Valedictorians and Salutatorians lead the Class of 2016

June 6, 2016

Graduation ceremonies begin this week, and we are pleased to feature our high school valedictorians and salutatorians for this year.

DVDs and Blu-rays of Northside’s graduation ceremonies are available for purchase online. They are professionally-produced and contain the complete graduation ceremony. DVDs cost $20 plus a processing fee per transaction for any online orders. Blu-rays cost $25 plus a processing fee per transaction for any online orders.

In addition, each graduation ceremony will be streamed live at www.nisd.net beginning 15 minutes prior to each ceremony. The live-stream is available on mobile devices.

Brandeis High School

Changxiao Xie, Valedictorian
Bin Ru (Sophie) He, Salutatorian

Changxiao Xie, the valedictorian for Brandeis High School, plans to attend Princeton University and major in electrical engineering or computer science.

The son of Mei Xu and Hongjie Xie received a $7,500 Valero Alamo Bowl Scholarship. During his time at Brandeis, Xie was a finalist for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair; performed with the Brandeis Orchestra at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago; won a Naval Science Award from the US Office of Naval Research; and competed at the National Science Bowl.

“Thanks to orchestra, swim team, teachers and professors, family and friends for giving me the best high school experience imaginable,” Xie said.

Bin Ru (Sophie) He, the salutatorian for Brandeis High School, plans to major in electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University. The daughter of James He and Jessie Shi is the recipient of a Cornell University grant. She served as vice president of the Brandeis Orchestra and co-captain of the robotics team.

“Never be too afraid to go for it; you never know what will happen,” He said. “High school made me realize that it doesn’t matter what others think as long as you like who you are. I want to thank my friends who made my years happy, Angela Chen, Ryan Cooper, Jingai Zhou, my sister Sarah He, and of course my parents, James He and Jessie Hi. I love you guys.”

Brennan High School

Brian Tulaba, Jr., Valedictorian
Jeffrey Quinn, Salutatorian

Brian Tulaba, Jr. is the 2016 valedictorian at Brennan High School. He plans to major in mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. The son of Jane and Brian Tulaba, Sr. received several scholarships including The University of Texas Presidential Scholars award, Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union Youth Advisory Council Scholarship, Jack C. Jordan Scholarship, and Military-Civilian Foundation Scholarship. He served as president of the National Honor Society, speaker of Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union’s Youth Advisory Council, a religious education group leader, and a Texas Boys State Representative.

“I would like to thank God for all the abilities and opportunities He has given me,” Tulaba, Jr. said. “I would also like to thank my family for all their love and support. Finally, I would like to thank my teachers and the Brennan staff for all the time they have dedicated to helping my fellow students and I further our education.”

Jeffrey Quinn is the 2016 salutatorian at Brennan High School. The son of Jacqueline and James Quinn plans to study business and received scholarships from the Valero Alamo Bowl, KSAT Scholar Athlete of the Week, and a Mays Business Honors Scholarship from Texas A&M University. Quinn was captain of the varsity basketball team for three years, vice president of the National Honor Society, captain of an AAU basketball team, and attended Boys State.

“I’d like to give a special thanks for my mom for always supporting me, to Coach Hines for teaching me that in order to be successful you must be able to fail, and to Ms. Kosler for being the most dedicated teacher I have ever had,” said Quinn.
 

Business Careers High School

Ivy Thi Nguyen, Valedictorian
Francisco Villafranca, Salutatorian

Ivy Thi Nguyen, the valedictorian at Business Careers High School plans to major in management information systems at The University of Texas at Austin.

The daughter of Chi Thi Nguyen and Tyler Van Buckner earned several scholarships including a UT Austin Presidential Scholars Scholarship, a Minnie Piper Stevens Foundation Scholarship, and a Ronald McDonald House Scholarship.

“High school has been a great run for me and I’m extremely grateful for all the love and support my friends and family have given to me,” Nguyen said. “I wish to continue giving back and help build a world we can all be proud of.”

Francisco Villafranca, the salutatorian at Business Careers High School, plans to take a gap year before college and volunteer in Nigeria.

The son of Fernando and Rebecca Villafranca served as chess club president, class president, and stock market club team leader.

“Next year I plan to volunteer in Lagos, Nigeria. I would prefer to work in an orphanage but jobs would vary,” Villafranca said. “This gap year would be self-funded and begin in January 2017 and end in June 2017. I would like to thank my family and all my teachers.”

Clark High School

Xinyu Zhao, Valedictorian
Devin Shah, Salutatorian

Xinyu Zhao is this year’s valedictorian at Clark High School and plans to study computer science at The University of Texas at Austin. The daughter of Zhenze Zhao and Liqin Du received a National Merit Scholarship and a freshman scholarship from The University of Texas College of Natural Sciences. At Clark, she served as president of the computer science club and team captain of the UIL computer science team.

“A quote from a popular TED Talk by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, sums up the most important lesson that I’ve learned in high school – ‘Don’t fake it ‘til you make it, fake it ‘til you become it.’ When facing any challenge or stressful situation – such as a difficult assignment, interview, or leadership position – it isn’t enough to simply act confident until you achieve your goal,” Zhao said. “It’s necessary to continue acting confident and giving it your all until you’ve become the person you wanted to be.”

Devin Shah is this year’s salutatorian at Clark High School and plans to major in biology at The University of Texas at Dallas/Southwestern Medical School. The son of Trupti and Jaydeep Shah earned a Clark PTA Scholarship and full scholarship to UT Dallas, the AES Academic Honors Scholarship.

At Clark, Shah served as recording secretary for the National Honor Society, chief safety administrator for the Science National Honor Society, drumline captain for the Mighty Cougar Band, secretary of the Latin Club, and as a student ambassador.

“Having been born to immigrant parents who through hard work, education and compassion represent the American dream of success, I throughout my high school years, have dedicated myself to excel in each of these three areas,” Shah said. “These accolades and achievements could not have been possible for it not being the unselfish and untiring support of my family, teachers, and other mentors that I have had the privilege of knowing. As I matriculate to the UT-PACT accelerated medical program at the University of Texas at Dallas/Southwestern Medical School this fall, I am confident that the education and the drive instilled in me by these special people will allow me to succeed in my goal of becoming a pediatric surgeon.”

Communications Arts High School

Russell Hurrell-Zitelman, Valedictorian
Daisy Gonzalez, Salutatorian

Russell Hurrell-Zitelman is the 2016 valedictorian of Communications Arts High School and plans to study business and finance at Trinity University. The son of Deborah Hurrell-Zitelman and Ronald Zitelman earned a Trinity University Murchison Scholarship, a New York University Stern Business School Scholarship, and an Alamo Ranch/151 Business Association Scholarship.

At CAHS, he served as Class of 2016 treasurer, secretary and treasurer of the Spanish National Honor Society, and treasurer of the National Honor Society. He was also Taft HS swim and water polo captain and Taft jazz combo leader.

“I would like to thank my mom and dad, my swim coaches Lou and Ellie Walker, and my saxophone instructor Gregory Mills,” Hurrell-Zitelman said.

Daisy Gonzalez is the 2016 salutatorian of Communications Arts High School and plans to major in international business at The University of Texas at Austin. The daughter of Erika Minjares and Oscar Raul Gonzalez received a UT Austin Presidential Scholars Scholarship, Minnie Piper Stevens Foundation Scholarship, and an Executive Women International Scholarship.

“Thank you to my parents for helping me succeed in school,” Gonzalez said. “I hope I’ve made the family proud by being the first one to go to college.”

Construction Careers Academy

Sarah Elaine Coignet, Valedictorian
DeAnte Christopher Crittenden, Salutatorian

Sarah Elaine Coignet is the 2016 valedictorian for Construction Careers Academy. She plans to attend Texas A&M University and major in engineering. The daughter of Kenneth and Helen Coignet served on the Construction Careers Academy Principal’s Cabinet and was a member of the National Honor Society.

“I would like to thank all of the faculty and staff members who make CCA possible and I would like to thank CCA for giving me the opportunity to learn in different ways and be valedictorian,” Coignet said. “I would also like to thank my family and all of my teachers but especially Mr. Byrnes, Mr. Meyer, Mrs. White, Mr. Combs, and Mrs. Wagner. Most of all I thank God for the gifts that He has blessed me with that I may succeed, as I have, in school.”

DeAnte Christopher Crittenden is the 2016 salutatorian for Construction Careers Academy. He plans to attend Prairie View A&M University and major in civil engineering. The son of Charles and Kimberly Crittenden received several scholarships including a Presidential Academic Scholarship from Prairie View A&M, an Academic Excellence Scholarship from Lamar University, a Maurelian Scholarship from Christian Brothers University, and an Academic Excellence Scholarship from the University of Houston. Crittenden played on the Warren HS varsity basketball team, qualified for regionals in high jump, was a member of the National Honor Society, served on the prom committee, and served as co-lead engineer in the CCA tiny homes Parade of Homes Build. Last Christmas, he dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to the school cafeteria staff.

“Special thanks to my parents Charles and Kim Crittenden,” he said.” Thank you to all the teachers who have helped me all four years. Thank you to Coach Smith and Coach Miller. While earning my civil engineering degree, I’ll also be high jumping at Prairie View!”

Health Careers High School

Minji Kim, Valedictorian
Ruben Dicker, Salutatorian

Minji Kim is the 2016 valedictorian of Health Careers High School and plans to major in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. The daughter of Heui and Sang Kim earned the Carnegie Mellon Presidential Scholarship, National Merit Scholarship, and Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Honorable Mention Scholarship. At Health Careers, she served as Class of 2016 treasurer and Latin Club treasurer and president.

“Thank you to all my family and friends for helping me along in this journey,” Kim said. “High school has helped me grow both socially and academically and I wouldn’t trade the memories I made at this school for anything. That said, I can’t wait to start at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science and continue learning all that I possibly can.”

Ruben Dicker is the 2016 salutatorian of Health Careers High School. He will attend Princeton University and plans to study computer science. The son of Diana and Skye Dicker received a Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Honorable Mention Scholarship, San Antonio Area Foundation Scholarship, and Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarship. At Health Careers, he served as class secretary, vice president of Business Professionals of America, and treasurer of Mu Alpha Theta.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to all my friends, family, and teachers who have helped me get through all the challenges I’ve faced throughout high school,” Dicker said. “Aside from the hard work and accomplishments, the most important thing I’ve learned is that true success doesn’t come without being a good friend and good person. Special thanks to Gaby, my photographer sister, and Nathan, my architect brother, for always being so determined with their passions and encouraging me to do the same for mine.”  

Holmes High School

Rachel Evelyn Frazer, Valedictorian
Alexandria Ruth Perez, Salutatorian

Rachel Evelyn Frazer is this year’s valedictorian from Holmes High School and plans to study neuroscience at Wellesley College. The daughter of Heather and Carlos Frazer is a Questbridge Scholar and also earned a Valero Alamo Bowl Scholarship. She served as drum major for the Holmes band, section leader for French horns, president of the Interact Club, and secretary for the class of 2016.

“I’d like to thank the amazing teachers, counselors, directors, and administrators for always supporting and never giving up on their students,” Frazer said. “I’d also like to thank my mother who was a constant source of strength and inspiration for me. Without her guidance and support, I would not be where I am today. I will never forget or take for granted the extremely positive experience I had at Holmes.”

Alexandria Ruth Perez is this year’s salutatorian from Holmes High School. She plans to study neuroscience at The Ohio State University. The daughter of Irma and John Perez received a Morrill Scholarship Program Prominence Scholarship (Ohio State), Holmes/Business Careers HS Faculty Scholarship, Kym’s Kids Scholarship, Holmes/Business Careers Athletic Booster Club Scholarship, Security Service Federal Credit Union Scholarship, and Ohio State University Alumni Program Scholarship. She served as a Detective Investigator with the San Antonio Police Explorers and as an Assistant Supervisor at SeaWorld, San Antonio.

“I would like to thank my parents for supporting me unconditionally,” Perez said. “You both have given me the tools to become a respectable, determined young lady and it is my ambition to continue to make you proud.”

Jay High School

Emma Collins, Valedictorian
Alexxis Garza, Salutatorian

Emma Collins is the 2016 valedictorian from Jay High School and plans to major in biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is the daughter of James and Linnea Kissel. At Jay, she served as art club president, FISH camp group co-leader, and was a member of the National Honor Society.

“A quote that has always resonated with me is, ‘all we have to decide what to do with the time given to us,’” Collins said. “After four years in high school, I can proudly say I have spent my time at John Jay wisely. I have made friends, kept them close, and bettered myself as an individual. Without the constant support from my mother and stepdad, as well as many dear friends, I don’t know where I would be. Thanks to them, my friends and family, because this accomplishment belongs to them as much as it belongs to me.”

Alexxis Garza is the 2016 salutatorian from Jay High School and plans to study nutrition at The University of Texas at Austin. She is the daughter of Marisela and Sergio Garza. She received a University Leadership Network Scholarship. At Jay, Garza served as Fashion Club president.

“I’m definitely excited to work towards majoring in nutrition and becoming a registered dietitian so I can help people who are striving to reach optimal health,” Garza said. “I’d also like to thank my parents and my teachers because without them, this entire journey would have been more complex. They were and continue to be a source of strength and encouragement for me. They have taught me that no matter what obstacles come my way, I can and will overcome them.”

Jay Science and Engineering Academy

Kaan Steve Kumru, Valedictorian
Johannah Elisabeth Palomo, Salutatorian

Kaan Steve Kumru is the 2016 valedictorian from the Jay Science and Engineering Academy and plans to major in biochemistry at The University of Texas at Austin. The son of Semih and Shelley Kumru earned a Church’s Chicken Scholarship and scholarships from Our Lady of the Lake University, the University of New Mexico, and Creighton University. At Jay, he served as science UIL captain, drum major of the Mustang Band, 1st chair baritone saxophone in Jazz Band. He also performed as principal bassoon in the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA) Philharmonic.

Johannah Elisabeth Palomo is the 2016 salutatorian from the Jay Science and Engineering Academy. She plans to double major in political science and psychology at Rice University. The daughter of Karen and Daniel Palomo earned a Questbridge College Match Scholarship to Rice. She served as vice president of the National Honor Society, president of the History Club, and orchestra officer. She also served a leader of Latter Day Saints young women’s group.

“I would like to thank my teachers, my friends, and my amazing family for all their love and support,” Palomo said. “Without you, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today and I am so grateful to each and every one of you.”

Marshall High School

Daniella Espinoza, Valedictorian
Alyse Ann Gonzalez, Salutatorian

Daniella Espinoza is the 2016 Marshall High School valedictorian and plans to study biology at The University of Texas at Austin.  The daughter of Alma Hernandez and Gustavo Espinoza held several leadership positions at Marshall – National Honor Society Ram Action Committee Chair and Service Officer; vice president of the Spanish Honor Society; Star Stepper Dance Team Major; girls bowling team co-captain; and Shining Star Pep Squad Lieutenant.

“I intend to spend my first year at The University of Texas at Austin, then hopefully transfer to Cornell University to study animal science. My passion for animals has pushed me towards becoming a veterinarian,” Espinoza said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today, if it weren’t for the relationships I’ve acquired these last four years. Thank you to my wonderful dance team, Mrs. Villasana, Mrs. Taylor, Senora Vera, and my beautiful family. I am very fortunate to have you guys along this crazy ride pushing me every step of the way.”

Alyse Ann Gonzalez is the 2016 Marshall High School salutatorian and plans to major in biology at The University of Texas at Austin. The daughter of Amanda and Charles Gonzalez received a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Scholarship. At Marshall, she served as section leader for the Marshall Varsity Orchestra and National Honor Society Chair. She was also a member of the Spanish National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta, ran track, and played softball, volleyball and basketball.

“Thank you to my family first and foremost for their love, support, and understanding,” Gonzalez said. “Second, thank you to my friends and teachers for their continual encouragement. I am excited to see what the future holds and am thankful that Northside has given me the skills I will use to succeed. I look forward to attending The University of Texas at Austin in the fall and medical school in the future.”

O’Connor High School

Irene Chu, Valedictorian
Anna Haikl, Salutatorian

Irene Chu is this year’s valedictorian at O’Connor High School. She plans to study biology at Rice University. The daughter of Qiuxia Dai and Wei Chu received a University of Texas College of Natural Sciences Scholarship. At O’Connor, she served as drum major of the Panther Band, vice president for the National Honor Society, co-captain of the Academic Decathlon team, and class vice president.

“I’d like to thank my friends, teachers, and especially my parents for making the long nights bearable and the school days memorable,” Chu said.

Anna Haikl is this year’s salutatorian at O’Connor High School and plans to study systems engineering at the University of Virginia. The daughter of Vojtech (Albert) and Vlasta Haikl is a Questbridge National College Match Finalist and earned scholarships from the Texas Forensic Association and the Knights of Columbus. She served as president of Speech and Debate (Forensics) and as a Latin Club officer.

“Throughout the past years of my life I have overcome several challenges and I’d like to thank all the people who played a role in supporting me,” Haikl said. “I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for all my family, teachers, and friends.”

Stevens High School

Seth Champion, Valedictorian
Allie Goulding, Salutatorian

Seth Champion is the 2016 valedictorian for Stevens High School. He will be attending The Ohio State University and plans to major in music education. The son of Stefanie Garrettson earned an Ohio State Music Scholarship, San Antonio Alumni Scholarship, Provost Scholarship, National Buckeye Scholarship, Wells Fargo Team Members Dependent Children Scholarship, and Randolph Officers’ Spouses’ Club (ROSC) Scholarship. At Stevens, Champion served as low brass section leader and Mu Alpha Theta treasurer.

“First, I’d like to thank my friends and family for supporting and encouraging me,” Champion said. “I have two quotes that I live by- ‘Why try to fit in when you’re meant to stand out’ (Dr. Suess) and ‘If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future, if you are at peace you are living in the present.’ So I never try to act like someone I’m not and I enjoy what’s happening now and try not to let the past or future affect me.”

Allie Goulding is the 2016 salutatorian for Stevens High School. She will be attending Northwestern University and plans to major in journalism.  The daughter of Jenny Buda earned 16 scholarships including the Baumberger Endowment Scholarship, Northwestern University Scholarship, Northwestern University Pledge Scholarship, Edmonds Scholarship, Francis Waters Scholarship, and Forester Elementary Student Council Dragon Scholarship. At Stevens, Goulding served as editor-in-chief of the Tradition yearbook, historian for the Class of 2016, historian for Junior Classical League and as a member of the National Honor Society and UIL Journalism Team.

“Without the support of my family, specifically my mom, I would not have been able to do as much as I have,” Goulding said. “She has done so much for me throughout my life and I cannot thank her enough. I would like to thank all of my teachers and school administrators for their support and encouragement these past few years, especially my high school English teachers. They pushed me to become a better writer, a better student, and a better person.”

Taft High School

LeVreese Davis, Valedictorian
Hypatia Sorunke, Salutatorian

LeVreese Davis is this year’s valedictorian at Taft High School. She plans to attend Texas A&M University- Kingsville and major in computer science. The daughter of Reeshemah and Levertis Davis, Jr. earned a Texas A&M Kingsville Presidential Scholarship and scholarships from San Antonio Links, Inc., African American Heritage, Zulu Association, Community of Churches for Social Actions, Air Force Association, and Grace First Baptist Church. She served as treasurer of the National Honor Society and as youth department president at Grace First Baptist Church.

“Thank you Christ for giving me the intelligence and to my parents for pushing me for the best,” Davis said.

Hypatia Sorunke is this year’s salutatorian at Taft High School. She will attend The University of Texas at Austin and plans to major in government and the Plan II Honors program. The daughter of Michael and Martha Sorunke received scholarships from Texas Lutheran University and the University of the Incarnate Word. At Taft, she was captain of the varsity basketball team and a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society.

“Special thanks to my parents, Ms. Lasley, Mrs. Capp-Hernandez, Coach Merry, and Mr. Ellis,” Sorunke said.

Warren High School

Yousef Rafati, Valedictorian
Marcos Salamanca, Salutatorian

Yousef Rafati is the 2016 valedictorian at Warren High School and plans to major in biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The son of Nizar and Saneh Rafati earned a UTSA Distinguished Presidential Scholarship, UTSA Honors College Deans Scholarship, and San Antonio Livestock Exposition, Inc. Scholarship. At Warren, Rafati served as captain of the Calculator UIL Team, treasurer of the National Honor Society, treasurer of Coding Club, and secretary of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

“I would like to thank my parents and friends for their support,” Rafati said.

Marcos Salamanca is the 2016 salutatorian at Warren High School and plans to major in computer science at the University of Notre Dame. The son of Javier and Velia Salamanca is a Questbridge National College Match Finalist and earned a National Honor Society Scholarship. At Warren, he served as secretary of the National Honor Society and captain of the math and science teams.

“All glory and honor goes to God. Special thanks to my family, friends, and teachers with a special shout out to Mrs. Guerrero for pushing me to try, and to Mrs. Ware for helping me along the whole way,” Salamanca said.