Each year, The Topeka Capital-Journal chooses the All-State Academic Team, a recognition of the best and brightest young minds the Sunflower State has to offer. One graduating senior per high school in Kansas can be nominated by their principal or guidance counselor for consideration
Pratt High School (Bill and Shannon Bergner): This leader has spearheaded several key events such as safety presentations with law enforcement and has been involved in numerous activities, including honor band and National Honor Society. She plans to attend Kansas State University and major in biological systems engineering with an environmental focus.
Quote: “I’ve realized my passion for conservation. Even in our own state, our prairies are being threatened by invasive trees that are spreading like wildfire and pushing out native species. My educational, career, and life goal is to spread awareness for these issues and work diligently to solve the problems.”
Washburn Rural High School (Michael and Michelle Berry): With a balance of extracurricular activities and academics, this accomplished debater plans to attend Yale University and major in economics.
Quote: “I am the president-elect of the Topeka Youth Project. My main contribution is in the Youth Court, where I go to a courtroom and, in front of a judge and a jury of my peers, argue for reduced sentences for juveniles’ minor legal violations, such as traffic tickets. The position has allowed me to defend clients with real-world impacts, and has given me skills, such as communication and compromise, that I will use in my future profession.”
Shawnee Heights High School (Robert and Beatriz Bloomquist): This strong leader has participated in Washburn Leadership Challenge Event and Model UN, orchestra and plans to attend Wichita State University and major in political science and Spanish.
Quote: “In eighth grade, I decided I would embrace my culture and learn Spanish. … I refuse to let language hold someone back from loving and talking to the people who matter most. From not having the ability to communicate with my own grandparents to now being able to hold full conversations with native speakers, I feel ecstatic that I persevered and bridged the gap between myself and my beloved Hispanic culture."
Girard High School (Greg and Missy Brynds): A standout in FFA and FCCLA, this accomplished student plans to attend the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville Campus and major in biological/agricultural engineering.
Quote: “Not only did I have the chance to host and speak at a district-wide conference for 600 freshman students, but I also received the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. and represent my FFA (Future Farmers of America) Chapter at the National Washington Leadership Conference. However, the most memorable opportunity that came from overcoming my obstacles was receiving the opportunity to speak to the Kansas Department of Education at a luncheon event about the importance of Career and Technical Student Organizations.”
Manhattan High School (Viktor Chikan and Agnes Chikanne Gyurko): This top student has participated in a wide range of activities and volunteered at the Access English Summer Camp in Moldova. He plans to attend Cornell University and major in computer science and physics.
Quote: "I lived a large portion of my life without the ability to speak English. Both of my parents were immigrants from Hungary and as a result, they passed their native language down to me. … My inability to communicate in my early childhood made me realize the importance of communication, and thus, I have studied an additional two languages throughout high school: German and Russian.”
Southeast of Saline High School (John and Kim Clements): Respected for his efforts in leadership, volunteering and encouraging others, this aspiring actuary plans to attend Kansas State University and major in mathematics.
Quote: “Through many of the activities that I'm involved in at school I volunteer in many ways like helping with the elementary Fun Night at our school or with the Salvation Army Christmas Toy Distribution. I also help with many activities in my community like the Gypsum Lions Club Pancake Feed or the Gypsum Pie Festival and Car Show. … No matter what, I have been able to find the support necessary to maintain the academic level that I strive for.”
Salina High School Central (Joel and Paula Figgs): Active in sports, theater and student government, this top scholar plans to major in biomedical engineering with an emphasis in pre-med.
Quote: "Moving to Salina, Kansas, the summer before my freshman year, I did not know my plans for high school or my ‘right place.’ When enrolling, the class I wanted was full, so I was forced to take a class called basic drafting. In the male-dominated field of engineering, there is a perceived and real stigma against women. … I decided to break this stigma by winning the engineering competition for the state of Kansas two years in a row.”
Lane W. Fischer
Ellis High School (Brian and Melanie Fischer): This champion forensics team member and FFA leader plans to attend Yale University and major in history, English and/or political science.
Quote: “My parents taught me that you have to use the storms to grow in unfavorable conditions. They pushed me to take advantage of all the opportunities that are found here--FFA, forensics, band. It is in these places that I found the things necessary to thrive. FFA taught me how to lead, inspire, and advocate. Forensics helped me beat my nerves and find confidence in myself. Band exposed me to a whole new form of creativity and self-expression.”
De Soto High School (Mike and Sheila Fowks): Leadership on the school newspaper and creation of a Mindful Mornings club are among the achievements of this scholar, who plans to attend Northern Arizona University and major in social work and communications.
Quote: “I wanted to create a space where other students felt safe to release their worries,” she said of the Mindful Mornings club. “Due to my own experience with mental illness, I have learned how to empathize with and help those who face the same challenges. I have also come to understand myself much better and have learned that I want to continue to aid those in similar struggles.”
Marysville High School (Julio and Jennifer Franco): This athlete and scholar plans to attend Barton Community College to play volleyball and major in biology and pre-physician assistant.
Quote: "An obstacle that I have encountered and still am encountering is the separation of my family from Mexico. Originally, my mom, dad, and I are from Mexico. Then, we moved to the United States, where my sister was born, when I was at the age of two. … Thanks to my parents for being courageous, it has motivated me to work hard and use the opportunities that they wanted me to take. I’ve obtained many achievements in academics, sports, clubs, and certifications.”
Ashley Gabrielle Hammes
Nemaha Central High School (Ryan and Angie Hammes): This well-rounded student has demonstrated leadership in clubs, sports and volunteering. She plans to attend Kansas State University and major in accounting with a business administration minor.
Quote: “Our nation is haunted by the shadow of crippling debt. … Now, who has to make up for this deficit? We the people. Every year, a single U.S. citizen pays thousands of dollars in taxes to help resolve this issue. However; we need people in leadership positions to come forward with legitimate solutions to this problem. With this huge amount of debt looming over us, our economy may falter.”
Rock Creek High School (Sarah and David Hancock): Active in debate, scholars bowl and sports along with his church and community, this scholar plans to major in psychology.
Quote: “The Senior Exit Project is a hurdle for every Rock Creek student. The minimum requirements are for students to conduct a project of 15 hours in length, starting in their junior year. My project’s total execution time topped 100. Since Rock Creek does not offer any psychology courses, I decided to explore the field by conducting research. I found a mentor in Dr. Michael Young, head and professor of the Psychological Sciences department at Kansas State University.”
Elkhart High School (Shan and Michelle Hanes): Dedicated to service through a variety of organization, this diligent student plans to attend Washburn University and major in business with a minor in political science.
Quote: She described putting extreme pressure on herself, leading to serious physical and mental health challenges. “Because of my determination, I remained number one academic ranking in my class even while taking pre-calculus and physics, despite my thirty-two absences. I presented a mental health workshop in front of peers at an International Convention in Chicago. This experience proved to me that nothing is going to stop me from accomplishing my goals.”
Garden City High School (Dr. Tim and Christina Hanigan): This driven scholar has maintained a rigorous schedule and served as a research intern at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences. She plans to attend the University of Kansas and major in biology.
Quote: “Social media can be a powerful tool to connect people around the globe, but it also threatens the future of society by placing children at risk. Parents, teachers, and global leaders must all work to ensure that adolescents use social media safely and at the right age in order to prevent lasting mental and physical health problems in future generations.”
Hillsboro High School (Jerry and Tamara Hinerman): This hard-working senior has pursued activities including choir, cheerleading, drama and forensics. She plans to attend John Brown University and major in business management/administration.
Quote: “As a generation, our responsibility is to try to leave a better world than we were given. I have great respect for the generations before us, but I wonder how their actions will affect the future of the generations after us. My largest concerns about the future are found in the shortage of natural resources, the effects of communication using technology, and the judgement that we place on situations that do not warrant our input.”
Hartford High School (Eric Holmes; Mike and Amanda Glasgow): This leader plans to attend the University of Kansas on a pre-law track, majoring in psychology with a minor in applied behavioral sciences or political science.
Quote: “Each generation has made their mistakes, but I believe it is my generation’s job to help resolve them. Politics has been a concern for every generation, but recently it has been a real problem. I have a feeling that with recent political issues progressing, that our future is going to be scary. We are at a point in our nation that a nobody can agree on anything or the trust for our leaders has grown nonexistent.”
Blue Valley West High School (Devi and Raju Kakarlapudi): This mentor and leader plans to major in aerospace engineering.
Quote: “Today, our greatest challenge is shortsightedness. When crime occurs, we blame criminals rather than their circumstances. When temperatures rise, we work to capture CO2, yet burn fuel going to work. In any situation, we seek a simple answer, ignoring that our complex society is broken at the most basic level. Until we learn to fully evaluate the causes and effects of our everyday decisions as a global community, we can never truly solve the problems plaguing our society and environment.”
Seaman High School (Russell and Kyra King): This hard-working and responsible leader has many academic and club accomplishments, including co-founding the Civic Engagement Club. He plans to attend Kansas State University and major in biochemistry/pre-medicine.
Quote: “As a student, one of my primary concerns is the rising cost of education at all levels. In a society that demands postsecondary education to be successful in the workplace, it is troubling that our nation's postsecondary institutions are only becoming less accessible for the average student. This is especially troubling when one takes into account that the high cost of education disproportionately affects groups who have been systemically discriminated against for centuries.”
Lansing High School (Jeanette and Lance Lozenski): This scholar has presented research on carbon nanotubes and plans to major in biomedical engineering.
Quote: “Climate change will have many consequences if action is not taken soon. As polar ice caps melt, sea levels will rise, permanently flooding areas that were once towns and shipping ports. Natural disasters would become more often and extreme. Diseases frozen in the polar ice caps will be released into a world that has never experienced them. Species of animals and plants will not be able to adapt to their environments and will go extinct, which could cause of a domino effect of other species going extinct due to the interdependence of life.”
Frontenac High School (Todd and Kelli McKnight): Balancing activities and college classes, this scholar has many accomplishments, including writing and performing an original one-act play. She plans to attend Abilene Christian University and major in Communication.
Quote: "One concern I have about the future is the long-term psychological effects that technology is going to have on my generation. Our parents did not have the knowledge or experience to know how to properly regulate technology usage for their children and teens. Because their generation was the first to have access to technological innovations, they were unaware of how detrimental too much time spent on screens would have on my generation.”
Olathe North High School (Prasanta and Rasmita Patro): This distinguished scholar developed STEM Kits for Kids, a hospital-based teaching program. She plans to attend the California Institute of Technology and major in material science engineering and chemistry.
Quote: “STEM Kits for Kids is my lit candle in a dark room that represents what I can do for the world. I have a light to discover what I love and how I want to impact the world. This project lit the path for me to discover that I love to create and share or teach. I discovered a passion for me to learn more about science, specifically material science and chemistry, to learn how to make a difference.”
Andover High School (Tommy and Becky Phelps): This valedictorian has exceled in community service, including rallying her school behind a service project to help provide drinking water to a third-world country. She plans to attend Kansas State University and major in architectural engineering.”
Quote: "There have been many technological advances that promote efficiency and bring our lavish inventions within grasp. However, I am concerned that there is an over-reliance on technology which keeps us from learning life skills, having true relationships, and taking breaks. Technology has diminished the value of the skills our grandparents mastered. … My generation must be aware of these technological side-effects to avoid a warped reality.”
Tonganoxie High School (Shawn and Tonya Phillips): With accomplishments including creating a student technology support program, this scholar plans to attend Kansas State University and major in computer engineering.
Quote: "One of the biggest concerns I have about the future is the rising cost of college. Post-secondary education is now almost a requirement after high school in order to live comfortably in the middle class. However, when going to college, many students incur major amounts of student loan debt which they will be paying off for years to come. In fact, many recent college graduates are unable to pay for a mortgage because they have so much student loan debt that has to be paid off.”
Moundridge High School (Lee and Michelle Porter): This independent leader shines in academics, arts and activities. She plans to attend Kansas State University and major in chemical engineering.
Quote: “The biggest volunteer project that I have undertaken has been tutoring. I have tutored middle school students during the school day throughout this past year for about 30 hours this year so far. With tutoring I am able to help students with anything from their math homework to understanding what a word means in their English book. This has been a very significant project to me because it has allowed me to connect with a particular group of students that I normally would not connect with.”
Lawrence Free State High School (Mahbub Rashid and Shakila Tanjim): Working to raise awareness of STEM as president of the Ascent Science Club, this scholar has pursued his interest in biochemistry, including volunteering at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. He is leaning toward attending Rutgers University and majoring in biochemistry.
Quote: “Ultimately, I hope to use what I learn to mitigate the concerns that I have related to disease and pollution in the future. I hope to pursue a career where I heal others using innovative medicine that boosts defenses against both pollution and disease. I hope to find solutions, but more importantly, I seek new problems to solve— and I will cultivate this insatiable curiosity far into the future.”
Ness City High School (Derek and Jennifer Reinhardt): This engaged leader and student council president founded a group that works to stop youth substance abuse. He plans to attend Kansas State University and major in sports broadcasting journalism.
Quote: "My biggest concern for the future is how well we handle our treatment of the earth. Plastic waste that takes hundreds of years to decompose is being wasted at an alarming high rate. There are precautions and actions we can take, but everything comes with us spending a little bit more money, giving up a little freedom, or taking away some of our comforts.”
Pleasanton High School (Mitch and Tina Shaw): Active in school musicals and forensics, this scholar plans to attend Pittsburg State University and major in performing arts and political science.
Quote: “When I was 16 years old, I was in a car wreck. … From that day forward, I wanted to make a difference on making people safe. I was already in S.A.F.E. club, but I wanted to do more. I was given the opportunity to speak in front of the Kansas legislature about my experience and why I believe seatbelts are important for everyone. Giving my testimony helped pass a bill to raise the prices of tickets for people not wearing their seatbelt.”
Macksville High School (Robb and Jody Suiter): A leader in the classroom and community, this scholar plans to attend Kansas State University, major in chemistry and complete the pre-pharmacy curriculum.
Quote: “I try to keep myself up-to-date on local and global issues, and there are many dilemmas that our world is facing that concern me. One issue that I think is important to think about is how we can provide adequate food and water for the ever-growing population, especially since hundreds of millions of people are already struggling to obtain these basic necessities. Climate change, as well as developing better renewable energy technologies are also issues that I believe are important.”
Andover Central High School (Dave and Laurie Wolf): Honing leadership skills through numerous clubs and volunteer activities, this scholar plans to attend University of Kansas - honors program, majoring in biomedical engineering.
Quote: “As the current president of the Andover Central outlet of Kids 4 Kids, and previously serving on the leadership team for two years, my responsibilities extend across the extensive pillars of Kids 4 Kids. From arranging club meetings, communicating with advisors, and facilitating events, I am in charge of making sure everything runs according to plan. With events focused on raising money for the less fortunate, bringing in cans for the local food bank, and much more, I have been able to give back to my community.”
Blue Valley Southwest High School (Jennifer Shen and Vincent Wu): Known for her intellect, work ethic, and unpretentious personality, this scholar has amassed many distinctions including earning a perfect score on the ACT. She plans to major in biochemistry or biomedical engineering.
Quote: “I’ve continued to improve myself to be a better teammate and a role model for the younger debaters, especially for those who lack confidence in themselves or hate public speaking as I once did. I’m intimately familiar with failure, but I now know that failure is simply a temporary setback waiting to be overcome by hard work.”