Graduation ceremonies begin this week, and we are pleased to feature our high school valedictorians and salutatorians for this year.
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. The full schedule of ceremonies can be found on the Graduation website.
Brandeis High School
Stephen Chen, the valedictorian for Brandeis High School, plans to attend Rice University and major in biochemistry. The son of Jeanne Liu and Shuo Chen received a Rice Trustee Scholarship.
During his time at Brandeis, Chen served as secretary of the National Honor Society, captain of UIL Math and Science teams, captain of the Science Bowl team, and Latin Club consul.
Jason Whang, the salutatorian for Brandeis High School, plans to major in business at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
The son of Kyumin Whang and Soojung Whang is the recipient of nine scholarships including the Brown University Scholarship, John Hopkins Bloomberg Scholarship, Dartmouth General Scholarship, Brandeis PTSA Scholarship, and Valero Alamo Bowl Scholarship.
At Brandeis he served as junior and senior class president, president of Mu Alpha Theta, founder and president of Athletes to Athletes to Academics, and co-founder and vice president of PCs2Prosper San Antonio branch.
“I am absolutely thrilled and thankful for the opportunity that I have to represent Brandeis as salutatorian,” Whang said. “I would like to thank God, my father, my mother, my siblings, my friends, and teachers for their continual support throughout all my endeavors. I am passionate about pursuing my dream to make businesses more community-focused and conscientious, and am excited to attend Brown University where I will further learn how to make my dream a reality.”
Brennan High School
Garret Reger is the 2017 valedictorian at Brennan High School. He plans to major in biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The son of Bart Reger and Kathryn Bill and Jeffrey Bill earned a Presidential Scholarship from UTSA. Reger was captain of the varsity football team his senior year.
“I want to thank God for guiding me to where I am,” Reger said. “I also want to thank my parents for pushing me when I got lazy. Also, thank you to my friends for motivating me. And last, but not least, thank you to all my teachers for helping me succeed.”
Stefany Alarcon is the 2017 salutatorian at Brennan High School. The daughter of Luis and Esther Alarcon plans to study business/accounting at The University of Texas at Austin.
She received a UT Austin Presidential Scholarship. Alarcon was on the Brennan varsity tennis team, a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society, and served as homecoming/dance chairman for Student Council.
“I’d like to thank my parents and my family for always supporting and encouraging me in everything I do,” Alarcon said.
Business Careers High School
Den Paul Cortez, the valedictorian at Business Careers High School, plans to major in marketing at the University of California at Berkeley.
The son of Dennis and Lirio Cortez earned several scholarships including a Business Careers Scholarship and Highest Ranking Scholarship. He served as secretary of the Interact Club and historian of the National English Honor Society.
“Words are not enough to express my deep gratitude for the guidance and strength that my wonderful teachers, friends, and family have given me,” Cortez said. “As for my mother and father, I’d like to thank them for the support, vision, and unconditional love that they continue to provide. Because of my humble upbringing, I am inspired to leave a positive legacy in our world. My time in Business Careers has been a kaleidoscope of experiences, and have taught me the importance of growth in success and failure; I am forever grateful.”
Moses J. Arocha, the salutatorian at Business Careers High School, plans to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio where he will study computer science with a focus on cybersecurity.
The son of Roger and Carolina Arocha earned a Terry Scholarship, Baumberger Endowment Scholarship, and Michael J. Balint Scholarship.
Arocha was a Questbridge National College Match Finalist, participated in the UTSA PREP program, and had several internships including Digital Fire Team and Accenture. He served as secretary of the National English Honor Society, team leader on the national CyberPatriot competition team, and studied cybersecurity for his Independent Study Mentorship.
Clark High School
Nicholas Johnson is this year’s valedictorian at Clark High School and plans to study chemical engineering at Texas A&M University. The son of Lori and Daniel Johnson received a Craig and Galen Brown Foundation scholarship, a National Merit Scholarship, and Col. Clarence T. Torey Community Service Scholarship.
At Clark, he served as president of Latin Club, orchestra secretary, safety officer for Science National Honor Society, and treasurer of the Class of 2017.
“I would like to thank my wonderful family and the outstanding teachers I have had through the years in Northside ISD,” Johnson said. “I hope to build on my academic foundation and commitment to service as I pursue my college career.”
Abigayle Hughes is this year’s salutatorian at Clark High School and plans to major in neuroscience and behavior at The University of Notre Dame. The daughter of James and Robin Hughes earned multiple scholarships including a Provost’s Scholarship and University Scholarship from Notre Dame, a Clark Booster Club Scholarship, and President’s Endowed Scholarship from Texas A&M University. Hughes was also recognized as a Distinguished Scholar and BBA Scholar at Southern Methodist University.
At Clark, Hughes served as editor-in-chief, assistant editor-in-chief, editorials editor, and feature editor/design editor of The Chronicle newspaper. She also served as an ALE assistant and mentor to students with special needs. Hughes was also president of Petey’s Promise, a non-profit organization for autistic children.
“I want to thank my parents- I couldn’t have gotten here without them,” Hughes said.
Communication Arts High School
Alison Drileck is the 2017 valedictorian of Communications Arts High School and plans to attend Rice University. The daughter of David and Diana Drileck received a Vandiver Brown Scholarship, Daughters of the Republic Scholarship, Helotes Masonic Scholarship and Rodriguez Scholarship. Among her leadership positions, Drileck was Science Bowl manager, a counselor at Camp CAMP, and head assistant teacher at Discovery School.
“After college I hope to go to law school to become a lawyer and help people in one of the worst times of their lives,” Drileck said. “High school for me was really a time to come out of my shell, make new friends, have great experiences, and see what I could accomplish. All of this would not have been possible without my amazing family encouraging me, my friends supporting me, and the wonderful teachers, faculty, and administration at CAHS always lifting me to new heights.”
Austin Turner is the 2017 salutatorian of Communications Arts High School and plans to major in chemical engineering at the Cockrell Engineering Honors College at The University of Texas at Austin.
The son of David and Kristy Turner received a UT Austin Engineering Honors Scholarship, Trinity University Tuition Exchange Scholarship, and Michelle Turner Memorial Scholarship. Among his leadership positions in high school, Turner was Class of 2017 treasurer, sophomore and junior representative of the Band Student Council, section leader in Taft wind ensemble and jazz band, and section leader in the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio.
“All my love and thanks go to my mom and dad, my brother, my cat, my friends, my teachers and administrators, and everyone else who helped and supported me all through the years,” said Turner. “To quote from my favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth – ‘Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life.’”
Construction Careers High School
Emily Benton is the 2017 valedictorian for Construction Careers Academy. She plans to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio and major in architecture.
The daughter of Travis and Valerie Benton was a member of the National Honor Society and National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), lead architect, vice president of the Warren Art Club, and religious leader of Warriors for Christ.
“I have lived by the quote – ‘Never, never, never give up’ by Winston Churchill,” Benton said. “Through all of the hardships in high school that is what kept me going. I hope to one day make my mark on the world through architecture. I hope to leave a legacy that will last beyond my years. For helping me come to this point, I want to thank my parents and grandparents for believing in me to change the world.”
Evan Hodde is the 2017 salutatorian for Construction Careers Academy. He plans to attend The University of Texas at Austin and major in computer science.
The son of Matthew and Mary Hodde received several scholarships including a Valero Alamo Bowl Scholarship, Northwest Rotary Scholarship, and Bert Mazac Honorary Scholarship. He served as secretary of Mu Alpha Theta.
“Throughout my years at Northside ISD, I have always appreciated the dedication of my instructors and counselors,” Hodde said. “I was afforded many opportunities to expand my education through programs that include violin lessons in elementary school, the gifted and talented program in middle school, and the magnet school option in high school. I am looking forward to college and wish all my classmates the best of luck in whatever path they choose.”
Health Careers High School
Kathleen Renee Ran is the 2017 valedictorian of Health Careers High School. She plans to major in human developmental and regenerative biology at Harvard University.
The daughter of Qitao Ran and Ren Na earned a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship. At Health Careers, she served as president of Mu Alpha Theta and captain of the UIL Math and Number Sense Team. She was also concertmaster of YOSA’s Philharmonic Orchestra and a founder of Distribute the Math.
“I am incredibly grateful for my hilarious friends and teachers who have made high school one of the funniest and most rewarding experiences of my life,” Ran said. “I am especially indebted to Mrs. Kollman who for me took on not only the role of teacher but also my math coach, club sponsor, and comedian. Most importantly, I want to thank my parents who have made countless sacrifices for my education and have always had confidence in me, even when I didn’t.”
Ryan Boheng Cao is the 2017 salutatorian of Health Careers High School and plans to attend Stanford University.
The son of Rencan Yan and Weiming Cao received a USAA Employee Dependent Scholarship. At Health Careers, he served as president of Science Bowl, vice president of Business Professionals of America, and corresponding secretary of the National Honor Society.
“First and foremost, I have to thank my teachers, parents, and friends,” said Cao. “I have always believed that my life could have had an infinite number of outcomes and yet, I stand convinced that this is the best one. As I move forward to my next chapter, I will strive to make a difference in cutting edge research in the STEM fields. To my classmates, I wish for you to embrace change in your pursuit of happiness.”
Holmes High School
Paul Smith is this year’s valedictorian from Holmes High School and plans to double major in chemistry and computer information systems & security at Our Lady of the Lake University.
The son of Charles and Ana Smith is an American Funds Sul Ross Scholar and earned an Our Lady of the Lake Presidential Excellence Scholarship and American Chemical Society Scholarship. During his junior year, Smith was captain of the boys varsity tennis team.
“I would like to thank my family and all the classmates and teachers that helped me get here,” Smith said. “They helped me stay true to myself and see it’s cool to be smart.”
Alondra Magaly Martinez is this year’s salutatorian from Holmes High School. She plans to study journalism at The University of Texas at Austin. The daughter of Juan and Lily Martinez earned a Wells Fargo Team Members Dependent Children Scholarship. At Holmes, she served as Class of 2017 secretary and executive editor of The Gavel newspaper.
“I’m excited to further my career in journalism,” Martinez said. “I’d like to thank all of my teachers for giving me the support to do my best. To my friends, thank you for always making me laugh. To my parents, you are the backbone of my life. Holmes has been home to me and I’m sad to depart.”
Jay High School
Daniella Martinez is the 2017 valedictorian from Jay High School and plans to major in civil engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
The daughter of Monica and Roger Ytuarte earned a Texas Excellence Grant, New Student University Grant, and Café College Scholarship. At Jay, she served as an orchestra officer.
“Special thanks to Ina and Jason Torres for all their support during the rough times,” Martinez said.
Samantha Perez is the 2017 salutatorian from Jay High School and plans to study baking and pastry at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), San Antonio.
She is the daughter of Raul and Patricia Perez and has received an El Sueno Academic Grant and Skills USA Presidential Academic Scholarship. At Jay, Perez served as front ensemble section leader for two years and as executive chef in the Culinary Arts II class. She advanced to the state finals in Skills USA competition for baking projects.
“Thanks to my grandpa, Raul, for always telling me I was going to do great things,” Perez said.
Jay Science and Engineering Academy
Ian Flynn is the 2017 valedictorian from the Jay Science and Engineering Academy and plans to major in cybersecurity at the United States Naval Academy.
The son of John and Carol Flynn was debate club president and captain of the swim team. He also earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
“I’d like to thank my parents, my debate teachers, Mr. Shrader and Mr. Alcala, and my swim coach, Coach Munden,” Flynn said.
Morgan Yost is the 2017 salutatorian from the Jay Science and Engineering Academy. He plans to study physics in the honors program at the University of Texas at Dallas.
The son of Doug Yost and Stacy Barnwell earned an Academic Excellence- Honors Level Scholarship and a Wade Richmond Memorial Scholarship. He competed in the ExxonMobil Texas Science Fair, Alamo Regional Science Fair, Texas Junior Academy of Science and Alamo Regional Junior Academy of Science fairs. Yost also placed first in the district in UIL Journalism- Editorials.
“I would like to thank everyone who has helped me reach my goals,” Yost said.
Marshall High School
Adriann Mary Oommen is the 2017 Marshall High School valedictorian and plans to study civil engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.
The daughter of Tessy Kadavil and John Matthew received a Terry Foundation Scholarship, Science National Honor Society Scholarship, and Engineering Honors Program Scholarship.
She held several leadership positions at Marshall including president of the National Honor Society, captain of the varsity science bowl team, and president of event planning for the Science National Honor Society.
“I am incredibly grateful for all the influential mentors who have helped me grow and develop into who I am today,” Oommen said. “I have made deep relationships with many amazing teachers, staff, and peers here at Marshall and I couldn’t have achieved anything without those supportive people in my life.”
Ryan Schultze is the 2017 Marshall High School salutatorian and plans to major in mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington. The son of Herman and Linda Schulze received a Valero Alamo Bowl Scholarship, Baumberger Endowment Scholarship, and Maverick Academic Scholarship. He served as president of the Latin Club, president of the Cinema Club, and founder and president of the Star Wars Club.
“Special thanks to Dr. Tiffany Neal and Dr. James Gibson,” Schulze said. “(And one of my favorite quotes), ‘Behold the turtle! He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”
O’Connor High School
Yunqi (Angel) Shi is this year’s valedictorian at O’Connor High School. She plans to study environmental engineering at Duke University.
The daughter of Wei Shi and Lei Zhang received scholarships from Duke University and St. Mary’s University. At O’Connor, she served as flute section leader in the Panther Band, co-captain of the Academic Decathlon team, and a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta.
“I can’t imagine the person I would be today without the continued love and support from my family and friends, as well as the guidance of all my teachers,” Shi said. “So thank you all for making my high school experience special.”
Michael Perce is this year’s salutatorian at O’Connor High School and plans to study interactive media and game design at the University of Southern California.
The son of Clayton and Katherine Perce received numerous scholarships including a band scholarship, National Merit Presidential Scholarship, USC Scholarship, PTA Scholarship, and UT Dallas National Merit Scholarship.
He served as captain of the math and science team for two years, co-captain of the science bowl team for two years, captain of the O’Connor Code War team for three years, and as a member of Mu Alpha Theta, National Honor Society, and Spanish National Honor Society.
“Thanks to family for all the support, thanks to teachers for sharing the knowledge, and thanks to friends for making school more than academics,” Perce said.
Stevens High School
Adrianna Grace Denny is the 2017 valedictorian for Stevens High School. She will be attending the University of Texas at San Antonio and plans to major in biology.
The daughter of Leslie Mendoza earned a UTSA Presidential Scholarship, Valedictorian Scholarship, and Valero Alamo Bowl Scholarship. At Stevens, Denny served as president of the Class of 2017, philanthropy chair for the National Honor Society, and as a mentoring leader.
Fernando Diaz Fuentes is the 2017 salutatorian for Stevens High School. He will be attending The University of Texas at Austin and plans to major in accounting. The son of Jose and Maria Diaz earned a Baumberger Endowment Scholarship, Jack C. Jordan PTA Scholarship, and UT Austin University Leadership Network Scholarship. At Stevens, Fuentes served as band section leader and administrative vice president, ballet folklorico vice president, and Citizens in Action mentor.
“Although I feel that I am ready for the next stage of my life, my experience here in high school was truly magnificent and I will really miss it,” Fuentes said. “I look forward to attending UT Austin where I can hopefully attain at least a master’s degree in accounting. I would like to give special thanks to my family, teachers, and all my friends because if it were not for the relationships I had with them, my success in school would not have been possible.”
Taft High School
Juan Miguel Villela III is this year’s valedictorian at Taft High School. He plans to attend The University of Texas at Austin and major in civil engineering. The son of Eric and Juanita Rodriguez earned a Presidential Scholarship, Baumberger Endowment Scholarship, Valero Alamo Bowl Scholarship, Texas Scholastic Housing Scholarship, and Café College Scholarship.
At Taft he served as president of the National Honor Society, student representative of Spanish National Honor Society, and vice president of A.Y.U.D.A.
“I love you mom and appreciate your endless support,” Villela said.
Jesus Alberto Valenzuela, Jr. is this year’s salutatorian at Taft High School. He will attend St. Mary’s University and plans to major in engineering. The son of Jesus and Raosario Valenzuela received a Presidential Scholarship and Café College Scholarship. He played on the Taft soccer team and earned 1stteam all-district honors.
“Thank you to my mother, father, and sisters for all their love and support,” Valenzuela said.
Warren High School
Milin Maddela is the 2017 valedictorian at Warren High School and plans to major in electrical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. The son of Sujan Maddela and Sindhya Sujan earned a Church’s Chicken Community Scholarship, Warren HS NHS Scholarship, and a UT Dallas Academic Excellence Scholarship. At Warren, he served as co-captain of the Academic Decathlon team, co-captain of the Kiva Lending Team, and captain of the World Scholars Cup team.
“I would like to thank God for blessing me with all the people who have pushed me further during my high school career, including the teachers who have always motivated me to strive for more,” Maddela said. “(And one of my favorite quotes by Steve Martin), ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’”
Rebekah Beatty is the 2017 salutatorian at Warren High School and plans to major in biology science at Brigham Young University. The daughter of John and Cari Beatty earned a Brigham Young University Merit Scholarship, Church’s Chicken Community Scholarship, National Honor Society Scholarship, and DeSales University Scholarship. At Warren, she served as vice president of the National Honor Society, president of the German National Honor Society, co-captain of the Academic Decathlon team, and co-captain of the Kiva Lending Team.
“I am grateful for all of the people in my life who have taught me the importance of hard work and supported me and helped me pursue my goals – my mom, dad, brothers, teachers, and closest friends,” Beatty said. “I have realized the truth of Einstein’s statement that ‘there are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”