Sixteen of the best and brightest students at Toledo Public Schools were honored Wednesday, April 29, at the district's annual Celebration of Excellence dinner.
The event, held at the Toledo Club, recognized the valedictorians and salutatorians at the six comprehensive high schools -- Bowsher, Rogers, Scott, Start, Waite and Woodward -- as well as the top two students at Toledo Early College High School and Toledo Technology Academy.
Linda Meyers, transformational leader of Community Relations and the Bowsher and Learning Communities for TPS, told the audience that she was impressed with the bios of the Class of 2015 graduates.
"Sitting here with us tonight are class presidents and National Honor Society members, musicians and artists, football players and tennis players -- as well as future engineers, music educators and business leaders," she said. "But what sets these young leaders apart is their passion and commitment for giving back to their communities."
She added, "We have been especially touched by the memories each chose when asked to recall an incident that made them TPS Proud. Students, please know that helping to teach and guide you are what we think of when asked for a favorite TPS Proud memory."
Mrs. Meyers also told the soon-to-graduates that everyone in the room - from teachers to counselors to principals to parents -- had been with them during their journey and would be there if they ever need support or guidance.
Dr. Dennis Patrick, a communications professor from Eastern Michigan University and the keynote speaker, went practical with his advice.
He told the soon-to-be college freshmen that college professors hate it when students text during class, want the teachers to recount for them everything they missed in class and when they are consistently late.
"And please, don't write term papers like you text," he said with a smile to applause from the other educators in the room.
Dr. Patrick also offered a sincere To Do list, including to take advantage of meeting new people with diverse backgrounds and exploring different subjects.
"And make sure you get to know your professors. We're there to help," he said.
Here are the students who were honored, including a little bit about them and their future plans:
MICHELLE KLINGBERG, VALEDICTORIAN OF BOWSHER HIGH SCHOOL
During her academic career, Michelle is proudest of having served as the treasurer of the National Honor Society, winning the Paul Miles Award and earning a I rating for vocal solos in the OMEA Solo E Ensemble. She is a member of Bowsher’s famous Rebelaires, as well as the concert and honors choir, and played varsity volleyball. She was also a member of the spring musical cast.
Michelle plans to attend the University of Toledo and major in chemistry.
She found it very humbling when she served food at a soup kitchen with her youth-to-youth group. And the moment in her high school career that made her the most TPS Proud was when she was one of seven Bowsher students who volunteered to help at Imagination Station during National Chemistry Week.
Michelle invited math and science teacher Daniel Chisholm to be her honored guest at the dinner.
JACOB STEWART, SALUTATORIAN OF BOWSHER
Jacob is proudest of having received a Ray Kest Memorial Scholarship, of earning a President’s Education Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence and for being nominated to be a National Youth Delegate. During his career at Bowsher, he received the Student Award for Anatomy and Physiology and served as a member of both the Student Council and the Physics Club.
Jacob does volunteer work at Camp Miakonda and his most memorable service project was working on a trail service crew at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. He plans to attend either the University of Michigan or the University of Toledo to study Health Sciences.
He says his most TPS Proud moment was, “When Byrnedale Middle School came together in support of Ann Relter and her family at a very tragic and difficult time in their lives.”
Jacob chose as his honored guest Kay Pommeranz, his second grade teacher at Beverly.
TAYLOR ADOLPH, VALEDICTORIAN OF ROGERS HIGH SCHOOL
Taylor’s pick for his top high school honors are being named BCSN Student of the Month for December, playing in the Jazz Band and being a member of the Drama Club and the National Honor Society.
The most memorable service project was when he volunteered last year for the TPS Special Olympics. Taylor says, “It was meaningful to me to see the community’s support for persons with disabilities.”
Eastern Michigan University is Taylor’s next stop, where he plans to double major in creative writing and psychology.
Taylor says, “I was TPS Proud when performing at the Ramada with the Jazz Band. This event showcased the quality of TPS’s music department.”
Taylor chose as his honored guest social studies teacher Joe Boyle.
KAYLA VEHUE, SALUTATORIAN OF ROGERS
Kayla is president of the National Honor Society, a recipient of the Coaches Award and a Student of the Week in the Toledo Blade. The three activities Kay is most involved in are the National Honor Society, the Girls’ Tennis Team and school dances. She works at Subway in her spare time.
Kay’s most memorable service project was raising money and then buying Christmas presents that were donated to homeless shelters and her educational goals include getting a master’s degree in social work at Bowling Green State University.
Kayla says one of her most favorite things about high school was competing on the tennis team.
“I was injured and had to end the season early [this year]. When I went to [matches] to encourage my teammates, every team at the tournaments and games shook my hand and congratulated me on my career. Every TPS school that played at the tournaments supported everyone -- not just their school.”
Kay chose science teacher Jeannette Utter as her special guest.
JAZMYLIENA MARTIN, VALEDICTORIAN OF SCOTT HIGH SCHOOL
She lists her top three high school honors as serving as vice president of her class this year and earning the Academic Excellence TRIO and Most Conscientious in Math awards. Her activities include playing trumpet in the marching band, the Teen Outreach Program, serving in the Student Body Government and being a member of Young Women of Excellence.
Her most memorable community service project was volunteering at Tent City “because I was able to give to those in need. Tent City gave me a sense of self awareness and made me want to help out more by opening a shelter in the future.”
Jazmyliena plans to major in mechanical engineering.
Her TPS Proud moment came during the funeral procession for the late Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins.
"Everyone was huddled up, holding flags and paying their respects in silence. I believe this is the best example of an experience that made me say, ‘I am TPS Proud,’ “ she said
Jazmyliena chose Shannon Tisdale, her second grade teacher at Warren, as her honored guest.
ZAYNAB ALFAHAM, SALUTATORIAN AT SCOTT
She is most proud of winning the Foreign Language Week Award, participating in the Art Showcase and winning the Sylvania Southview Scholarship Award. Her activities include the Mystery Music Step Team, Young Women of Excellence (YWOE) and the Asian Cultures Club.
Her most memorable service project was working as a volunteer with the Toledo Lucas County Democratic Party, which gave her a new outlook on the people of Toledo as she talked to them on the phone and met them on the campaign trail
Zaynab works at Mary Ella Homes and reported that her college choice had not yet been made. She does know she wants to major in political science and minor in linguistics. Her long-term goal is to continue learning languages and to eventually get an MBA.
A special moment during the dinner came when Zaynab recited the TPS mission statement in Mandarin Chinese, a skill she learned at Scott.
Learning the statement gave her "pride in knowing that my school offers Chinese, an enthralling and difficult language. It gave me the opportunity to show the end goal of each TPS school, not only in English, but also in Mandarin -- which represents the international aspect of this amazing system of schools. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime and it has led me to practice what the mission preaches."
Zaynab chose guidance counselor Ward Ensign as her honored guest.
DEREK COREY-GOODMAN, VALEDICTORIAN OF START HIGH SCHOOL
Derek is most proud of being a member of the National Honor Society, vice president of Mu Alpha Theta and secretary of the Latin Club. He played four years of football, was a two-year captain of the wrestling team and ran track and field as a freshman.
Derek says his most important service project was giving a hot Easter meal to those who were in need. He says, “This was meaningful as it wasn’t only giving back to the community, but also paying it forward to the next generation. Hopefully, in giving food, we were able to make a positive influence on the youth.”
Derek, who works at Little Caesars Pizza, plans on attending The Ohio State University and major in mechanical engineering.
Of his TPS Proud moment, Derek wrote about an experience his sophomore year when Mrs. Sullivan, his Algebra 2 teacher, urged him to take a practice SAT test. He says, “Even though I didn’t have the $20 fee at the time, Mrs. Sullivan gave me the money for the test without caring if she was ever paid back. For me, this moment made me TPS Proud [because] a teacher I barely knew was willing to give a student her own money so he could take the test.”
Derek chose Robert Borger, an anatomy and physiology teacher, as his honored guest.
JACK SMOLENSKI, SALUTATORIAN OF START
Jack was the drum major in the school’s marching band, is President of the Drama Club and won the German Speaking Award from the National German American Society. His top three activities are Band, Drama Club and National Honor Society.
Jack says his most meaningful service project was at the Toledo Symphony Family Concert when he played frog sounds on a bassoon for children to teach them about different animals through the use of music.
The next stop for Jack is Bowling Green State University, where he plans to major in Music Education.
He says, “What makes me TPS Proud is the community we have and the appreciation for other people’s work. Dr. Durant never misses a beat when it comes to supporting TPS students in honors band and orchestra or other achieving activities. TPS has a lot to show and our hard work does not go unnoticed.”
Jack chose his band teacher, Robert Stierman, as his honored guest.
TALA ABOU-DAHECH, VALEDICTORIAN OF TOLEDO EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL
Tala cites being president of the Class of 2015, graduating high school with 60 college credits and being named to the University of Toledo’s President’s List as her top three high school honors. In addition to her Student Council work, Tala’s activities include serving as president of the Arab group for the International Festival and tutoring fellow students.
She writes of her most memorable service project, “I was involved in a Young Women for Change Club where we discussed issues in our society, many about women, and how we can go about bettering them. We helped many girls in the group undergoing personal struggles feel better and improve.”
With 60 credits already, it’s no surprise that Tala says she plans to attend the University of Toledo and study Speech Language Pathology.
In response to the TPS Proud question, Tala writes, “There came a time in the school year where students were feeling exhausted and overburdened. I, along with another student, helped organize and conduct a flash mob consisting of a number of students from each class. All students were very surprised at first and all walked away smiling and laughing. The whole school really came together, all TPS Proud.”
Tala’s special guest was Mona Al-Hayani, a social studies teacher.
NGOC MAI, SALUTATORIAN FOR TOLEDO EARLY COLLEGE
She is most proud of receiving a $5,000 Old Newsboys Scholarship, making The University of Toledo Dean’s and Presidents’ Recognition lists and winning The Dr. Eugene Saunders and Dr. Daniel Johnson Award recognizing the Highest Level of Scholarship and Activities for 2015.
Ngoc is a member of the TECHS Quiz Bowl Team, tutors underclassmen (mostly in math) and has been a singer and an actor in school shows.
The most memorable service project she was involved in was volunteering to help the UT Chapter of the American Chemical Society set up science stations and demonstrate to younger kids’ mini science experiments at the Imagination Station.
The plan next year is to attend the University of Toledo’s College of Engineering and major in chemical/environmental engineering.
Ngoc’s TPS Proud moment involves the school’s annual International Festival during which students celebrate their heritage. As a sophomore, she planned to celebrate her Vietnamese heritage with a song.
She says, “Fifteen minutes before my act came on, a Nicaraguan student and I decided to collaborate on my song backstage and rehearsed on the spot. Our act was successful, with me singing to his guitar background music.”
Ngoc’s special guest tonight was Sharon Storm, an advisor and teacher.
KAYLEE LOOFBOURROW, VALEDICTORIAN OF TOLEDO TECHNOLOGY ACADEMY
Kaylee says her top three high school honors have been attending the 2014 Marathon Classic to accept an award and give a speech on behalf of Junior Achievement; being elected vice president of the National Honor Society and being chosen to compete at Skills USA. Her top activities are serving as a senior representative on Student Council, Youth-to-Youth and being part of the Yearbook Committee.
Kaylee, who works at the Kent Branch Library, said her most memorable service project involves the branch where she has volunteered since the 7th grade. “I love to read and was able to share that love by helping with the Summer Reading Club. One of the best moments was helping and seeing kids sign-up that I had helped the year before,” she says.
Kaylee plans to major in journalism (in the communication department) at the University of Toledo.
Her favorite TPS Proud moment involves presenting to the Board of Education duplicates of awards TTA had received.
"We were named a ‘School of Honor’ and a ‘School of Promise’ by the Ohio Board of Education. To be a part of that and to be able to say that I helped achieve that is pretty gratifying. We wanted to say thank you on behalf of TTA.”
Kaylee chose English teacher Louise Lowenstein as her honored guest.
ROSA CELESTINO, SALUTATORIAN FOR TTA
She is a member of the National Honor Society and the Director’s List and was a Skills USA participant. Her activities include serving as a Student Council representative and being a member of both Youth-to-Youth and the Year Book staff.
Rosa cited a number of service projects she’s been involved in, including working church festivals, tutoring younger students and assisting the elderly with household chores, but she said her most memorable project was one she did for TTA.
“We boxed up holiday baskets for needy families. I knew the families were in need of help and they were extremely grateful for the baskets,” she remembers.
Rosa, who works at Los Amigos Restaurant, plans to attend Cleveland State University to study mechanical engineering.
Her TPS Proud moment is connected to her future career path.
She writes, “Through a partnership between TTA and General Motors Corporation, I have had the privilege to intern at GM during my senior year. This experience has brought me to say I am TPS Proud.”
English teacher Emily Kriegel was Rosa’s special guest at the dinner.
HANNAH HARTFORD IS WAITE HIGH SCHOOL’S VALEDICTORIAN
Hannah is proudest of winning the Jefferson Award for Service, receiving a scholarship from the Old Newsboys and having perfect attendance for all four years.
She has played the alto saxophone for four years in the marching and jazz bands, worked on school dances and programs as a Student Government officer and has worked on floats and helped to run the senior class.
Hannah’s most meaningful service project was during last summer’s water crisis. “We passed out water packages to people in need at my home high school. It brought the community together and it was so much fun,” she remembers.
Next stop is the University of Toledo, where Hannah plans to major in Public Relations and Business.
Her most memorable TPS Proud experience came during last fall’s levy campaign when she and classmates passed out pamphlets and held up signs outside the Birmingham Library. "With the pamphlets, I went around East Toledo to knock on doors to show people that TPS kids [cared] about the levy.”
Hannah’s special guest was physical education teacher Seth Alder.
JERRICA SLAWSKI, SALUTATORIAN FOR WAITE
She is proud of being Waite High School’s October Student of the Month, being president of MU Alpha Theta and for being one of the few students to be selected to be a member of the National Honor Society. Her school activities include Teen Pep, softball and the National Honor Society.
Her memorable service project was delivering holiday baskets to families in need. “It was great to be able to see the appreciation they had for them,” she writes.
Jerrica, who works at McDonald’s, is heading to The Ohio State University. She says she’s undecided on her major right now but is leaning towards something in the medical field.
She writes, “I was TPS Proud of the way the Waite community helped out during the water crisis. Dozens of students volunteered to pass out cases of water to people in need. It made me feel proud to say I am a TPS student.”
Shara Lake, an English II teacher at Waite, is Jerrica’s honored guest tonight.
MAYA OLIVE, VALEDICTORIAN OF WOODWARD HIGH SCHOOL
She is proudest of being a member of the National Honor Society and earning awards at the Academic Banquet every year of her high school career. She is involved in Young Women of Excellence and the Girl Scouts and her most memorable service project was when she hosted a Girl Scouts event at Woodward called ‘Free to be Me.’
Maya, who works at McDonalds, plans to attend Owens Community College for two years and then transfer to the University of Toledo to major in social work.
“An experience that I would have to say made me TPS Proud is when a group of students in YWOE and YMOE marched through the North End and sang our slogans. We were taking back our neighborhood,” she reports.
Maya chose English teacher Meighan Richardson as her special guest.
SHYANNE CRAWFORD, SALUTATORIAN OF WOODWARD
She is proudest of being a member of the National Honor Society, winning Sophomore Princess and receiving an Old Newsboys Scholarship. She is a member of Young Women of Excellence and played volleyball and softball.
Shyanne’s most important service project was when, “as a member of YWOE, we held a Seed Swap at Woodward High and I was a proud volunteer.”
An employee of McDonalds, Shyanne plans to attend Eastern Michigan University and major in accounting.
Shyanne says, “As a member of YWOE, we did lots of community service projects, ushering, parades, etc. When we walked in the room, we owned the room. Each service project we helped at, we left a great impact on the people around us which left me to say, ‘I am TPS Proud.”
Alice Murray, a health and physical education teacher, was Shyanne’s honored guest.
Posted on May 1, 2015