Lisa Smith, 17, may have flunked her driving test, but she's still a scholar. Such a scholar, in fact, that every grade the Frederick Douglass High School graduate has made since the seventh grade has been an A. She has been accepted by Harvard University and may enter as a sophomore, depending on the outcome of several tests.
Lisa was not upset by failing the driver's test, she says, because she doesn't need to drive. Her father Calvert Smith, a bank clerk, said he "was happy" because now he would not have to worry about accidents.
Lisa, by one teacher's academic yardstick, is the ideal student.
"Lisa is a testimonial to what a gifted student can do in a public high school today," said John Brown, who taught her advanced placement English at Frederick Douglass.
Although Lisa was offered scholarships to Hampton Institute, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, she accepted a $1,400 grant from Harvard, which she can renew each school year.
By July, Lisa should know if she will be able to circumvent her freshman year and enter Harvard as a sophomore. At that time, she will have the results of advanced placement tests taken in English, French and calculus. The Harvard Advanced Standing Office requires entering students to pass at least three subjects to qualify for advanced standing. During her junior year, Lisa passed the exam for American history, scoring the maximum on the college entrance exam.
Brian J. Porter, spokesman for the Prince George's school system, said Lisa is a model for sophomores and juniors. "She is a good example of what you can do by working hard."
Porter added that Lisa was one of many students who were accepted to prestigious Ivy League schools.
Lisa, who plans to become a trial attorney and eventually enter politics, has excelled in math, science and the humanities. She is a student of literature as well. Brown said many of her papers were of college caliber. In one assignment, for example, she dazzled her instructor with her analysis of "Der Steppenwolf," Hermann Hesse's novel about ordeals of technology and realism. She did equally well on essays about French existentialism, Shakespeare's "King Lear" and writer Franz Kafka.
Outside the classroom, Lisa is described by friends as a student leader -- president of the honor society, a member of the math and French clubs and valedictorian.
Teri Talbot, the other valedictorian and Lisa's close friend, will attend the University of Maryland and plans eventually to study law. This summer she is working as a clerk-typist for the International Communications Agency in Washington.
Although Lisa plans to prepare for Harvard this summer by reading, most of her time will be spent at a full-time job as a clerk-typist for the Prince George's public shcools.
One of the highlights of Lisa's high school career was a trip she and 24 other teachers and students made last year to France. On their tour was Paris, Versailles and Fountainebleau.
"When I came home I cried because I missed it so much," Lisa recalled.
Unlike many of the other group members, Lisa had studied French for five years and could easily talk with the citizenry.
After a city that was foreign and exciting, coming home to sleepy Upper Marlboro required a readjustment. "I want to return to France someday," she said.
At home, with walls full of awards for academic merit, Lisa folds her arms and talks with reserve about her accomplishments.
She said that the honor society had created a tutoring program for classmates, but it wasn't successful.
"The students who really needed the help were afraid," she said. However, her personal attention to one classmate, in economics, helped him to graduate, she said.
Socially, Lisa spends little time dating.
"I don't like to go out too much. And when you're in school, there's really not enough time to go out," she said. Before graduation, the last movie she had seen was "Star Trek," in December.
Lisa plays the piano and is sometimes asked to play at weddings.
Among the first items Lisa and her mother, Delores, a transfer analyst for the school system, plan to buy for Harvard are blazers and jeans. Lisa, an only child, took a trip to Cambridge last fall and saw that students dressed casually.
A friend, Karen Curry, a 1980 Harvard graduate, told Lisa that she should not be afraid of the name Harvard, nor be intimidated by the work.
However, Lisa admits she chose Harvard chiefly for its reputation.
"I know I had a chance to go to other schools, but I wanted to go to Harvard. It's more prestigious than the other schools."