AAPS Updates

A rare feat: 5 Skyline students from Class of 2016 accepted to Princeton

AAPS graduates across the district are heading in many directions

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The five Skyline seniors accepted to Princeton include (left to right): Christopher Wilks; Kalana Athukorala (who chose the University of Michigan); Micaela Keller; Olivia Foster; and Shreya Menon (who chose Harvard University). Photo by Jo Mathis.

By Jo Mathis
AAPS District News Editor

Ann Arbor Public Schools’ 2016 graduates are moving on to an exciting array of opportunities next year, from gap years of travel and self-discovery, trade schools, community colleges and universities, and entrepreneurships.

Something unusual happened this year at Skyline High School, where five graduates from a class of 347 were accepted to Princeton University.

Ranked as one of the best universities in the world, Princeton’s overall 2016 acceptance rate is just 6.5 percent.

Cheryl Haller, Skyline’s college and career adviser, says the fact that “a whole cohort” of five students from the same school has been accepted to Princeton is nothing less than incredible.

“Speaking to the other admissions representatives—and this includes even the Stanfords, the Georgetowns, the Harvards—those schools are just as surprised that we had five students accepted to Princeton,” said Haller. “They’re the people who know what it takes to get into those types of schools. And the fact that we had five from one high school – yet alone a high school that only has 1,425 students. Statistically, that’s pretty unheard of.”

So how did it happen?

“Every day I find myself amazed to work with such talented kids and committed families and a supportive Ann Arbor community that allows our kids to be active,” she said. “Whether it’s involvement in community service, whether they’re involved in the magnet programs here, and really just an opportunity to be themselves, just be true to who they are. And I think these schools are seeing that. They’re seeing kids who are a good fit for the school, and the school finds the students a good fit for them.”

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Cheryl Haller says the five students’ acceptance to Princeton is a rare occurrence at any public high school. Photo by Jo Mathis.

In addition, Princeton recognizes the rigorous Skyline curriculum, magnet programs, and the work ethic, talent and character these students possess, she said.

Many students chose other selective schools, including, of course, the University of Michigan. Several have chosen historical black colleges.

“And they’re not just going to Spelman,” she said. “They’re going to be leaders at these historic black colleges. They’re risen stars.”

Graduate Christopher Wilks applied to four colleges: Princeton, Harvard, Northwestern, and the University of Michigan.

“When I got accepted to Princeton, I was caught off guard,” he said. “I really didn’t expect that. It was just one of those reach schools.”
“I chose Princeton because of all the opportunities they have for undergraduates, and the focus they have. Most schools have these illustrious graduate schools, business schools, med schools. Princeton doesn’t have any of that—everything goes towards undergraduate. So I felt that was the best place for me to go.”

Is he intimidated at all?

“Not really,” he said. “I figure that in the days before moving in I’ll be a little bit nervous. But it’ll be fine.”

As the daughter of Princeton graduates, Micaela Keller applied only to Michigan and Princeton.

“I’ve known about it my entire life,” she said, noting that it was her “reach school.”

Although she had some other schools lined up as Plan B, once she was admitted to both, she knew she need not apply elsewhere.

In fact, Michaela knew that Princeton would post its acceptances online at 3 p.m. one day last December. So she went home, sat down on the couch, and logged in.

“When I saw the “Congratulations!” with a tiger on top of the screen, I started crying and ran over and hugged my mom,” she recalled. “Then I thought: Wait. What if it’s a congratulations for applying?”

She was surprised later to learn that she was one of five Skyline students who’d been accepted.

“It honestly is amazing, and I can say that not only for a school of this size, but for a school anywhere in the United States to have five kids admitted is something pretty incredible,” she said.

Olivia Foster applied to Princeton, MIT, the University of Michigan, Northwestern, and University of California at Berkeley. She was accepted to all but Berkeley, and didn’t expect to be admitted to Princeton, either.

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Olivia Foster wears her new shirt proudly.

When she printed it out and showed her parents, they wouldn’t stop screaming.

“My dad was like, `What is this! What is this!’” she recalled with a laugh.

Shreya Menon was accepted to 13 of the 15 colleges to which she applied, and chose Harvard.

Why Harvard over Princeton?

“My sister went to Harvard, so we already have that connection with the school,” she said. “Visiting the school growing up, it was just my dream school.”

Kalana Athukorala was accepted into both Princeton and the University of Michigan, and, like Chris, hopes to eventually go onto medical school. While he’s proud of the fact that he was accepted to Princeton, he’ll be attended the University of Michigan, partly for financial reasons.

“I’ll be going into medicine, like Chris, and I chose (Michigan) for very similar reasons. Their undergraduate emphasis is very appealing to my needs, especially going down the pre-med track.”

The students agree that their years at AAPS helped prepare them for the Ivy League.

“The environment of the Ann Arbor schools has probably been my greatest factor to success,” said Chris.

And a big part of that, he said, was his participation in Skyline’s Health and Medicine Magnet program, which taught him a lot about discipline.

“It’s a lot of work; very intensive, but it’s also very rewarding,” he said.

AAPS graduates district-wide will set off for exciting new challenges

Counselors across the district are reporting that many of their students, too, are setting off to selective schools, as always.

Pioneer High School counselor Colleen Creal noted that 40 students at Pioneer alone have perfect grade point averages.

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Pioneer High School graduates celebrate their achievements during the 2016 commencement. Photo by Andrew Cluley.

“There’s so much to celebrate in our little town!” she said.

For instance: Pioneer’s Basil Baccuche, who received a 36 on the ACT (as did his younger brother Hamza) will attend Harvard University. Another student was accepted into the 8-year medical program at Brown University.

Also at Pioneer, according to counselor Ellen Sapper, many students with a GPA of 4.0 or close to it will attend the University of Michigan, while a few top students have chosen other schools. Zahra Sule (4.0 GPA) will attend Rhode Island School of Design, for instance,  while Abigail Stepnitz (also a GPA of 4.0) will attend the University of Southern California.

Huron High School graduates are off to Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Berkeley, Cornell and Harvard, among many others, say counselors there.

The 2016 Huron High School graduates line up to accept their diplomas. Photo by Jo Mathis.

The 2016 Huron High School graduates line up to accept their diplomas. Photo by Jo Mathis.

According to Principal Janet Schwamb:

  • 66 students graduated with a 3.9 or above GPA
  • Five were presidential scholar candidates, and two were semifinalists
  • 25 were national merit semifinalists, and 22 were finalists.
  • 41 students have earned a “commended status with a GPA of 3.2-3.49..
  • 5 graduates had a perfect ACT score.

Pathways to Success Principal Tyrone Weeks says his students will attend local schools including Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College and Jackson Community College. Others are joining the Marines, and pursuing culinary careers with the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.

The Pathways to Success held its 2016 commencement at Pease Auditorium. Photo by Andrew Cluley.

The Pathways to Success held its 2016 commencement at Pease Auditorium. Photo by Andrew Cluley.

“We wish the class of 2016 well in all of their future endeavors,” he says.

Community High School graduates will attend universities across the country tailored to their skills and interests, according to counselor John Boshoven, who offers the following compilation:

CHS fine and performing arts kids are going to:

  • Eastman School of Music
  • New England Conservatory of Music
  • Berklee College of Music
  • The University of Michigan
  • Rhode Island School of Art and Design
  • University of Southern California
  • DePaul University
  • Knox College
  • New York University- Tisch School for the Performing Arts

CHS scientists and mathematicians are heading to:

  • Yale University
  • The University of Michigan
  • The University of California-Berkeley
  • California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo
  • The University of Rochester
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Cornell University
  • Kettering University
  • University of California- San Diego
  • Michigan Technological University

CHS writers and poets are off to:

  • DePaul University
  • Smith College
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Grinnell College
  • Amherst College
  • Harvard University
  • Eugene Lang College of New School University

CHS liberal arts and science students heading to:

  • Michigan State University
  • Kalamazoo College
  • The College of Wooster
  • Swarthmore College
  • Davidson College
  • Penn State University
  • The University of Vermont
  • Washtenaw Community College
  • American University
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Eckerd College
  • Beloit College
  • Lewis and Clark College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Loyola University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • Butler University

CHS athletes will study at:

  • Indiana University
  • The University or Toronto
  • Norwich University
  • Middlebury College

“And that’s just for starters, Boshoven quipped.

Each graduate spoke at the Community High School graduation. Photo by Jo Mathis.

Each graduate spoke at the Community High School graduation. Photo by Jo Mathis.

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