Eyes on the prize

Leéna Boone, a high school student who will soon graduate with two degrees from Lorain County Community College, was named to the 2020 All-USA Academic Team. (Photo: LCCC)

Leéna Boone, who enrolled in her first class at Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Ohio when she was just 12 years old, was recently named one of the top 20 community college students in the country and the number one community college student in Ohio. She is also one of the students that LCCC microbiology professor and acclaimed HIV-AIDS researcher Dr. Harry Kestler thinks has a chance to someday win a Nobel Prize. 

“Leéna Boone is an amazing individual. She has presented her work at two national conferences and has amazed scientists from Harvard to Stanford with her maturity, sophistication and impressive drive,” Kestler said. “She will accomplish great things. I am extremely proud of her.”

Boone is now a 17-year-old senior at Lorain County Early College High School, a combined high school and college experience on the LCCC campus. She will graduate in May with two LCCC associate degrees, a high school diploma and a world of opportunity.

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Boone is one of just 20 students named to the national All-USA Academic Team and will receive a $5,000 scholarship. The All-USA program is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious academic honors for students attending associate degree-granting institutions. Members are selected for their outstanding intellectual achievement, leadership, and community and campus engagement.

Boone placed first in Ohio and was also named a 2020 New Century Transfer Scholar and will receive an additional $2,250 scholarship. More than 2,000 students were nominated from more than 1,200 college campuses across the country. Only one New Century Transfer Scholar is selected from each state.

An early start

The Ohio native, who first enrolled in LCCC classes through the College Credit Plus program at age 12, has served as president of the LCCC’s student chapter of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). She has also presented her research on the mechanisms of resistance to HIV infection at national, statewide and local conferences. At the ASM conference in 2017, Boone was one of the youngest presenters, and last year she won first place at the Microscopy Society of Northeast Ohio conference.

“Leéna is a stand-out student at LCCC and we are thrilled to see her recognized at the national level,” said LCCC President Marcia Ballinger. “In addition to her impressive academic achievements, Leéna is a leader on campus and has taken full advantage of every opportunity at LCCC and Early College. We are so proud of her and can’t wait to see what she will accomplish in the future.”

Boone is also a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, an elite scholarship program for students transferring from community colleges to top-ranked or Ivy League colleges and universities. She planned to interview with Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, among other institutions.

A car accident when she was 10 left Boone with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a rare disease that causes chronic pain. She aims to earn a Ph.D. and become a medical researcher to help find relief for people who suffer from conditions like hers.

The All-USA Academic Team is sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group, with additional support provided by Phi Theta Kappa and the American Association of Community Colleges.

About the Author

Kim Carrasquillo
is a writer/project coordinator at Loraine County Community College in Ohio.