FISH ’N FEST IN ORANGE — Students lead fishing tournament, festival fun for Texas Academy

Published 12:18 am Friday, October 20, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

One single day of upcoming fun includes a Redfish and Bass Tournament, plus a Texas Academy FISH ’N FEST.

The fun is planned Oct. 28 in local waters around Orange Pavilion and is put solely through the efforts of local and regional students.

Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities is a special legislative school district for juniors and seniors in high school who get two free years of college completely paid for by TEA and Lamar University.

“Each student that comes here will get up to 15 credit hours free,” said Matthew Chin, who is the Texas Academy Student Council president.

Junior representative Madison McGuire, formerly of Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School, chose to complete high school at the Academy.

“I’m always searching for something more and I found that with the Texas Academy program,” McGuire said. “I really like being able to have this opportunity so young. I think being here, the best part, the biggest change so far is that I have this transition while I’m still at home with my parents. It’s not like I’m moving five hours away and having to adapt to college life. I’m getting to slowly adapt to it with peer mentors and counselors at the Texas Academy.”

Academy students are eligible for undergraduate research and can join a host of clubs like Model United Nations, chess, journalism, STEM and Art. And as Lamar University students, they have access to a wide swath of  activities available to all students.

Chin regards Texas Academy enrollment as a jumpstart on the rest of his life.

“I took 16 credit hours both semesters last year,” he said. “I took 18 hours over the summer and now I’m taking 18 in the fall and spring of this year, so when I leave the program, I’ll probably have anywhere between 80-86 credit hours, which is essentially three years of college taken off.”

Texas Academy student leaders include, from left, top row, Will Naas, Matthew Chin, Rubin Rao, Nikhil Patel, bottom row, Alli Gross, Sylvia Dao, Isabella Tran, Maryah Javed and Madison McGuire. (Courtesy photo)

Both students credited family support in explaining why they chose to finish high school at Lamar University.

Leadership training is central to the Academy; students plan, organize and operate annual fundraisers.

“One of the biggest things the Academy likes to drive is all the things we do here are student-oriented,” Chin said. “We have four administrators and one dean, which is unlike a traditional high school. A lot of the responsibilities they have are managerial — advising us how to do things. All of the events we have, like social events and fundraising, are student-led.”

The application process starts with an online form that can be found at Prospective students can attend a Preview Day information session Jan. 27.

Fishing and more

In hosting the biggest fundraiser of the year with a fishing tournament and fall festival in Orange, students aim to upgrade decades-old Academy facilities to meet current enrollment, which has more than tripled since the program’s inception.

Chin and the rest of the Texas Academy team selected Orange because it is suitable for fresh and saltwater fishermen.

“We were open to any public waters in Texas and Louisiana, so that’s why we decided as Orange as a good spot,” Chin said.

A $250 fishing tournament entry fee opens the door to cash prizes of $2,500, $1,750, and $1,000 for first, second and third place, respectively, in addition to the chance to win raffle items and door prizes.

The fishing tournament begins at 5 a.m. Oct. 28, weigh-in commences at 4 p.m., and an awards ceremony is held after the weigh-in.

Entrants may visit to register, access tournament rules and gauge interest in an optional side pot.

The Fall Festival fun begins with activities at noon. All festival attractions require tickets that can be purchased in advance at or at the gate Oct. 28.

The festival also offers free activities that include a bounce house and costume contest.

“It can really be a fun event where people can encourage the family members that are fishing, as well as having fun and food,” McGuire said. “If I wanted to go somewhere, that’s where I would want to go. That’s how we have planned all this, as if it was something we wanted to do on our Saturdays. As an Orange resident, I’ve seen that we do have a lot of events happening, but I’m always searching for more.”

— Written by Shari Hardin