Top grad­u­ates look to the fu­ture

School sys­tem’s top stu­dents dis­cuss goals, ex­pe­ri­ences

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­ Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

Charles County Pub­lic Schools grad­u­ates are go­ing places, as ev­i­denced by the plans of the grad­u­at­ing vale­dic­to­ri­ans and salu­ta­to­ri­ans of its seven high schools.

CCPS held grad­u­a­tions for all seven high schools June 1-3. In to­tal, the 1,965 se­niors who grad­u­ated have been of­fered nearly $79 mil­lion in schol­ar­ship of­fers, ac­cord­ing to CCPS — an in­crease of $13 mil­lion over last year.

Brett Cul­hane, 17, is Thomas Stone High School’s sa­lu­ta­to­rian. Cul­hane is the first-ever CCPS re­cip­i­ent of the Minds in Mo­tion Scholar-Ath­lete Schol­ar­ship. The $1,000 schol­ar­ship, from the Mary­land Pub­lic Se­condary Schools Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion and The All­state Foun­da­tion, is awarded to stu­dents who demon­strate ex­cel­lence in aca­demics and ath­let­ics.

Cul­hane, pres­i­dent of his school’s Na­tional Honor So­ci­ety, com­pleted eight Ad­vanced Place­ment (AP) courses and was voted to sev­eral all-SMAC teams in the South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence for his ac­com­plish­ments in swim­ming, foot­ball and soc­cer.

Asked how he jug­gled a full aca­demic sched­ule and sports, Cul­hane said, “I’d use school time to do my home­work, so dur­ing lunch I’d do my home­work, and plan­ning out my whole week ahead, so I’d have time to do home­work, and time to so­cial­ize and time for sports.”

Cul­hane said he will be at­tend­ing the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo., to ma­jor in chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing, hav­ing re­ceived $20,000 in schol­ar­ships to at­tend the school.

Sarah Gough, 17, sa­lu­ta­to­rian at La Plata High School, said she plans to at­tend Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity in Pitts­burgh, Pa., to study eco­nom­ics and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

“I took an AP Com­par­a­tive Gov­ern­ment class, and we learned the pol­i­tics of dif­fer­ent coun­tries, and I found it fas­ci­nat­ing to learn how our coun­try in­ter­acts with oth­ers. That led me to have an in­ter­est in in­ter­na­tional law,” Gough said.

Gough, who took 11 AP classes, of­fered ad­vice for bal­anc­ing school work and per­sonal time.

“You have to learn how to time man­age and work on your stuff be­fore it’s due, rather than putting it off, and then re­ward your­self with so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties once you fin­ish your work,” Gough said.

Jack Brown­ing, 17, vale­dic­to­rian of Mau­rice J. McDonough High School, said he plans to at­tend Vir­ginia Tech and ma­jor in sys­tems bi­ol­ogy be­fore pur­su­ing cell re­search.

“Even­tu­ally, I want to start a re­search in­sti­tu­tion to fo­cus on brain cells and cure dis­eases like Alzheimer’s [dis­ease] and ge­netic brain dis­eases,” Brown­ing said.

Brown­ing said tak­ing bi­ol­ogy in his sopho­more year piqued his in­ter­est in ge­net­ics.

“To me, ge­net­ics is the ground base of medicine and the med­i­cal fields. There’s a lot you can do with it,” Brown­ing said.

Henry E. Lackey High School vale­dic­to­rian Francesca Rothell, 17, said she plans to at­tend Swarth­more Col­lege in Penn­syl­va­nia to study medicine, spe­cial­iz­ing in pe­di­atrics.

Rothell, who has taken 11 AP courses, said she has bal­anced aca­demics with the­ater, orches­tra, choir, run­ning cross coun­try and com­pet­i­tive dance.

“It’s a big honor,” Rothell said about be­ing named vale­dic­to­rian. “It makes me feel that ev­ery­thing I’ve ac­com­plished was worth it.”

Sherry Chen, 17, sa­lu­ta­to­rian of North Point High School, said she plans to at­tend Penn State to study bi­ol­ogy and even­tu­ally go to med­i­cal school.

“I watched an open­heart surgery once [at the Congress of Fu­ture Med­i­cal Lead­ers] and it re­ally mo­ti­vated me to go into the med­i­cal field, be­cause I found it very in­ter­est­ing,” Chen said.

Thach-Vu Nguyen, 18, North Point’s vale­dic­to­rian, said he plans to at­tend the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park to study bio­chem­istry.

Nguyen took part in math team, model United Na­tions, soc­cer, lacrosse and also vol­un­teers as an EMT.

“Vol­un­teer­ing at the fire sta­tion is re­ally flexible, and I hope to con­tinue that in col­lege,” Nguyen said.

Jekko Syquia, 19, sa­lu­ta­to­rian for St. Charles High School, said he plans to at­tend Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity and ma­jor in fine arts and com­puter science. Syquia has kept busy dur­ing high school with 11 AP courses.

“To me, it’s just not re­ally hard, be­cause I some­how man­aged it,” Syquia said.

Eden Lakner, 16, St. Charles vale­dic­to­rian, said she plans on at­tend­ing the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park and ma­jor in the bi­o­log­i­cal sci­ences, with a goal of go­ing to med­i­cal school and be­com­ing a pe­di­a­tri­cian.

“My mom is a [physi­cian as­sis­tant], so I’ve grown up around medicine, and science is some­thing I’m very good at,” Lakner said.

Luke Roberts, 18, is sa­lu­ta­to­rian for Thomas Stone High School. Roberts said he plans to at­tend the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park and ma­jor­ing in ac­count­ing.

“I’ve al­ways just loved math grow­ing up, and I thought that would be a good ca­reer path,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he’s look­ing for­ward to col­lege, but “I’m def­i­nitely go­ing to miss high school, play­ing sports and stuff.”

Joseph Carter, 18, is vale­dic­to­rian for West­lake High School. His twin brother Charles is co-sa­lu­ta­to­rian. Carter said he plans to study engi­neer­ing at Brigham Young Univer­sity af­ter com­plet­ing a two-year mis­sion with the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-Day Saints.

Asked how he bal­anced school with other ac­tiv­i­ties, Carter said, “I tried to do ev­ery­thing in ad­vance. I would do home­work as­sign­ments be­fore it was even as­signed.”

Carter said he was most look­ing for­ward to liv­ing in­de­pen­dently.

“I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced this my­self yet, but com­ing out of be­ing de­pen­dent on your par­ents the whole time to a world where it’s all you ... and that’s go­ing to hap­pen when I go on my mis­sion, be­cause my par­ents aren’t go­ing to be there. I’m sure it’s go­ing to be star­tling at first, but I’ll get used to it,” Carter said.


Charles County Pub­lic Schools vale­dic­to­ri­ans and salu­ta­to­ri­ans gather in the lobby of the Jesse L. Starkey Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing May 31.

Charles County Pub­lic Schools salu­ta­to­ri­ans, in front from left, Sarah Gough (La Plata), Brett Cul­hane (Lackey), Sarah Chen (McDonough), Sherry Chen (North Point), Jekko Syquia (St. Charles), Luke Roberts (Stone), Charles Carter (West­lake) and Se­quoia Mack (West­lake), and vale­dic­to­ri­ans, in back from left, Justin Cortez (La Plata), Francesca Rothell (Lackey), Jack Brown­ing (McDonough), Thach-Vu Nguyen (North Point), Eden Lakner (St. Charles), Calenna Cauley (Stone) and Joseph Carter (West­lake).

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