A senior year like no other. Whether in-person or virtual, the class of 2021 experienced many challenges and rapid changes due to the pandemic. Kudos to each graduating senior who persevered during these times of uncertainty.
As a former charter school teacher, I understand the importance of instilling a strong foundation to help our scholars think critically and apply the tools they learn to help identify their passions and build their futures. The National Alliance recently highlighted 16 seniors on social media during our #CharterGrads campaign.
Read their inspirational stories:
Aidan Looney, Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy
Aidan Looney did not allow a tough experience to stop him from putting forth his best efforts in school. He pushed through six months of therapy after a severe ankle injury with the support of his family and friends. Aidan performed so well academically, he was recognized as a National Merit Scholarship finalist, with a preliminary SAT score of 1400. Aidan plans to attend the United States Military Academy or the United States Naval Academy to earn a STEM-related degree.
Aisha Yusuf, DSST Montview High School
Not only is Aisha Yusuf a first-generation college student—she is headed to Duke University on a full-ride scholarship! Aisha’s journey through school has not been easy, nonetheless, she focused on her studies. With limited internet access, Aisha used her resources and found ways to log into her classes. She is a COVID-19 survivor with a big heart for others. When her mom became sick with the virus, Aisha helped care for her while still in school. Aisha is passionate about educational access to biomedical engineering, writing, and activism.
Jonah Fleurimond, Somerset Academy
Jonah Fleurimond is an artist who uses his artwork to empower people of color. He worked on a piece for a Black Lives Matter competition to help increase awareness about systematic injustices. His work is displayed in the school’s lobby and website. In a Vans Custom Culture Art Competition, Jonah placed 25 out of 250 schools. He won the Broward County Innovative Teach Idea Exposition Competition and placed first in Miramar’s Hispanic Heritage Competition. Check out his art page for inspiration.
Watch our video with Jonah as he shares his hope for the future and what his school means to him:
Natalie Lawton, Redmond Proficiency Academy
Natalie is the valedictorian of her class of 2021. She was awarded the first-ever International Thespian Festival Thespy for Stage Management in 2020. Some of her most notable stage management roles include The Addams Family; The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; and Charlotte’s Web. Natalie will attend Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama to begin her career stage management.
Quynh-Giao Nguyen, LISA Academy West High School
Little Rock, Arkansas
Quynh-Giao is the salutatorian of her class of 2021 with her grade point average exceeding a 4.0. She is a member of the National Honor Society. She participated in the Science Olympiad Science Fair and STEM extracurricular activities. Originally from Vietnam, Quynh-Giao learned to speak English, mastered her classes, and developed into an honor student. Quynh-Giao looks forward to continued growth and giving back to her community.
Juan Hernandez, DSST College View High School
No stranger to leadership, Juan Hernandez served as the student body president at his school. He proudly advocated for LGBTQ+ rights during an internship with State Representative, Kerry Tipper for Colorado’s House District 28. He is also the recipient of the Daniel’s Fund scholarship. Juan plans to study political science at Colorado State University in the fall.
Meseret Berhane, Madison Highland Prep
Meseret Berhane earned a full ride to Stanford University through the QuestBridge match program. She is a member of the National Honor Society and participated on the student council and softball team at Madison Highland Prep. Meseret plans to study psychology and anthropology.
Liliana Feliz Castro, Nowell Academy
Providence, Rhode Island
Liliana focused her senior capstone project on the artistry, beauty, and symbolism of tattoo art. While in school, she served on the student council and led her classmates in a Langston Hughes community poetry reading. Liliana hopes to become a tattoo artist and open her own business one day.
Xochitl Figueora, Gestalt Community Schools
Xochitl Figueora is the valedictorian of her class. She received nearly $566,000 in scholarships! She will be attending St. Olaf College in the fall.
Madison Lawson, Millennium Charter Academy
Mt. Airy, North Carolina
Madison Lawson graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors. While in high school, she won the regional science fair award and a regional science research paper competition award for her project exploring how plastic-like materials can be made from potatoes. She will be a part of the Goodnight Scholars Program at North Carolina State University which helps mold students in STEM fields into transformational leaders. Madison plans to study Plant Breeding and Biotechnology and Biochemistry.
Watch our video with Madison as she shares her plans post-graduation and her great news:
Daniela Torres, DREAM Charter High School
New York, New York
Daniela Torres is a part of DREAM Charter High School’s first graduating class. She enrolled in the seventh grade after immigrating to New York City from Mexico. Daniela plans to attend Stanford University. She will continue to the relationship between genetics and neuroscience. This topic is especially important to Daniela because of her grandmother who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Eloise Bradley, SkyView Academy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Eloise Bradley and her twin sister, Sophie, were both featured on the Today Show for going above and beyond in their community during the pandemic. They served as volunteers in a local retirement home. They stepped up and helped their neighbors who were too afraid to go outside due to a fear of catching COVID-19 by doing tasks such as delivering their mail and walking their dogs. Through these acts of kindness, they discovered how much they truly enjoy helping others. Eloise and her sister plan to go to nursing school.
Arianna Mayes, GEO 21st Century Charter School at Gary
Arianna Mayes was a senior at 17 years of age—not only did she graduate early—she already has college credits. Arianna earned her Associate Degree from Ivy Tech Community College by her junior year. She plans to attend Howard University in the fall to study psychology or nursing.
Ivan Hernandez, Maricopa Institute of Technology
Ivan Hernandez had the highest GPA in his senior class at Maricopa Institute of Technology. As a result, he earned the Gates Scholarship, which is highly selective and rewarded to only 300 seniors every year.
Victoria Filippi, Four Corners Upper School
Victoria Filippi is the founding editor-in-chief of the Coyote Chronicle, her high school’s online newspaper. She will attend Boston College through the QuestBridge National College Match program. She plans to major in Applied Psychology and Human Development. Victoria isn’t stopping there, she plans to also earn her PhD one day.
Crystal Lakatos, City Charter High School
Crystal Lakatos is a part of PNC Bank’s PartnerUp career readiness program. She will attend a local college full-time—and continue full-time as the Operations Analyst in the Asset Management group at PNC. Crystal plans to study psychology in school.
Congratulations to the Class of 2021!
Brittnee Exum is the manager of communications and marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.