Valedictorian Aaliyah Duffy, Booker T. Washington High School
Bellaire resident Duffy, who will attend Notre Dame to major in Electrical Engineering, initially came to Washington as part of the High School for Engineering Professions program. She has attended the school for three years.
Favorite classes for Duffy include Electrical Engineering classes, AP Language and Pre-Calculus. Favorite teachers are Mr. Duong and Mr. Smith. At Booker, Duffy was involved in softball, soccer, the Oceanettes dance team, concert band, the EMERGE college program and student council.
Duffy found out about her ranking in January of this year.
She said she has completed and recorded her speech in preparation for Houston ISD’s virtual graduation.
“I spoke about each year of high school and the major transition that took place in my family in the years prior to coming to Booker T. Washington from Louisiana,” she said.
Duffy said her biggest high school challenge was AP Science.
“My biggest lesson was knowing it is OK to take time for myself and self-care,” she said.
Salutatorian Josephine Stafford, Booker T. Washington High School
Stafford, who lives in Independence Heights, has attended Booker T. Washington for four years. Stafford has narrowed her college options down to Texas Southern University, the University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M. She plans to major in biology.
Classes she really enjoyed included AP Physics and AP Literature. Teachers Ms. Ward, Mr. Duong and Dr. Nnjiofor were all favorites. Stafford was a member of the Mademoiselle Service & Social Club.
She said that she was surprised to find out she was the school’s salutatorian.
“I had previously been No. 3,” she said.
Her speech was about leaving the school’s engineering program and having to overcome the struggle of the AP class load that followed.
“I also spoke about being thankful to all of my teachers and administration on campus for all of the support I received,” she said.
Stafford said her biggest high school lesson is that she is in control of her life – “no matter what happens around me.”
Valedictorian Yash Shahi, Waltrip High School
Brookwoods Estates resident Yash Shahi will attend Rice University to major in economics and finance.
A 4-year attendee at Waltrip, Shahi especially enjoyed his AP Calculus, Health, and AP Economics classes.
“All of the teachers were stellar,” he said. “I don’t have any particular favorite ones in mind. Everyone inspired me to work hard and constantly improve.”
Shahi was a member of Atlas Scholars where students work to complete a number of projects oriented in the energy industry, as well as the college application process. He was also elected vice president of his senior class, and was the captain of Waltrip’s varsity swim team.
“In addition, I had the opportunity to serve in an elected position as the Governance Chair of HISD Student Congress,” he said. “Volunteering at Junior Achievement of America over the summer to promote financial literacy amongst underprivileged children was the most gratifying experience.”
Shahi said he was surprised to learn of his achievement.
“There are a lot of smart students at Waltrip High School,” he said.
His speech was about not taking things for granted, and staying grounded regardless of the situation. He also expressed his gratitude to all the teachers, support staff and employees at Waltrip.
“I would also like to thank the Waltrip High School leadership, including Principal Mr. Michael Niggli and my assistant principal Mr. Rolando Gonzalez for a great senior year,” Shahi said. “All the faculty in school truly care about us and are our well-wishers going into the future.”
Salutatorian Logan Ramirez, Waltrip High School
Ramirez will attend the University of Texas at Austin with a major of Philosophy/Economics.
Valedictorian Benjamin Brown, Scarborough High School
Brown, who lives in Candlelight Oaks, was accepted into the University of Virginia and University of Notre Dame – but plans on attending Notre Dame, which awarded him a university scholarship of $30,650 and a provost scholarship of $3,750.
He attended Kashmere High School for his freshman year before transferring to Scarborough.
His favorite classes at Scarborough were Integrated Sports, AP Biology, Chemistry, Business Management, and Spanish 1.
“Even though I have many, some of my favorite teachers are Mrs. Safovich, Mr. Taylor, Mr. McCall, Mr. Niejadlik, Ms. Ray, and Mr. O’Neal,” he said.
At school, Brown was involved in the college readiness program, EMERGE. He was also a part of the Ascending to Men program, a member of the XY-Zone, and a member of the National Honors Society.
“I knew that I had a great chance to become my school’s Valedictorian from the beginning, but I was not completely sure since the unofficial salutatorian during the first semester of school had a GPA extremely close to mine,” Brown said.
His speech pays homage to the people in his life who supported him on his journey to where he is today, as well as Hurricane Harvey and its effect on his life.
“My biggest challenge in high school has been managing my time efficiently,” he said. “The lesson I learned is to never procrastinate.”
Salutatorian Magaly Rosales, Scarborough High School
Rosales, who lives in Langwood, has attended Scarborough since her freshman year. She will major in nursing at the University of Houston.
She says she particularly enjoyed her JROTC, Chemistry, AP Physics, College Algebra, and Dance classes.
“My favorite teachers at Scarborough are my JROTC instructors Sergeant Major Williamson and Colonel King, who were always very fun to be around and taught me several life lessons,” she said. “(And) my English teacher Mr. Horne, with whom I could talk about anything, (including) Astros games. Ms. Nadine and Ms. Riser helped me throughout my time at Scarborough.”
She served as the team’s commander of the JROTC’s Unarmed drill team as well as president of the Scarborough High School National Honor Society.
“I was very excited to share the (salutatorian) news with my family as they have always been supportive of me and my future,” she said.
Rosales said her biggest high school challenge was dealing with the negative side of success – “the harder I worked in school the more people would try to bring me down because I was successful. It bothered me until I learned that negativity can be a vital part of life. Instead of capitulating, I learned to use negativity to motivate me not to let them or anything stop me from accomplishing what I want to achieve in life.”
Valedictorian Emily Ramirez, Heights High School
Ramirez will attend Harvard University to major in government. She was also accepted at Yale, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Stanford, Wellesley, Pomona, and Rice.
The fact that Ramirez’s sister also attends Harvard was a deciding factor in her college choice.
“I have been looking forward to our graduation ceremony since the start of my senior year, especially after I made valedictorian,” Emily said. “It’s a little disheartening not sharing this moment with our classmates, teachers, families, and mentors who helped us. Nevertheless, this is an accomplishment that I’ve worked toward for years, and even if I don’t get to celebrate it in the way I originally planned, I’m grateful for what I learned, both in and out of the classroom.”
As a senior class officer, Ramirez worked with her principal, student activities coordinator, and classmates to come up with ways to keep their senior class engaged.
Ramirez is the chair of the City of Houston Mayor’s Youth Council, the president of ZIA Sisterhood, the director of St. Jerome Teen ACTS Retreat Group, the secretary of her senior class, and an EMERGE Fellowship Ambassador. She enjoys hand-lettering, playing guitar, and volunteering.
Ramirez credits the EMERGE college readiness program for supporting her throughout this process.
“Their support during my college application process was invaluable,” Ramirez said. “They taught me to dream bigger and work harder, and that as long as I am willing to work for it, I can reach any goal.”
Salutatorian Daniel Gonzalez, Heights High School
Gonzalez will attend Boston University to major in Computer Science.