Valedictorians and Salutatorians lead the Class of 2014

June 3, 2014

Graduations will soon begin, and we are pleased to feature our high school valedictorians and salutatorians for this year.

DVDs of Northside’s graduation ceremonies are available for purchase online. Each DVD is a professionally-produced DVD of the complete graduation ceremony. DVDs cost $18 plus a handling fee.

In addition, each graduation ceremony will be streamed live at www.nisd.net beginning 15 minutes before the ceremony.

Brandeis High School

Cyrus Daruwalla, Valedictorian
Sara Tupponce, Salutatorian

Cyrus Daruwalla, the valedictorian for Brandeis High School, plans to major in biology at The University of Texas at San Antonio and later attend medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center.The son of Darius and Neelam Daruwalla received numerous scholarships including the Eliot scholarship from Washington University, the Provost’s scholarship from the University of Notre Dame, the Vanderbilt scholarship from Vanderbilt University, the Emory Opportunity scholarship from Emory University, the National Sciences scholarship from The University of Texas at Austin, and the Martin Goland scholarship from Southwest Research Institute. He served as president and librarian of the Brandeis Band, vice president and secretary of the Student Council, and vice president and treasurer of the Spanish National Honor Society.

Sara Tupponce, the salutatorian for Brandeis High School, plans to major in engineering at Baylor University. The daughter of James and Eli Tupponce, she is the recipient of the President’s Gold scholarship from Baylor University. She served as vice president of the Brandeis Orchestra and chairman of the Ecobroncos Recycling Club.

Brennan High School

Brittany Winters, Valedictorian
Ashlee Caseres, Salutatorian

Brittany Winters, the valedictorian at Brennan High School, plans to major in International Business at Baylor University. The daughter of William and Lupita Winters, she has earned the President’s Gold scholarship from Baylor University, the Texas PTA scholarship, and an Irish Cultural Society scholarship. She served as vice president of National Honor Society, class president, and front ensemble captain in the Brennan Band. She is a National Hispanic Scholar, made the All-Region band for three years, and reached the state competition in English UIL Literary Criticism.

“I would like to thank my amazing parents for continually supporting me in all of my academic and extra-curricular endeavors,” she said. “I would also like to say thank two very special teachers- my band director of three years, Mr. Stern, for taking my appreciation of music to an entirely different level, and my sophomore English teacher, Ms. McFeaters, for introducing me to UIL competitions and expanding my knowledge of literature.”

Ashlee Caseres is this year’s salutatorian at Brennan High School and plans to study pharmacology at the University of the Incarnate Word. She is the daughter of Phillip and Elizabeth Caseres and earned a Dean’s scholarship and McCracken Alumni Referral scholarship from the University of Incarnate Word. At Brennan, she served as captain of the varsity cheer squad.

“I would like to thank both of my amazing parents for being so supportive throughout these last few years,” she said. “This would not have been possible without you. I promise to make both of you proud in the future.”

Business Careers High School

Xavier Alexander Durham, Valedictorian
Sakina Kasamali, Salutatorian

Xavier Alexander Durham, is the 2014 valedictorian at Business Careers High School. The son of Lester Durham and Janet Pyatte-Durham plans to study economics at The University of Texas at Austin. He participated in Academic Decathlon and the theater program at Holmes High School.

“Special thanks to my mother, father, and friends for guiding me in my development,” he said.

Sakina Kasamali is the 2014 salutatorian at Business Careers High School and plans to attend The University of Texas at Austin majoring in forensic investigation and minoring in criminal justice. She is the daughter of Adbul Kasamali and Zainab Daruger and received a Top 10 Percent scholarship. At Holmes, she played for the Lady Husky varsity volleyball team and was a member of the National Honor Society and National Association of Women Business Owners.

“I see every challenge and hurdle that comes my way as an opportunity to make myself a better person,” she said. “I would like to thank my family, friends, teachers, and counselors who have supported me and guided me through this journey. A special thanks to my parents for holding me to high expectations and teaching me to never accept anything less than the best from myself.”

Clark High School

Jacqueline Mellin, Valedictorian
Zihao Zhu, Salutatorian

Jacqueline Mellin is this year’s valedictorian at Clark High School and plans to study business in the Plan II Honors program at The University of Texas at Austin. She is the daughter of Mark and Julie Mellin. She served as vice president of the Debate Team, secretary of the French Club, and co-director of the Teen ACTS Retreat.

“My four years in high school have been great due to my wonderful friends and family,” she said. “I’m blessed to have them in my life and I know I am leaving Clark with memories I’ll keep forever. Go Cougars, and now, Hook ‘em Horns!”

Zihao Zhu is this year’s salutatorian at Clark High School and plans to major in biology at The University of Texas at Austin. He is the son of Yanlai Lai and Jiangan Zhu and received the Regional Latin Student of the Year scholarship and the State Latin Student of the Year scholarship. At Clark, he served as sophomore class vice president and president, contest leader, and Certamen captain of the Latin Club.

“I couldn’t have achieved everything without my family, my friends, and my teachers so thank you to all of them,” he said.

Communications Arts High School

Katherine Bruton, Valedictorian
Nick Walker, Salutatorian

Katherine Bruton is the 2014 valedictorian of Communications Arts High School and plans to major in computer science at The University of Texas at Austin. The daughter of Robert and Pat Bruton, she received more than $600,000 in scholarships including the UT Academic Achievement scholarship, COMTO scholarship, Century Scholar from Texas A&M University, Regent’s scholarship, and full-tuition scholarships from Arizona State University and Stetson University. At CAHS, she served as sophomore class secretary, Science Bowl team captain, vice president of the National Honor Society, and secretary of the Science Club.

“I would like to thank my family for their continual support these past four years,” she said. “Without them, I would not be the same person I am today. They made my accomplishments possible and I am extremely grateful.”

Nick Walker is the 2014 salutatorian of Communications Arts High School (CAHS) and plans to study computer science as part of the Polymathic Scholars program at The University of Texas at Austin. The son of Norbert and Ines Walker received more than $500,000 in scholarships including The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Natural Sciences scholarship. At CAHS, he served as president of the Photography Club and concert master and president of the Taft varsity orchestra.

“To my teachers and mentors- thank you for allowing me the opportunity to pursue my interests and thank you for throwing so many interesting experiences in my direction,” he said. “To my parents- thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made to facilitate my education.”

Health Careers High School

Jett Anderson, Valedictorian
Kevin Yu, Salutatorian

Jett Anderson is the 2014 valedictorian from Health Careers High School and plans to major in computer engineering at The University of Texas.  The son of Steve Anderson and Denise and Peter Beverage, received an Engineering Honors Program scholarship from the Cockrell School of Engineering and a USAA National Merit scholarship. At Health Careers, he served as president of the class of 2014, Student Council representative, and was UIL Computer Science District champion and captain.

“I look forward to the future! I thank my family and friends for their love and support. To my classmates, may they live long and prosper.”

Kevin Yu is the 2014 salutatorian from Health Careers High School and plans to double major in business and computer science at The University of Texas. The son of Dr. Jieh-Jeun Yu and Dr. Chiung-Yu Hung received a University of Texas Top 10 Percent scholarship and a PREP St. Mary’s Engineering scholarship. At Health Careers, he served as treasurer for the class of 2014 and Latin Club category leader.

“Thanks to my parents and all of my teachers who have put up with me these past four years.”

Holmes High School

Hailey Rebar, Valedictorian
Alissa Martinez, Salutatorian

Hailey Rebar is this year’s valedictorian from Holmes High School and plans to major in biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University. The daughter of Paul and Charlotte Rebar, she received the Century scholarship and other academic and athletic scholarships. At Holmes, she was captain of the volleyball and softball teams, served as class vice president, and was a member of the National Honor Society and Academic Decathlon.

Alissa Martinez is this year’s salutatorian from Holmes High School and plans to major in communication sciences and disorders at Baylor University. She is the daughter of Jesse Martinez and Veronica Diaz. She has earned the Baylor President’s Gold scholarship, the Texas Wesleyan President’s scholarship, the Our Lady of the Lake Faculty scholarship, and Schreiner University’s Presidential scholarship. At Holmes, she served as Art Club treasurer and was a member of the National Honor Society and National English Honor Society.

“I’d like to thank my family and teachers for always supporting me and always encouraging me to take every opportunity to learn,” she said.

Jay High School

Courtney Emily Bendele, Valedictorian
Marissa Marie Trevino, Salutatorian

Courtney Emily Bendele is the 2014 valedictorian from Jay High School and plans to major in biology at Abilene Christian University. The daughter of Rudolph Bendele and Patricia Marx, she received the A.B. Barrett Award scholarship from Abilene Christian University. At Jay, she served as online newspaper editor, yearbook co-editor, and as a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, and UIL journalism.

“As my high school career started, I looked forward to my future and all I wanted to achieve,” she said. “Now my future, which I once looked upon from afar, is here and I realize how blessed I truly am.”

Marissa Marie Trevino is the 2014 salutatorian from Jay High School and plans to study speech pathology at Texas State University. She is the daughter of Magdalena and Johnny Trevino, Jr. At Jay, she played softball, served as lead photographer for the yearbook and newspaper, and was a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society.

“I want to thank my parents for always telling me never to give up and always expect more of myself,” she said.

Jay Science and Engineering Academy

Matthew Baiza, Valedictorian
Nicolas deLuna, Salutatorian

Matthew Baiza is the 2014 valedictorian from the Jay Science and Engineering Academy and plans to major in political science at Stanford University. The son of Bobby and Diana Baiza, he received a Valero Alamo Bowl scholarship. He served as president of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Choir, and Humanities Club. He was also captain of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  

“I truly wouldn’t be where I am today it weren’t for the amazing mentors that I’ve had in my life, starting with my parents and family and my teachers starting in kindergarten,” he said. “I owe much gratitude to them for their hard work in producing who I am today. I’m excited to carry my desire to help others into the future as I go to college at Stanford, and I’m even more excited to one day come back and make a difference in my hometown. Most importantly, I thank God for every blessing He has given me.”

Nicolas deLuna is the 2014 salutatorian from the Jay Science and Engineering Academy and plans to study economics at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. The son of Lee deLuna and Catherine McGuire, he has earned a James Quinter scholarship. While in high school, he served as debate team captain, orchestra president, National Honor Society vice president, team captain for Relay for Life, and as co-founder and vice president of the Humanities Club.

Marshall High School

Christopher Stacks, Valedictorian
Alexandra Ritenour, Salutatorian

Christopher Stacks is this year’s valedictorian from Marshall High School and plans to major in civil engineering at Texas A&M University. The son of Daniel and Rebecca Stacks received a Challenge scholarship from Texas A&M. He served as treasurer of the German Club and Missions Committee Member and Habitat for Humanity coordinator at Oxford United Methodist Church.

Alexandra Ritenour is this year’s salutatorian at Marshall High School and plans to study biology/pre-medicine at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB). The daughter of Keith and Holly Ritenour received the UMHB Salutatorian scholarship, the UMHB Alumni Association scholarship, the UMHB Leadership scholarship, the John Marshall PTSA Scholarship, the Andy Mireles Foundation scholarship, and the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award. At Marshall, she was a National Honor Society member, Health Occupations Students of America member, the Society of English Scholars member, and received the GT Leadership Award.

“It has been a blessing to be a part of the Marshall community,” she said. “I would like to thank God, my parents, family, friends, teachers, and administrators for all of their support.”

O’Connor High School

Erin Dunbar, Valedictorian
Taegan Howells, Salutatorian

Erin Dunbar is the 2014 O’Connor High School valedictorian and plans to attend Northwestern University. The daughter of Donal and Sheila Dunbar is the recipient of the University scholarship from Case Western, an Orchestra scholarship, and more than $30,000 in scholarships from Northwestern. At O’Connor, she served as president of the debate team, president of orchestra, president of the French Club, and vice president of the French National Honor Society.

Taegan Howells is the 2014 O’Connor High School salutatorian and plans to major in English/Women’s Studies at Rice University. The daughter of Paul Howells and Patty Heard received a Boston University Presidential scholarship, New College of Florida Presidential scholarship, DeWitt Wallace Distinguished scholarship, John F. Oberlin scholarship, National Merit scholarship, Cody Scholar Award, and Murchison scholarship. At O’Connor, she served as captain of the Academic Decathlon team, vice president of the German Club, and secretary for varsity orchestra.

“Of course, I’d like to express thanks to my parents who always remind me of the big picture whenever I’m worrying about the details,” she said. “And, thank you to all the teachers who have inspired my desire to teach because of their passion for the profession.”

Stevens High School

Allie Skinkle, Valedictorian
Esther Heffler, Salutatorian

Allie Skinkle is the 2014 valedictorian from Stevens High School and plans to double major in biochemistry and anthropology at Rice University. The daughter of Marc and Nancy Skinkle she received a Rice Tuition Grant and Air Force Federal Credit Union scholarship. At Stevens, she served as debate team captain, president of the Latin Club, and founder of the Stevens Preemie Project.

“I want to thank my parents and my mentor, Dr. Blanca Molina, for supporting my dreams.”

Esther Heffler is the 2014 salutatorian from Stevens High School and plans to major in psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The daughter of Luis and Michele Nieto received numerous scholarships including the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Top 10 Percent scholarship and scholarships from UTSA. At Stevens, she served as treasurer of the National Honor Society and committee secretary for the Class of 2014.

“Even when things got overwhelming, I always got back on my feet,” she said. “Now that high school is over, I’m off to chase my dreams. I would like to thank everyone in my life that has helped me or given me strength to keep going.”

Taft High School

Rachel Elizabeth Spellman, Valedictorian
Aliyah Saez, Salutatorian

Rachel Elizabeth Spellman, the valedictorian for Taft High School, plans to study mechanical engineering at Texas Tech University. The daughter of Greg and Judy Spellman received a Valero Alamo Bowl scholarship, Helotes Masonic Lodge scholarship, United States Achievement Academy scholarship, and several scholarships from Texas Tech University. At Taft, she served as Skills USA president and student advisor, 2012-2013 class president, 2010-2012 class secretary/historian, and Spanish National Honor Society student advisor and tutoring committee founder.

“I like engineering because it is challenging and it allows me to be creative,” she said. “Thanks to all my teachers and friends who have supported me and let me do crazy projects in class.”

Aliyah Saez, the salutatorian for Taft High School, plans to major in business at Texas A&M University. The daughter of Daniel and Monica Saez received the Valero Alamo Bowl scholarship, USAA Employee Dependent scholarship, Randolph Officers’ Spouses’ Club scholarship, Century Scholar Award, Mays Business School scholarship, and Military Commanders scholarship. At Taft, she was a member of the National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Council, and Spanish National Honor Society. She was also on the basketball team and played violin and cello in the orchestra.

“I am extremely thankful to my family and friends for motivating me and supporting me. Without them, I would not be where I am today, she said. “I would also like to thank my teachers and counselors for challenging me every day in the classroom.”

Warren High School

Mridhul Maddela, Valedictorian
Claudia Rocha, Salutatorian

Mridhul Maddela, the valedictorian for Warren High School, plans to major in computer science at The University of Texas at Austin. The son of Sujan Maddela and Sindhya Sujan received an Academic Honors scholarship from the University of Texas at Dallas and an Academic scholarship from Baylor University. At Warren, he was secretary of the National Honor Society and was a member of the Honors division of the Academic Decathlon Team. He was also a member of Mu Alpha Theta, the Spanish National Honor Society, and the English Scholar Society.

“If I did not express my most sincere thanks to everybody who helped me accomplish this achievement, I would be remiss,” he said. “To that extent I want to give all the credit to my family, friends, every teacher who has guided me to this point, every faculty member who has given time to help me, and all who have put their faith in me. Thanks to all of you, I look forward to continuing this success in the future.”

Claudia Rocha, the salutatorian for Warren High School, plans to major in Latin American Studies at Boston University. The daughter of Oscar and Laura Rocha received a National Honor Society scholarship and Casa Navarro scholarship. At Warren she served as captain of the Debate Team and founder of the Warren Chapter of the National Hispanic Institute. She was a three-year letterman on the Warren soccer team, participated in the varsity choir, and served as a counselor for Vacation Bible School. 

“I have tried my hardest to always keep God in the center of my life and by doing so He has blessed me with genuinely amazing people,” she said. “My family, teachers, coaches, and peers have always supported me in my academic and extracurricular endeavors. For that, I am truly grateful.”