Newest Class of McDermott Scholars Set to Start Fall Semester
The UT Dallas McDermott Scholars Program has selected 27 students to make up the 2016 incoming class.
The entering cohort, the program’s 16th class, was selected from nearly 1,350 high school students from 36 states and five countries who had initially expressed interest in the program. Sixty-two applicants were invited to the annual finalists’ weekend from which the scholars were selected.
The incoming class includes 10 students from Texas. Sixteen others come from 15 states — from California to New York. This geographic diversity is a positive growth indicator for the program, said Molly Seeligson, director of the program.
“The application pool was exceptionally competitive this year, and we are looking forward to welcoming the most geographically diverse group in the program’s 15-year history. I know these remarkable individuals will leave UT Dallas and the greater Dallas community better than they found it,” Seeligson said.
Collectively, this class has an average two-part SAT score of 1543. Five of them achieved perfect scores on the SAT or ACT. Twenty-two have been recognized by the National Merit Scholarship program, nine were high school valedictorians and one was a salutatorian.
The McDermott Scholars will have their educational expenses — including tuition and fees, stipends for living expenses and books, travel and post-graduation preparation — covered for the next four years and will participate in a variety of cultural and educational enrichment experiences in the Dallas area and beyond.
The McDermott Scholars Program is designed to incorporate experiential learning:
- Freshman year includes an orientation trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, weekly leadership development seminars and a trip to Washington, D.C., for an immersion in government operations.
- During their sophomore year, scholars take leading roles on campus, and experience state and local government during a trip to the Capitol in Austin.
- Junior year is focused on study abroad and/or internships.
- Senior year centers on final preparations for the next phase of scholars’ lives and includes traditions such as a class retreat, capstone service projects and the passing of the McDermott Scholars Program torch in the “Lighting the Legacy” ceremony.
The incoming group will join the 70 scholars already at UT Dallas. The program has 203 alumni.
The program was made possible by a $32 million gift from Margaret McDermott, wife of the late Eugene McDermott, one of the co-founders of Texas Instruments. McDermott and two TI co-founders, Cecil Green and J. Erik Jonsson, founded the research institution that in 1969 became UT Dallas.
Those selected as McDermott Scholars for the 2016 class are:
Vestavia Hills High School, Vestavia
Valedictorian Nikitha Prattipati is an AP Scholar with distinction. She was the vice president of debate and Key Club, and the president of Mu Alpha Theta honor society and math team. Prattipati placed second in Alabama's Brain Bee and was a member of the We The People team, which placed fourth in the nation. She was also a member of the state champion economics team. As part of the Relay for Life Sponsorship committee, Prattipati helped her school raise over $250,000 for cancer. She is a Bharatanatyam dancer and also plays tennis. Prattipati is fluent in Telugu and is studying Spanish. She will major in psychology and economics.
Chugiak High School, Chugiak
Valedictorian Sara Hartke is a National Merit commended student, an AP Scholar with distinction, a Presidential Scholar nominee, and a graduate of Spanish Immersion, a 13-year academic program. Hartke was president of her school’s recycling initiative, spearheading campus and highway cleanup. She was in National Honor Society and shadowed electrical engineers at Chugach Electric Association. At her church, Hartke accompanied on clarinet and was a peer minister for the confirmation program. She was captain of the cross country team, which she led to state. Hartke also runs in mountain races and competed in the Mount Marathon race. She is fluent in Spanish, and enters UT Dallas undeclared.
Del Norte High School, San Diego
Stephanie White is a National Merit commended student, an AP Scholar with distinction, and a member of National Honor Society and the National Charity League. A two-year recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, White has volunteered at the San Diego Humane Society and the Helen Woodward Animal Center, served meals to the homeless through Interfaith Community Services, assisted with children’s library programs, and helped keep beaches and parks clean. White was team captain of the soccer team, and named best defensive player and most valuable player. She has worked as a tutor, a youth soccer coach and referee. White is a member of the Nordstrom Fashion Board, plays piano and clarinet, and enjoys camping and hiking. She will study neuroscience and will be on the women’s soccer team.
C. K. McClatchy High School, Sacramento
National Merit commended student Sarah Whipple is a humanities and international studies program graduate. She volunteered at the Middle School Public Debate Program and for a wheelchair rugby team. An All-League swimmer, Whipple won her school’s Coach’s Award for swimming and played on the league champion water polo team. She served as a youth delegate for the Republican National Convention, and was vice president of her class, German Club vice president, Mathletes president and debate team treasurer. After attending Arabic immersion school in Oman, Whipple joined the research team of an institute that studies psychological trauma in refugees, and led a project to create resource guides in Arabic for arriving refugees in her area. She studies German and Arabic. Whipple is undeclared.
Fossil Ridge High School, Windsor
Ben Allsup graduated fourth in a class of 466 students and is an AP Scholar with honor as well as a National Merit Commended Scholar. He volunteered with Adopt-A-Family, the Alzheimer’s Association and several community events. For two summers, Allsup worked at a lab conducting research on liver cell cultures derived from induced stem cells. He was co-president of his school’s National Honor Society and president of the Math National Honor Society. Allsup was saxophone section leader in his school’s two-time state champion marching band and a member of the top jazz ensemble. He plans to major in biomedical engineering.
Stillman Valley High School, Stillman
Valedictorian Mackenzie Flynn is a National Merit Scholar and a Presidential Scholar nominee. She has volunteered in her school, community and across the country through her mission trips and National Honor Society. Flynn is a four-year varsity athlete and an All-State musician. She is trained in vocal performance, piano and percussion. Flynn has held leadership positions, including student advisor to the Illinois State Board of Education, National Honor Society vice president, student music director of her school’s musical, and a soprano I in the a cappella choir. She plans to study biomedical engineering.
Signature School, Haubstadt
Valedictorian Abigail Plump is a National Merit Scholar, National AP Scholar and International Baccalaureate diploma candidate. She has volunteered at the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library and the local Franklin Street Bazaar. Plump was president of Linguistics Club, education director of Math Club, fundraising committee head of National Honor Society and movie night committee president of Student Council. She was a member of Conservation Club and Spanish Club. A 10-year member of 4-H, Plump played the flute and received her Girl Scout Silver Award. She speaks Spanish and basic German, and will major in actuarial science.
Linn-Mar High School, Cedar Rapids
Valedictorian Kinnari Karia is a National Merit Scholar, AP Scholar with distinction, Presidential Scholar nominee, Iowa Governor’s Scholar and Volunteer, and Academic All-State honoree. In addition to teaching at the Kumon Learning Center, she was editor-in-chief of the yearbook, president of Language Club, an FBLA officer and a member of National Honor Society. Karia holds a black belt in karate. She volunteered at St. Luke’s Hospital for four years, primarily in the emergency room, and interned in diagnostic cardiology. Karia served on the youth board for the cancer support organization Gems of Hope, raising funds for scholarships. She speaks Gujarati, Hindi and Spanish. Karia will study biology and mathematics.
Louisiana School For Math, Science, and the Arts, Natchitoches
Danni Yang is a National Merit commended student, a National AP Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society. She spent her summers conducting physics research on the magneto caloric effect at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and also shadowed leukemia oncologists at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Yang was founder and president of the Red Cross Club, which raised over $1,000 for charity; vice president of the Speech and Debate Club; senior council chair of the Future Scientist Program; senior coordinator for the cheerleading squad; and a writer for The Renaissance, the LSMSA newspaper. She qualified for nationals in speech and debate, receiving a ranking of Superior Distinction. Yang speaks Chinese and is conversational in French. She will be majoring in neuroscience.
International Academy, Rochester
Valedictorian Ann-Cathrin Guertler is an International Baccalaureate graduate and a member of National Honor Society. She was president of buildOn, and led the club in raising $30,000 each year to build schools in impoverished countries. Guertler traveled to Haiti and Nepal to begin construction of the schools. She initiated and instructed multiple cooking classes, including organizing all supplies and teaching classes of more than 20 high school students. Guertler worked at Kumon as an early learner assistant, teaching 3- to 5-year-olds math and English. She also trained new employees, planned classwork and homework, and filled in for the center’s owner as needed. Guertler is conversational in Spanish and French, and fluent in German. She will be undeclared, with the intention of pursuing pre-med.
Whippany Park High School, Whippany
Bradley Ritschel is a National Merit Commended Scholar and AP Scholar. An Eagle Scout, he volunteered on numerous service projects. Ritschel is bass singer of the Whiptones doo-wop quartet and has performed pro bono for many charities. The Whiptones won the 2014 New Jersey “Shout Down Drugs” songwriting competition and performed statewide their anti-drug song, “Doin’ Drugs Ain’t Dope.” Ritschel studies voice at Voice Soaring Studios and was selected to the 2015 All-State Choir as a bass II and to the New Jersey Area Band on oboe. He was drum major of the Pride of Hanover Township Marching Band, captain of the tennis team and a Governor’s STEM Scholar. Ritschel is conversational in French. As an aspiring entrepreneur, he will study mechanical engineering.
Niskayuna High School, Niskayuna
Veronica Liu is a National Merit commended student, a Coca-Cola Scholars finalist and an AP Scholar with honor. She is a three-time state finalist in the art competition Doodle for Google and a three-year recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. Liu taught English to disadvantaged individuals in Taiwan and volunteered in Cambodian orphanages. She had a political cartoon featured on NewYorkTimes.com, and her illustration placed first in the Olympics for the Visual Arts. Liu was vice president of her class and the Niskayuna Robotics team. As student representative on the district's Board of Education, she co-founded Student Forums and lobbied legislators for education funding. She speaks Mandarin and Spanish, and will study arts and technology and computer science.
AFNORTH International School, Brunssum
Valedictorian Logan Harless is a National Merit Scholar, an AP Scholar with distinction and a nominee for the President’s Scholar Award. He volunteered at retirement centers, charity auctions and his school. Harless was president of the student body, editor of the school newspaper, and the captain of the football and basketball teams. He was also selected as the American representative in Comenius Foreign Exchange Program, which aims to share cultural values between seven nations. Harless speaks German, Dutch and Spanish. He plans to study mechanical engineering.
Lexi de Montfort Shepherd
Lexi de Montfort Shepherd
Sage Ridge School, Reno
Lexi de Montfort Shepherd is an AP Scholar with honor. She is chief volunteer for therapeutic equestrian group STEP, and won her school's Community Service award. De Montfort Shepherd founded a STEP club, and was president of the Art Club and Theater Club, vice president of the Science Club and secretary of the debate team. She rides competitively and has won numerous awards. De Montfort Shepherd competed in debate and cross country, and was a member of the Nevada All-State Academic Team. She also works in a lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, researching antibiotic resistance. De Montfort Shepherd is proficient in Spanish and will major in biology.
Kermit Alexander II
Kermit Alexander II
Home School, Jones
Kermit Alexander II is a National Merit Scholar. He is active in robotics, serving as captain of both his local FIRST and BEST robotics teams in 2015 and as a member since 2011. Alexander is involved in all aspects of the robotics teams, successfully raising funds for both organizations as well as performing the duties of programming and electrical leads. He has participated in a STEM outreach program for students at local elementary and middle schools. Alexander is a contributor to open-source software projects such as CMU/Disney’s Panda3D and Canonical’s Ubuntu. He plans to study computer science.
Plano East Senior High School, Plano
Areeb Siddiqui is a National Merit commended student, a National AP scholar, an Eagle Scout and holder of an International Baccalaureate diploma. He is the junior assistant scoutmaster of Troop 2054, and volunteered as a troop guide for the Oak Leaf Leadership Camp, which helped Scouts progress through the ranks and learn leadership skills. Siddiqui interned with U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, and was founder and president of his school’s High School Democrats of America Club. He speaks Urdu, can read and write Arabic, and speaks conversational Spanish. Siddiqui lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for 3½ years. He plans to study political science and finance.
Plano West Senior High School, Plano
Benny Rubanov is an AP Scholar with distinction, a National Merit commended student and a recipient of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award. He was a regular volunteer for the Plano Teen Court, and a member of the Plano Libraries Teen Street Team and the Volunteers in Plano program. Rubanov was president of National Honor Society and Key Club, a member of Student Congress for two years, and junior class president. He was an intern through the Plano Mayor's Internship Program and has played piano for over a decade. Rubanov is fluent in Russian and conversational in Spanish. He will major in business.
Liberty High School, Plano
Sarah Samuel is a National Merit commended student and a National AP Scholar. She taught elementary-age children at Prestonwood Baptist Church and volunteered at Children's Medical Center, where she was the volunteer committee chair on the Junior Leadership board. Samuel was president of her school's Health Occupation Students of America chapter, a member of the Frisco Mayor's Youth Council and a founder of Empower International, a woman's leadership camp in Cambodia. She spent two years mentoring under the pediatric neurosurgical team at Children’s, where she completed a statistical analysis on the current incidences of hydrocephalus, and also authored a children's book. Samuel is conversational in Malayalam and will study biology in hopes of pursuing a career as a medical missionary.
Mark De Los Santos
Mark De Los Santos
Nolan Catholic High School, Arlington
Valedictorian Mark De Los Santos is a National Merit Scholar. He volunteered with the Boy Scouts of America, National Honor Society, Mayor’s Youth Commission of Arlington, and School Ambassadors. He is a Life Scout working toward his Eagle rank and was senior patrol leader. De Los Santos was a tenor section leader in the varsity Mixed Choir and a five-time All-State choir member. He researched ciliary genesis mechanisms by transgenic cell manipulation in the Zhong Lab at UT Southwestern Medical Center. De Los Santos studied Latin, earning summa cum laude three times on the National Latin Exam. Before high school, he tied for 10th place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. De Los Santos will study molecular biology.
Plano Senior High School, Allen
Salutatorian Brian Wei is a National Merit Scholar and a National AP Scholar. He has volunteered at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano and with the Outreach Movement, where he tutored local community college students in math and economics. Wei was the senior membership officer in National Honor Society and an officer in the Dallas Youth Volunteer Association. He has received state and national awards in Science Fair, was a NASA Aerospace Scholar, and a member of both Art History Club and Programming Club. Wei speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, as well as some Spanish. He will study computer engineering.
William P. Clements High School, Sugar Land
Samir Rahi is a National Merit commended student and a National AP Scholar with distinction. He is the founder of LiveSmart Initiative Inc., a nonprofit that coached over 5,000 students in interpersonal and critical thinking skills; and Blueprynt, a social entrepreneurship venture that helps students write more effective college applications. Rahi competed on the speech and debate team, and earned recognition at state and national tournaments. He has interned at Softway Inc., in Houston, where he architected software solutions for retail energy providers. Rahi is an Eagle Scout with Troop 731. He plans to study computer engineering.
Texas Academy Math and Science, Plano
Kevin Ong is a National Merit commended student and an AP Scholar with distinction. He has competed at the international level for scientific research and has won awards from the National Society of Professional Engineers, United States Air Force, MIT and Raytheon. Ong volunteers at local schools, bikeshares and community gardens. He was an executive leader of RESOLV, an entrepreneurship and innovation club; Naturally, an environmental sustainability club; and MineCraft Programming Workshops, a program dedicated to teaching computer science to local students. Ong also was involved with the TAMS Robotics Club and competed with his team at the FRC 2015 World Championships. He is an avid audiophile, animator and composer. Ong speaks Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and the Teochew dialect. He will study electrical engineering.
Texas Academy Math and Science, Rhome
Benjamin Lunday was a President’s List scholar at TAMS and a member of the National Honor Society. He coordinated tutoring sessions for home-schooled students with the Elm Fork Education Center, served as an online tutor and aided his local food pantry. Lunday was active in Scouting, earning Eagle Scout, band, Student Council, TAMS Ambassadors, mock trial and policy debate. He plays bass and guitar. Lunday also participated in research, assisting with graduate-level work in toxicology. He is conversational in Spanish and will major in physics.
Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin
Thomas Crain is a National Merit Scholar, a National Hispanic Recognition Scholar and an AP Scholar with distinction. He volunteered through St. Catherine of Siena Church and Troop 448, where he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Crain is co-president of his school's eSports club and a member of the National Honor Society. He competed in UIL Computer Science and Capture the Flag computer security competitions, placing nationally in the latter. Crain plays the guitar. He will major in computer science and wants to eventually earn a graduate degree with a specialization in machine learning.
Heritage High School, McKinney
Antonio Mendiola is a National Merit commended student and an AP Scholar with distinction. Ranked seventh in his class, he graduated summa cum laude. Mendiola volunteers for Christ Fellowship Baptist Church and was co-president of his school's Computer Science Club. During his tenure, the club won district UIL all four years, attained second and third place at state level, won multiple UT Dallas competitions, and placed third and fifth at HP Code Wars. Mendiola was vice president of the Japanese Pop Culture and Animation Club. He played the viola in orchestra, and the piano and guitar. Mendiola speaks conversational Spanish. He will study computer science and cognitive psychology.
George C. Marshall High School, Vienna
Samee Ahmad is a National Merit commended student and a recipient of the International Baccalaureate diploma. He co-founded the Go Make A Difference Club to mentor elementary-age children in mental, physical and emotional health. Ahmad further volunteered his time as day chair of a patient support services shift at Inova Fairfax Hospital and assisted orphaned youths in an SOS camp in Lahore, Pakistan. He was secretary-general of the Model United Nations Club, served on the school executive board and the countywide advisory council, and was part of National, Math, English and Social Studies honor societies. Ahmad’s family emigrated to the U.S. when he was 11. He is fluent in Urdu and plans to study international political economy.
Governor J.R. Rogers High School, Puyallup
Carson Lutterloh was ranked first in his class and is a National Merit commended student. He volunteers with and maintains the rank of cadet captain in the Civil Air Patrol, the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, and has served with other community and school organizations. Lutterloh earned recognition as a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar, was vice president of Student Council, a trumpet player in band ensemble, and a captain of the cross country team. Lutterloh also attended Boys State. He is conversational in Spanish, and plans to major in computer science.
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