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2013 All-Star Scholars

Meet 15 of 31 finalists for The Observer's Seniors of the Year, an award that goes to 10 seniors each year and carries with it a $1,000 scholarship. Each year, high school counselors throughout the Observer area nominate seniors for academic performance, character and community service. From about 140 All-Stars, representing nearly 90 schools in eight counties, the Observer chooses finalists to interview personally. Today's group, from schools in Mecklenburg County, joins the 16 we profiled in last week's YA section from outside Mecklenburg. We will announce the 10 winners May 26.

Kathryn Byron

Charlotte Country Day

College: Vanderbilt University.

Parents: Bill and Dana Byron.

Highlights: She plays piano and tennis and was on the school honor council.

Her words: "I'm driven by fairness. After the hurricane (Katrina), I saw people on rooftops, and it didn't seem fair that they had to go through all they went through."

Her memento: Her Girl Scout Gold Award. She earned the award for her efforts after Hurricane Katrina, which included writing a novel and raising money to help support hurricane victims. She has raised $21,000.

Amanda Brumwell

Covenant Day

College: Duke University.

Parents: David and Anna Howard, and Matthew and Cathy Brumwell.

Highlights: A member of National Youth Forum on Medicine and Junior Classical League, president of National Honor Society and first chair flute in concert band. She also plays classical piano.

Her words: "Success is enjoying what you do and being satisfied with what you do."

Her memento: Her journal. She went on a mission to Haiti and kept a journal to remind her of the experiences she had there. She wants to do medical missions to underdeveloped countries.

Yeonsoo Sara Lee

Myers Park

College: Yale University.

Parents: Seok-Won and Boonda Lee.

Highlights: In to music of all types and plays classical piano. President of school International Baccalaureate Council and student liaison with Echo Foundation.

Her words: "My parents have always given me a sense that doing the right thing and being a good human being is more important than material success."

Her memento: A poster and name tag from the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Constance Zhou

Charlotte Latin

College: Harvard University.

Parents: Leping Zhou and Jiamin Yue.

Highlights: Worked with researchers at N.C. Central University to find ways to diagnose Alzheimers disease early. From this research, helped publish a paper with her research mentor. Plays piano and cello and is in Charlotte Youth Symphony.

Her words: "I have a lot of energy and I like everything I do."

Her memento: A T-shirt from the March 2013 Julia Robinson Mathematics festival for middle school girls, which promotes girls' enthusiasm for math.

Morgan Goodson

Providence Day

College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Parents: Robin and Mike Goodson.

Highlights: Volunteered with Mitey Riders, a therapeutic horseback riding program for children with disabilities. Competed in track and field and has high-jumped 5 feet 2 inches and triple-jumped 35 feet 2 inches. Won state title in triple jump.

Her words: "I'm not satisfied with mediocrity. I'm naturally competitive. I feel I'm almost obligated to take advantage of the opportunities I've been given."

Her memento: Cupcakes – she runs her own cupcake business.

Brenden Dahrouge

South Mecklenburg

College: UNC Chapel Hill.

Parents: Alfred and Ann Dahrouge.

Highlights: Did his senior exit project on U.S. domestic policy since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

His words: "I've always been interested in politics and being able to change things. ... I would love to get into the political field, not necessarily running for office."

His memento: His credentials from the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He volunteered there as a credentials teller.

Justin Elliott

North Mecklenburg High

College: Duke University.

Parents: Bill and Vereda Elliott.

Highlights: Founder and president of the Physics Club; captain of boys varsity tennis team; International Baccalaureate tutoring; new student orientation leader. Won National Youth Leadership Award.

His words: "I realized I'm intelligent enough to help others. Why not expand and help others in the community? My purpose here on earth ... is to help others along the way."

His memento: The magazine in which he was named one of the Top 100 Young Black Men in Charlotte. He was nominated to participate and was chosen as an elite scholar and ranked No. 2.

Mary Thurman

Hickory Grove Christian

College: UNC Chapel Hill.

Parents: David and Mary Beth Thurman.

Highlights: Scored 2250 on the SAT test. Performed 146 hours of various community service activities. AP Scholar with Honor.

Her words: "Art, for me, is very social ... It's a connection point ... I tend to overthink things so much. For me, that's my version of being trapped within myself. Art lets me get it all out there and get it out of my head."

Her memento: The anime-style portrait of her that two young students at the Good Shepherd after-school program drew and colored on notebook paper. The program serves Vietnamese refugees, among others.

Maria Mazariegos

International Business and Communication Studies at Olympic High

College: Wingate University.

Parents: Wilson Mazariegos and Angelica Diaz.

Highlights: Class valedictorian. Tutored elementary school children; Beta Club, Key Club International.

Her words: "My main priority and job is to do well in school. I've tried my best to put all the distractions aside ... but ultimately it's for me. I like achieving."

Her memento: Her high school transcript. "It's an official document with all my efforts. I'm very proud of being ranked No. 1. To have it on a document is official."

Kate Hardin

West Mecklenburg

College: Davidson College.

Parents: Amy and Don Hardin.

Highlights: Varsity soccer team, all-conference and all-region in 2012; editor-in-chief of school newspaper; junior class treasurer. Booster club volunteer; National Merit Commended Scholar; AP Scholar with Distinction.

Her words: On cross country running: "I'm not a natural runner. I realized if I wanted to get better it was on me. It teaches you to push yourself past a boundary and reach for a goal."

Her memento: A T-shirt from Summer Ventures in Science and Math at UNC Wilmington, where she spent 10 days in the archaeology program, digging for Civil War artifacts. "It's been the best part of high school so far."

Mary Grace Schwalbe

Performance Learning Center

College: Bates College.

Parents: Frank and Marcie Schwalbe.

Highlights: National Merit Commended Scholar, John F. Oberlin Scholar Award. French Club president ; Amigos Tutoring. Hendrick Marrow Foundation volunteer; Red Pump Charity Fashion Show; DNC Sustainable Fashion Show.

Her words: Of her experiences modeling: "It made me deal with (the fact) you're not always right for everything. It's not personal; you just need to accept it and move on."

Her memento: Her graduation project, a hand-bound book she created of her English translations of 10 French poems. "I would like to help broaden peoples' minds and opinions about cultures. I love to introduce people to learning."

Eileen Jakeway

Hough High

College: UNC Charlotte.

Parents: Patrick and Angela Jakeway.

Highlights: AP Scholar with Honor; N.C. Governor's School. Yearbook staff; Hough's "Miss Carolinas Carrousel Scholar."

Her words: On not being a star at AP physics: "It was hard to see I worked for it and it didn't pay off. I realized my best wasn't the best. That was really hard for me. In the long run, I'll value knowledge and learning more than the grade itself."

Her memento: The USB drive she used throughout high school. "I realized everything in your life has only the value you assign to it ... My USB turned up in a dream, so I took it as a sign and leap of faith."

Loren Reese

Independence High

College: N.C. State University.

Parents: Charles and Elizabeth Reese.

Highlights: President, Health Occupation Students of America; Key Club. Junior marshal. Interned in oncology department at Carolinas Medical Center and at an alpaca farm.

Her words: On dealing with her father's third battle with cancer: "It's shown me that sometimes I need to slow down. .... I look at people and situations differently. I don't know what they're dealing with."

Her memento: A tennis ball. After being reassigned from Butler after freshman year, she felt unwelcome at what used to be her rival school. But she joined the tennis team and ended up a scholar athlete.

Dang Pham

Butler High

College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Parents: Nga Pham and Hoa Ngo.

Highlights: Math Honors Club; Junior Board. Youth board member, Time Out Youth. Edna and Leon Trilling Award; MIT scholarship.

His words: On wishing he had come out about his sexual orientation earlier: "The person I am today is because of my sexual orientation and the challenges I've faced. If I'd come out earlier, I could have been a better example."

His memento: Vinyl record albums, which he started collecting freshman year. He started re-furbishing and eventually building his own turntables from scratch. "The sound sounds much better on vinyl than (digital). The culture (around collecting records) is really cool."

Ridhdhi Patel

Olympic High

College: UNC Chapel Hill.

Parents: Kishor and Savita Patel.

Highlights: National Honor Society, Beta Club, president of Science Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society.

Her words: On teaching children while in India: "One little girl didn't have a pencil or piece of paper. I waste these on a daily basis. It taught me I should use everything I have more wisely. ... I've learned to value educational opportunities I've gotten by moving here."

Her memento: The senior T-shirt she helped design. "It has everyone's name, people I've known the last four years and had the opportunity to get to know better."

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