May 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Best & Brightest: How we pick the graduates

For more than a quarter century, we have been recognizing Michigan’s best and brightest high school students through the Outstanding Graduates program. It’s a task that never gets old.

With our partner, CATCH — Sparky Anderson’s Charity for Children — we are proud to tell the stories of these remarkable young people. And we are also encouraged that our future is in such good hands.

The top seniors were chosen from a field of outstanding nominees. Public and private high schools in Michigan were invited to nominate students in each of 11 categories. Students were selected on the basis of grades, test scores, honors, community involvement and a demonstrated ability in one of the academic areas. In a special category called “Against All Odds” students were recognized for succeeding despite a physical hardship or special, personal or family challenges.

Final selections were made by panels of judges that included teachers, counselors and other academic specialists. The judges told us of their admiration for the many nominees and the difficulty in narrowing their choices.

Our thanks go to all of the principals, counselors and teachers who took time to nominate these students. Thanks also go to the judges who spent many hours selecting the finalists.

This is the 29th class of outstanding high school graduates honored by The News. Many of our early nominees are now well established in successful careers and raising children who may well be honored themselves someday soon. We salute their special achievements and extend congratulations to all of Michigan’s graduating seniors in the class of 2014.


Jonathan Wolman

Editor and Publisher



Eric Gipson

High school: Farmington

Parents: Jamie and William Gipson

Grade-point average: 3.09

College: Oakland University

Major: Undecided

Career Plans: Undecided

Most influential teacher: Kurt David


2014 Oakland Press and Oakland County Schools Excellence in Education nomination award

Academic letter

Varsity letter in Cross Country and Track

Overcame serious bullying and intimidation to achieve academic excellence

Certificate of Achievement for NOCTI

Certificate of participation for communication camp

Certificate of merit in athletics

Volunteers at local charities “Neverland Finds” and “S.O.U.L.”

Academic Excellence despite diagnosis of Asperger’s

Sponsored by: Arrow Strategies


Kimberly M. Barbour

High school: Grosse Pointe South

Grade-point average: 4.1

Parents: Monica and John Barbour

College: University of Detroit Mercy

Major: Chemistry, 7-year Dental (BS/DDS) Program

Career plans: Dentist

Most influential teacher: Jacqueline Shelson and James Gross


Student Council president

Tri-M Music Honors Society president

National Honor Society member

Recipient of “Time to Start Dreaming” award from Anaheim Heritage Music Festival

Grosse Pointe South Chamber of Orchestra member (second violin)

Competitive Junior Sailor at Bayview Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing program (won Smythe Trophy)

Sponsored by: Arrow Strategies


Mackenzie Eurich

High school: Unionville-Sebewaing

Grade-point average: 3.813

Parents: George and Kristi Eurich

College: Eastern Michigan University

Major: Exercise science

Career plans: Certified prosthetics


Adapting to living and excelling with a prosthesis

Being a mentor for other amputees

Counselor at a national camp for exceptional kids dealing with disabilities and life-altering conditions

Playing competitive softball for 10 years

Competing twice in high school state softball finals

Honor Roll every quarter, every year

National Honor Society

Competitive volleyball and basketball

Sponsored by: Arrow Strategies


Trenton Manns

High school: Cranbrook Kingswood

Grade-point average: 3.85

Parents: Wanda Manns

College: Tufts University

Major: International relations and anthropology or linguistics

Career plans: Undecided

Most influential teacher: Dr. Darryl Taylor


Being accepted to Cranbrook Kingswood with a full scholarship

Cranbrook Outstanding junior award

Resident advisor, Cranbrook

Cranbrook’s Bridge the Divide facilitator

Helping provide fresh produce for low-income families

Cranbrook Dad’s Club Award

Horizons-Upward Bound Student Wilderness leader

Cranbrook English and History awards

Sponsored by: Arrow Strategies



Karl Marback

High school: Seaholm

Grade-point average: 4.22

Parents: Melissa and Richard Marback

College: Yale

Major: Engineering

Career plans: Management position in an engineering firm

Most influential teacher: Mrs. Petrozzi


Football senior captain

Basketball senior captain

Track and field senior captain

Seven varsity letters (two in football, three in basketball, two in track and field)

Football: OAA Blue Division First Team, 2012, 2013

Football Detroit News All-Metro North First Team: 2013

National Honor Society member

Seaholm kickoff mentoring program (2012-14)

Habitat for Humanity (2013)

Sponsored by: Detroit Lions


Megan O'Neil

High school: Chippewa Hills

Grade-point average: 3.85

Parents: Patti and Robert O’Neil

College: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Major: Microbiology

Career plans: Run for the University of Wisconsin, work in research

Most Influential Teacher: Alex VanderVeen


Mideast Meet (4 states) Champion

1600 and 800 MHSAA Division 2 state champion

All-State cross country

All-State track

U.S. Air Force Achievement

Math Science Technology Center graduate

Student Athletic Advisory Counsel representative

Cross country team captain

Track captain

Sponsored by: Cambridge Consulting



Devin Pardee

High school: Carman-Ainsworth

Grade-point average: 3.75

Parents: Tara Kane and Brian Pardee

College: Wayne State University

Major: Biology

Career plans: Emergency physician

Most influential teacher: Kim Confer


Graduating with high honors

HOSA Regionals, Quiz Bowl, 1st place

Certificate of recognition of volunteering at Hurley Medical Center

Raised money for American Cancer Society

Project choice: Volunteering with autistic students

Sponsored by: Richard & Jane Manoogian Foundation


Jordan Menczer

High school: Frankel Jewish Academy

Grade-point average: 4.14

Parents: Tracey and Mark Menczer

College: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Career plans: Medical doctor specializing in cardiology

Most influential teacher: Erika Ullrey


National Honor Society member and National Society of High School Scholars member

Model U.N. delegate-representative of Chad on the World Health Organization Committee

Beaumont Hospital pediatric rehabilitation volunteer; Huron Valley Sinai Hospital-DMC-emergency room volunteer

David Hermelin Scholarship award recipient, Coca Cola Top Scholar semifinalist, and Community Choice Credit Union Scholarship recipient

Secretary and treasurer, freshman class of 2014

Sponsored by: Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation



Anjali Alangaden

High school: Mercy

Grade-point average: 3.98

Parents: Nelia Ajonso and George Alangaden

College: University of Michigan

Major: Linguistics

Career plans: Undecided

Most influential teacher: Mike Gruber


Newsprint editor in chief

Model United Nations secretary general

Human Relations Council senior member

Nadanta Inc. senior dancer and instructor

Scholastic Art Awards Silver Key award

Summer in the City volunteer

Henry Ford Hospital microbiology lab assistant

Sponsored by: Detroit Media Partnership


Megan Fleming

High School: Grosse Pointe South

Grade-point average: 3.67

College: Penn State University

Major: Journalism

Career: Sports-magazine, journalism design

Most influential teacher: Jeff Nardone


Editor-in-chief, the Tower Newspaper

MIPA all-state journalist

Guill & Scroll Journalist Honor Society member

8 “Spartys” for Newspaper Design from the MIPA

Varsity field hockey captain and MVP

All-state Division I Honorable Mention for field hockey

All-state all-academic for field hockey and softball

Sponsored by: The Detroit News



Delaney Piggins

High school: Holland

Grade-point average: 4.23

Parents: John and Kathleen Piggins

College: Webster Conservatory of Theatre Arts

Major: Acting

Minor: Business or marketing

Career plans: Actress

Most influential teacher: Lisa Hofman


National Forensics Finalist in Expository Speaking, 5th place

National Forensics Octa-finalist in Original Oratory

MIFA State Champion in Oratory

MIFA State Champion in Informative Speaking

MIFA State Champion in Sales Speaking

National Honor Society Leadership chair

MIFA Superior Award in Acting

National Forensics League, chapter president

Washington Journalism and Media Conference National Youth Correspondent

Holland High Junior Rotarian

Holland High State Champion Competition Theatre Team

Sponsored by: Richard & Jane Manoogian Foundation


Hanel Baveja

High school: Huron

Grade-point average: 4.0

Parents: Roohi and Satinder Baveja

College: Harvard University

Major: Undecided

Career plans: Arts/education advocacy

Most influential teachers: Sean Eldon and Maryan Mastey


Gold Portfolio Medal for Writing in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Young Arts Finalist in Poetry

Nominee for 2014 Presidential Scholars in the Arts

First prize, 2013 Leonard Milberg Poetry Prize at Princeton University

Finalist, 2013 Blank Theatre National Young Playwright’s Competition

Three-time finalist, Michigan Young Playwright’s Festival

Four-year editor, Best American Non-Required Reading Anthology

National Merit finalist

AP Scholar with Honor

President, Business Professionals of America Chapter (12th grade)

Sponsored by: Berline



Joseph Di Franco

High school: Detroit Catholic Central

Grade-point average: 4.9

Parents: Duane and Donna Di Franco

College: University of Notre Dame

Major: Undecided

Career plans: Undecided

Most influential teacher: Jean Libs


Drum major, Catholic Central Shamrock Marching Band (grades 11-12)

Smith Walbridge Most Outstanding Drum Major

Smith Walbridge Drum Major First Class in Mace and Traditional Styles

Catholic Central Band Council, president (grade 12)

Trumpet section leader, Symphony Band, (grade 12)

First chair trumpet, Jazz Band (grades 11-12)

Invited to 2013 Michigan Youth Arts Honors Band

Number one rating at State Solo and Ensemble (grades 9-11)

National Honor Society member

Sponsored by: Fifth-Third Bank


Laine Chan

High school: Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School

Grade-point average: 4.4

Parents: Toni and Bruce Chan

College: University of Michigan

Major: Mechanical engineering and finance

Career plans: Chief financial officer

Most Influential teacher: Kay Rediers


National Dance Education Organization Artistic Merit, Leadership and Academic Achievement Award/honorable mention

Michigan Dance Council Artistic Merit, Leadership and Academic Achievement Award

Cranbrook Kingswood Strickland Choreographer Competition Winner

Cranbrook Kingswood Marion Goodale Marsh Scholar

Sponsored by: CBRE



Lillian Liang

High school: Troy

Grade-point average: 4.425

Parents: Helen and Ray Liang

College: Harvey Mudd College

Major: Engineering

Career plans: Undecided

Most Influential Teacher: Kevin Ortwine


National Merit Scholar

National AP Scholar

President, Math Club

Four-time American Invitational Mathematics exam qualifier

Michigan math prize competition bronze award, scholarship recipient

Director of programming, buildOn

Helped raise $7,000+ this year for buildOn

Co-captain and 4-year player, girls varsity tennis

OAA Red League Champion, MHSAA regional finalist, state semifinalist 2013

Sponsored by: Talmer Bank & Trust


Russell Ladd

High school: Seaholm

Grade-point average: 4.44 (weighted) 4.00 (unweighted)

Parents: Nancy and Gilber Ladd

College: University of Michigan

Major: Computer engineering

Career plans: Software developer

Most Influential Teacher: Deb Woodman


Varsity, cross country

Track and field captain, 12th grade

National Honor Society

National Merit Scholar finalist

37th in the Michigan Math Prize Competition

USA biology Olympiad semifinalist, top 500 nationwide

Developed Polyfactor, a polynomial factoring iPhone app

Developed Blatch, an iPad game

Developed Cards, a spelling education app

Sponsored by: Richard & Jane Manoogian Foundation



Alex Yue

High school: Canton

Grape-point average: 4.35

Parents: Junping Yue and Yulie Liu

College: Princeton University

Major: Computer science

Career plans: Software engineer

Most influential teacher: Phil Sands


Robofest International Vision Centric Challenge , 1st place

National Merit Finalist Scholarship

Michigan Science Olympiad — Robot Arm, 6th place

Michigan Science Olympiad — Robot Arm, 5th place

Robofest International World Championship, 4th place

Sponsored by: DTE Energy Foundation


Genevieve Sertic

High school: Portage Central, Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center

Grade-point average: 4.93

Parents: James and Lisa Sertic

College: Yale University

Major: Electrical engineering, energy studies

Career plans: Developing alternative energy

Most influential teacher: Cheryl Hach


Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalist

2014 national winner, 2013 Mich. winner, NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award

Semifinalist, Intel Science Talent Search

Sponsored by: Domino’s Pizza



Grace Martinez

High School: Grosse Pointe South

Grade-point average: 3.6

Parents: Daniel Martinez and Deanna Burrows

College: University of Michigan

Major: Bachelor of Fine Arts/sculpture

Career Plans: Claymation and animator

Most Influential Teacher: Tom Szmrecsanyi


Scholastic Gold Key Portfolio (Regional)

Scholastic Best in Show Portfolio (Regional)

Scholastic American Vision Award (Regional)

Scholastic Gold Key Portfolio Exhibition at the College for Creative Studies

Scholastic National Silver Key Portfolio

Michigan Interscholastic Press Association Division Two, first and second place editorial cartoons (statewide)

Quill and Scroll Award Editorial Cartoon category

Sponsored by: Wright & Filippis


Gwendolen Keller

High school: Notre Dame Preparatory

Grade-point average: 4.47

Parents: Phil and Jeanine Keller

College: Kalamazoo College

Major: International studies, economics

Career plans: International development economist

Most influential teacher: Sandy LewAllen


Scholastic Silver Key Award, photography

Speaker at the St. Peter Chanel Society Dinner

MIVCA Academic All-State

Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award

Scholastic All-Catholic Team member

NASSP American Citizenship Award

International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

NDP student ambassador

Sponsored by: The Hire Road



Ian O'Rourke

High school: Seaholm

Grade-point average: 4.435

Parents: Shawn and Beth O’Rourke

College: University of Michigan

Major: Aerospace engineering

Career plans: Engineer at NASA, SpaceX or astronaut


Fellow at Interactive Communications and Simulations, UM Flint

Created Seaholm Highlander Android/iOS application

Seaholm Marching Band Alto Saxophone section leader

FIRST Robotics Team 2960 programmer

Jazz Band member

Michigan Math Prize Competition, Part Two Qualification, three years

Seaholm Junior Princeton Book Award

National Honor Society

Seaholm Band Council secretary/treasurer

Sponsored by: Richard & Jane Manoogian Foundation


Kristen Law

High school: Bloomfield Hills

Grade-point average: 4.0

Parents: Susie and Ed Law

College: Stanford University

Major: Computer science engineering

Career plans: Engineer

Most influential teacher: David Zulkiewski


National Merit semifinalist

AP Scholar

National Honor Society

NASA Women in STEM Aerospace Scholar

FIRST Robotics Dean’s List Award

NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award

Outstanding Youth Citizen Award

Science Olympiad Team

Varsity golf team

Varsity tennis team

Sponsored by: Strategic Staffing Solutions



Lillian Slajus

High school: Kingsford

Grade-point average: 4.082

Parents: Stephen and Elizabeth Slajus

College: Michigan State University

Major: Environmental geoscience

Career plans: Environmental scientist

Most influential teacher: Bob Martonen


MSU Star Scholarship recipient

Costa Rica service project

AP Literature student of the month

Spanish club president

Army reserve scholar — athlete award

Michigan Tech woman of engineering certificate of Merit Recipient

Treasurer of National Honor Society

Student council officer of documentation

Kingsford soccer rookie of the year

Varsity volleyball captain

Sponsored by: Project Planning & Management


Rohun Dhar

High school: Detroit Country Day

Grade-point average: 3.63

Parents: Shailja and Subhash Dhar

College: Tufts University

Major: International relations

Career plans: U.S. ambassador to Japan

Most influential teacher: Katherine Suttles


Founder/director of Sachi Baath

Lead role in production of “Macbeth”

Lead role in “Urinetown: The Musical!” as Lockstock

Co-founder of DCDS Idea Lab Club

Captain of Varsity Ultimate Frisbee Team

National Piano Federation 10-year superior rating

State forensics competition finalist

Tzu Chi Foundation volunteer

Sponsored by: Quicken Loans



Christy Routheaux

Marine City High School, China

Elijah Michaels

Mattawan High School, Lawton

Nikki Wald

North Farmington High School, Farmington Hills

Socrates Papageorgiou

Huron High School, Ann Arbor


Hollie Dowd

Glen Lake High School, Cedar

Caroline Barrett

Walled Lake Central High School, Wixom

Dereka Bennett

Cass Technical High School, Detroit

Warda Saleh

Universal Academy, Detroit


Aubrey Perry

Farmington High School, Farmington

Addison Mauck

Shrine Catholic High School, Royal Oak

Tyler VanderMolen

Gull Lake High School, Richland

Meg Bauer

Notre Dame Prep, Washington

Language Arts

Neil Robinson

Detroit Catholic Central, Farmington Hills

Abigail Morse

Caledonia High School, Caledonia

Holly Ray

Swan Valley High School, Saginaw

Elizabeth Werth

Unionville-Sebewaing Area High School, Sebewaing


Noah Stetson

Ishpeming High School, Ishpeming

Nadim Bari

Cass Technical High School, Detroit

Aaron Zeng

Detroit Country Day, Beverly Hills

Madhurima Das

Plymouth High School, Canton

Performing Arts

Isabelle Correia

Churchill High School, Livonia

Christopher Contrell

Detroit Country Day, Beverly Hills

Danielle Mackey

Yale High School, Kenockee

Emily Durie

International Academy of Macomb, Chesterfield


Claire Huebner

Grosse Pointe South High School, Grosse Pointe

Stephen Li

Troy High School, Troy

Rachel Rounds

Evart High School, Evart

Corin Murphy

Seaholm High School, Bloomfield Hills

Against All Odds

Tiffany Valencia

Chelsea High School, Chelsea

Pierce Cesaretti

H.H. Dow High School, Midland

Gam Mahkaw

Everett High School, Lansing

Endeya Porter

Flint Northwestern, Flint

Elizabeth Amyx

Tri-Unity, Jenison

Angela Reich

Swan Valley High School, Saginaw

Tyler Shepler

Baldwin Senior High School, Chase

Elizabeth Roosen

Ladywood High School, Canton

Visual Arts

Liao Jingru

Shrine Catholic High School, Royal Oak

Shayna Mehta

Detroit Country Day, Beverly Hills

Peyton Boughton

Sturgis High School, Sturgis

Olivia Kinker

Northport Public High School, Northport


Rachel Schmid

Cadillac High School, Cadillac

Kristopher Anderson

H.H. Dow High School, Sanford

Elbert Han

Detroit Country Day, Beverly Hills

Holly Tait

Laker High School, Caseville

World Studies

Chris Evans

Mattawan High School, Mattawan

Lauren Smith

Rochester Adams High School, Rochester

Julie Jones

Mona Shores High School, Muskegan

Michael Jenuwine

Athens High School, Troy


Performing Arts

Paul Lichau

Executive director, Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association

Visual Arts

Richard Epps

Presentation editor, The Detroit News


Ruben Luna

Associate sports editor

Tom Markowski

Prep sports reporter, The Detroit News


Dave Brown

Health & phys ed teacher, Oxford High School

Kathryn Goetz

Michigan Department of Education


Walter Middlebrook

Assistant managing editor, The Detroit News

Language Arts

Mary M. Hall-Rayford

Adjunct professor for WCCCD


Marianne Srock

Mathematics consultant, Macomb Intermediate School District


Michael Klein

President, Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA)

Special-Against All Odds

Gail Fowler

Academic success coach, Westwood New Tech High School

Kimberly Sams-Smith

Freelance journalist


Eileen Conor

Work-based coordinator, Calhoun Area Career Center

Mary Jane Cipcic

Outreach specialist (marketing/PR), Calhoun Area Career Center

World Studies

David Hales

Social studies consultant, Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency