired by his mother’s ability to thrive and be successful regardless of her circumstances.

“I guess just watching my mom, she grew up poor, but she still became a teacher,” Shields said. “She would pick coffee with my grandparents then she made it out. And so I’m just following that example in pursuing higher education.”

After graduation, Shields plans to pursue either environmental engineering or civil engineering. He has felt drawn to environmental engineering specifically because he wants to improve the sustainability of water, especially in developing countries. Throughout Shields’ childhood he spent entire summers living with his family in El Salvador, and those experiences have widened his perspective to the infrastructural issues in the area.

“In El Salvador we didn’t have running water all the time,” Shields said. “I remember one time my aunt had to carry water to her house in this giant jug. And so for the sustainability aspect of water it’s about providing accessibility and resources to developing countries.” 

This goal, according to Shields, is what makes environmental engineering attractive to him. As for civil engineering, he enjoys the idea that he will be able to work on something and leave a lasting impact on communities. 

Shields is most excited for life after high school because of the opportunity to see more of the world outside of the town he grew up in. After a trip to Chicago for a Hispanic Scholarship Fund event, Shields said his eyes were opened to the diversity in culture and ideas found in larger cities. 

“I’m looking forward to leaving Arkansas,” Shields said. “I just want to explore more of the world. After the Youth Leadership Institute for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund in Chicago, I got to see that there were people from everywhere and there’s a lot more out there than just Arkansas.”