Meet the 2022 Academic All-Star finalists | News, Sports, Jobs
Since 1997, the Journal-World has invited administrators and counselors from public and private high schools in the Lawrence area to nominate their most outstanding seniors for the Journal-World’s Academic All-Star team.
The top 10 All-Stars were chosen based on their academics, extracurricular involvement and essays. As in previous years, a panel of three judges reviewed applications for the award and $500 scholarship. The honor is meant to recognize some of the most promising area high school seniors.
This year, Marie Brockhoff of Bishop Seabury Academy was selected as the winner. Here are the nine other honorees for the class of 2022, along with some accomplishments, aspirations and items of note, as taken from their application materials.
School: Free State High School
Parents: Anu Gupta and Jarnail Singh
Highlighted accomplishments: CyberPatriot’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition 1st place in State Gold Division; Nation Merit Finalist; United States Presidential Scholar Nominee; Kansas Governor Scholar Award; Fifth place in the University of Kansas High School Design Competition (Computer Science).
Aspirations: Singh is undecided for college, but hoping to go to MIT. He plans to double major in math and computer science and become a programmer or software developer.
Of note: Singh said the most meaningful person in his life has been his sister. When they were younger, they were united in pulling pranks on their parents and sneaking into the basement in the middle of the night to play games. As young adults, Singh’s sister, who got a remote job based in New York City after graduating college, moved back to Lawrence to rent an apartment with Singh so he could finish his senior year in Lawrence even though his family had relocated to New Jersey.
“As someone who went through everything 4 years earlier than me, she has also been an invaluable source of guidance in high school. She has advised me on nearly everything, including courses, colleges and applications, and personal problems. In spite of pressure to go to certain schools and pick certain majors, I know she will support whatever choice I make, which I value more than anything else.”
School: Lawrence High School
Parents: Cindy Dunn and Dwayne Dunn
Highlighted accomplishments: University of Kansas Chancellor’s Top Scholar; Four-year debater at LHS, including team captain, team speaker of the year, and affirmative debater of the year; Four-year member of LHS band as tuba player and three-year member of Marching Lions as sousaphone, including two years as section leader; Four-year member of LHS Choir, including member of top eligible choir every year including two-year member of Chorale, an auditioned extra-curricular ensemble; four-year member of LHS journalism staff, including assistant online editor for one year and editor-in-chief for one year.
Aspirations: Dunn will attend the University of Kansas to study Journalism. He received the John and Mary Kaiser Scholarship from the KU J-School.
Of note: Dunn said the most meaningful person in his life is his older brother. He said he’s been blessed to have a multitude of really amazing people who have inspired him in his different activities and walks of life, but his brother was influential in all of them.
“He was my biggest role model in everything I did… Even as I have branched out to become my own individual person, I still carry with me the things I learned growing up with him with me everyday.”
School: Perry Lecompton High School
Parents: Jessica Ratzlaff and Jerome Ratzlaff
Highlighted accomplishments: 2022 Scholars Bowl, varsity captain, 5th at 3A State; 2021 Scholars Bowl, 2nd at 3A State; 2021 District Honor Choir; 2021 State Men’s Chorus Ensemble “1” rating; 2020 District Honor Band; 2021 State Clarinet Solo “1” rating.
Aspirations: Ratzlaff is undecided which college he will attend but plans to study astrophysics and vocal acting.
Of note: Ratzlaff said he feels that the most important event in his life was his first night as a musical lead. As a sophomore, he had landed the lead male role and felt over his head, fearing he wouldn’t measure up. He said he struggled throughout the months of practice leading up to the production, but had a turning point after opening night.
“The first night after the show, I came out to take my bows and instantly felt exhilarated. I realized that I didn’t need to prove myself to anyone — by just enjoying being on stage and making people laugh I had found a way to share myself with others. It gave me confidence to not only pursue acting, but let me know that I could accomplish things I was terrified of doing.”
School: De Soto High School
Parents: Robin Chase and Brian Chase
Highlighted accomplishments: CLASS Award; Principle’s A Honor Roll, ninth through 12th grade; Band Letter, ninth through 12th grade; Cerner Scholar internship; School Hall of Fame touchscreen kiosk, 10th through 12th grade.
Aspirations: Chase is undecided which college he will attend but plans to study computer engineering.
Of note: Chase said he chooses to live by the values of curiosity, integrity, sympathy, and determination. He said curiosity allows him to take an unconventional approach to everything he does, providing him with insights as he questions and learns from everything.
“It allows me to discover the roles and functions of concepts previously unknown to me, inspiring me to reach outside my bounds. As a result, I find that I engage more fully in life, making the most of it and becoming more fulfilled as a person.”
School: Santa Fe Trail
Parents: Trisha Graham and Patrick Graham
Highlighted accomplishments: Valedictorian; Principal’s Honor Roll, ninth through 12th grade; Physics Roller Coaster Contest Champion; Presidential Scholarship from Allen County Community College, which allowed her to obtain her associate’s degree at the same time as her high school diploma.
Aspirations: Graham plans to attend Kansas State University and major in accounting. She hopes to work in the IRS as a tax return investigator.
Of note: Graham said though she was always obedient and worked hard on her schoolwork, she and the friends she was hanging out with starting making some bad decisions toward the end of her freshman year. After her parents caught wind of what was happening, she struggled, until eventually a new friend and remote school due to the pandemic helped her transition away from that group.
“In the end I survived everything I experienced and I am stronger today because of it. Coming into my senior year, I was faced with my past and I witnessed my old habits from a different perspective. I had no idea why I indulged myself into such negative things. My entire high school experience has been a roller coaster, but in the end, it has made me stronger and the woman I have developed into today.”
School: Baldwin High School
Parents: Toni Pittman
Highlighted accomplishments: 2020 Youth Entrepreneurship Design Challenge 1st Place; 2019 Youth Entrepreneurship Design Challenge 3rd Place; 2018 National History Day State Runner-Up; Completion of intensive Spanish program at Education First International Language Campus; 2018-2022 Honor Roll.
Aspirations: Pittman is deciding between Northwestern University and the University of Nebraska, where he’ll either study biology or international business, respectively. He would also like to minor in Spanish.
Of note: Pittman said his mother is the most meaningful person in my life, and has had the greatest effect on his character. He said as a single parent, his mother was providing everything for him and his two little sisters, and her efforts have come with their own lessons.
“She’s taught us the value of hard work through her experience (working multiple jobs through college to pay for her tuition and medical school), and made sure that we incorporate her lessons into our lives to reap the rewards that come from hard work and dedication.”
School: Bishop Seabury Academy
Parents: Laura Hedges and Bryan Hedges
Highlighted accomplishments: Rensselaer Medal from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for Achievement in Math and Science, 11th grade; National Latin Exam Summa Cum Laude, Ninth grade; Summa Cum Laude for scoring the highest ranking of Advanced I on the ACTFL Latin Interpretive Reading Assessment, 10th and 11th grades; AP Scholar With Honors, 11th and 12th grades; KU Chancellor’s Top Scholar 2021.
Aspirations: Hedges plans to attend the University of Kansas and study electrical engineering and computer science.
Of note: Hedges said he’s fallen just short of getting first place in dozens of competitions, but this has come with its own lessons.
“In my room, I have 71 second-place medals and 14 runner-up trophies. I’ve been second in golf more than any other place, especially early on in my career. But, looking back, this was the best thing that could’ve happened to me; it taught me optimism and determination. I became more dedicated not only in practicing golf but in all aspects of life.”
School: De Soto High School
Parents: Michele Altis and David Altis
Highlighted accomplishments: Scholar’s Bowl, 2022 Letter; Debate, 2018 Letter; Principal’s Honor Roll, 2018-2022; Shooting Star’s 2D art nomination, 2022; Harry Hart Memorial Art Scholarship; Second place at Merriam Art Show, 2021.
Aspirations: Altis plans to attend the University of Iowa and double major in creative writing and fine arts. After college, she wants to write and illustrate her own graphic novels, or perhaps be a story board artist.
Of note: Altis said she thinks her experiences in debate, as well as her debate teacher, Mrs. Kelly, have been vital in shaping her into who she is today. She said she had bad social anxiety when she was younger, which made public speaking a “living nightmare,” but debate has helped her manage that stress.
“Despite my struggles, Mrs. Kelly mentored and supported me, and I stuck through the season and attended multiple tournaments. The experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, and while it didn’t cure my anxiety it did wonders in helping me deal with it and present well regardless of my stress. My teacher’s support and help, as well as the challenge of the class, helped me work through my mental ailments and become a much stronger socializer and presenter.”
School: Basehor Linwood High School
Parents: Casey Hartfelder and Brian High
Highlighted accomplishments: Yearbook, editor-in-chief, 2019-2022; National Honor Society, 2019-2022; Innovation Academy, 2021-2022; Volleyball, 2018-2019.
Aspirations: High plans to attend Wichita State University and major in dental hygiene with a minor in business. She hopes to be a dental hygienist.
Of note: High said her parents divorced when she was five, and her mother has taught her how important it is to be a strong, independent woman.
“She has created a strong passion of caring for the people around me. I believe my mom is the strongest person in the world and brings a positive light to our society. My goal is to become the strong woman she has grown to be.”