CHAPEL HILL - Chapel Hill High School named 15 valedictorians in its 2012 graduating class. They are:
• Zaynah Alam: In her junior year, Alam and fellow valedictorian Olivia Dang started the Save the Music Club to give free piano lessons to underprivileged Morris Grove Elementary students.
Alam was managing editor of the student newspaper, the Proconian, and spent four years in the National Fraternity and one year in the International Fraternity of Student Musicians. She has received the Durham Mayor’s Award twice, was an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction and received the Maureen O’Donnell Oxford Classical Dictionary Award for earning four gold medals on the National Latin Exam.
Alam is considering a career in research or medicine.
Her memories of high school include “the teachers who taught me so much more than just their curricula, the amazing friends and all the fun adventures we’ve had together, the hours spent with the paper’s editing staff to get editions out.”
• Olivia Dang: Dang played varsity volleyball for four years, earning All-Conference honors. Co-president of the Save the Music Club, which gives piano lessons to underprivileged children at Morris Grove Elementary, she also volunteers and works as a piano teacher in her neighborhood. She will be a community service fellow at Cornell University.
Dang plans to study computer science, business or operations research.
“I will remember the funny and friendly people I encountered in school the most, and all my best friends and the fun, sometimes stupid things we do,” Dang said.
• Maya Handa: Handa, the editor of the Proconian student newspaper and leader of the Spanish Honor Society, won the society’s Junior Travel Awards last year and a trip to Argentina over the summer. She hopes to work in journalism or politics.
“I’ll happily remember late nights working on the newspaper,” she said.
• Conor Hendershot: Hendershot spent three weeks participating in a service and language immersion program in Peru. He has been involved for the last two years with the Leaders Club and played soccer and lacrosse at CHHS. Hendershot is president of the National Honor Society.
“What I remember most would be that great times I’ve had with my friends and all the great support they have provided me throughout my high school career,” he said.
He will study mechanical engineering at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.
• Sean Hicks: Hicks rode his bike across North Carolina, but what he will remember most from the last four years will be the “good teachers, good friends and good times” he had at Chapel Hill High School, he said.
Hicks said he hopes to find a cure for cancer and AIDS while working in patient care or medical research.
• Elena Horwitz: Horwitz said she’s “incredibly proud” of the mural about the history of environmental policies that she and three friends painted in the history hall.
But “some of my most interesting moments in high school would be in Class Council meetings when we would try to brainstorm ideas and get completely off track of the task,” she said.
At college, she will study psychology with a goal of going to medical school to be a psychiatrist.
• Kristen Laubscher: Laubscher was a member of the SkipSations jump rope team for eight years and competed in many national tournaments.
She was a staff member of the Proconian school newspaper and was co-editor-in-chief this year. Laubscher was treasurer for the Class Council and vice president of the National Honor Society, and she represented North Carolina at the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Conference in Washington, D.C.
In Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College, she will study communications and political science.
“I have had the most incredible teachers, who truly care about what they’re teaching and their students,” she said. “I will also remember the senior class, because they are the most intelligent, fun and talented students I know.”
• Daphne Liu: Music has been an important part of Liu’s life, and she will remember the friends she made and “everything that the band program at CHHS has done for me,” she said.
Liu played flute for eight years and has participated in band since the sixth grade, from the marching band to the symphonic band and the pit orchestra. She also served as vice president of the band program and was flute section leader.
Her future plans include completing a double major in math and music.
• Alexa Mendes: When Mendes wasn’t in school or doing homework, she could be found at the pool. Mendes trained three to five hours every day before and after school for several years. This fall, she will swim for Duke University.
“My two older brothers currently swim for UNC Chapel Hill, so, needless to say, there will be some big-time sibling rivalry next year – a house divided!” she said.
She would like to pursue a career in law or politics, but she will always remember the “inspiring teachers at CHHS who dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their students’ academic well-being.”
• Abby Muller: Muller has made a high school career of music as president of Chapel Hill’s band, a three-year pit orchestra member, and horn captain and saxophonist in the marching band. She also played oboe in the symphonic band, making All-District Band twice.
She will “remember all my wonderful friends,” she said. “Band in particular has been a really incredible formative experience for me, and I’m sure I’ll remember that most of all.”
Muller served as co-president of the Science Olympiad team, spending a month in Switzerland studying French, and leading the Harry Potter Club with fellow valedictorian Daphne Liu.
Muller plans to study cognitive science or linguistics at Brown University.
• James Parks: A dedicated Boy Scout, Parks is wrapping up his Eagle Scout project now. He’s also an active member of the Chapel Hill band program, playing percussion for the marching band all four years and for the last two years in the jazz combo.
“It’s not so much what you know as it is who you know, and I think you can learn about as much from meeting people as you can from sitting in a classroom,” he said.
The rising engineering major at N.C. State University also “might remember some math, too,” he said.
• Priyanka Reddy: Reddy plans to study biology and art in college. She has been an active member of Chapel Hill’s Science Olympiad and Science Bowl teams, while competing in varsity tennis and playing the piano and ukulele. Last summer, she studied art at Parsons School of Design in New York City. She also placed in the top 10 in the nation in the National French Exam for levels one through four.
Her primary memories of high school will include “the relationships I made, with friends and teachers,” she said.
• Esther Rolf: Rolf spent two years as an assistant coach and two additional years as co-head coach for a Carrboro Parks and Recreation Department recreational field hockey team. She played field hockey, golf and ran track at CHHS. She’s also president of the German Honor Society.
She wants to study engineering, science or math. She will always remember her friends, she said.
“They have been super wonderful and always supportive, and I love that I have different friends who each mean something special to me,” she said.
• Adam Wang: Despite two collapsed lungs within a year, Wang succeeded less than a couple of months after recovery in making the All-District and All-State bands.
“I will remember the long hours spent in rehearsal preparing for concerts, swing dances and musicals. I spent almost as much time playing an instrument as being in a classroom,” he said.
At UNC, he may seek a double major in music and computer science with an eye toward working with sound design and music in the gaming industry, he said.
• Katy Weinberg: Weinberg said she fell in love with Hispanic culture during a service project last summer in Costa Rica.
She was awarded the Presidential Service Award for her work in Costa Rica and served as an intern with El Futuro, a program that helps Hispanic children and parents who have experienced trauma. Weinberg is an active member of the National Spanish Honor Society and the National Honor Society.
She will attend Davidson College, where she plans to ride for the equestrian team and major in biology with a minor in Spanish.
Weinberg said she wants to continue serving people in Third World countries.
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