2018 Outstanding Grads: Remarkable students, stories

The Detroit News
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For 32 years, The News has saluted a group of Michigan’s best and brightest high school students in the spring of their senior year.

Partnering with CATCH — Sparky Anderson’s Charity for Children — we call it the Outstanding Graduates program.

It is an honor to share the stories of these remarkable young people and to consider that Michigan will benefit from their future endeavors, and the endeavors of so many of their friends and classmates.

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 high regard 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 33rd 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 that 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 2018.


Jonathan Wolman

Editor and Publisher

Against all odds

Caleb Cooper

High school: Swan Valley High School

GPA: 4.0

Parents/Guardians: Charles and Penny Rambo

College I plan to attend: Michigan State University

Major: Psychology

Career plans: Clinical psychology

Most influential teacher: Mrs. JoAnn Schneider


■National Honor Society

■SADD president

■Sophomore student of the year

■Business Professionals of America

■Student government

■Varsity track and field

■Varsity cross country

■Varsity wrestling

■Paul Sipiala Memorial Award

■Viking Technology Education Assistance Mentor

Elizabeth Randall

High school: Ladywood High School

GPA: 4.18

Parents/Guardians: Michelle and Ronald Randall

College I plan to attend: University of Michigan Ross School of Business

Major: Bachelor of business administration

Career plans: Obtain a masters degree in accounting and work as a CPA

Most influential teachers: Kristena Stachura and Michael Hegarty


■Getting into the University of Michigan Ross School of Business

■Overcoming chronic chest pain

■Starting my own cupcake business — Lizzy Lou’s Little Sweets

■National Honors Society

■Captain of the varsity cheer and varsity ski teams

■Two years on Catholic All-Academic Team

■Four years scholar athlete

■Head of School Honor Roll for every quarter

■Six-time recipient of Blue and White Spirit award in cheer and ski

■Over 300 collective service hours in high school

Elizabeth Sheeren

High school: Grosse Pointe South High School

GPA: 3.9

Parents/Guardians: Chris and Julie Sheeren

College I plan to attend: Calvin College

Major: Biology / Pre-med

Career plans: Physician

Most influential teacher: Kristin Baer


■Maintaining a 3.9 GPA and earning scholarships to the University of Michigan, Calvin College and Hope College despite battling a rare and debilitating combination of autoimmune diseases

■Started a nonprofit called Courageous Soles, which collects wacky socks and donates them to kids and teens in the hospital

■CS Mott Children’s Hospital Teen Advisory Council co-chair

■Working with students at the University of Michigan to develop a unique app targeted specifically at teenagers and young adults to track medications and daily health

Natalie McGuire

High school: HH Dow High School

GPA: 4.65

Parents/Guardians: Gary McGuire/Abbie McGuire and Carmen Nasello

College I plan to attend: University of Michigan

Majors: Spanish and Biology

Career plans: Lawyer

Most influential teacher: Mrs. H. Gibbons


■IB Diploma candidate

■Top 10 percent of graduating class

■Honor roll

■National Honor Society member

■Key Club member

■Symphonic Band member (junior year)


Gabby Granata

High school: Marian High School

GPA: 4.065

Parents/Guardians: Robert and Pamela Granata

College I plan to attend: Williams College

Major: Economics/Psychology

Career plans: Attend business school after undergrad education is complete

Most influential teacher: Mrs. Roland


■Maintaining a 4.0 GPA from grade school through high school

■Working with the children at the Detroit Achievement Academy and the Detroit Prep School

■Being recruited to swim/study at Williams College

■Receiving the “High Point” swim trophy from age 6-16 at Pine Lake CC

■Receiving the “Presidents Award” for character/leadership from Pine Lake CC

■Breaking 12 swim records at Pine Lake, and setting 16 records at Motor City Aquatics

■Being elected captain of the Marian High School swim team

■Receiving the “Coaches Award” two out of four years at Marian High School

■Receiving “outstanding athlete” award four years in a row at Motor City Aquatics

Rachel McCardell

High school: Seaholm High School

GPA: 4.5

Parents/Guardians: Craig and Terri McCardell

College I plan to attend: Northwestern University

Major: Industrial engineering/Computer science

Career plans: Unknown

Most influential teacher: Jeff Devantier


■Three-time All-State Division 1 cross-country

■2-event All-State Division 1 track and field

■Two-time team state champions Division 1 cross-country

■Four-time All-Region, All-Oakland County

■League champion (Oakland Activities Association Division 1)


Heather Burrum

High school: Clarkston High School

GPA: 4.302

Parents/Guardians: James and Laura Burrum

College I plan to attend: University of Michigan

Career plans: Physical Therapy

Most influential teacher: Mrs. Kovanis-Wilson


■Varsity Track and Cross Country — team captain

■International Baccalaureate Program

■Founder of ActiveKids (raised over $2,000 in sports equipment for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have access)

■National Honor Society

■Recipient of Future Problem Solving International Creating the Future Scholarship (2018)

■Clarkston Foundation Award for excellence in science (2017)

■Founder of Clarkston Cultural Cooking Community

Anna Van Dresser

High school: Seaholm High School

GPA: 3.5

Parents/Guardians: Jane and Rick Van Dresser

College I plan to attend: Central Michigan University

Major: Special education or Psychology

Career plans: Work in the special education field

Most influential teacher: Mrs. Abigail Mencotti


■Over 700 hours of volunteer service

■Longest volunteer for YMCA Special Needs Adult Social Group, 2014-18

■Recipient of the Youth In Service Award sponsored by Birmingham Youth Assistance and Birmingham Optimists, 2016

■President’s Volunteer Service Award, silver level, 2016-17

■President’s Volunteer Service Award, gold level, 2018


Abigail Cadieux

High school: Grosse Pointe North High School

GPA: 4.05

Parents/Guardians: Scott and Colleen Cadieux

College I plan to attend: Kalamazoo College

Major: English with a concentration in journalism studies

Career plans: Media law

Most influential teacher: Shari Adwers


■Co-editor-in-chief, North Pointe, Grosse Pointe North High School

■National Scholastic Press Association first place, newspaper special edition, 2018

■JEA/NSPA First Amendment Freedom Award, Grosse Pointe North, 2017, 2018

■Michigan Interscholastic Press Association Spartan Awards with Distinction, 2015-17

■NSPA First Class Ranking with Distinction, 2015-17

■Columbia Scholastic Press Assocation Gold Medalist Certificate, 2016

Brynn Elder

High school: Bloomfield Hills High School

GPA: 4.0

Parents/Guardians: Chuck and Sue Elder

College I plan to attend: University of Michigan Honors College

Major: Biochemistry

Career plans: Research physician

Most influential teacher: Christina Hammitt (Journalism) and Dennis Kwasny (AP Chemistry, AP Biology)


■Editor-in-chief, Bloomfield Hawkeye newspaper

■Michigan Interscholastic Press Association Spartan Award

■MIPA Individual Award Winner

■Tri-M Music Honor Society, co-president and founder

■Outstanding Youth Citizen Award, Bloomfield Youth Guidance

■Color Guard captain, Bloomfield Hills High School Marching Band

■Youth Partner of Pontiac, volunteering with Bound Together, Accent Pontiac and Camp Hosanna

Language arts

Kelley Liu

High school: Troy High School

GPA: 4.25

Parents/Guardians: Guang Liu, Lan Kang

College I plan to attend: Columbia University

Major: Evolutionary biology and Anthropology

Career plans: Undecided

Most influential teacher: Valerie Valentino


■2018 YoungArts Finalist in Writing

■Five-time regional gold medalist for Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

■Two-time National silver medalist for Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

■Published in “The Best Teen Writing of 2017”

■Published seven other times in national/international art journals, magazines, and anthologies

■First place in nonfiction for the Bennington College Young Writers’ Competition

■Editor for national literary magazine Polyphony Lit

Siena Capone

High school: Seaholm High School

GPA: 3.86 (Weighted GPA: 4.21)

Parents/Guardians: Carolyn and Antonio Capone

College I plan to attend: Brown University

Major: Literary Arts

Career plans: Author

Most influential teachers: Mr. Peter Shaheen and Ms. Valeria Petrozzi


■National Council of Teachers of English Achievements Award for Superior Writing

■Published essay and short story in “Clockwatchers” Anthology, Grey Wolfe Publishing, 2016

■MYAF Distinguished Creative Writing Scholar, selected to read poem at Opening Ceremony at WMU

■Two-year captain of varsity debate team

■Letter to the Editor published in the New York Times on Aug. 22, 2017

■Second place, “Kappy Family Anne Frank Writing Contest,” 2017

■Kenyon Review Young Writer’s Workshop, highly selective international summer writing program, 2017


Hongxiang Zhao

High school: Detroit Country Day School

GPA: 4.0

Parents/Guardians: Shaozhong and Xia Zhao

College: University of Michigan College of Engineering and Ross School of Business

Major: Computer Engineering and Business Administration

Career plans: Tech industry, current interest in autonomous and electric vehicles but may/probably will change

Most influential teacher: Ross Arseneau


■MMPC Top 50, 2015-18

■American Invitational Math Exam Qualifier, 2014-18

■Metro Detroit Science Fair first place in mathematics and system software, second place at State Fair and various professional awards

■Multiple Science Olympiad States Individual Top 6 finishes

■USA Computing Olympiads gold level

■Swimming All-State and Academic All-American

■National Latin Exam Gold Medal

Marisa Perez

High school: Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center

GPA: 3.988

Parents/Guardians: Sandra and Rudy Perez

College I plan to attend: University of Michigan

Major: Biomedical engineering

Career plans: Biomedical Engineer or Medicine

Most influential teacher: Mr. Greg McMillan


■ Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship winner

■First place Physics Award at the MMSTC Science Fair

■Third place in Behavioral Science at the Science Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit

■Grand Award at the Science Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit

■ Macomb Area Conference All-Academic Team

■Accumulated over 200 hours of community service

■Equestrian at Windermere Equestrian Center: 2014, and 2015 First Place in Hunter Jumping

Performing arts

Annalese Lohr

High school: Wylie E. Groves High School

GPA: 4.527

Parents/Guardians: John and Shannon Lohr

College I plan to attend: University of Michigan

Major: Mathematics or computer science major and music minor or major

Career plans: Flutist in an orchestra and working in an aerospace or computer science industry

Most influential teacher: Christina Marentette


■Michigan Youth Arts Distinguished Scholar: Symphony Band (2017), Symphony Orchestra (2018)

■Michigan Youth Arts Festival Outstanding Soloist Nominee (2017, 2018)

■Interlochen Flute Institute (2017, 2018), Interlochen Wind Symphony (2018)

■Detroit Metropolitan Youth Symphony: Symphony Orchestra principal flute (2014-present)

■Detroit Metropolitan Youth Symphony Outstanding Musician Award

■Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association District 4 Honors Band: Concert band (2015), Symphony band (2016-2018)

■Timothy Excellence Award (2018)

■Michigan Interscholastic Press Association Award of Merit: Honorable Mention--Human Interest Feature

Charlotte Farrell

High school: Grosse Pointe South High School

GPA: 4.1

Parents/Guardians: Terri and Dave Farrell

College: New York University

Major: Violin Performance and Film

Career plans: Play in a professional quartet or chamber ensemble

Most influential teachers: James Gross (Orchestra), Harry Campion (creative writing), Elizabeth Lulis (English)


■Tri-M Music Honor Society (grades 10, 11, 12)

■Member of Grosse Pointe South Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra (grades 9, 10, 11, 12); served as concertmaster (grades 11, 12); 1st violin in South String Quartet (grades 9, 10, 11, 12)

■Performed in many orchestras and chamber ensembles around Metro Detroit over the years

■Grosse Pointe South Band and Orchestra Alex Peabody Scholarship (2017)

■Michigan Youth Arts Festival, selected to perform in the Honors Orchestra; Outstanding soloist and string quartet nominee (2017), outstanding soloist and string chamber ensemble nominee (2018)

■George Eastman Young Leaders Scholarship Award (2017)

■ Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church Lancaster Competition / Scholarship—First place (2016)


Johanna Lund

High school: Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center

GPA: 3.964

Parents/Guardians: Margo and Richard Lund

College I plan to attend: Columbia University

Major: Mechanical engineering, focus on biomedical engineering

Career plans: Pediatric surgeon

Most influential teacher: Jamie Hilliard


■Materials Science Professional Award from the Detroit Chapter of ASM International

■Third place in Materials Science at the Science and Engineering Fair of Metro Detroit

■Grand Prize winner of the 2018 Senior Science Fair

■Macomb Area Conference All-Academic Team, 2017-18

■Michigan Department of Transportation Design and Build Bridge Competition: a certificate of achievement for demonstrating ingenuity in bridge design and construction, 2016

■150 hours of service as a volunteer at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital

Veena Thamilselvan

High school: Harrison High School

GPA: 4.0

Parents/Guardians: Vijayalakshmi Thamilselvan

College I plan to attend: Johns Hopkins University

Major: Public Health/ Pre-Med Track

Career plans: Doctor/epidemiologist for Doctors without Borders

Most influential teacher: Mrs.Yarger


■Placed first in Epidemiology at the HOSA International Leadership Conference

■Placed second in Biomedical Laboratory Science at the HOSA International Leadership Conference

■Placed third in Disease Detectives at the Science Olympiad State Competition

■National Merit Finalist

■Accepted as a student member of the American Association for Cancer Research

■Competed at the FIRST World Championships with FTC Team

■Youth Recognition Award recipient

■Rainbow Community Service Award recipient

Visual arts

Daeun Lee

High school: Troy High School

GPA: 4.03

Parents/Guardians: Daewon Lee and Samjo Kwon

College I plan to attend: College for Creative Studies

Major: Illustration

Career plans: Illustrator

Most influential teacher: Judith Tuma


■CCS Walter B. Ford II Award of Excellence (full tuition scholarship)

■Scholastic Art and writing, Gold Key

■Scholastic Art and writing, Gold Key Portfolio

■Oakland Financial Literacy Art Contest, first place

■Oakland Financial Literacy Art Contest, third place

■National Art Honors Society vice president

Madeleine Graham

High school: Lake Orion High School

GPA: 4.25

Parents/Guardians: Amy Jo and Kevin Graham

College I plan to attend: College for Creative Studies

Major: Advertising design with a concentration in business and possibly a minor in copy writing

Career plans: Graphic designer and illustrator, art director

Most influential teacher: Melissa Wilson (Art/AP Art Educator)


■National Silver Medal in Editorial Cartoon, Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (2017)

■Regional Gold Key in Editorial Cartoon, Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (2017)

■National Silver Medal Portfolio, Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (2018)

■Two Regional Gold Key Portfolios, Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (2018)

■Graphic designer (2015-18) and vice president (2017-18) of LOHS Art Club

■Accepted at and received scholarships from seven art schools and universities

■Lamp of Learning Award of Academic Excellence (2013-18)


Andrew Dimmer

High school: Clarkston High School

Parents/Guardians: Ron and Linda Dimmer

GPA: 4.00 (Weighted GPA: 4.449)

College I plan to attend: Oakland University

Majors: Computer science and mathematics

Career plans: Ultimately, I would like to become a chief technology officer.

Most influential teacher: Mr. Ron Conwell, career tech education administrator


■Clarkston High School valedictorian

■National Merit Scholar

■GE-Reagan Scholar

■President’s Volunteer Service Award, Gold and Bronze Levels (500-plus hours of community service)

■National AP Scholar

■Earned 16 technical industry certifications (A+, Network+, Security+, Microsoft MTA, etc.)

■Earned over 32 medals/plaques, including a National First Place — Business Professionals of America; earned 13 medals at Regional and State competitions — DECA

■Chapter President of Business Professionals of America, DECA, and National Technical Honor Society

■Information Technology Intern at Hi-Lex Automotive Center

Jayden Schafsnitz

High school: Swan Valley High School

GPA: 3.6

Parents/Guardians: Jason and Susan Schafsnitz

College I plan to attend: Grand Valley State University

Major: Computer engineering

Career plans: Biomedical engineering

Most influential teacher: Mrs. Kay Wejrowski


■VTEAM Leader/Trainer – Vikings Technology Education Assistance Mentor

■MITES Award for 3D Printing

■Cyber Senior Program Volunteer — Mentor

■All-County Award Varsity Track

■All-Conference Award Varsity Track

■Community Service Award

■Outstanding Computer Information Technology Student

World studies

Chloe Halprin

High school: Berkley High School

GPA: 4.2

Parents/Guardians: Mary Beth and Richard Halprin

College I plan to attend: University of Michigan

Major: International studies

Career plans: Immigration lawyer

Most influential teacher: Mr. Cierpial


■Two-year member and vice president of NHS

■Three-year member and secretary of UNICEF Club

■Two-year member and treasurer of Diversity Council

■Co-organized and helped raise $7,000 for students at my school to attend the D.C. March for Our Lives

■Participant in the Young Women’s Leadership Institute at Barnard College

■Helped raise over $1,000 for UNICEF

Tuhin Chakraborty

High school: Troy High School

GPA: 4.4

Parents/Guardians: Tapesh and Romi Chakraborty

College I plan to attend: University of Michigan

Major: History/Political science

Career plans: Lawyer, Politician/public official

Most influential teacher: Mr. Ryan Werenka, Troy HS AP Government Teacher


■Executive board member and outreach director of the ground Organize, Network, Engage youth civic organization

■One of 25 high school students chosen nationally for the Citizen University Youth Collaboratory

■Concert pianist: solo performance in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall in April 2017

■Founder and captain of the Troy High school history bowl team, 2018 Michigan History Bowl winner

■Authored history research paper (specifically American electoral history) that was a finalist at the 2017 MIT Inspire competition

■Intern for the Haley Stevens congressional campaign for Michigan’s 11th district



Blaine Flanigan

McKenna Fluder

Brayden Kessler

Reginald Pearson


Haylie Borrusch

Hannah Lemanski

Kendra Nora

Hailey Sirut


Connor Bradbury

Alexander Harring

Cassidy Maslowsky

Keenan Penn II

Language arts

Amanda Bradley

Kasidy Carson

Katelynn Mulder

Maya Nassif


Venkata Sai Suraj Chengalvala

Casey Fortman

Harvey Reeves

Chittesh Thavamani

Performing arts

Grace Bianchi

Jose Hernandez

Katie Sesi

Ruth Sytsma


Alison Heath

Margaret Perrtiangha

Katharine Shao

Richard Yang

Against all odds

Joseph Bushway

MyKayla Helm

Uchechukwu Ike

Alexzandra Lupu

Elizabeth Schriner

Max Schwartz

Alexa Titus

Madeline Tripp

Visual arts

Shayla French

Demetri Gritsas

Riley Lynch

Destinie Rodgers


Elizabeth Irla

Nafisa Lenseni

Malcolm Machesky

Laken Polega

World studies

Mauda Abdullah

Katlyn Ashman

Alexandra Dean

Katie Wolberg


Against all odds


Director of Special Services

Westwood Community School District


Freelance journalist

Arts (Performing)


Executive Director

Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association

Arts (Visual)


Senior Design Editor

The Detroit News



Sports Editor

The Detroit News



Division Head, Pediatrics

Henry Ford Health System




The Detroit News

Language Arts


Adjunct Professor for WCCCD



Mathematics Consultant

Macomb Intermediate School District



President, Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA)



Assistant Principal

Lamphere High School

World Studies


Social Studies Consultant

Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA)

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