The 17-year-old Deerfied Beach High School senior has a 4.4 GPA and will be attending Florida Atlantic University (FAU) on a full scholarship to pursue a Forensic Accounting degree in the fall.
A native of Ft. Lauderdale, Barrett was recently selected to become a member of the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), which recognizes top scholars who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, scholarship and community commitment.
Claes Nobel, the founder and chairman of NSHSS who is also a member of the family who established Nobel Prizes, made the announcement.
“On behalf of NSHSS, I am honored to recognize the hard work, sacrifice and commitment that Leighshana has demonstrated to achieve this exceptional level of academic excellence,” Nobel said. “Leighshana is now a member of a unique community of scholars – a community that represents our very best hope for the future.”
According to the NSHSS, it recognizes academic excellence at the high school level and helps to advance the goals and aspirations of high-achieving millennials through unique learning experiences, scholarships, internships, international study and peer networks. Currently, there are more than 1,000,000 society members in 160 countries.
Barrett said NSHSS contacted her, asked her to join and waived the fee she would normally have to pay. She was grateful to be selected for membership in such an esteemed organization and to receive a full scholarship to college from FAU.
“I was overjoyed. There were no words that I could say. I was just so happy to know that all my hard work I’ve been putting in for all these years, trying to buckle down to get the right grades, the right GPA, the right SAT/ACT scores, all of my late night studying paid off,” Barrett said.
She credits her mother, Verisha, with inspiring her to do well in school, and life overall.
“My mom has played the biggest role. I was actually raised by my mom only, so seeing how she had to struggle with student loans and struggle to make sure we were okay, it made me push harder to make her proud and get good grades to make sure I didn’t fall into the same place,” Barrett said.
“I watched her go for her Masters (degree) and it showed me how college was, what I would experience and face in the future. Watching my mom do it, I said well if my mom can do it, I can do it.”
Verisha said she loves her daughter and wants her to stay focused on Jesus.
“I am so proud of Leighshana. She’s come a long way from being a sixteen year old to (a young lady who) accomplished so much. With only one parent in the home, she has truly took up the mantle,” Verisha said.
Barrett said she decided to pursue forensic accounting in college because she loves both math and mystery.
“I really like criminal shows, crime scenes and trying to get down to the bottom of a mystery and I also work very well with math so I was like I can do the forensic side and also get the pleasure of mathematics with it,” Barrett said.
After graduation, she plans to take some downtime before going off to college.
“I’m taking the time to take a breather and relax. I’m actually going to use my summer for family time,” Barret said.
She advised her peers to persevere through trials to achieve their goals.
“Continue to work hard. Sometimes it doesn’t look like everything is looking up, but continue to go forward because everything will pay off in the end,” Barrett said.
In addition to her mother, she credits her faith with helping her be successful thus far.
“I am Christian so me doing all of this … my faith has caused me to keep going. I stand on Philippians 4:13 which says ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ Barrett said. “With that scripture, with my faith, it propels me to go forward and keep reaching for the stars because I know that God will continue to work things out for me. He will continue to provide for me.”