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posted: 6/3/2011 6:00 AM

2010-2011 Fox Valley Academic Team

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  • Fakhra Ahmad

      Fakhra Ahmad

  • Stephanie Cheng

      Stephanie Cheng

  • Riti Chokshi

      Riti Chokshi

  • Paul Jerger

      Paul Jerger

  • Megan McFarland

      Megan McFarland

  • A.G. Navarro

      A.G. Navarro

  • Jake Sturges

      Jake Sturges

  • Collin Waldoch

      Collin Waldoch

  • Caitlin Ward

      Caitlin Ward

  • Paul Yuan

      Paul Yuan


Fakhra Ahmad, Elgin High School

Hometown: Elgin

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Parents: Farida and Moud Ahmad

Sponsor: Heather Spear, counselor

Class rank: 2 out of 506

GPA: 4.988 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 31

College: University of Illinois at Chicago

Planned major: Biology

Awards, honors: National Merit Finalist, National Honor Society, Illinois State Scholar, AP Scholar

Personal statement: "As a Muslim-American, I have always been passionate about serving my local Muslim community. Unfortunately, my community had a lack of opportunities for youth involvement. ... After talking to a few friends about my concern, I realized that I was not alone. We all wanted a group that would organize events that would appeal to the youth and simultaneously serve the community as a whole. Hence, we decided to start Al-Fajr Youth."

Sponsor's endorsement: "I have never had a better student than Fakhra (most people call her "Dolly"). Dolly's grades, class rank, and test scores all attest to her natural intelligence and her work ethic. Her resume proves her well-rounded, determined, passionate, and generous."

Stephanie Cheng, Illinois Math and Science Academy

Hometown: Naperville

Parents: Weiying Cheng and Shidan Deng

Sponsor: Suzanne Speulda, counselor

Class rank: Not applicable

GPA: IMSA does not calculate GPA

Test scores: SAT: 2340

College: Yale University

Planned major: Economics, pre-law

Awards, honors: National Merit Finalist, AP Scholar with Distinction, Illinois State Scholar, Academic Achievement Award

Personal statement: "As a trial lawyer, I would be able to use all the skills that I gained from writing and public speaking over the last four years. I am the writer, crafting my story with each piece of evidence. I am the speaker, catching my audience's attention with my performance. I am the debater, urging the jury to see my story as the truth. "

Sponsor's endorsement: "When I ask my students to turn in an assignment, Stephanie is my only student that uses both sides of the page. This could be part of the recent trend of 'going green,' yet for Stephanie, I see this as symbolic of her life. Stephanie is the kind of scholar, learner, contributor, researcher, and organizer that packs in all the skill, knowledge and accomplishment that her life can possibly accommodate."

Riti Chokshi, Elgin High School

Hometown: Bartlett

Parents: Kalpesh and Rupal Chokshi

Sponsor: Heather Spear, counselor

Class rank: 1 out of 506

GPA: 5.0 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 30

College: University of Illinois at Chicago

Planned major: Chemistry, pharmacy

Awards, honors: Honor Roll, National Honor Society, Illinois State Scholar, Mathletes, HOSA, Scholastic Bowl

Personal statement: "Academic excellence is a vital quality students must have as I have always worked for straight A's. But in addition, students should also be able to balance their lives through athletics, extracurricular activities, community service, family, friends, and education. For the past four years I have followed the principle of Greg Anderson, 'Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.'"

Sponsor's endorsement: "I used to tell students and parents that it was not possible in our grading system to achieve a 5.0 grade-point average. There are a few mandatory regular-level courses that can only be weighted at the 4.0 level. Riti has found the formula to achieve the perfect 5.0 at our school. "

Paul Jerger, Burlington Central

Hometown: Hampshire

Parents: Steve and Cindy Jerger

Sponsor: Jonathan Young, counselor

Class rank: 1 out of 228

GPA: 4.24 on a 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 35

College: Stanford University

Planned major: Chemistry or physics

Awards, honors: National Merit Semifinalist, National Honor Society, Illinois State Scholar, AP Scholar, Rotary Club of Elgin Third Year Straight A award

Personal statement: "As fond as I am of physics and chemistry, there's no telling in what direction chance may take me. At least one constant will remain, though, and that is the motivation that I have honed throughout high school, which I believe will serve me well in the future. In whatever field I find myself, I will do my best to first succeed, then excel, then finally be the best I can be. My ambition is to someday drop a few stones of my own into the well of human knowledge."

Sponsor's endorsement: "Paul is mature, articulate, and highly intelligent. Perhaps most importantly, Paul is humble and has never allowed his class rank or GPA to define who he is or presume he is better than anyone else."

Megan McFarland, Batavia High School

Hometown: Batavia

Parents: Bob and Julie McFarland

Sponsor: William Kettering, social studies teacher

Class rank: 18 out of 430

GPA: 4.0 on a traditional 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 31

College: Washington University in St. Louis

Planned major: International business and foreign languages

Awards, honors: Illinois State Scholar, National Honor Society, Honor Roll, math competitions

Personal statement: "As a sophomore in my Spanish III class I discovered my love for foreign languages and cultures, consequently inspiring me to pursue the experience of a foreign exchange trip. In order to pay for my endeavor, I started working six days a week as a hostess in a restaurant, a baby sitter, and a tutor. Learning to work for what I wanted taught me that hard work and setting my mind on something can get me anywhere."

Sponsor's endorsement: "Megan is one of the hardest working, serious students I have ever taught in my 25 years at Batavia. She is one of the kindest persons I ever met, also."

A.G. Navarro, Huntley High School

Hometown: Huntley

Parents: Abundio and Grace Navarro

Sponsor: Patty Zacharias

Class rank: 2 out of 473

GPA: 4.414 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 30

College: University of Illinois

Planned major: Chemical and molecular bioengineering

Awards, honors: Salutatorian, National Honor Society, Illinois State Scholar

Personal statement: "In our small town in the Philippines, we could not afford Western medicine very often so we had to rely on herbal salves and concoctions for treatment. My mother and other relatives were afflicted by tumors, malignant or benign, and having them treated was a struggle. It pained me to observe their distress and not be able to take action so I decided to pursue a career in medicine, namely oncology."

Sponsor's endorsement: "Unlike many students who are not sure which field to pursue, he has made clear that his goal is to pursue a career in pre-med/nursing/oncology. He has a passion for learning. In the classroom, he is known to provide different opinions and perspectives which have contributed to the learning of his classmates."

Jake Surges, Jacobs High School

Hometown: Gilberts

Parents: Audrey and Cliff Surges

Sponsor: Michael Bregy, superintendent-elect

Class rank: 2 out of 542

GPA: 5.92 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 32

College: Boston College

Planned major: Biology and theology

Awards, honors: Edward Jones Scholastic Leader award, first place in biology for WYSE, Honor Roll, National Honor Society, Illinois State Scholar

Personal statement: "Have you ever tried to put together a puzzle without looking at the picture on the box? Well, sometimes I feel like that is what high school is all about. However, I think I have begun to see the big picture and have found focus on my dreams and aspirations of combining science, faith and culture, with a healthy dose of leadership and tenacity, to become a missionary doctor."

Sponsor's endorsement: "This student is a young man I will always remember ... he stands out among the 2,400 students at one of our three high schools. He is both a mentor and model of the behavior and attitudes hoped for in students."

Collin Waldoch, Geneva High School

Hometown: Geneva

Parents: Mark and Laura Waldoch

Sponsor: Tom Rogers, principal

Class rank: 1 out of 480

GPA: 4.73 on a weighted 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 35; SAT: 2260

College: Harvard University

Planned major: Mathematics, economics

Awards, honors: First place WYSE regionals in English, All-Sectional Scholastic Bowl, co-founder of math honor society

Personal statement: "I want to start a company. I don't know what type of company, and I don't know what industry. I have no specific plans. And that's exactly how I'd like it. I want to arrive at an idea spontaneously, and pursue this idea (or product) with unparalleled zest. I want to have a clear vision of my final product, but be flexible in the process."

Sponsor's endorsement: "This student was recently described by one of his teachers as, 'one of the brightest, most insightful and hardest working students in this class. He may be the best intellect in the school.' His impressive list of academic accomplishments lends credence to that statement. He exhausted our high school math curriculum by the end of his junior year."

Caitlin Ward, Elgin Academy

Hometown: Algonquin

Parents: Andrew and Margie Ward

Sponsor: Seth Hanford, director of upper school

Class rank: Not applicable

GPA: 4.09 on a 4.0 scale

Test scores: ACT: 33

College: Emory University

Planned major: Biochemistry

Awards, honors: National Honor Society, Illinois State Scholar, AP Scholar, student council president, Cum Laude Society

Personal statement: "As of right now, my life goal is to become a doctor and volunteer significant time in other countries, utilizing my abilities to serve those in need. The only way to live my life to the best of my ability is to help others do the same."

Sponsor's endorsement: "When Caitlin visited our school in eighth grade as a prospective student, she impressed us then as a student with tremendous potential to impact our community. Currently poised to graduate first in our Class of 2011, she has not only lived up to that initial impression, she has exceeded our expectations. Perhaps the greatest testament to her impact on those around her came from one of her younger brothers, who once noted that she "is the smartest, most moral person I know."

Paul Yuan, Illinois Math and Science Academy

Hometown: Lincolnshire

Parents: Peter Yuan and Shirley Chen

Sponsor: Julia Husen, counselor

Class rank: Not applicable

GPA: IMSA does not calculate GPA

Test scores: ACT: 35; SAT: 2300

College: Harvard University

Planned major: pre-med

Awards, honors: National Merit Finalist, Illinois State Scholar, National Honor Society, Siemens competition semifinalist

Personal statement: "Ultimately, my life goal, like that of many of my peers, is to better society in any way possible. I plan to do this by pursuing career opportunities in the medical field. I choose this because it is a perfect combination of my academic and personal passions, the former of which is human cognitive function and the latter of which is helping those who are less fortunate than me. "

Sponsor's endorsement: "The high quality of Paul's research through our school's Student Inquiry and Research program last year has positioned Paul to present his findings at a few conferences such as an upcoming science fair in Japan and the American Society of Neurophysiological Monitoring spring meeting."

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