I'm on my way to LSMSA! Ft. Polk teen gets big surprise

Fort Polk, LA. (KALB) On Friday morning, Ara Parke could hardly contain her excitement before getting into her car to pick up her 16-year-old daughter Leila Escoto from school for a 'doctor's appointment.'

Leila Escoto, 16, is headed to her dream high school. (KALB)

"I'm going to go pick up my daughter from Leesville High School. We're going to surprise her with this big surprise of going to LSMSA (Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts), her dream come true and she has no idea!"

Escoto has big dreams with the ultimate goal of becoming a surgeon. But on Friday, one of those came true--being accepted into LSMSA, something she's wanted since 7th grade.

KALB was in LSMSA's van, which was hidden behind a truck parked in the Cul de Sac near Escoto's Fort Polk home, where her family is stationed. At first, the teen looked confused when the blue van pulled up, but once she read the LSMSA lettering on the side of the vehicle, Escoto's eyes lit up.

"Surprise!" said Steve Horton, LSMSA's Executive Director as he held up a sign that said 'I'm on my way to LSMSA!'

Another LSMSA staff member chimed in, "Congratulations! You're our first admission of the year!" and handed her a handful of blue and gold balloons.

Mom had been planning the surprise since Leila's birthday by starting the application process.

On her birthday, one of Escoto's gifts was an LSMSA application packet. Mom caught her daughter's reaction on camera.

'I get to go to LSMSA!' Escoto said through tears after she realized what was in the box.

Now Escoto is one step closer to achieving her goals.

"It's very very exciting," Escoto said. "Anything that furthers me in where I want to go and what I want to do, is just a dream." When asked about the effort her parents went through to surprise her, Escoto got emotional. "Not a lot of people have those kinds of parents, it just means a lot." That, of course, got mom all choked up, her husband was a little teary-eyed as well.

"She worked for this, this is all her," said Escoto's mom. "I just signed the paper, she's the one who got herself here and I'm so proud of her."

Parke adds that her daughter is not only a good student and big sister but a great role model for young women.

"She wants to be involved in everything to absorb as much knowledge and as much life as she can...if you say 'well you can't do that' she'll be like 'watch me, I will!'"

The staff at LSMSA, who helped coordinate the surprise, were just as excited to hand Escoto her acceptance letter. Some are graduates themselves.

"It's fun to watch kids who want to go to school," said Horton. "Who want to learn, who are excited about a biology practical...but it's the idea that they want to do it, they want to be challenged."

Escoto is officially the first admission to LSMSA for the 2018-2019 school year. The fanfare, which the school jokes is 'Publisher's Clearing House' style, is a tradition Executive Director Horton started last year.