1Sahanya Bhaktaram

Casady School
Will attend Vanderbilt University

Intended major: Communications. By getting this degree, I would have an avenue to pursue either public relations or journalism, both of which I am interested in.

Biggest influences: My parents. My dad instilled in me the value of hard work and my mom has taught me to put my plans into action. I was never the most confident person in the classroom or socially, but they made sure that I never let that hold me back.

Biggest achievement: Learning how to advocate for myself and develop a strong sense of self.

I would trade places for one day with: Karlie Kloss. She took a break from being one of the highest-paid models in the fashion industry to pursue higher education, and then decided to return to her career on her own terms.

Best character traits: My childlike optimism, the beauty I see in vulnerability, fascination with self improvement and the ability to see every situation as a learning opportunity.

Most surprising personal detail: As a child, I actually did not like school. I never considered myself intelligent and did not know what my talents were. I still don’t really know what they are. Most of the time, I just pretend to be the person I want to be and hope I can pull it off.

2Alexis Horacio Cisneros

Classen School of Advanced Studies
Will attend Southern Methodist University

Intended major: Finance. At 16, I developed a fascination with the financial markets with the rise of Bitcoin, although I now have a Warren Buffet- and Charlie Munger-like stance towards cryptocurrency.

Biggest influences: My mom and dad. My parents migrated from Mexico to a foreign country they had never visited … a foreign country where the common language spoken made very little sense. Despite such difficulties, they worked hard to build a successful new life in America. They took a calculated risk that paid off.

Career interests: I plan to enter the financial industry, either by working as an investment banker, equity research analyst … or any job position I can obtain. Eventually, I would like to enter the political world, which stems from wanting to better the quality of life of those who find themselves in unfavorable circumstances.

I would trade places for one day with: Ray Dalio. It would be fascinating to be in the shoes of the man who founded Bridgewater, one of the most successful hedge funds of all time.

Most surprising personal detail: I like to play the guitar, which propelled me to help start a small mariachi band during my junior year.

3Tao Zhu

Oklahoma School
of Science and Math
Will attend Princeton University

Biggest influences: My parents are hard-working immigrants who have taught me countless life lessons and set a positive example for me … and taught me a lot of the math and chemistry that I know. My sister’s also been a big influence.

Biggest achievement: Winning the Dorothy Dodd Humanities Prize at OSSM. It’s ironic – my most valued achievement is winning the prize for top humanities student at a STEM-focused school.

I would trade places for one day with: The president of the United States. I’ve always wondered what being able to terrify the world with a single tweet is like. But more importantly, I would be bringing an important political figure to Oklahoma. Our state gets little attention from influential politicians, and making the president stay a day in Oklahoma would allow Oklahomans to have their concerns and opinions considered.

Noteworthy experiences: I’m pretty well-traveled. I’ve been to China, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain.

Most surprising personal detail: I’m an avid sneaker collector. I know an absurd amount about sneaker technologies, sneaker history and even smells of new sneakers. My dream job would definitely be at Nike.

4Joyce Tullis

Oklahoma Christian School
Will attend Brown University

Intended major: Linguistics. During my junior and senior years, I had the incredible opportunity to volunteer at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital through their Volume summer program and teen board. The program sparked my interest in speech pathology/linguistics and the people that I met throughout the program truly changed my life.

Biggest influence: My mom. At a very young age, she and her family immigrated to the United States, and I am eternally grateful for all the sacrifices she has made for me.

Biggest achievement: Serving as the philanthropy week chairman and leading my school in raising over $46,000 for the Anna’s House Foundation. Being philanthropy week chairman involved lots of planning, dedication and hard work, but it was such an incredible experience that helped me learn and grow as a leader while also getting the opportunity to serve my community.

I would trade places for one day with: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her contribution to women’s rights, and to human rights in general, have been an incredible inspiration to me and have encouraged me to fight for the rights of others.

5Caroline McKee

Metro Christian Academy
Will attend University of Oklahoma

Intended major: Architectural design. I have always been fascinated by the structures of interesting buildings in the world, and I also got to witness my grandfather’s passion for architecture as I was growing up. 

Biggest achievement: Learning to let go and not allow stress or pressure from the world to control my thoughts. I used to become easily overwhelmed by how well I performed athletically or academically, but through high school I slowly began to understand that none of that defines me and there really is no need to let it dictate my life.

I would trade places for one day with: The queen of England … because who wouldn’t want to be queen for a day?

The next two decades: In 10 years, I’d like to be living in a bigger city, maybe New York City or Chicago, and be part of an architectural firm. In 20 years, I’d like to be a partner of that firm.

Best character traits: I am capable of looking at the big picture, and studying and working hard when I need to so that I can find success later in life. I also have an appreciation for art and the beauty around me, so I try to soak in my surroundings.

6James Puls

Riverfield Country Day School
Will attend U.S. Military Academy

Intended majors: History and military science. The history of West Point starts during the Revolutionary War and the academy was founded in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson. It is where our nation’s most famous generals got their start, including Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton. There is an entire floor of the library at West Point dedicated to military history. I may not even make a dent in it, but I’m going to try.

Biggest achievement: Being offered and accepting an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. It was a difficult application process that took daily attention for four or five months. It was well worth the effort as it taught me about my greatest strengths and weaknesses.

Career interests? I plan to serve in the military and pursue a Ph.D. and teach or work for a museum … maybe both.

Most surprising personal detail: I am kind of well known for being a fossil hunter and collector in the region. Actually, my room is kind of a museum, and Oklahoma Magazine interviewed me last year for an article on fossil collecting.

7Julian Zanders

Cascia Hall Preparatory School
Will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Intended major: Computer engineering. Even as a toddler, I was drawn to technology and electronics. My decision to pursue computer engineering came about largely because of … vintage Super Nintendo games like Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country.

Biggest influences: My parents. They made sure to raise me in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, the source of my skills, talents and every blessing in my life. My father has taught me by example what it means to be a good father. My mother has demonstrated a number of wonderful character traits, from kindness and compassion to an enviable degree of patience.

Biggest achievement: Being selected by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 161 of this year’s Presidential Scholars. I try to work hard and give my best effort in big things and little things alike.

Most surprising personal detail: People have a tendency to view me as an academic, so they may be surprised to learn that I am a blue belt in the martial art of Brazilian jiujitsu.

8Alina Wilson

Heritage Hall
Will attend Stanford University

Intended majors: Biology and political science. I’ve been captivated by science since I was in lower school. In contrast, I developed a genuine interest for politics and public policy during my Advanced Placement Government and Politics class and while on the Oklahoma City Youth Council.

Biggest achievement: The impact I have had on my community. Throughout high school, I’ve endeavored to help others, whether by co-founding the Adopt-a-Grandparent Service Organization or by cleaning tables in the high school cafeteria.

Career interests: I would like to become a doctor to use my love of science to help people. I also hope to be involved in politics in some manner to help make and change laws to better reflect the needs of people.

Best character trait: Technology seems to have allowed society to shift away from honest conversation in many ways. Even so, I value talking to people and hearing their stories. Only by listening to others’ stories and attempting to truly understand each other can we begin to address the issues plaguing our society.

Most surprising personal detail: Last summer, I backpacked across Spain with friends and family. We walked 120 kilometers of El Camino, a Catholic pilgrimage. My mom and I plan to hike St. Cuthbert’s Way, a Scottish trek, sometime soon.

9Zaira Paredes

Edison Preparatory High School
Will attend Cornell University

Intended majors: Applied economics and management with a concentration on marketing. [For years] I asked myself, “What is grabbing the attention of consumers?” I still continue to see the world in this way, and the innovation that comes with marketing is something that always captivated me.

Biggest achievement: Getting into the college of my dreams. I am extremely humbled to be a part of Cornell’s Class of 2023.

I would trade places for one day with: Jeff Bezos. I’d like to see what it’s like to be one of the world’s top entrepreneurs and how the Amazon corporation works.

Best character trait: Many students my age are shocked by the way I think and act. I have always been told I’m extremely open-minded and mature. Inclusion is one of my biggest things, whether I am working on a group project or helping out with my parents’ business. I always make sure everyone has the opportunity to show and use their talents.

Most surprising personal details: My first language is Spanish and I speak it fluently. I have been helping with the accounting of my parents’ business since age 11.

10Lily Tennekoon

Jenks High School
Will attend University of
California, Berkeley

Intended major: Public health on a pre-med track with double minors in global poverty and Chinese. I have always been passionate about medicine, but after participating in medical summer programs through Duke and Yale, I learned of the public health issues going on around the world and decided I want to help groups of people who do not have the same resources and access to proper health care as we do.

Biggest achievement: Volunteering nearly 600 hours throughout my time in high school. I was able to participate in a wonderful organization, Key Club, for four years where my love for volunteering flourished.

I would trade places for one day with: Michelle Obama. Not only was she influential during her time as first lady, but she continues to be an outspoken role model for women of color.

The next two decades: In 10 years, I will be working with Doctors Without Borders helping those in need. In 20 years, I hope to still be practicing medicine, but I would like to be working on health-care policy and reform, too.

Most surprising personal detail: I love concerts, specifically heavy metal and rock.

11Eric J. Gold

Holland Hall
Will attend Texas Tech University
Intended major: Economics.

Biggest influences: My parents, brother and grandparents have been an invaluably omnipresent and inexhaustible supply of support, counsel, and joy.

Career interests: I’d like an intelligence and national security policy planning role in the National Security Council, Department of State or Defense, or the intelligence community. Outside of government work, I would like to study constitutional law and practice contract and corporate law.

The next two decades: Hopefully, I’ll be working for the Egypt desk of the Department of State in 10 years, and then perhaps the youngest-ever under-secretary of state for political affairs in 20 years.

Most surprising personal details: I play and watch ice hockey, love cooking (and food in general), trap shooting, architecture and art. I enjoy watching The Grand Tour, Frasier, Corner Gas, and Yes, Minister, and I’m a die-hard Penn State Nittany Lions and New York Rangers fan.

12Jacob Drumright

Booker T. Washington High School
Will attend
Oklahoma State University

Intended major: Aerospace engineering. Aviation and space travel are fields I’ve always found interest in and … becoming increasingly important to society.

Biggest influence: Apart from my family, my biggest influence in life has been Lady Gaga. While I do enjoy STEM-related topics, I also have a deep love for the arts and like expressing my creative side. Lady Gaga exposed me to the beauties and joys of self-expression and assured me, from a young age, that my identity was not only OK but something to be celebrated.

Career interests: I hope to explore a career that combines my love for science and technology with my passion for art, such as a design engineer.

I would trade places for one day with: An astronaut on the International Space Station, so I could experience space and see Earth from orbit … without having to go through all the training of becoming an astronaut.

Best character traits: I have a very wide range of interests, which has given me an affinity for learning that allows me to be able to connect with almost anyone on at least one subject.

13Sabrina Lopez

Bishop McGuinness
Catholic High School
Will attend University of
Southern California

Intended major: I plan on pursuing a career in medicine, and my major next year will be human biology.

Biggest influence: My dance coach, Allison High. She has taught me so much about what it means to be a leader, a passionate dancer and an understanding person.

Biggest achievement: Receiving a presidential scholarship from the University of Southern California. I was so nervous about just getting into the university; I never thought I would receive any kind of award. 

I would trade places for one day with: My 2-year-old brother, Louie. His days consist of lots of swimming, napping, watching movies, eating and being doted on by every adult who finds him adorable. Sounds like a fun day to me.

Best character traits: A teacher once said that I always give 100% in everything I do. Whether it’s dancing, studying, working in student council or volunteering, I can’t imagine not putting all of my energy into what I am passionate about.

Most surprising personal detail: I have a tradition of mismatching my socks. It definitely started from my lack of effort to find pairs in my sock drawer, but now it has become a token of my personality. 

14Juan Pablo Cardenas

Union High School
Will attend
University of Pennsylvania

Intended majors: Finance and international studies. I’ve always been interested in international issues and economics, especially in my home region of South America. I thought combining both fields would give me a good understanding of the region politically and economically.

Biggest achievement: Being one of the 45 people accepted to the Huntsman Program at UPenn.

I would trade places for one day with: A member from La Doce, the fan group for the Argentinian soccer club Boca Juniors. I’m fascinated by fan culture in South America, and with Boca having the most hard-core fans in the world, I’d love to experience being in the stands as a local.

The next two decades: In 10 years, I see myself graduating with my Master of Business Administration and working as a partner for a consulting company in Brazil or Argentina. In 20 years, I see myself being the mayor of Bogota, Colombia’s capital.

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