LIVINGSTON -- Ten-year-old Jace Griffin loves competition.
Whether he’s on the baseball field or in the classroom, competing is something the Live Oak Middle fifth grader craves, while failure is something not to be tolerated.
This week, Griffin took part in one of the biggest competitions of his life. And if all goes to plan, he’ll compete in an even bigger one soon after.
Griffin was one of 14 fifth graders from across Region IV who answered questions before a panel of judges at the Livingston Parish School Board on Friday.
All the students were named their respective school and parish’s Student of the Year, and all were vying for the title of Region IV’s top elementary student.
The Louisiana Department of Education will release the names of the 21 regional nominees in grades 5, 8 and 12 March 7-9. Regional winners will then stand before the state selection committee, which will review the academic portfolios of the regional nominees, conduct interviews with regional finalists, and score the writing samples.
The State Selection Committee will then name the Elementary School Student of the Year (grade 5), Middle/Junior High School Student of the Year (grade 8), and High School Student of the Year (grade 12) on April 11.
Even though he’s up against some stiff competition, Griffin said he felt confident about his chances following his Student of the Year interview, which ended with him getting big laughs from the panel of six judges for doing a hip-shaking dance he calls “the floss.”
Though he likes to make others laugh, Griffin knows when to be serious.
He said he’s gotten straight A’s for as long as he can remember, ever since the first grade when “I first started getting report cards.” His perfect grades have resulted in numerous awards spanning all subjects, and he has no intention of seeing that run end anytime soon.
“I’m always scared to death to get a B,” he said. “I want to keep the streak going.”
His father Terry Griffin, who accompanied him to the Livingston Parish School Board on Friday, said failure is not something his son can easily accept.
In fact, it’s something they’re constantly talking about.
“We’ve been working for years on how to handle failure,” Terry Griffin said. “But to me, it’s easier to teach that than to teach someone to have a competitive spirit.
“I used to coach sports for 20 years, and that was the hardness thing to do, to teach someone how to compete. It’s much easier to scale it back a little bit.”
Griffin said his favorite subjects are math and science — his mother is a chemistry/physics teacher at Live Oak High — and he particularly enjoys Live Oak Middle’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) after-school program.
Outside of school, he’s like any other 10-year-old: He loves to play outside, and he loves playing sports.
He enjoys baseball, football and basketball, though he prefers to be on the diamond behind home plate. He also likes to dance — evidenced by the decision to incorporate “the floss” into his Student of the Year interview — and jump on the trampoline. He recently learned how to do a backflip, after many failed attempts.
Like anything else he does, Griffin eventually gets it right.
“He has a fear of failure,” his father said. “He’s gonna work at something until he gets it.”