Charlotte Observer Seniors of the Year 2018

Lily Zheng, a senior at Charlotte Latin High School, loves the classics and reading Cicero and about mythological creatures like Medusa and the Chimera. Students from across the Charlotte region came to the Observer for interviews and the chance to be named as one of 10 scholarship winners.
Lily Zheng, a senior at Charlotte Latin High School, loves the classics and reading Cicero and about mythological creatures like Medusa and the Chimera. Students from across the Charlotte region came to the Observer for interviews and the chance to be named as one of 10 scholarship winners.

Each school in the Charlotte region nominated a Senior of the Year candidate to be considered for a $1,000 scholarship in the All-Star Scholars program.

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An in-house Observer panel selected finalists based on their resumes and essays. Two panels of judges interviewed finalists and chose the scholarship winners.

Ahlina Archibald

Cox Mill High


Parents: Keith and LaTonya Archibald

Highlight: “In my senior year, I have successfully created and implemented a mobile library into a school without a formal library for my Gold Award project.”

Memento:“Although this St. Kitts compass keychain doesn’t work, it reminds me that I’m loved worldwide.”

Lanitta Berry

Rocky River High School

College: UNC Charlotte

Highlight: “Being junior marshal, co-chair of SAYSO INC. BOD, and first recipient of ACAP scholarship.”

Memento: “This photo album symbolizes all of my everyday hard work, scholastic achievement and community outreach.”

Muskan Bhadauria

Nation Ford High School (York, S.C.)

College: Columbia University or Johns Hopkins University

Parents: Raj and Pramita Bhadauria

Highlight: “I had the opportunity to go to Europe through my school with my two favorite social studies teachers to see historical landmarks and art pieces.”

Memento: “Arts catalogue - I helped create this for an internship, opening the door to my passion for art.”

Jade Carpenter

West Lincoln High School

College: UNC Chapel Hill

Parents: Jimmy and Lisa Carpenter

Highlight: “One of my favorite activities in high school was being a member of the City of Lincolnton Student Advisory Council and volunteering in my community.”

Memento: “This piano belonged to my great-grandmother. It’s significant because I played piano for nine years.”

Bré Anna Clinkscales

Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology

College: Duke University

Parents: David Clinkscales and Tomeka Clinkscales

Highlight: “Being the valedictorian of my class and serving as the president of National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and Key Club.”

Memento: “My first published poem - I published it during my sophomore year of high school!”

Dakota Douglas

Porter Ridge High School (Union)

College: Duke University

Parents: Malcolm and Kristi Douglas

Highlight: “Becoming co-president of the Sandbox Youth Council inspired me to become a pediatric oncologist, and gave me a heart for people affected by health disparities.”

Memento: “”This trumpet’s seen seven years of concerts, jazz clinics, competitions and even marched down Disney’s Main Street!”

William Exson

Cannon School (Cabarrus)

College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Parents: Edward and Laurie Exson

Highlight: “Going to a science conference was my highlight. The seminars sparked my interests in engineering and demonstrated how science and technology could improve countless lives.”

Memento: “Receiving the Community Builder Award is a testament for my passion in bringing groups together.”

Talyn Fan

Northwest School of the Arts

College: Emory University

Parents: Michael and Baoding Fan

Highlight: “I was so proud to watch the production of "The Beast of Byronte," a one-act play that I wrote, at my school’s Dionysia play festival.”

Memento: “I made this giant d20 for a geometry project at Piedmont IB Middle School.”

Audrey Frye

Hickory Grove Christian School

College: UNC Chapel Hill

Parents: Mitchell and Bethany Frye

Highlight: “After founding and leading the American Sign Language club at my school, I successfully petitioned my headmaster to offer an ASL course for credit.”

Memento: “Governor’s School - no, it’s not regular school. It’s students teaching each other what it means to be human.”

Jake Gossett

South Mecklenburg High School

College: UNC Chapel Hill

Parents: Jack and Jennifer Gossett

Highlight: “Competing in a local trivia night with my friends against teams twice our age, putting our varied areas of expertise to good use every Thursday.”

Memento: “My grandfather’s army cap - it reminds me of the kind of man I want to be.”

Faith Gowen

Renaissance School of Arts & Technology at Olympic High School

College: Duke University

Parents: James Gowen, Jr. and Andrea Gowen

Highlight: “Winning the National Center for Women in Information Technology National Award for Aspirations in Computing. I'm also a part of several honor societies and serve as a math and reading tutor.”

Memento: “NCWIT National Award for Aspirations in Computing.”

Dulce Jarquin

Zebulon B. Vance High School

College: University of Miami

Parents: Audencio Jarquin Sierra and Ana Pacheco Sierra

Highlight: “My high school highlight was hosting the National Honors Society Scholarship Pageant and also organizing the event as the president of the club.”

Memento: “This picture is the only one I have from my childhood. It was taken two months before immigrating to the USA, specifically Charlotte, my new home.” Left to right: Viri Jarquin (sister), Ana Pacheco-Sierra (mother) and Dulce Jarquin.

Joey Jegier

Providence High School

College: University of Notre Dame

Parents: Steve and Michelle Jegier

Highlight: “Traveling with a crew through Philmont Scout Ranch in N.M., navigating and backpacking through rugged terrain to camps with backcountry activities and enjoying the wilderness.”

Memento: “My track uniform, which I worked passionately for and will be continuing in college.”

Ameena Kapadia

Charlotte Country Day

College: Yale University

Parents: Neil and Sheena Kapadia

Highlight: “My arangetram, or classical Indian dance graduation. I've been practicing for 12 years for performance, and it was meaningful to introduce others to my culture.”

Memento: “My North Carolina Governor’s School lanyard and name tag.”

Sonia Kelly-Manning

Myers Park High School

College: Brown University

Parents: Michael Kelly and Annabel Manning

Highlight: “I love the sense of community and genuine excitement for classmates, especially during senior year, as everyone finds their unique passions and decides on their future college path."

Memento: “This is the only item I have from my early childhood because my apartment was contaminated from 9/11. As my family searched for a home beyond NYC, this memento served as a constant and now it continually shows how trauma can renew senses of joy and appreciation for life.”

Logan Long

Mallard Creek High School

College: East Carolina University

Parents: Lewis and Audrey Long

Highlight: “Varsity Volleyball team-Four year letter-Captain, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Junior Marshall, HOSA, DECA, Rotaract, Young Black Leadership Alliance-Ambassador.”

Memento: “Creating a scaled version of eyeglasses for a seventh grade project sparked my career path.”

Claire McCrea

Hickory High School (Catawba)

College: Johns Hopkins University

Parents: Ellen and Peter McCrea

Highlight: “Spending a summer studying abroad and living with a host family in Seoul, South Korea, on a State Department scholarship.”

Memento: “An engraved ring I made in Seoul; it reminds me of how much I learned while abroad.”

Lindsey Moore

Lake Norman Charter High School

College: Princeton University

Parents: Roger Moore and Julane Moore

Highlight: “Through my internship at Engineering World Health through NCSSM, I created educational materials that will promote and teach STEM skills to students around the world.”

Memento: “A bookmark commemorating my trip to Barbados, the childhood home of my father.”

Joshua Morningstar

Math, Engineering, Technology & Science at Olympic High School

College: UNC Chapel Hill

Parents: Leroy and Jennifer Morningstar

Highlight: “Being the valedictorian of his class, holding leadership positions in national honor society and student council, while also being a varsity baseball player.”

Memento: “This is the first trophy that I earned while playing my favorite sport - baseball.”

Morgan Opela

East Mecklenburg High School

College: Duke University

Parents: H. Kevin Opela and Christine Opela

Highlight: “The highlight of my high school experience was winning my school’s calculus excellence award. It was an affirmation of my passion for math.”

Memento: “My drumsticks symbolize the persistence, practice, dedication and passion it took to be on drumline and be a drum major.”

Gabby Parker

Statesville High School (Iredell)

College: Coastal Carolina University

Parents: Bill Parker (deceased) and Melanie Parker

Highlight: “Remaining in the fourth ranked position of the senior class despite losing my father a week before the school year began.”

Memento: “One of the last gifts from my father - an octopus, which holds a special meaning.”

Katie Ropers

Marvin Ridge High School (Union)

College: Stanford University

Parents: Jeanette and Jeff Ropers

Highlight: “Research internship at Duke to help develop a brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton to bypass paralysis. I’ve been inspired by neuroengineering and its potential to change lives.”

Memento: “Ammonite fossil symbolizes my childhood fascination with Field Museum exhibits, inspiring my curiosity today.”

Julia Short

Stuart W. Cramer High School (Gaston)

College: UNC Chapel Hill

Parents: Michael and Marlo Short

Highlight: “My high school highlight was conducting research concerning sustainable reuse of coal ash and presenting the findings at the local, state, and national level.”

Memento: “Harry Potter book - I’ve read this book over a dozen times and credit the Harry Potter series with sparking my passion for learning and reading from a young age.”

Alex Smith

Piedmont High School (Union)

College: Duke University

Parents: Scott and Kimberly Smith

Highlight: “Watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, with my peers on Teens Westward Bound, a competitive travel program across the country, is an unforgettable memory.”

Memento: “My grandmother’s high school class ring from Fairview School, my gift from her and also my elementary school.”

Wilson Spearman

Fort Mill High School (York, S.C.)

College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Parents: Jerry and Liz Spearman

Highlight: “Running through the hallways in neon workout clothes with the other seniors during the senior Jazzercise Day of Spirit Week.”

Memento: “My drone represents my first entrepreneurial undertaking and my future desire to develop innovative products.”

Maria Vazquez Martinez

Jay M. Robinson High School

College: Franklin and Marshall College

Parent: Maria Martinez Loeza

Highlight: “My high school highlight was becoming editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. I didn’t think it would be possible when I joined journalism my freshman year.”

Memento: “I received this award a year after almost repeating third grade, when we moved constantly.”

Lily Zheng

Charlotte Latin School

College: University of Chicago

Parents: Jin Hua Zheng and Fang Dong

Highlight: “I enjoyed the day when all the seniors got to wear their college t-shirts. It was fun to celebrate all the achievements and hard work, culminating in our college decisions.”

Memento: “The Oxford Classical Dictionary - for winning four consecutive gold medals on the National Latin Exam.”