This year’s collection of 14 Oklahoma high school seniors – starting their university experiences in the fall – includes philanthropists, athletes, scientists, musicians … and even a professional chef. They’ve all gone above and beyond in their high school years, but their ambitions for the future are even more impressive.
Cascia Hall Preparatory School
College or University University of Pennsylvania
What is your intended major? Biology. My love for science has been fostered in the high school classroom and in my independent science research.
What is your biggest achievement? The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is the largest, pre-college science fair competition. I have been a finalist for this event for three years, competing with my independent science research.
What is a career interest? I hope to pursue a career in pediatric surgery, specializing in clinical trials and novel medical treatments. This frontier of medicine and research actualizes the efforts of lab work in the real world, bringing the treatments to life.
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be? An astronaut on a space exploration mission. It seems really easy to be consumed in day-to-day life by small matters, and the opportunity to leave Earth and actually see and experience the magnitude of the planet would be an amazing experience.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I come from a family of four girls, and I am the daughter of a first-generation immigrant to the United States from Italy. My heritage informs my life in many facets, and my family is something that I hold very dear to my heart. Also, despite my scientific knowledge and type-A personality, I cannot draw to save my life. Even my stick figures are crooked.
College or University Princeton University
What is your intended major? I plan to study either chemical or aerospace engineering. I got my private pilot’s license when I was 17 and gravitate toward pretty much anything that flies.
Who have been the biggest influences in your life? My mom and dad. They’ve taught me that the only way to find out if you really can’t do something is to go for it. So far, that philosophy has worked out really well.
What is your biggest achievement? Receiving a full, four-year Army ROTC scholarship to Princeton.
What is a career interest? My biggest dream is to some way or another get to space. I plan to commission out of Princeton ROTC as an Army officer and train to become a helicopter pilot, and hope that my path will eventually lead to being sent to space. Honestly, I wouldn’t even mind if Elon Musk just strapped me to one of his rockets.
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be? Elon Musk. The guy is just about the coolest person out there. When he thought that cars needed to be electric, he started Tesla. When he thought humans should become an interplanetary species, he started Space X. That’s the kind of approach to the world I hope I will be able to embody one day.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I’m Level 2 high-power certified under the National Association of Rocketry. Basically, I build giant rockets.
Jenks High School
College or University University of California, Los Angeles
What is your intended major? The fast track electrical engineering program at UCLA. I have always been fascinated with circuitry and how technological devices work.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My previous youth pastor, Seth Whitaker. He not only committed himself to his studies, which landed him an amazing fellowship in Scotland among globally recognized professors, but he has also remained loyal to his friends and family.
What is your biggest achievement? Being a three-year All-State musician. I received this title for playing in the highly competitive Oklahoma All-State Orchestra for three years in a row (the maximum any high school student in Oklahoma can participate).
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be? Lin-Manuel Miranda, the genius behind Hamilton. He not only has the creativity to come up with an entire Broadway musical about a treasury secretary, but he has the drive and ambition to help others in need.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years? In 10 years, I want to work at a company that develops groundbreaking technology to help those in need. And as cliche as it sounds, I want to be married to the perfect person. In 20 years, all I need to be is happy.
What characteristics make you stand out from other students your age? I have a way of dedicating myself to any task that I set my mind to. These tasks range from doing homework to mastering the art of Texas Hold ’em poker to magic tricks and dice stacking.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I have the strangest taste in music, from country to Korean pop to Broadway musicals and ’90s boy bands. I try to keep my Spotify playlists private.
College or University Harvard University
What is your intended major? I plan to major in government because I’m interested in politics. I’ve grown to realize that people are my passion, and politics is the platform to which I feel called.
Who have been the biggest influences in your life? My family. My parents have always given me love and support in all my efforts and taught me to believe myself, no matter the task ahead. My siblings taught me to never quit and how to pick myself up when I fail.
What is your biggest achievement? The legacy of my positive leadership and the individual impact I’ve been able to have on people. I’ve had countless positive influences and examples in my life, and I’ve tried to provide the same to others.
What is a career interest? I plan on going into politics and public service, and running for office. I have grown up with so much opportunity to chase my dreams and do what I love. I want to help create a world where all kids can experience the opportunity for their own pursuits of happiness.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years? In 10 years, I see myself either working in someone’s office or practicing some form of civil law in the public or private sector. In 20 years, I see myself serving in federal public office and doing the best I can for my constituency and the American people.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I’ve played the piano for 12 years and am the principal chair of the bass section in the Casady Orchestra.
Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics
College or University Vanderbilt University
What is your intended major? Biomedical engineering on a pre-med track. My mom is a researcher, and as a kid I was in the lab with her often.
Who have been the biggest influences in your life? My parents. Every day, my mom shows me what it truly means to be a scientist: never giving up, no matter the outcome. Her work ethic and determination to accomplish everything she desires is something I aspire to have. Also, my dad has shown me that by working hard, you can achieve anything.
What is your biggest achievement? Winning ninth place in the Protein Modeling event at the Science Olympiad national tournament my sophomore year. This was my fifth time competing, and my team had never come close to a top 10 finish. However, that year, my two partners and I had spent the majority of our weekends perfecting our model and learning all we could about protein structures. Our long nights of hard work finally paid off when we won the highest place in Oklahoma’s history.
What characteristics make you stand out from other students your age?
I have been involved in multicultural clubs, science tournaments, debate, student council, residential assistance programs and tutoring, and in all of these I have taken some form of leadership role. These experiences have combined to shape my perspective, and it is the ideology of inclusion that emerged from this, and my encounters with racism, that further differentiate me. This has led me to found my own multicultural social club and encourage others to appreciate the similarities, not the differences, among the people around them.
College or University Tulane University
What is your intended major? I am currently undecided. I want to give myself time and space away from home before I dive head-first into an area of study.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mom. She has been an incredible role model for me growing up, and I would be lucky to be like her someday. Kind and smart, thoughtful and selfless, she has always been in my life as a constant source of good. Above all, she cares about me and my family so much, and I hope to make her proud.
What is your biggest achievement? My induction into my school’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society. During my junior year, the top 10 percent of the class were honored and inducted, and I was among the six with the highest grades and the toughest classes.
What is a career interest? I’m super interested in neuroscience and child development. I’ve had an internship at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa for the past two years and have absolutely loved it. The brain is so fascinating, and the work that I have done there has all been centered on how the adolescent brain develops over time.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I am a huge procrastinator. I like keeping myself extremely busy because, if I didn’t, I would never ever get anything done.
College or University University of Arkansas-Fort Smith
What is your intended major? I plan to major in business, using my degree to pursue a career as an actuary or accountant. All my life, I’ve calculated risks in my head before I chose to do something. I’m also a detail-oriented and analytical person, which match perfectly with either of these careers.
What is your biggest achievement? Receiving a full scholarship to further my education while continuing to play the sport [basketball] I’ve been passionate about since I was 4 years old. Early on, I set a goal to go to college without having to take out any student loans. I worked hard in the classroom and on the basketball court. There is no greater feeling than knowing you accomplished something that was important to you.
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be? Bill Gates. I’d like to get an inside look at how he got to where he is today, and I would hope to learn how to duplicate some of his business success. I would also like to treat myself and the ones I love to a few nice things … with Mr. Gates’ permission, of course.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I am almost 6 foot 9 inches.
Bishop Kelley High School
College or University University of Tulsa
What is your intended major? Chemical engineering. I’ve always had an interest in food and helping others. With my business now, I am able to explore both of these passions, but I think this degree could help me delve deeper into my culinary interests.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mom. She’s been by my side since I was 8 years old, when I created Cook Time with Remmi (my business) and has supported me throughout these years, as well as taught me invaluable lessons that she learned in the corporate world.
What is your biggest achievement? Being named one of 30 global teen leaders for the Three Dot Dash program of the We are Family Foundation. I have also been fortunate enough to be on Food Network’s Chopped and pursue entrepreneurship as a teenager, but going to the Just Peace Summit with Three Dot Dash allowed me to meet other teenagers who are each changing the world with their talents.
What characteristics make you stand out from other students your age? My love for people. I always enjoy meeting new people and love to offer the benefit of the doubt to anyone I meet. Additionally, I may have a bit more experience in the kitchen than others my age.
Booker T. Washington High School
College or University Washington University in St. Louis
What is your intended major? I plan to major in biology, neuroscience (pre-med), mathematics and philosophy. I became interested in neuroscience in the fifth grade when I decided to learn every component of the brain and its location. As I matured, I was increasingly fascinated with the idea that one organ manages to control every aspect of our lives.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My French teacher, Cynthia Leonard. I enjoy her bizarre life stories about her travels, her college days and her experiences as a teacher and Peace Corps volunteer.
What is your biggest achievement? Being the first person in my family to attend college traditionally by going off to a four-year university free of charge.
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be? James Baldwin. I’d like to be able to impact the way people live, and the way they think about the way they live, in the same way he did. His observations are very insightful as he elaborates on the cycles of life, complex emotions and social hierarchies.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I am obsessed with bees. When I found out that bee populations experienced a drop, I annoyed my family with outrage about the effects of a world without bees. I’m not sure why I love them so much, but I do.
College or University Duke University
What is your intended major? Neuroscience. For several years, I’ve been extremely interested in the molecular mechanisms of thought – how interactions between several molecules can generate consciousness. The implications of understanding this are boundless, from improving artificial intelligence to treating mental disorders better.
Who have been the biggest influences in your life? My parents. They’ve sacrificed many great job opportunities back in South Korea to raise me and my brother in the United States. The sacrifices they made for us continue to motivate me to work hard and live with few regrets.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years? I can see myself working for a hospital or a university, getting one step closer to understanding our brain, while having a happy life outside of work with two beautiful kids.
What characteristics make you stand out from other students your age? While most people generally focus on activities that they show promise in, I enjoy doing activities that I’m horrible at. It’s as if my brain is conditioned to release endorphins whenever I break through personal limits.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? My dream job is to become an NBA general manager.
If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be? Lebron James. I would like to experience what it is like to live with the constant pressure that he has to deal with every day.
Riverfield Country Day School
College or University Oklahoma State University
What is your intended major? I plan to major in finance with a double minor, one in international business and the second in Spanish.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My grandpa. He worked extremely hard at his job for over 40 years and showed me that nothing is given and everything must be earned. He also showed me where to place your values, putting family above all else. If I can be half the man my grandpa is when I grow up, I’ll be extremely proud of my life.
What is your biggest achievement? Being named first team Academic All-State for basketball my senior year; that recognition showed I was one of the top five student-athletes in the state because you have to be great at the sport and have a high GPA and ACT score.
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be? President Donald Trump. Not for any political reasoning, but just because before you criticize or praise someone for the job they’re doing, you have to understand the details of that job and its requirements.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years? In 10 years, I see myself living in downtown Los Angeles working as the Lakers’ team lawyer, negotiating deals with players and free agents. In 20 years, I see myself living outside of LA so I can have a house with a yard for my family.
Union High School
College or University Emory University
What is your intended major? Biology. I’ve always been interested in the subject, and classes like physiology and AP biology taught by amazing teachers solidified my interest in this field.
What is your biggest achievement? Being successful in two major areas of my life: academics and swimming. Although it’s been difficult to manage my time, I have earned academic honors such as National Merit Finalist and Academic All-Stater as well as swimming achievements like state champion and school record-holder.
If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be? Missy Franklin. She is not only an incredible athlete, but also an excellent role model through her positive attitude and compassion for others.
What characteristics make you stand out from other students your age? My work ethic and dedication to the various areas of my life. I go to swim practice nearly every day at 5:30 a.m. while staying on top of my school work and spending time with family and friends.
Anything else that you would like to add? I have an adorable black Labrador named Ginny who loves to eat socks.
Oklahoma Christian School
College or University University of Oklahoma
What is your intended major? I plan to major in meteorology and broadcast journalism. When I was 6 years old, I spent time watching The Weather Channel instead of cartoons.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My Uncle Phil was born with a mental disability, but his attitude and bright smile would tell you otherwise. Each morning, he wakes up and goes to work at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. His work inspires me to live life with a servant’s heart and go the extra mile to help those in need.
What is your biggest achievement? Throughout high school, I have volunteered at Edmond Mobile Meals. Last year, I saw a need to engage my generation in the fight against elderly hunger. I created a blueprint for a teen leadership council made up of 15 local students. The council engaged in various projects to increase awareness about food insecurity in the community.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years? I hope to be graduated from OU and living out my dream of being a meteorologist. I also hope to be married to a Zac Efron look-alike and have two or three children.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I have a twin. My brother, Michael, and I are three minutes apart.
Anything else that you would like to add? I competed in the Miss Oklahoma Pageant in June. I performed the flute solo “Dueling Banjos” for my talent. [Gold was named fourth runner-up out of 45 contestants.]
Metro Christian Academy
College or University Baylor University
What is your intended major? Biology with a focus on pre-medicine. I have dealt with knee injuries for most of my life, and I look forward to helping people with similar struggles.
What is your biggest achievement? Becoming a National Merit Scholar is my biggest achievement so far.
What is a career interest? I look forward to learning about and experiencing all aspects of the medical field and finding the right fit for me.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years? In 10 years, I hope to be finishing up medical residency and beginning my medical career. In 20 years, I hope I’m helping people and enjoying the benefits of my hard work.
What characteristics make you stand out from other students your age? My ability to learn very quickly and my work ethic set me apart from others.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? My best sport is rock climbing. I designed and built my own rock wall and started a rock climbing group.