Washington High School
Zakheya Johnson, the Washington valedictorian, found out in early February that she had definitively secured the top spot. As a participant in EMERGE, a program which helps students navigate the college admissions process, Johnson looked at schools in the northeast but decided on Texas A&M University.
“I felt at home there,” said Johnson, who plans to major in biochemistry. She has received scholarship funds from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.
As a child Johnson wanted to be a veterinarian, and she has always been interested in science, identifying biology as a favorite class. Now, she is interested in learning ways to combat global warming and also finding ways to encourage others to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
Along with EMERGE, Johnson was an active member of the National Honor Society, The Booker T. Washington Leadership Academy and The Booker T. Washington Student Council. She also played volleyball and softball.
“I think (graduation) will be bittersweet,” Johnson said. “I know I will cry. It will be happy and sad.”
Salutatorian Michael Bess came to Washington for ninth grade because he was interested in the school’s engineering program but found his true interest to be computer technology. He is joining the United States Army to be an IT technician and will be deployed in July. Bess has plans for college down the road using military scholarship funds.
A fan of travel and anime, Bess hopes to visit Japan during his time in the military.
Sports were a big part of Bess’ high school life. He was on the basketball, track and cross country teams. His favorite subject was math, specifically algebra, because he loved his teacher.
“The community at (Washington) felt like family,” said Bess, whose graduation speech will be about the important things in life.
Heights High School
Heights valedictorian Ryan Ebel knew he wanted to stay in Texas for college to take advantage of scholarships for state valedictorians. He will attend the University of Houston with a plan to major in mechanical engineering and then pursue an advanced degree in aerospace engineering. A job at NASA is the end goal.
A self-described contrarian, Ebel said he enjoyed being on the debate team. He also was an active participant in the math club. He enjoyed going to University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions to catch up with his middle school friends from Young Men’s College Preparatory Academy, now called Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men. Five of the valedictorians and salutatorians at Houston ISD’s honoree banquet were people Ebel knew from Mickey Leland.
Ebel’s favorite subject is math, which is maybe not surprising considering that his father is a math teacher. A relatively new hobby is metal working.
He said his speech for the graduating class is almost written and while he intends for it to be impactful, he’s also mindful of length.
“I don’t want it to be very long,” he said.
Salutatorian Dagny Carlsson will attend Stanford University in the fall with a planned major in linguistics and computer science. Carlsson liked that Stanford is a good mix of STEM and liberal arts classes. Carlsson attributes her interests to the Java class she took at Heights.
“If tech is the future, wouldn’t we want to make it easier for humans to interact with computers?” she asked.
After starting German classes in ninth grade, Carlsson took to the language and gained fluency. Three of the scholarships she received, the Houston Saengerbund Language Scholarship, the Texas State German Mary El-Beheri Memorial Scholarship and the Gail Cope Memorial Scholarship, were all because of her proficiency.
Carlsson was involved in theater, the International Thespians Society, tennis and the German Club.
“We also started a film club,” Carlsson said. “We might make some movies this summer.”
Of the future, Carlsson said she is excited.
“I will miss my teachers and friends,” she said.
Lutheran High North
Valedictorian Robert Kinloch plans to attend Texas A&M University with the help of a scholarship and study economics.
His favorite subject at Lutheran High North was AP calculus. Kinlock, who became an Eagle Scout this year, also was involved in several extracurricular activities, including praise band and multiple sports.
Kinlock said his favorite activity was soccer, in which he earned all-state accolades as a junior, and he also participated in baseball, cross country, football and golf.
“It was kind of surreal,” Kinlock said of graduating. “I was ready for high school to end, but I never knew that it would come and go so fast. Parts of me were thinking, ‘Finally it’s over,” but the other side of me was thinking about all the memories I’ve made and all the people I may never see again.”
Salutatorian Jordan Killinger will attend Rice University in the fall and intends to double major in English and biology while pursuing a minor in cognitive sciences.
“I hope to become a geneticist someday,” Killinger said.
At Lutheran High North, she was in the marching band, concert band, jazz Band and praise band. Killinger also served on the yearbook committee and was active in theater.
English and anatomy classes were among Killinger’s favorites. She also was the recipient of LHN’s highest award, the Pro Deo Et Schola Award.
Killinger received a $1,000 scholarship from the Greater Heights Area Chamber of Commerce Fund. She said attending Rice has been an ambition since childhood.
“Now it feels like this dream is coming true,” she said. “However, I know I would not have been accepted had it not been for my numerous leadership and extracurricular activities North provided during the last four years of my life.”
Waltrip High School
Waltrip valedictorian Marissa Ortiz said her senior year went by quickly. Of her life after graduation she says she’s both nervous and excited.
Ortiz received a University of Houston Academic Excellence Scholarship and plans to attend the Honors College at UH, which she said is a college within a college with an emphasis on collaborative work. She plans to major in exercise science with the possible goal of becoming a physical therapist.
“I’ve always been interested in science,” said Ortiz, who named both biology and English as favorite subjects. “(English) brought out my creative side.”
Activities at Waltrip included playing trumpet in the school band, marching with the color guard and membership in National Honor Society. For color guard, Ortiz was named most outstanding and most dependable.
Salutatorian Jaqueline Valdez will attend the University of Texas at Austin, where she plans to major in neuroscience with the objective of becoming an optometrist. Valdez was inspired by her mother’s difficulties with having a scar on her cornea.
“That little organ has so much to do with the rest of the body,” Valdez said.
Valdez, who received college money from the Texas Grant and the University Tuition Grant, was an award-winning member of the school band, playing flute, as well as the National Honor Society. She also participated in the EMERGE program, which she said helped her through the college admissions process.
Her favorite subjects at Waltrip were science, math and U.S. history.
Scarborough High School
Scarborough valedictorian Bhavik Patel will attend the University of Houston, where he plans to major in computer engineering.
At Scarborough, Patel said his best memories are of the field trips he took and names his science classes among his favorites. His hobbies include gaming, mechanical keyboards and do-it-yourself projects.
Patel said he is looking forward to a bit of a break after years of hard work.
“I thought high school was fun, but mostly I am excited about summer break because I don’t have to get up early,” he said. “I will be pretty sad that my friends are going all over the country, but I will try to keep in touch with them through the Internet.”
Scarborough’s salutatorian is Jacqueline Dominguez.
St. Thomas High School
Valedictorian Kellin McGowan has already delivered his graduation speech and said while he was nervous beforehand, it was easier than he thought.
“While at the podium, I grew less nervous and more confident in my skills,” he said. “The crowd gave me a standing ovation, both before and after my speech.”
McGowan plans to attend the University of Chicago and major in political science. He wants to attend law school in the future. He is the recipient of scholarships from St. Thomas and the University of Chicago, among others.
At St. Thomas, McGowan enjoyed participating in student council and serving as an Eagle Ambassador, giving tours to prospective students. Literature and calculus classes were McGowan’s favorites. He received the Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge Award and the St. Thomas Club Award.
Salutatorian Tuscan Savarino is going to attend the University of Texas at Austin to study civil engineering.
Savarino played baseball for St. Thomas and was part of a state-championship swim team. He received the Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge scholarship for three of the years he attended St. Thomas. He particularly enjoyed his math classes and was a member of the St. Thomas Club, which requires at least a 4.0 GPA.
He describes the end of his high school career as bittersweet.
“I loved that high school was finally over but hated the feeling that I would be leaving some of my good friends behind,” he said.
St Pius X High School
Nathan Skouby will be attending Texas A&M University and plans to study computer engineering.
“I plan to play an active part in the realization of the potential of technology in our world,” Skouby said. “In doing so, I hope to make everyone’s lives a little bit easier.”
At St. Pius X, Skouby participated in cross country, track, swimming and baseball. He was the president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and a member of the Student Honor Board. Skouby also volunteered with Students Serving Soldiers and served as a crew member for various productions in Theatre SPX.