Students on the 2021 Kansas All-State Academic Team excelled in high school. Now they plan to change the world

Rafael Garcia
Topeka Capital-Journal

They lost most of what makes a traditional senior year.

Few generations of students, if any, have seen their lives as upended as the class of 2021.

But they took most of that in stride. Capping off their high school careers, they proved their mettle. Some are taking inspiration from the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue careers in medicine and public health, while others are looking to solve some of the world's other generational issues, such as poverty and climate change.

In everything, though, they prove something about Kansans' resilience — that no matter the challenges, no matter the obstacles, we will reach the stars through any difficulties.

More:These outstanding Kansas high school seniors are Gannett Kansas 2021 All-District Academic Team selections

More:Kansas lawmakers still debating how to fund schools, possible raise for state employees

Ordered only by school alphabetically, these are Gannett Kansas' 2021 All-State Academic Team selections.

Ethan Huynh, Andover High School

Ethan Huynh, of Wichita

School: Andover High School

Parents/guardians: Anh Tran and Pho Huynh, both of Wichita

Plans after graduation: Biochemistry at the University of Kansas

Ideal career: Psychiatrist

School comments: "Ethan is a student who over the last 4 years has slowly matured from a smart, shy, and quiet student to a leader, and a person people look up to. He is a true testament to the core values of Andover High School in action."

Gabriella Calvert Herrera, Arkansas City High School

Gabriella Calvert Herrera, of Arkansas City

School: Arkansas City High School

Parents/guardians: Mauricio Herrera and Michelle Calvert, both of Arkansas City

Plans after graduation: Biochemistry at Southwestern College

Ideal career: Biomedical researcher

Student comments: “Seeking to make my mark on the world, I have a detailed plan to become a groundbreaking biomedical researcher. My education and future career are priorities in my life and will help me achieve my goal of finding a cure for diabetes and its associated complications.”

Macie Goodmanson, Augusta High School

Macie Goodmanson, of Augusta

School: Augusta High School

Parents/guardians: Josh and Kriste Goodmanson, both of Augusta

Plans after graduation: Physiology and medical sciences at the University of Arizona

Ideal career: Physician

Student comments: "Healthcare professionals during the pandemic have shown me what opportunities I have to make a difference in people’s lives. While I hope the pandemic is long gone by the time I become a physician, I know that individuals will always face their unique health challenges, and I will have the opportunity to help them overcome these hurdles."

Keighlee Armstrong, Beloit High School

Keighlee Armstrong, of Beloit

School: Beloit Jr./Sr. High School

Parents/guardians: Jeremy and Tammy Armstrong, both of Beloit

Plans after graduation: Pre-nursing at Kansas State University

Ideal career: Certified registered nurse anesthetist 

Student comments: "I resolve to dedicate my life to helping others and caring for them during their times of crisis. I will forever be grateful for the support and opportunities I received growing up in two small Kansas towns."

Cameron Pascal, Bishop Carroll Catholic High School

Cameron Pascal, of Wichita 

School: Bishop Carroll Catholic High School (Wichita)

Parents/guardians: Brian and Lisa Pascal, both of Wichita

Plans after graduation: Accounting at Kansas State University

Ideal career: Accountant

Student comments: "Our world has the potential to come out of this pandemic with a deeper respect for human life. This is where I see great opportunity for my future. I want to keep this fire kindled."

Evan McHenry, Bishop Seabury Academy

Evan McHenry, of Lawrence 

School: Bishop Seabury Academy (Lawrence)

Parents/guardians: Eric McHenry and Sonja Czarnecki, both of Lawrence

Plans after graduation: English, at a to-be-determined school

Ideal career: Still deciding

School comments: "Compared with many other top students, Evan is refreshingly grounded and modest. Without a fuss, he gets the job done as a journalist, as a member of our varsity soccer team, and — most significantly, perhaps — as one of five senior prefects at our school."

Sophie Bahadursingh, Blue Valley High School

Sophie Bahadursingh, of Leawood 

School: Blue Valley High School (Stilwell)

Parents/guardians: Lauren Bahadursingh and Anil Bahadursingh, both of Leawood

Plans after graduation: Biology/biomedical engineering at a to-be-determined school

Ideal career: Doctor

Student comments: "No matter what I end up doing, I know that I will try my hardest to make my mark on the world to inspire women in STEAM now and into the future."

Shaurir Ramanujan, Blue Valley Northwest High School

Shaurir Ramanujan, of Overland Park 

School: Blue Valley Northwest High School (Overland Park)

Parents/guardians: Sam Ramanujan and Anu Ramanujan, both of Overland Park

Plans after graduation: Business economics at a to-be-determined school

Ideal career: Public policy analyst

Student comments: "The challenges posed by COVID-19 force us to recognize the increasingly interconnected nature of our communities, especially during an era of globalization... With this sentiment in mind, I hope to pursue solutions that can elevate others and leave a positive impact on my environment."

Kristina Wu, Blue Valley Southwest High School

Kristina Wu, of Overland Park

School: Blue Valley Southwest High School (Overland Park)

Parents/guardians: Jennifer Shen and Vincent Wu, both of Overland Park

Plans after graduation: To-be-determined major at Georgetown University (Washington D.C.)

Ideal career: Intellectual property law

School comments: "Leaders leave things better than they found them. They don’t just do or create things that will benefit them. They look to the future and set others up to experience the success that they have experienced. Kristina is a leader in everything she does."

Taryn West, Emporia High School

Taryn West, of Emporia 

School: Emporia High School

Parents/guardians: Suzanne and Caleb West, both of Emporia

Plans after graduation: Piano performance at Kansas State University or University of Colorado Boulder

Ideal career: Post-secondary educator

Student comments: "I am hopeful that as one side of my generation rises up to fight (for change), many will strive to preserve character over ideologies. As we demand change, we must simultaneously perpetuate the idea that respect is deserved because of a person’s humanity and not simply permitted because of shared societal values."

Colby Lawhorn, Eudora High School

Colby Lawhorn, of Eudora 

School: Eudora High School

Parents/guardians: Chad Lawhorn and Kristine Schnebly, both of Eudora

Plans after graduation: Aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas

Ideal career: Aerospace engineer

Student comments: "As a prospective aerospace engineering student, I have spent the majority of my life looking up to the night sky and dreaming of what secrets the universe could be withholding. I am consumed by thoughts of the great beyond, so naturally, I have a desire to explore it."

Penner Fox, Fredonia High School

Penner Fox, of Fredonia 

School: Fredonia Jr./Sr. High School

Parents/guardians: Seth and Angela Fox, both of Fredonia

Plans after graduation: Chemistry at Pittsburg State University

Ideal career: Pharmacist

Student comments: "One positive of this pandemic is that it’s brought light to the fragility of life, and I want to make sure that everyone can experience life without having to worry about if they will live through an easily treatable illness."

Andrew Duke, Hays High School

Andrew Duke, of Hays 

School: Hays High School

Parents/guardians: Josephine Squires and Greg Force, both of Hays

Plans after graduation: Mathematics at Princeton University (New Jersey)

Ideal career: Math professor

School comments: "Andrew is an inspiring young man who has overcome tremendous challenges, we are very proud of his achievements and honored to have been part of his educational journey… we are sure we have not heard the last of his achievements.

Sarah Klosterman, Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School

Sarah Klosterman, of Rose Hill 

School: Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School (Wichita)

Parents/guardians: Dan and Margaret Klosterman

Plans after graduation: Education or pre-medicine at Benedictine College or the University of Kansas

Ideal career: Still deciding

Student comments: "I believe it is time to create a culture that sees the beauty and inherent value in each person, regardless of their state in life. And to be willing to give until it hurts, even when the world isn’t there to watch. That journey starts with me."

Allison Kirby, Kiowa County High School

Allison Kirby, of Greensburg

School: Kiowa County High School

Parents/guardians: Troy and Cassie Kirby, both of Greensburg

Plans after graduation: Industrial engineering at Kansas State University

Ideal career: Still deciding

Student comments: "In a world filled with animosity and a nation that is polarized by the coronavirus pandemic, we are more in need of positivity than ever before. This starts with the little actions that we can take to bring a smile to someone else’s face or help them through their struggles."

Ryan Duan, Lawrence Free State High School

Ryan Duan, of Lawrence 

School: Lawrence Free State High School

Parent/guardian: Yingjie Zhang, of Lawrence

Plans after graduation: Mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania)

Ideal career: Quantitative analyst or hedge fund manager

Student comments: "Although my interests ultimately lie in the financial sector, I am still aware that a world where huge chunks of the population are unemployed is one that leads to conflict. I hope to help prevent this world by assisting in changing the direction of education."

Carly Kolle, Linn High School

Carly Kolle, of Linn 

School: Linn High School

Parents/guardians: Royce and Deanna Kolle, both of Linn

Plans after graduation: Human biology/pre-medicine at the University of Kansas

Ideal career: Physician

Student comments: "I hope to make a positive impact on as many people’s lives as I possibly can. Saving people’s lives, giving the dying a happy last few days, and delivering new babies are easily some of the greatest ways I can think of to make a mark on the world."

Laura Savage, Marion High School

Laura Savage, of Florence 

School: Marion High School

Parents/guardians: Randy and Kelli Savage, both of Florence

Plans after graduation: Pre-physical therapy at MidAmerica Nazarene University

Ideal career: Physical therapist

Student comments: " The idea that the children of tomorrow may never get to experience the beauty of nature saddens me... I can make a difference and hopefully influence others around me to do the same."

Brendan Shanks, Minneapolis High School

Brendan Matthew Shanks, of Minneapolis

School: Minneapolis High School

Parents/guardians: Todd and Tammy Shanks, both of Minneapolis

Plans after graduation: Actuarial science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Ideal career: Actuary

Student comments: "With Covid-19, there are even more potential risks in the world that actuaries would be able to use math to handle from a financial standpoint... Overall, not only can I help to make a difference in the financial and business side of the world through my career choice, but I can also begin making my own impact in the business world sooner than most of my peers."

Miguel Molina Chavez, Newton High School

Miguel Molina Chavez, of Newton 

School: Newton High School

Parents/guardians: Gene and Araceli Taylor, both of Newton

Plans after graduation: Computational neuroscience at the University of Southern California

Ideal career: Neurosurgeon

Student comments: "Through prioritizing my efforts in the third-world, either by maintaining temporary positions at local hospitals or by establishing a permanent residency at a heavily reduced price, I can directly help shorten the socioeconomic gap in medicine at some capacity."

Ellie Willson, Olathe Northwest High School

Eleanor Willson, of Olathe 

School: Olathe Northwest High School

Parents/guardians: Andrea and Wade Willson, both of Olathe

Plans after graduation: Social justice, with an emphasis in public policy, at Trevecca Nazarene University (Tennessee)

Ideal career: Immigration lawyer

Student comments: "My goal in this career is to provide individuals seeking safety and resources for their family with access to legal counsel upon their arrival to the United States... The whole world does not have to know your name for you to have changed the world, but rather changing just one person’s world is a blessing in itself."

Skylar Markovich, Paola High School

Skylar Markovich, of Paola 

School: Paola High School

Parents/guardians: Connie and Brian Markovich, both of Paola

Plans after graduation: Film and television at the University of Arizona

Ideal career: Filmmaker and actress

Student comments: "Art is essential to the human experience. It is a vital means of expression, understanding, and connection. It can shape our hearts, minds, and lives. I think the pandemic has been rough on everyone in some way, and coming out of the pandemic, art will help us heal."

Joseph Lee, Pittsburg High School

Joseph Lee, of Pittsburg 

School: Pittsburg High School

Parents/guardians: Sang-Heui and JungHee Lee, both of Pittsburg 

Plans after graduation: Chemistry at the United States Naval Academy

Ideal career: Orthopedic surgery

Student comments: "The pandemic’s grip on social lives and human interaction has fueled my will to live passionately in all of my endeavors when the virus’s climate improves. With a confidence that I can achieve what I work for and a will to recover my lost opportunities by living in the future with passion, I will leave my mark on the world."

Christopher F. Raithel, Pleasant Ridge High School

Christopher F. Raithel, of McLouth 

School: Pleasant Ridge High School (Easton)

Parents/guardians: Anita and Charles Raithel, both of McLouth

Plans after graduation: Accounting at the University of Kansas

Ideal career: Certified public accountant or attorney

Student comments: "(The pandemic) has exposed societal issues such as wealth inequality and systemic discrimination at a time when people are more involved in politics then ever. And with this renewed attention, student political organizations across the US are striving to create change in their communities. I plan to participate in the organizations offered at the University of Kansas and do the same."

Kaden Fox, Seaman High School

Kaden Fox, of Topeka 

School: Seaman High School (Topeka)

Parents/guardians: Jackie and Brian Fox, both of Topeka

Plans after graduation: Biochemistry/pre-dental at the University of Kentucky

Ideal career: Orthodontist

Student comments: "COVID-19 was not the first nor the last hardship that individuals in our generation will face... Through my practice and community outreach, I plan to truly provide a place and an opportunity for individuals around me to find happiness and to enjoy life, regardless of their situation."

Benjamin Weinzirl, Shawnee Heights High School

Benjamin William Weinzirl, of Topeka

School: Shawnee Heights High School (Topeka)

Parents/guardians: Steve and Tina Weinzirl, Topeka

Plans after graduation: Chemistry at the University of Kansas

Ideal career: Biochemical engineer

Student comments: "Climate change is very important to me as it affects a variety of people living their lives on Earth and the planet as a whole. Providing relief from its effects and working to reduce its destruction is paramount to my career goals."

Taylor Koehn, South Gray High School

Taylor Koehn, of Montezuma 

School: South Gray High School (Montezuma)

Parents/guardians: Vincent and Kindra Koehm, both of Montezuma

Plans after graduation: Aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Florida)

Ideal career: Aerospace engineer

Student comments: "I find engineering inspiring as an engineer’s sole purpose is to make what once was imagined real and even bring to fruition things beyond the realm of imagination... I find that pursuing and completing that degree will enable me to put the mark I want most on this world, one that involves humans becoming a multiplanetary species."

Makenna Roths, Southeast Of Saline High School

Makenna Roths, of Salina 

School: Southeast of Saline High School (Gypsum)

Parents/guardians: Kenny and Lucinda Roths, both of Salina

Plans after graduation: Geology at Wichita State University

Ideal career: Still deciding

Student comments: " As we fight for all of these progressive movements, I see an opportunity for environmental reforms as well... No matter how well we construct a society, if there is no healthy environment for that society to live in, then the society will not survive."

Tyler Norsworthy, Washburn Rural High School

Tyler Norsworthy, of Topeka 

School: Washburn Rural High School (Topeka)

Parents/guardians: Ryan and Ifi Norsworthy, Topeka

Plans after graduation: Computer science/political science at Yale University (Connecticut)

Ideal career:  Software developer

Student comments: "As we move into a more comprehensive recovery stage from the pandemic, I want to get out into local communities and help these forgotten peoples. I want to listen to their stories and find out how we, as a society, can better serve them."

Harun Raffi, Wichita Collegiate High School

Harun Raffi, of Wichita 

School: Wichita Collegiate School

Parents/guardians: Syed and Zahida Raffi, both of Wichita

Plans after graduation: Pre-medicine at a to-be-determined school

Ideal career: Doctor

Student comments: "As an aspiring physician I hope to reach a position where I could advocate for (poor and minority) communities in meaningful ways. While I recognize that my research and advocacy may not have an immediate impact, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that any advancement, no matter how minor it may seem in the present, could one day change the world."