The biggest splash for Kaelin Wolf was outside the swimming pool in the company of friends and teammates he has known for years.
The Silver Spring Township youth was one of 10 high school athletes named last November to the First All-State Team by the Pennsylvania Water Polo Association.
Half of those honored including Wolf were starters for the Cumberland Valley High School team that went undefeated last fall and won back-to-back state championships.
“It was a really cool moment,” said Wolf, 18, a senior, recalling the awards ceremony. “All of us were standing up there together being recognized for hours upon hours of hard work that we had put in all the way back through middle school.”
A swimmer since the second grade, Wolf was fascinated by water polo but only gave it a try after another boy said he could show up for practice and join the team.
Wolf, the son of Bob and Anita Wolf, followed through and has been involved in the sport since the seventh grade. “It is more competitive and dynamic than swimming,” he said. “It’s a mind game of action and reaction. How can you put yourself in the best position where maybe 20 seconds later you can make a move to help you score and win?
“I like the challenge,” Wolf added. “I get to incorporate my swimming skills. It tires you out and is great exercise to help you stay in shape.”
In his junior year, Wolf set a new school record in the number of assists – about 86 for the 2015 season. A team captain his senior year, Wolf was part of a group of starters who had peaked in capability.
“The biggest growing point for us was working together and smoothly incorporating everyone’s strengths into the game play rather than try to have one person do everything,” Wolf said. “We learned when to take charge and when to step back and let somebody else have a go at it. We did that very well.”
It helped that the starters were a tight-knit group with experience in swimming going back 10 years. “We had known each other for a very long time,” Wolf said. “The thing we kept getting warned about was don’t let your ego get in the way. We played with confidence but didn’t underestimate our opponents.”
Wolf is an important team player in another facet of student life at Cumberland Valley High School. He was one of about six teens who launched in his sophomore year The Mirror — an arts and literary webzine featuring short stories, poems and artwork done by high school students.
“It’s really neat we can give them a place to publish their work,” Wolf said. “We get some really good submissions. I like seeing the work my fellow students put out.”
Wolf was approached in his freshman year by a female classmate whose older brother was once involved in the old high school literary magazine, which became defunct. Working together, they formed a group that recruited a teacher as the club adviser and launched www.cvmirror.org during Wolf’s sophomore year.
“The five or six of us were all involved in every decision,” Wolf said. “What type of stuff did we want to accept ... How we wanted to publish it ... How to get the word out. ... That came slowly together at first.”
Since its launch, The Mirror has been the host site for a number of competitions including a flash fiction contest and a poetry slam. There was a love story contest around Valentine’s Day.
“As head of the writing editors, I look over all the writing submissions,” Wolf said. “We do a group editing.” If the submitted work passes muster, it is uploaded onto the webzine site. If it needs work, the suggested editorial changes are taken back to the author for a rewrite or revision.
There is a plan underway to produce a paper copy of the webzine sometime before the end of the school year. The webzine includes videos, digital animation and even original student-produced music.
After graduating in June, Wolf plans to attend college in the fall and major in either pre-medicine or biology. “I want to go to medical school and specialize in neurology or psychiatry,” he said. Wolf also wants to study abroad sometime during his college experience.
In his freshman year at Cumberland Valley, Wolf went on a school trip to China that had a lasting impression. “It opened my eyes to how diverse the world is,” he said. “I got a worldly view of how people live. That was an amazing experience.” He had already taken three years of Chinese as a foreign language in school.
Growing up in Cumberland County, Wolf was a fan of "Mystery Diagnosis," a television docudrama series that aired on Oprah Winfrey Network. Each episode focused on people who suffered from obscure medical ailments and their hunt for an accurate diagnosis.
Occasionally the show featured the expertise of a neurologist who shared their opinion on a diagnosis. “It sounded like a cool job,” Wolf recalled. That show got him interested.
Since then, Wolf has done independent projects and has learned all he could about the field. He especially enjoyed an advanced placement class in psychology.
Wolf gained valuable first-hand experience as a volunteer in the emergency room of a Pinnacle Health Hospital. “I went around with the nurses and got to see all of the different cases,” he said. Wolf helped staff prepare rooms for patients and saw how the hospital handled the mentally ill who needed crisis intervention.
For Harrisburg Academy senior Jonathan Pastor, the dream of one day going into medicine dates back to one of his earliest memories.
“I’ve been interested in medicine since I was really young,” he said. “One of the earliest things I can remember is we had a career day when I was in preschool and I dressed up like a doctor. I’ve always just kind of been interested in the human body and how it works.”
Pastor is one step closer to making that dream a reality, although he now hopes to go into biomedical engineering.
He was recently accepted to attend Penn State University and Purdue University next year, and he is currently awaiting a response from Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon University before deciding where he will go.
For many students, medicine is a lofty and idealistic goal, but Pastor said he has a drive to help people. However, the realities of surgery or medical examination can cause some to shy away.
Not for Pastor. He has already taken part in areas of the medical field that would cause some to become squeamish.
Following his 11th-grade year, Pastor traveled to Poland to observe cardio thoracic surgeries as part of the IB Scholarship and Summer Study.
“It was really emotional, because it was at a children’s hospital,” Pastor said. “All of the patients were under two years old and one was only 10 days old. I could tell the head surgeon was really nervous for that one. It was really impressive to see him remain calm in that situation.”
Pastor said he is driven to medicine because family members like his father and grandfather have had heart issues.
“I think it would be great if I could help other people who have heart issues,” he said.
Pastor is the son of John and Sharon Pastor of Camp Hill.
Pastor credited his parents with much of his academic and personal success.
“I think my parents are one of my biggest inspirations because both of them were engineers, so that’s part of the reason why I chose to do biomedical engineering over a typical biology major,” he said. “They’ve supported me all the way through and helped me out a lot with my Eagle Scout project. … They’ve always been supportive of me with what I do in school and everything.”
Along with his academic honors – like earning a first place award at the Capital Area Science and Engineering Fair, a National Spanish Exam bronze medal and the St. Lawrence University Book Award – Pastor carries a near perfect GPA.
Pastor recently earned the rank of Eagle Scout, completed an internship at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and during his 11th-grade year coordinated a schoolwide blood drive.
“I’d say that’s my proudest achievement, maybe even more so than my Eagle Scout project, because of what it could do for other people,” Pastor said.
Pastor is also vice president of the student council, vice president of the National Honor Society, a member of the school’s QuizBowl and Academic WorldQuest teams, a member of the high school band and jazz band and a member of the varsity soccer and basketball teams.
“I would say what I do is I try to involve myself in a lot of different activities so I get different experiences and different perspectives,” he said. “I also plan out what I’m going to do for every week, so I know exactly what amount of time I need and what I’m going to get done.”
For a curious mind, inspiration can come from unexpected places.
Consider how Carlisle High School senior Mayce Van described the way her interest in Shakespeare and Latin developed.
Van said that when she was in fourth grade, she was spending time with her aunt, or more accurately, annoying her aunt. So her aunt threw a book at her.
“I just started reading it to leave her alone,” Van said.
The book happened to be an anthology of the works of William Shakespeare.
Van laughed as she told the story, and assured that she was fine and not to worry about her as she described a love of Latin that grew out of her reading. Shakespeare’s works are peppered with phrases in French and Latin. Van wanted to know exactly what those phrases meant.
“I kept getting so angry that I didn’t understand any of those phrases, and Google translate was just unreliable,” she said.
So by the time she was in sixth grade, Van set out to find someone who would tutor her in Latin, and has spent Saturdays and Sundays over the past five years studying.
Those years paid off when Van earned a Britton Scholarship, which allows three students at Carlisle High School to attend two classes at Dickinson College during their senior year. Because she had done so well in her private Latin lessons, Van was able to enroll in the second-year college courses, Introduction to Latin Prose and Introduction to Latin Poetry.
During high school, Van has also continued to pursue her love of Shakespeare as part of the Page-to-Stage Club and class in which she performed as Renee in "Mandy Dear," the lead witch in "Macbeth" and Lady Capulet in "Romeo and Juliet." She has also performed in scenes from "The Tempest," "Macbeth," "As You Like It," "Othello" and "Romeo and Juliet" at the Carlisle Theatre alongside Carlisle Cantate for multiple programs. Van was the junior reveler leader and director of King Lear and the senior reveler leader, senior troupe director and director of "Love’s Labour’s Lost" in the high school’s Shakespeare Troupe. She was also part of the EtCetera acting troupe.
In addition, Van participated in the Model UN Club and Poetry Out Loud competitions.
Van has also earned medals at the Academic Decathlon, which she described as a “grand tournament” of quizzes and tests covering math, social studies, art and literature among other subjects.
“It’s the nerdiest event you ever saw,” she said. “I love it.”
In addition to helping at her family’s businesses, Quy’s Vietnamese and Van’s Nails, Van has volunteered at Project SHARE, the Carlisle Summer Program for Youth, Carlisle CARES at St. John’s, and the St. John’s nursery program. Van is the daughter of Hoa Van and Tam Van.
Volunteering at Agia Sophia Harrisburg has been a highlight for Van. The non-profit coffee shop, operated by Orthodox Christian Charities of Greater Harrisburg Inc., runs almost exclusively with volunteers, and the profits are given to Harrisburg charities. Van has cleaned, cooked and served as a cashier in what she described as a quaint brown and tan coffee shop.
“In the background, you hear the chants of Greek churchmen. It’s so beautiful,” she said.
Van is awaiting word on college applications to Haverford, Swarthmore, Dickinson and Bryn Mawr. She plans on studying business.
(Nature) + (Nurture) x (A commitment to excellence) = High expectations for Addison Peters.
The Boiling Springs High School senior has come a long way from her childhood memory of collecting rocks in her backyard to learn multiplication and division.
“I remember it was in elementary school,” Peters said. “My dad was helping me. We were having a little math lesson.”
From an early age, Peters developed a love and aptitude for numbers and problem solving encouraged by her father, Chris, who works in logistics, and her mother, Laurie Bodisch, who works in banking.
What Peters enjoys the most about mathematics is its decisiveness and how the challenge to find a solution can work to expand her scope of knowledge with real-world applications.
“There is one distinct answer,” the 18-year-old said. “It’s not up for debate. ... It’s either right or wrong.”
For Peters, who carries a grade point average of 101, taking a test or entering a math competition is an opportunity for her to push herself to excel. Her drive and initiative have made an impression on the teaching staff at Boiling Springs High School.
“Addison was a quiet leader in the classroom,” said math teacher Kristine Ahl, who had Peters for calculus both her junior and senior years. “I would often see peers gravitate to her for collaborative work and guidance in problem solving.”
“She has been a stand-out student ... who easily adjusted to exceed high expectations and master rigorous math concepts,” said math department chair Aaron Beardmore, who had Peters in both honors algebra and pre-calculus. “It did not take me long to realize that Addison’s success in my classes was not simply the result of her aptitude in math, but was also an evidence of her strong study habits and a commitment to excellence.”
Both teachers wrote recommendation letters for Peters, who said she plans to attend Franklin & Marshall College in the fall where she will major in business and play for the college's field hockey team.
“I’m looking forward to taking a lot of accounting, finance and management classes,” Peters said. With graduation less than four months away, she will cherish a lesson learned as a Bubbler at Boiling Springs High School.
“A lot of my teachers taught me it’s important to remember the big picture ... not just what is happening now,” she said. “It’s important to always keep track of your future.”
Peters already has a head start with her involvement the past two years in both Mu Alpha Theta (the National Math Honor Society) and the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter.
Her membership in the honor society has enabled Peters to participate in group and individual math competitions while the FBLA has given her a foundation on the basics of the business world she plans to enter. Along the way, Peters had to master the fine art of time management to keep ahead of her ambitions.
Peters started playing field hockey in the seventh grade and, as a senior, was one of four captains that shared the responsibility of managing the varsity team.
“We set the example ... encouraging the girls to continue to work their hardest,” Peters said.
The effort paid off with a 2016 team that advanced to the state tournament for the fourth consecutive year. The Bubblers lost in the first round in a 2-1 overtime game against Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre.
“I love everything about it,” Peters said of field hockey. “It was a way that I made friends in high school. It really helped me to step outside of my comfort zone and become a well-rounded person.”
Peters was named a first team Mid-Penn Colonial Division field hockey all-star in her junior year and an All-Sentinel field hockey team selection in her senior year.
She was involved in fundraising all four years of high school and in teaching elementary school-aged girls how to play field hockey her sophomore, junior and senior years. Peters was active in a club field hockey team that won its pool in the National Field Hockey Festival.
Other activities have included chorus all four years of high school and participation her junior and senior years in the school’s Mini-Thon to benefit the Four Diamonds fund and its efforts to help children struggling with cancer.
For many students, excelling in academics while having their peers elect them as both student council president and senior class president would be a successful high school career.
Now, add being a year-round, three-sport varsity athlete while spending time doing volunteer work, and Kaijie “Dominic” Zhang’s accomplishment become more exemplary.
Couple all of that with the fact that the Chinese-born student immigrated to the United States with his family only four years ago, and it becomes clear why Harrisburg Academy senior has earned this week's Teen of the Week.
“I certainly looked forward to it before I came,” Zhang said of moving to the United States. “I think it was easy for me to adopt a culture ... At my age, I think most American culture is what fits me.”
Zhang joked that the only experience with American culture prior to immigrating came from watching the movie “Pulp Fiction,” which gave his parents some apprehension before sending him to the United States.
Zhang, the 17-year-old son of Bin Zhang and Hong Liu, came to the Midstate four years ago and spent two years living with a host family before the rest of his family immigrated to the states two years ago.
“For two years, Dominci was able to live an independent life as an international student living with a host family,” Harrisburg Academy Counselor Keo Oura Kounlavong-Sabath said in a letter of recommendation for Zhang. “... He had to address the new adult responsibilities that all immigrant children have to face.”
Zhang has earned certificates of completion for summer program from both Brown University and Johns Hopkins Universy, participated in WorldQuest, received a certificate of excellence by taking part of the Central Pennsylvania Science Olympiad and completing multiple high-level science courses, and received a tri-athletes award for competing on the Harrisburg Academy soccer, basketball and tennis teams.
“I used to want to be a doctor, but after I took (biology) I realized it really just wasn’t my thing,” Zhang said.
He now wants to attend college to study astrophysics or astronomy.
“I think it’s the theoretical side of it that really intrigues me, because it’s literally the most fundamental laws that governs the physical world,” Zhang said. “I love physics and I want to lean about the universe and the physics behind it ... The unknown to me is what I want to explore.”
While many students have a passion for a subject they want to study in college, Zhang has taken his love for physics and put it in practice.
Zhang spent a week between his junior and senior year studying astrophysics and world philosophy at Brown University as part of the university’s pre-college program.
He is also a citizen scientist with Planet Hunters. In his free time Zhang joins with citizen scientists around the world exploring data sets that are too large for computers to properly sort through.
The goal is to find anomalies that may indicate a yet-undiscovered planet.
“There are a lot of people working a project to read the light coming from distant planets to see if there might be a planet around a start that we could live on,” Zhang said.
In his spare time, Zhang has participated in activities like musical productions, volunteered for the Special Olympics and WITF’s Ready Set Go Kindergarten and is part of the YMCA Youth and Government.
Through YMCA Youth and Government Zhang has helped shape legislation that successfully cleared the Pennsylvania state legislature.
“I guess the thing I would say is if you really want to do something, you will find time for it,” Zhang said. “There’s certainly a lot of stuff in school and out of school and sometimes it’s hard ... It’s certainly frustrating, but you have to pay in all the hard work.”
A love of the piano sparked Sadhana Marikunte’s interest in engineering, leading the Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School senior to pursue a career that melds biology with robotics.
It all began when she heard her older sister playing the piano. The song was a Bach minuet that she just could not get out of her head. Marikunte said she hummed it constantly around the house.
Eventually, Marikunte started piano lessons. She now plays the violin and clarinet as well. All three instruments have played a role in deciding the activities she pursued in high school.
Marikunte was a clarinet section leader in the marching band before becoming drum major as a senior. Marching band has been one of her favorite activities as it combines the structure of the music with both emotion and motion, she said.
“Music and movement can produce such a beautiful product,” she said.
But, it’s the love of piano that draws Marikunte to the dining room at Messiah Lifeways for her favorite volunteer activity as she plays for the residents. It’s a win for all involved as Marikunte has an audience, and the residents enjoy the music.
Marikunte has discovered that playing the piano brings with it a certain amount of structure and creativity.
“It was always like a puzzle,” she said. “You see the notes on the page, but it’s up to you how to play them.”
Marikunte has translated that concept to her interest in science, which blossomed during a two-week STEM summer enrichment program at Penn State Harrisburg. At the program, the students constructed a small robot that followed the light during their sessions on electrical engineering.
“I still have it to this day. It was so fun,” she said.
Marikunte plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania where she will study electrical engineering. She decided to apply to the school after attending its “Women in Computer Science and Engineering” program during her junior year. During the program, she toured the campus and saw the projects students were working on in the labs.
“I liked the campus and how they foster a sense of creativity through science,” she said.
There was one lab that sparked her interest above the others. In that lab, the students were combining biology and robotics.
“It would be my dream to work in that lab,” Marikunte said.
Marikunte wants to design robots that will combat major issues facing developing countries such as lowering pollution, creating better transportation options and finding solutions for clean air and water.
Marikunte is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Shashidhara Marikunte, whom she describes as her heroes. Several years ago, Marikunte and her family spent the summer in her parents’ homeland and visited the area from which her parents came. That experience became the basis for a personal memoir that won a silver key award in the Scholastic Writing Contest during Marikunte’s freshman year.
“My family are immigrants from India so I owe so much to my parents,” she said. “They gave up so much for my sister and I to pursue our dreams.”
Katie Ulsh is busy adjusting her focus to make the picture crystal clear.
This 17-year-old Carlisle area youth has an image of what direction to take toward a career as a professional shutterbug.
“I’m not interested in studio work,” said Ulsh, a senior at Trinity High School. “I’m much more interested in field work … possibly photojournalism. I want to write stories about the people I’m taking pictures of.”
Growing up, Ulsh never thought of digital photography as an art form. It was just a way for her parents to take family snapshots of herself and her brother.
That all changed the summer of 2012 when Ulsh went overseas to Europe as part of a People to People tour of Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
“I took 7,000 pictures on my dad’s camera in the span of two weeks,” Ulsh said. “I thought this was really cool. … I can capture these moments and look back on them.”
The subject matter was typical tourist – landscapes, architecture and group shots of travelers, but the quality of her work impressed family and friends, setting in motion a career aspiration.
Encouraged by the feedback, Ulsh took a basic photography class with the Carlisle Arts Learning Center. In the summer of 2014, she participated in a program for middle school and high school students offered through Pace University in New York City.
There Ulsh learned how to work in a studio and to use software like Photoshop and Lightroom to process images. It was the beginning of an understanding of photography as a career.
“It opened my eyes to all the possibilities,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be fine art photography.”
The opportunities really took off once Ulsh realized she could turn a hobby into a business venture. She started Katie Ulsh Photography as a freshman by asking friends if they could model for her. In exchange, she made the images available for them to use on Instagram.
Gradually Ulsh took on paying jobs where she would photograph events like family reunions, snap senior portraits and take publicity skills for local businesses. Her parents taught her such basic business practices as how to prepare an invoice and develop a pricing sheet.
“It’s a unique thing to have at such a young age,” Ulsh said of her business. Because customers are expecting quality results, the experience has forced her to be more mature and responsible with her time.
Trinity High School students are encouraged by staff and faculty to use their skills and talents to help charitable organizations. Ulsh volunteers to photograph events held by the United Cerebral Palsy of Central Pennsylvania and the United Way of Carlisle and Cumberland County.
Her most exciting opportunity came during the summer of 2015 when Ulsh was selected to travel to London with National Geographic for a photography expedition.
National Geographic carried with it a prestige that allowed Ulsh greater access to sites than the general public. She was able, for example, to go in among the ring of stone monoliths that make up the mysterious Stonehenge.
Participants in the expedition were given assignments to complete. If they failed to follow through, they were not allowed to be involved in the next opportunity to do field work.
For one assignment, Ulsh had to take 15 photographs in 45 minutes. This proved to be irritating to her because she wanted the freedom to take more.
Another assignment required Ulsh to take 50 portraits in 90 minutes of passersby recreating along the river Thames or heading to work in the London financial district.
Ulsh was not used to going up to complete strangers and asking them if they could be photographed. She had to learn quickly how to be assertive without being standoffish.
During her two weeks in London, Ulsh learned from such mentors in the field as Gianluca Colla, an internationally known photographer, teacher and speaker who guided the expedition.
So far, she has been accepted to three schools of photography including the Parsons school of art and design, the Pratt Institute and the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Aside from photography, Ulsh is the vice president of the United Way Student Leadership Council of Carlisle and has been on the council since the sixth grade.
The school science fair. For many, the phrase harkens back to simple experiments made from homemade goods or the quintessential model volcanoes.
That’s not the case for 17-year-old Justin Yuen, a senior at Carlisle High School.
His team’s first-place project consisted of testing the effects of silver nano-particles on E. coli k12 growth. Yuen has a love for science.
“I’m interested in how stuff works,” Yuen said. “When I was a kid, I always wanted to know how cars worked, so I guess it’s really the mechanics behind it.”
Yuen, the son of Brian and Judy Yuen, plans to attend college next year to study biology with a focus on pre-dentistry.
He has been accepted to a few schools, including to the University of Pittsburgh, which Yuen said has a really good dentistry program, but he is waiting to officially make a decision until he hears back from a few other schools.
The bright and bubbly senior holds a 4.165 GPA and is ranked in the top 10 percent of his graduating class, all while carrying a course load that includes multiple honors classes—all while competing in athletics, volunteering in the community and holding down a summer job.
“I first met Justin in German 1 at the middle school,” Katherine Schock, who now teaches German at the high school, wrote in a letter of recommendation for Yuen. “... I have seen Justin grow to be more self-assured and confident in the classroom. ... He has a warm, open personality that draws people to him, making them comfortable to work with him in small groups or as a partner.”
Yuen not only excels at his classwork, but he also began playing tennis his freshman year of high school and gained accolades on the court.
“When I got into it, it was a lot of fun and I met a lot of really great friends there,” he said. “... It was a really great experience.”
In his first year, Yuen placed at districts in a U.S. Tennis Association Team Tennis competition and made the varsity squad at Carlisle High School by his sophomore year.
That same year Yuen was named MVP of the high school boys’ team.
Yuen also volunteers, offering his time to groups like Project SHARE and aiding with the LeTort Elementary School Mayfair and book drives through the National English Honors Society.
Most recently Yuen has offered his time to help tutor middle school students.
“I feel like it’s a great experience, but it actually feels good, as well,” Yuen said. “I feel like I’ve made a difference in the community and have made a positive impact in people’s lives.”
This past summer, Yuen also held down a job as a sandwich artist at Subway.
So, how does Yuen maintain his grades, including earning the Academic Excellence Award from 2013 to 2016, while juggling all of his extracurricular activities?
“School is (the) first priority,” Yuen said. “I try to do all my school work before tennis and stuff. I just work hard during study halls and stuff to try to get my work done. ... I just try to set school as a priority before everything else.”
Sometimes the workload can grow overwhelming, but Cumberland Valley High School senior Holden Zimmerman said he likes that, because he gets better under pressure.
“Sometimes the price is staying up late and getting things done,” he said. “Being busy outside of school, it’s really good for me because it’s training me in a sense. I seem to do better when I’m busy, so I try to keep myself busy.”
Outside of the classroom, where the 17-year-old manages to swing a GPA of 100.76, good for 45th in his class, Zimmerman is the varsity captain of Cumberland Valley’s boys’ soccer team. He also plays the electric bass in the school’s jazz band.
Holden, the son of Eric and Kathleen Zimmerman, said that while he doesn’t see music as a career, it’s “a passion of mine and I’m going to continue to play throughout my life.” The love for music was passed down from Zimmerman’s father, who used to play in a band, he said.
He’s taking after both of his parents though, for he hopes to follow in his mother’s footsteps and enter the medical field one day.
So far, he’s applied to New York University, Penn State University, the University of Virginia and Villanova University. Afterward, Zimmerman said he hopes to attend medical school.
“I want to be a doctor, or something in the medical field, so I know down the road it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there,” he said. “My mom is a doctor and she inspires me. I’m hoping to be something like her, so if I can get the work ethic down now, that’s just good practice for later.”
His school counselor, Kimberly Clements, believes that Zimmerman’s goals are very tangible.
“I simply cannot say enough good things about Holden Zimmerman,” she said. “His desire to someday become a physician is well within his grasp. He will be a huge asset to his future college as well.”
Outside of school, Zimmerman is your run-of-the-mill teenager — at least, when he has the time to be. He enjoys socializing with his friends as much as anyone his age, and said that he and his friends are all on the same page when it comes to life and academics. He said that in his circle of friends, “everyone is equal.”
“My dad taught me to work hard and then have fun, so that’s one of the reasons I’m able to get my work done,” Zimmerman said. “When I come home from school, I just work and get things done so I’m able to do other things.”
John Brenneman taught Zimmerman in his AP chemistry course last year, and has only good things to say about the stand-out.
“The characteristic of Holden that stands out most to me is his intelligence,” he wrote in a letter of recommendation. “He quickly picks up on concepts whether they be presented to him in a class lecture or a textbook reading assignment.”
He concluded later in the letter that “Holden is a mature young man who has a strong desire to succeed.”
Molly Meshaka can honestly say she has yet to be smitten by an Adonis.
But she has been bitten by one, and that experience reinforced her desire to pursue a passion that has been part of her life since childhood.
“My dad had rescued a green iguana and it got itself stuck in a milk crate,” recalled Meshaka, 17, a senior at Harrisburg Academy who aspires to be a veterinarian.
“I felt bad for him,” she said. “So I decided I was the one who was going to rescue this luckless lizard.”
Named for the Greek god of beauty, the scaly creature was wedged tight within a handle of the crate. Every shimmy forward only made the problem worse and her effort to help the lizard just added to its distress.
“I had absolutely no strategy,” Meshaka said. “I just reached right in there. My arm went directly in front of his mouth. It was essentially me saying to the iguana ‘Please bite me, but I do mean well.’ I tried to be impressive, but it backfired.”
Sure enough, the lizard followed through with enough force to break the skin and draw a tiny bit of blood. Adonis was scared and had reacted to the pain with pure gut instinct.
The nippy iguana from a few years back could have ended it right there, but Meshaka was not discouraged. She pressed on with her passion to help living things, figuring her career choice would probably lead to many more bites, scratches, bumps and bruises.
“I don’t like failing. ... I will keep trying,” said the Florida native now living in East Pennsboro Township. “My entire life I have been focused on something animal related. It was very easy for me to like animals. Both my parents are biologists.”
There have been pets in the family ever since Meshaka was a child. But the roots of her interest in veterinary medicine started in the sixth grade when she became involved in the care and training of horses.
“Over summers, I leased a horse and rode it every day,” she wrote in her resume. Her interactions included training each horse, riding it in lessons and taking care of it. When a horse got injured, the barn owner would (give) me the medicine that concerned the injury because he knew I was interested, and then he let me treat the horse until the animal’s recovery.”
She handled the work in stride, cleaning cuts, giving shots, bandaging wounds and applying ointments. “Sometimes I would join the barn owner in his search for new horses at Amish auctions where he would point out signs that horses are unhealthy and explain if the horse is capable of recovering,” Meshaka wrote.
This foundation in equine medicine continued through the 10th grade when she became a horse walker for the Chasing Rainbows Equine Therapy Facility. As a volunteer, Meshaka led horses for disabled riders and was there to take control of the situation if something happened. During her sophomore and junior years, she worked as a groom for the Lancaster Polo Club, caring for the horses and treating their minor injuries.
Through recent opportunities, Meshaka has been able to diversify her knowledge. In June, she worked as an assistant intern for a turtle research study undertaken at the Powdermill Nature Reserve in Westmoreland County. There she helped interns at the State Museum of Pennsylvania catch, mark, record and release turtles for the project.
Two months later, in August, Meshaka was among 50 high school and college students chosen for a two-week hands-on summer class taught by the faculty of the Royal Veterinarian College at the University of London. The class enabled Meshaka to do rotations at a number of facilities, including the Queen Mother Hospital for Small Animals, the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital and the Equine Referral Hospital.
“It was really something to see,” Meshaka said. “I was a very good shadow. We did a lot of different labs. Every single day, I was learning something new.”
While in England, she had the opportunity to stand in on patient referrals and observe cataract surgery on a dog. She attended a series of lectures and workshops on clinical skills, animal behavior and particular injuries and diseases.
One of the most challenging things Meshaka had to master was “sheep tipping” – that is to maneuver the animal in such a way that the veterinarian can verify whether it has been vaccinated. “It takes a while to learn,” she said. “It’s an extreme sport.”
Most recently Meshaka has been working as an intern at the Camp Hill Animal Hospital where she has been able to stand in on referrals and help staff with minor tasks.
“Molly thrives in an applied learning environment,” said Keo Oura Kounlavong-Sabath, director of college counseling at the Harrisburg Academy. “She is a self-possessed young woman who goes confidently into the world. She is an adventurous spirit that enjoys taking the road less traveled in the hopes of having an unexpected encounter that will lead to a grand adventure.”
Her plan is to attend a pre-veterinary program at a college before pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine and a specialization. One career path she may pursue is to care for large exotic animals at a zoo.
“I think it would be a really fun career,” Meshaka said. “I can study new things and apply what I am learning. I don’t think I will get bored with this profession.”
Aside from her pursuit of veterinary medicine, Meshaka has been active in the arts at the academy. In her freshman year, she was the lead female role in “Raus,” a play about the Holocaust written by a fellow student. In her junior year, Meshaka was the co-director of a musical titled “Jamaica” that was also written by a fellow student.
She has also worked as the backstage manager for every school musical during her high school years. Her jobs have included getting props to where they are needed, getting people to where they need to be and helping with costumes.
Logan Baker’s dreams are up in the air, but that doesn’t mean he has his head in the clouds or his eyes firmly fixed on his future.
The 17-year-old Boiling Spring High School senior was recently accepted into Penn State University to study aerospace engineering.
“My dad’s a math teacher, so I kind of got my start in math early,” Baker said. “I really could multiply even before I could read. ... I was doing math from a really young age and I always really like the challenge. I think my way of thinking makes it easy for me for math and science.”
Baker is a standout student, ranking near the top of his class, while holding down multiple extracurricular activities.
He recently earned the gold key scholastic writing award, second place for video production at the regional competition for Technology Student Association and holds varsity letters in band, academics and soccer.
Baker’s early exposure to math and science has propelled him toward a career in that field. He said he confirmed his desire to pursue engineering by studying physics in high school.
“I chose aerospace (engineering) because I really like physics,” Baker said. “…I took the class and I absolutely loved it. It was a whole lot of fun and I’m sure right now that I want to go into aerospace engineering.”
Baker said he is unsure whether he wants to work for a company like Space X, a private company dedicated to advancing space travel, of if he would rather help design planes that stay inside the atmosphere at a company like Lockheed Martin.
Although he has only flown in a helicopter once and was too young to remember his only trip on an airplane, Baker said he is excited to be part of designing vehicles that take flight.
“A long time ago, I like to research space and stuff like that,” he said. “So, I guess it kind of put together my interest in space with my interest in math and science and physics and that stuff. ... It’s kind of a cool factor to me, building a rocket or building a jet fighter.
“In fourth grade I was in a gifted class ... and our teacher had us do a paper airplane project,” he said. “I still remember that was the greatest project I’ve ever done. I absolutely loved that project. I don’t know why but I keep on going back to that memory as where I started to want to make planes.”
Baker’s resume is impressive, but he said it is not his academic or scholastic achievements that he is most proud of, but his growth as a person.
“I don’t think any of my accomplishments on that list is something I would say is the most impressive,” Baker said. “I think the most impressive thing is that I’ve grown up and expanded my social skills beyond what I ever though was possible.
“In middle school I was really shy,” he said. “I’ve had to work really hard to bring myself to talk to people and now I think I’m actually good at presenting. I can talk relaxed and easily and that’s something that’s more important than any school can teach you. You just have to kind of learn it for yourself.”
It’s understandable why one might call Bailey Jones’s course schedule at Big Spring High School difficult, being that she’s taking such classes as honors physics, AP statistics and various other honors and AP classes, but for the 17-year-old it’s fun.
“I take classes that I enjoy,” she said. “The material just comes easier to me because I like it, so it doesn’t seem like I put work in. It’s more enjoyment for me.”
Her career GPA is 4.24, and she’s ranked seventh in her class out of 210. Jones credits her competitive nature for allowing her to maintain exceptional marks in school and manage the various clubs and programs she’s involved in. That competitive nature forces her to excel.
As the secretary of Club CARE, which is a program that plans school events that involve the community, Jones makes it a point to do whatever she can to raise the most money possible for the charities they support, like mini-THON, which was this year’s charity.
“Her involvement at Big Spring High School is beyond compare; Bailey is a humble leader in all of her activities,” said Jocelyn Kraus, a counselor at the school. “Her classmates look to Bailey for support and endless spirit within each of her activities. In addition to her extracurricular engagements, Bailey spends a great deal of time engaged in community service.
“Perhaps the best part of this, as a counselor, is that she is so humble that most people are not aware of how engaged she truly is; volunteering, doing for others and giving to others is simply a part of Bailey.”
Jones said community service is something that she enjoys, and that while she’s in a position where she can give back, she’d like to do as much as possible.
“I feel like I shouldn’t complain about something if I’m not willing to put forth something to change that,” she said.
Like her classwork, she can sometimes handle more than the average high school senior. It all comes down to enjoying the work she does in and outside of the classroom. She balances these things with what she described as skills in “time management and I compartmentalize, so I keep it separated.”
Jones is also an athlete, playing softball and volleyball throughout her high school career, and works at the Cumberland Drive-In Theatre.
She was born and raised in Newville and has made a name for herself at her school and in the community because of her excellence in education and leadership, engagement in the programs and clubs she participates in.
Oh, and she’s well known for something else in the borough: her love of ice cream, which is how the employees at one local diner got to know her on a first name basis.
She’s not sure where she wants to go after high school, but college is definitely in her future, she said.
“I want to do a STEM field: maybe engineering or mathematics,” Jones said. “I’m not sure, but know I want to do something where I can challenge myself every day.”
Herman Makosky put his trust in sound judgment to set him on the path to musical perfection.
There was something captivating in the look and tonal qualities that drew the Dickinson Township youth to the trumpet during an instrument tryout night eight years ago.
“I just knew going in that was what I wanted to play,” said Makosky, 17, a senior at Carlisle High School, recalling a moment from the fourth grade. “I knew I really wanted to try it.”
That first night he managed to coax out a sound that somewhat resembled music, but it was only the beginning of a steady crescendo toward greater challenges and opportunities.
Makosky was the only student to take up the trumpet in his grade level at North Dickinson Elementary School. He started taking one-on-one lessons with music teacher Byron Mikesell, who is now the high school band director. The lessons continued as Makosky advanced into Lamberton Middle School.
A sixth-grader in May 2011, he had a chance to play trumpet with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis backstage after a concert at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.
“I was really nervous,” Makosky recalled. “It hit me after the concert ended that now I have to go play for him.” He described Marsalis as having the type of down-to-earth, outgoing personality that could set anyone at ease.
“It was amazing,” Makosky said. “I was getting a lesson from Wynton. He really liked my sound. It was very positive and uplifting towards the future. He was so humble and giving of his time.”
Marsalis stayed at the Kimmel Center an extra three to four hours to work with young musicians and to offer his input. “He did not get paid,” Makosky said. “He wanted to do this. He felt he needed to do this to give back.”
This has been a source of inspiration for Makosky. With less than six months to go until graduation, he is thinking about a future that may include work as a freelance music instructor or college professor.
“I have been so fortunate to receive so much good will from a lot of trumpet players,” Makosky said. “They have helped me out tremendously. I want to make sure I help the next generation that will come up to make sure they receive that same kindness and generosity.”
A strong work ethic has always been in harmony with a desire to learn more complicated music. He practices at least two to three hours seven days a week.
“Days off are pretty rare,” Makosky said. “I’m constantly trying to get better. I am striving towards that almost impossible goal of perfection. I just have this inner drive to keep working on it.”
With all this practice came a deeper love of the art.
“Music is a way to communicate things that are inexpressible in words,” he said. “You can connect with people in such a deeper level. You can make an audience smile or come to tears without ever saying anything. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.
“You can express yourself in so many different ways or genres,” Makosky said. “I can play the blues, jazz, big band and in an orchestra. I can do chamber music and a solo repertoire.”
There are even trumpet parts in folk music and rock.
The hard work has achieved remarkable results. Within three years of taking up the trumpet, Makosky became the first seventh-grader in over 40 years to qualify for District 7 High School Honors Band through the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association. He has successfully auditioned and been seated in that ensemble every year since then.
In his freshman year at Carlisle High School, Makosky auditioned and was selected for the top jazz band in District 7. As a sophomore, he was seated on both the regional band and orchestra along with the All-State Band and All-State Orchestra. That same year Makosky became one of 25 trumpet players to be selected nationwide to compete in the National Trumpet Competition semi-finals in the high school division.
Makosky has been a member of the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra since the eighth grade and has seated as the principal trumpet player all four years of high school.
It was through the Youth Orchestra that Makosky was able to connect his love of music with a love for scouting.
For his Eagle Scout project, Makosky founded a youth chamber ensemble program that in its first year played live music to over 4,400 people in south-central Pennsylvania, including at-risk youths. One of the venues that first year was the United Methodist Home for Children.
Makosky drew inspiration for the program from a composer who grew up in poverty but was introduced to music at an early age and made the most of the opportunity. He wanted to create a program where young musicians can practice chamber music while exposing underprivileged youths to classical music.
“It will expand as it grows,” Makosky said. “It will only make the youth symphony a higher quality ensemble so we can play a more difficult repertoire.”
As founder of the program, Makosky was in charge of the program calendar and rehearsal schedule. He also helped to organize the work at the concert venues and to arrange for the payment of the professional musicians who serve as the program coaches.
Makosky has played trumpet in the pit orchestra for Carlisle High School musicals and on a number of school ensembles including the symphonic band, the Galaxies Jazz Band and the orchestra. He has also played trumpet on the Cumberland County Festival Orchestra, the Cumberland County Band Festival, the Dickinson College Trumpet Ensemble and the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz Youth Jazz Band.
In January and February, Makosky plans to audition for top college programs at Baylor University, the University of Hartford and the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He may also seek a Fulbright scholarship to study the rotary valve trumpet in Germany and Austria.
More professional orchestras are requiring trumpet players to audition using the rotary valve trumpet, which has a different piston system from the trumpet in common use in the U.S.
Gabriela Huggins grew up speaking three languages.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that after she graduates from high school next spring, she wants to go learn a fourth.
Gabriela, a senior at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School and The Sentinel’s Teen of the Week, wants to take a gap year. She’s applied to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, a scholarship program for studying a language.
Gabriela wants to learn Arabic in Morocco.
“My sister (Raquel, who is three years older) applied but she decided she didn’t want to do it. She told another friend, and she went and loved it,” Gabriela says. “She came back and was placed in third-year college Arabic, never speaking a word of it before then. It helped her develop into who she was.
“It’s a different culture, very different than our own, and I think it would be cool to do.”
Gabriela knows about different cultures. Her mom is from Panama; she taught her children to speak Spanish, and Gabriela says her family speaks a mix of Spanish and English at home.
Her father is a military veteran who also taught computer science at West Point; the Huggins family has twice lived in France, where Gabriela learned to speak French. (If you’re counting, those are her three languages – Spanish, French and English.)
So why Arabic? And why Morocco?
Gabriela notes that millions of people speak Arabic around the world – “it’s a really diverse language and there are many different dialects.” She also feels that, with the tension in the Middle East, it’s a smart language to understand for someone who’s thinking of entering the military, as Gabriela is.
“Whatever I do, knowing Arabic will do a lot of good,” she says. She’s interested in calligraphy and using it in Arabic, and she wants to know more about the culture behind the language.
Plus, by choosing to go to Morocco, Gabriela already has a leg up.
“They speak French there as well,” she says.
Gabriela has lived in Mechanicsburg since her sophomore year. She has moved many times in her life, and she says she gained a bit from each experience.
“My fourth-grade year in France was the most stressful year of school in my life,” she says. “I came here (to the U.S.) in fifth grade and it was really relaxed – obviously living in Paris is different than here, culture-wise. It’s been different wherever I go.”
“She comes in with such a diverse background,” says Gail Hiestand, a counselor at the high school. “It’s something a lot of students don’t have. She’s learned a lot of different things in her life, and it’s given her a lot of wonderful new experiences.”
Her time at West Point taught her that the military lifestyle works very well for her. She’s hoping to attend the Army school after her gap year.
“I love the whole structure of West Point,” she says. “It’s very organized. Every minute of the day is doing something different. People are very stressed all the time, but they’re getting the best education in the world. Since all the professors live on post, you are literally around your teachers all the time. If you need something, someone is always there.”
Gabriela knows about the value of balance and focus. She is a member of the National Honor Society who carries a 94 percent average while taking a slew of AP classes.
The Physics and Key clubs member says the focused personality that could help her at West Point also carries over into other things she does, whether it’s playing on the school soccer and basketball teams, or working on a group project in class.
“I’d say I’m disciplined, but I do joke around a lot,” she says. “When we’re doing any team activities, I’m like, ‘OK, we’re going to win and this is how, let’s get it done now.’”
She doesn’t like to have things hanging over her – like homework.
“In study halls, every opportunity I have to get my homework done immediately, I take,” she laughs.
She hopes that, after Morocco, she’ll either go to West Point or another college where she’ll do an ROTC program. Then perhaps she’ll pursue a career in the service. If not, she’s happy serving her four years after college and moving on to something new.
“There are so many benefits from coming out of the military,” she says. “For college, it’s free and then they pay you. It’s a challenge I think is difficult but I’m willing to take.”
For one Trinity High School student, balancing life, schoolwork and multiple team sports is all about balance.
“Every morning I’m waking up early, lifting weights or running around the track. If I have a meeting, I’m waking up early for that meeting, or for a test I’ll (give) to the teacher beforehand and do some practice problems,” Sean Scott said. “It’s a lot of self-motivation.”
The 18-year-old senior has maintained a grade-point-average above 4.0 all throughout his tenure at Trinity, and currently, that GPA is 4.41. He plans to pursue a pre-med education post high school, yet at this time he’s not sure where he would like to attend college.
He has applied to more than 10 schools to weigh his options.
“I was leaning toward becoming a family doctor/family practitioner,” Scott noted. “Part of my personality is to get to know somebody. Some doctors are just ‘this is my client, I’m just going to tell him what to do,’ while I’ve seen others who get to know their clients, they raise them from when they’re born. That’s what I’m leaning toward.”
Linda Piscioneri is a chemistry and physics teacher at Trinity, and taught honors chemistry to Scott when he was a sophomore. She said he “did well” in her class and later took her AP chemistry course.
That involvement with the student was enough for her to form a brimming opinion, with which she referred to him as “highly intelligent, talented and dedicated.”
“My personal take on Sean is that he is a very serious student who wants to perform at his best at all times,” she said. “He handles disappointments well, though he does try to correct and eliminate every flaw."
Aside from his school work, the three sports Scott plays are lacrosse, where he’s a captain; football, where he’s also a captain; and basketball. Scott is on the All-Academic Team for all three sports.
“I grew up playing all sports, really,” he said. “For football I was in position to play quarterback when our starter went down, and that helped me grow exponentially as a leader.”
The sports aren’t the only thing shaping Scott’s leadership abilities. He’s a member of numerous school clubs, such as mini-THON and Knights of Columbus Squires, both of which push students to actively participate in community service opportunities for a greater good.
Scott’s mother is a source of inspiration for him in community efforts. He said she’s been a public servant since she graduated law, so he was raised with the mantra “community service is a way of life.”
“Sean is a model student because he not only is exceptional in the classroom, but in a wide variety of time-consuming extra-curricular activities that help make him well-rounded,” said Eileen Poplaski, Scott’s U.S. History teacher.
Academics are important, but for many high schoolers, academics may not be the sole focus in the four years spent before the end of their secondary education.
That, however, is not the case for Emma Torija, daughter of Fernando and Deanna Torija.
The Shippensburg Area Senior High School student eagerly accepts the challenge of an intense course load.
Between her sophomore and junior years, Torija completed six advanced placement courses. She will finish out her high school career with an additional four AP courses this school year.
“I’m my most proud of my success in school,” Torija said. “My parents really encouraged me to work hard, so I’ve done that, and even like from elementary school, I’ve done my hardest and I’ve learned a lot. Now, in high school, I’m getting good grades, but I’m also working and doing other things. I’m proud of my ability to succeed with all of that.”
Torija holds a 4.22 cumulative GPA.
If that demanding course load was not enough, Torija said one of her big regrets – one of the things she wishes she could have done in high school – was to take more advanced level classes.
“I have trouble fitting all the classes I want to take into my schedule,” she said. “I wanted to take AP Calculus this year but I already had four AP classes and the way they’re set up you can only take four.”
Keeping up good grades can be difficult in and of itself, especially when taking rigorous classes, but Torija does not stop there.
Torija is the president of student council, holds down a part time job, is a member of several civic and scholarly clubs and is a student representative on the school board.
“I started doing student council my sophomore year just because it was there and I really liked it,” Torija said. She said she likes “being able to change things at the school and make decisions and help students.”
She joked that one of the major accomplishments of her time has been the addition of Keurig coffee machines in the school library.
“That was like a big thing,” she chuckled.
“Torija meets all of these responsibilities with assurance and a genuine sense of dedication,” Michelle Dubbs, counselor at the high school, wrote in her letter of recommendation. “Few students could achieve her academic and personal success while maintaining this intense schedule of after school employment, programs, class session sand other obligations.”
After high school, Torija said she hopes to go to Columbia University to study biology and later enter medicine.
She said an internship at Chambersburg Hospital during junior year sparked an interest in the medical field.
Ben Eichman admits that academics weren’t a priority for him when he entered Cumberland Valley High School as a freshman in 2013-14.
“I was really driven by my sports,” recalled Eichman, 17, now a CV senior who once competed on the school’s wrestling and rugby teams. In fact, he finished third in the Top 100 Wrestling Tournament in 2014.
All that changed in the 10th grade, however, when Eichman suffered a shoulder injury from wrestling that permanently placed him on the sidelines and forced him to re-evaluate his priorities.
“I couldn’t do sports the way I wanted to. I was really depressed, but then I thought maybe I could give this academic thing a try,” Eichman said.
As it turned out, “this academic thing” has been just the thing for Eichman. He’s been taking college courses in addition to his class work at Cumberland Valley since the end of 10th grade. This semester he’s studying effective speaking and Spanish I at Harrisburg Area Community College and plans to finish out his senior year at CV with Spanish II and science courses from HACC.
At CV, Eichman now carries a weighed GPA of 92.5. He was named 2016 Student of the Year by the West Shore Elk Lodge; Best Team Player by the Mercy College 2016 Leadership Academy; and is on HACC’s Dean’s List for 2016 Collegiate Courses with a 4.0 GPA.
“Ben is a dedicated student who has a thirst for knowledge. His maturity in the classroom is evident in everything he does. He displays many of the same characteristics that can be seen in our finest leaders,” said Cumberland Valley High School guidance counselor Eric Landis. “Ben strives to do the best in everything that he encounters, is honest, and is a supporter of his peers.”
Eichman plans to apply to several colleges, including Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh. He wants to major in business with possible minors in religion and economics. For this, Eichman already has a head start. Upon graduating from CV in June 2017, he’ll have 31 college credits under his belt, the equivalent of a year’s worth of college studies.
Outside of school, Eichman works as a Starbucks barista, for which he’s also received recognition. Since May 2015, he’s received three Starbucks Moves of Uncommon Greatness, or M.U.G. Awards for strong work ethic and focus; strong work ethic and positive attitude; and for coaching and leadership of the barista team.
“I like working at Starbucks because there’s constantly people there to talk to," Eichman said. "There are diverse groups of people coming in every day. My favorite part is working the drive-thru and making it like an experience that’s special for everyone."
Eichman also is a member of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Mechanicsburg, and Young Life, a non-denominational Christian ministry for adolescents, where he is a music leader. He credits God and Jesus Christ as two of the largest influences in his life.
“I’m really strong in my faith. I am most proud of myself for staying abstinent from drugs and alcohol during my high school career," he said. "It is apparent to me that I would not have the opportunities in front of me had I succumbed to peer pressure. I thank God and Jesus Christ for this."
Eichman also credits his parents, Scott and Colleen Eichman of Mechanicsburg, as big influences for him.
“My dad is such a hard worker. He’s lost cartilage in both of his knees, but goes to work no matter what,” Eichman said. “My mom is such a big support. She’s always been there for me.”
While many high school student’s days are spent socializing, playing sports or focused on personal success, Grace Echevarria’s resume is filled with giving back to society.
The Carlisle High School senior is involved in civic organizations focused on helping youth, fighting addiction and giving back to those in need.
“Service is kind of like in my blood,” Echevarria said. “I have a lot of relatives who are nurses or doctors and my dad’s in the military. I grew up around a lot of military people. It’s just kind of been ingrained in me since I was little that in order to feel good about yourself, you serve other people and make them feel good.”
Her service includes being a part of Big Brother/Big Sister, the Salvation Army of Carlisle, Relay for Life and Project SHARE.
Echevarria is also a member of the Youth Advisory Board and Leadership Team for the Cumberland Perry County Drug and Alcohol Commission, as well as being part of the commission’s substance abuse prevention coalition.
Her work through the drug and alcohol commission allows her to help craft a message and speak with young people about addiction.
“I really like to work with kids, so going out and trying to make a difference … before they get to high school and are interacting with those people who are doing drugs more often and everything,” she said.
What she is most proud of, however, is her selection for and completion of the United States Military Academy Summer Leadership Academy this year.
Echevarria, who hopes to attend either the United States Military Academy at West Point or the United States Air Force Academy, got to spend a week at West Point learning what it means to go through the academy.
“Service is something that’s been pushing me through my whole life and the military is something that I really want to do and somewhere I really want to go,” she said. “It showed me that I actually can and all the work I have put into getting there is actually getting me somewhere. … It kind of showed me that I could survive the military academy, and I enjoy the military side of it and not just the academics.”
Echevarria said she her ultimate goal is to become a doctor.
“Grace truly gives back to her school and her community at large,” school counselor Emily McDonald wrote in her nomination letter. “When I look at her resume it just leaves me breathless and wondering when she has time to sleep.”
Echevarria’s accolades do not stop at her community service. She also is a member of multiple honor societies, is a member of the model UN, plays tennis and has a weighted GPA of 4.264 that gives her a weighted rank of ninth in a class of 297.
“Grace’s reputation precedes her and she is often spoken of with highest accolades,” chemistry and biology teacher Shani Schales wrote in a nomination letter for Echevarria. “… After meeting Grace, it did not take long to realize what a special individual she is.”
Claire Tierney smiled warmly at the memory of the 6-year-old girl she met as a volunteer at the Chasing Rainbows Therapeutic Equine Facility.
About a year ago, the two were playing a game when the child threw a ball. The Lemoyne teenager retrieved the ball for the little girl who is hard of hearing.
“She told me ‘You’re the sun to me. …You’re so nice to me,” recalled Tierney, 17, a senior at Cedar Cliff High School. “I will also hold onto that.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve loved animals,” said Tierney who started horseback riding as a young girl learning the pastime through an older sister who rode competitively. Six days a week, Tierney visits a stable outside Enola where she rides her horse Hannah, a thoroughbred with the attitude of a diva.
Together they have competed successfully in show jumping and dressage, an equestrian sport where horse and rider perform from memory a series of predetermined movements. The Chasing Rainbows facility is located near the stable and was looking for volunteers to help with a therapeutic riding program. Tierney signed up in part to fill the community service requirement of being a National Honor Society member.
“The kids are just so innocent and sweet,” Tierney said. “It’s just a nice atmosphere. Everyone just seems to be grateful.”
Sometimes she would lead the horse carrying a child age 5 to 9 with a disability. Other times, Tierney would walk beside the animal and help to keep the rider steady on the saddle. For her, horseback riding is a stress reliever – a way to decompress from a rigorous academic schedule and a busy life.
“Her academic achievements are quite outstanding,” said Jessie Alexander-Grey, a guidance counselor at Cedar Cliff. “By the time she graduates, Claire will have completed five advanced placement and six honors courses. She is ranked number four in a class of 291 students.”
This hard work may earn Tierney an early decision to Tufts University near Boston where she plans to study chemical engineering. Her original plan was to pursue a career in the music industry.
“I have been playing piano since I have been five,” Tierney said. She was influenced by her two older sisters and used to tag along to their lessons.
Tierney used to volunteer at the Homeland Center, a personal care home and skilled nursing facility in Harrisburg. There she played songs and classical pieces from the 1920s, 30s and 40s during dinner time.
One time a man in a wheelchair came up to thank her for playing “Georgia on My Mind,” a tune made famous by Ray Charles. “He said he liked to sing that tune with his wife,” Tierney said. “I was always in a really good mood after that.” She believes her playing and singing was an up-lift for the older folks.
Tierney successfully auditioned for the Cedar Cliff Octet, a highly selective a cappella ensemble. She was also selected for the PMFA County Chorus and the school’s Chamber Singers ensemble. A pianist for the Wind Ensemble and Chorus, Tierney has performed in every high school musical since her freshmen year at Cedar Cliff.
But she is not just a follower or group member. Tierney has been in charge. She was selected last year for the Junior Leadership Program offered through the West Shore Chamber of Commerce. Skills that she learned through that program prepared her for a role on the finance committee of Lead the Way 5k Community Fun/Walk that raised scholarship money for other youths eligible for the leadership program.
The students she met during the leadership program “were complete replicas of me”, Tierney said. They were all busy hard-working kids with talent, ambition and an eye to the future.
Their goal was to expand and develop an already existing 5k run into a larger event held at Messiah College in May 2016. There was a point where the revamped event was not getting the anticipated draw of runners and walkers.
“We all stepped up and in one week got a lot of people to sign up,” Tierney recalled. She estimated the crowd of participants was around 100. “I can see myself being in charge.”
The original plan to go with music changed over to math and science after Tierney took a chemistry class in her junior year. She regards it as her favorite of her high school career. Now she wants to study chemical engineering and maybe get into a field related to environmental science and green renewable energy.
“My senior year is really great to feel all my hard work building up and applying to college and looking towards the future,” Tierney said. “But it’s also kind of sad to leave things behind.”
Emily Baker is armed with a voracious appetite for reading and the encouragement of her parents to not only look over words on the pages but also to digest and understand them.
With that kind of background, learning isn’t so much a chore as it is a passion.
“My parents always pushed me to learn more, and I’ve always been very interested just in learning,” the Big Spring High School senior said. “I really enjoyed doing labs and figuring out stuff by myself, and taking theoretical things and putting them into real life.
“The only place I see I can satisfy that, I think, is doing research,” she added.
That’s why Baker is applying to study biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, Drexel University, Widener University and Johns Hopkins University.
She’s taking her studies so seriously this year that she decided not to play for the softball travel team she’s been a part of for the last few years. However, she is still playing for the school, where she’s been on the varsity team for all four years of high school.
“I wanted to make school a priority, but I’m still playing for the school,” she said. “I’ve played softball since second grade, so it’s just always been a part of my life. I like the team, being part of a team. It’s like a little family.”
At this time, Baker doesn’t see herself playing softball in college. She’s just focusing on her schoolwork. It’s a heavy load taking four AP classes and one honors class, but she said, while difficult, it can be done.
“I really enjoy it,” Baker said. “As much work as it is, I really enjoy the content, and I like the classes. It’s really interesting, which helps me do all the homework. It can be a lot of outside work, some classes require more than others, but it’s definitely manageable in my opinion.”
Managing may be putting it lightly.
Baker currently has 4.33 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. That number ranks her second in her class of 219 other students.
Baker’s guidance counselor, Jocelyn Kraus, said that during her time with the student, she’s come to know her as “powerfully gifted, deeply humble and incredibly mature.”
When not in school or on the diamond, or at work — Baker is a caterer at Dickinson College — she reads, and she reads a lot, both in fiction and non-fiction. Her parents, she said, “enforced issues of respecting and learning and told me I can do what I want to do.”
Because of that, Baker said she’s constantly asking questions, helping others and trying to “understand things, not just memorize them.”
Most importantly, Baker said she knows where she’s going and believes, at this time, she knows how to navigate the road to get there.
The Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, teaches high school students character, education, leadership and diversity, and for one Cumberland Valley High School senior, it developed skills she already uses in leadership roles and skills she plans to keep using in the future.
“It’s seriously a passion for me because, being a student in high school, you really want to develop your citizenship skills and that’s the core goal,” said 18-year-old Kaleigh O’Connor. “It’s nice to be able to encourage your classmates to be at their best, and it’s a passion for me because my dream and ambition — which I will accomplish — is to be a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard.
“It’s really developed my leadership capabilities,” she added.
That attitude is one of the reasons it’s easy to believe O’Connor is a leader now, and probably always will be.
She was born in Cambridge, England, as one of three triplets — both of her siblings are boys — to a military family. She said that growing up with two brothers was “tough” at times, but it helped strengthen her to the point where she’s now known as “the mom” to her siblings for keeping them in check when it’s needed.
After bouncing around in the southern part of the United States for a time before finally landing in Mechanicsburg, one of the ways O’Connor found solace was through swimming.
When not swimming in school, O’Connor served as a lifeguard, and also as an assistant swim coach at the West Shore YMCA where she taught young children how to swim safely.
“That experience did teach me how to work with people younger than me, and I was also privileged to work with kids with autism and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder),” she said.
O’Connor has also been a team captain for CV’s swim team for three years now, and is looking forward to being a veteran leader since much of the team is made up of freshmen this year.
Her love of water also translates to the goals she hopes to accomplish post-high school. O’Connor has applied to Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, among others. Once in college, she said she hopes to study oceanography and/or ocean engineering.
“My love for oceanography and also environmental science has stemmed from me swimming and having a really caring personality,” O’Connor said. “I always wanted to interact with the environment. I went over and did an AP environmental science class last year, and did a water project testing the water quality and briefed officials from Hampden Township.
“I also went to a ladies STEM at the Naval Academy and did a lot of robotics and engineering type material, which made my desire for engineering and oceanography even stronger.”
For O’Connor, it’s all about being as involved as possible in everything she does. While she greatly credits the JROTC and the water-testing experiment as ventures that really shaped who she is and helped spur her toward her desired goals, there’s one project that stands out above all else.
O’Connor helped to organize two blood drives for the American Red Cross with her JROTC battalion.
“With that I had a lot of involvement regarding communicating with staff officers to get a publicity campaign moving, to reserve space in the gymnasium and equipment,” she said. “We had to speak to the blood bank about organizing the event and gathering volunteers to help run registration guides and help blood donors and register students, teachers and faculty for the event, get passes for the students to get out of class.”
During both blood drives, O’Connor said her battalion registered more than 100 people, and to this day, she said that is her biggest accomplishment.
For Noelle Dominguez, a high-achieving senior at Trinity High School, organization is key to success.
“I like to stay really, really organized,” Dominguez said. “I love crossing stuff off when I’m done with it. I have a planner and I write everything in it.”
Between academic honors, sports achievements and awards for musical prowess, Dominguez’s planner stays quite full.
“When I have time, I like to sing, but I don’t have a lot of time,” she joked.
In school, Dominguez is a Shamrock Ambassador, a Peers Actively Listening Leader, an activity representative, as well as a member of the National, Math and Foreign Language honors societies.
“I feel like my academics have grown a lot, and also a lot of the teachers I feel like I’m close with, they’re mentors, also,” she said. “They’ll help me figure out what I want to do and point me in the right direction.”
“(Dominguez) offers her free time in service to her peers and her school community,” Principal John Cominsky said in his letter of recommendation for her. “(Peers Actively Listening Leaders) like Noelle help their student groups to adjust to the academic and social changes of high school.”
Dominguez is also an accomplished pianist, winning Paderewski, Sonatina and Early Bach medals.
“(Dominguez) is a talented musician both as a pianist and as a singer,” Amy Shurtz, of Shurtz Music Studio, said in a letter of recommendation. “... She has completed three important medals in the National Guild of Piano auditions. ... Noelle performed movements of Mozart piano concertos with a chamber orchestra in the Central Pennsylvania Suzuki Association Piano concertos twice in the Mostly Mozart Concerts. This is a great and difficult accomplishment.”
Dominguez said her favorite song to perform right now is “Stay with Me” by Sam Smith.
On top of the musical and scholastic accomplishments, Dominguez said she is most proud of helping her high school soccer team win two state championships. She said she tore a ligament in her knee before joining the soccer team, which required extensive rehabilitation.
“Coming back from that and getting on this team and getting to win, that was probably my favorite accomplishment,” she said. “It was crazy. It was so much fun.”
Dominguez also credited her family for helping support her in all of endeavors. She said she was excited to be able to share her love of athletics with her siblings.
“All my siblings play soccer and I have two sisters on the team at Trinity this year, too,” she said. “So, that’s cool because we’re all playing together.
“I just like to be a good example for all my siblings,” she added. “I try to get as much done and stay as motivated as possible.”
When asked how it felt to be named Teen of the Week, Dominguez said, “It’s awesome.
“It makes me really happy,” she added. “All my hard work is paying off.”
She said she hopes to play soccer in college and study pre-physical therapy.
It’s on display in everything the Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School student has done: participating in marching band, taking a rigorous course load, winning the Miss Pennsylvania Junior Teen pageant, earning perfect attendance multiple times, volunteering for church and community groups, starting her own nonprofit organization, and working part-time at Cracker Barrel.
That’s an impressive list, but here’s where Bishard’s work ethic really becomes apparent. She has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that limits body movement and muscle coordination.
Things many people take for granted, such as walking up stairs, opening a door when you’re holding a book, or stepping off a curb, present more of a challenge for Bishard, an honor roll student with a 3.5 grade point average.
She acknowledges this, but never uses it as an excuse not to do something.
Despite facing life-threatening health conditions, including operations that forced her to miss long periods of school the past few years, Bishard is extremely active and overwhelmingly positive.
“I think it comes from wanting to make sure that I’m at the level where I need to be. Because I have CP, I’ve had to work harder to get things that, for some people, might come easier,” she says.
“It comes into play in everything I do. I have to make sure I put in the right amount of effort.”
Take marching band, for instance. Bishard, who played bells and chimes as part of the percussion ensemble, didn’t ask for any special modifications, even though the CP impacts her fine motor skills and balance.
Bishard participated in marching band for three years, until (did we mention that work ethic?) she began an internship at Holy Spirit Hospital last month.
She no longer has time for practices, but it’s worth the tradeoff because Bishard knows the internship offers her the chance to move closer to her post-high school goal: finding a cure for cerebral palsy.
Bishard plans to become a pharmacist, pursuing a doctorate in that field. This fall, she applied early decision to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for her pharmacy undergrad.
She knows first-hand all about the treatment options for CP — Bishard has undergone botox injections and muscle-lengthening surgery, among other things — and she wants to find treatments that are more cost-effective and efficient for the condition.
“My inspiration for wanting to find a cure is having it myself. There are treatments such as botox and surgeries, but they have a lot of side effects that are not the best things to have to deal with,” Bishard says. “They are not the most effective treatments, and they’re not long-term.”
Bishard has known since she was a sophomore what career path she wanted to pursue, which is what drew her to Nova Southeastern. But she also loved the vibe she got from the Florida campus.
“There’s a lot of positivity, and it’s close to the beach, too. The people are really nice and inspiring,” Bishard says. “I really feed off of the people I surround myself with.”
Positivity goes hand in hand with Bishard’s aforementioned work ethic. She says music helps her to stay upbeat — she loves all types, and she says she can turn her mood around by listening to the right song.
She also likes to post positive, inspirational messages on Instagram, where she stays in touch with the many friends she made from other schools while competing in the Miss Pennsylvania Junior Teen pageant in 2013.
“They’re awesome people I never get to see, and I can connect with them and see what they’re doing,” Bishard says. “I like posting things that are inspiring and uplifting. I hope that if someone is having a bad day and I put a message in a post like that, it reaches that person.”
That attitude pretty much sums up Bishard, says Gail Hiestand, a counselor at Mechanicsburg.
“Autumn really cares for others. She has a passion for justice, and she’s not afraid to stand up and put her truth out there,” Hiestand says. “She has such a strong conviction to help others and make her world a better place.”