Meet the Star Students

By Jen Naylor Gesick

2020 Star Students

Pictured: Photos by Cecy Ayala, photographybycecy.com and Taylor Nicole Photography, taylornicolephoto.com

Innovative. Ambitious. Generous. Underestimated. Meme-obsessed. These are just a few of the words the 2020 Star Students used when asked to describe Gen Z. They also said tech-savvy, which is why this year we asked them to share their favorite app and favorite emoji. Each of these 17 seniors is on track to graduate at the top of their respective high school classes, so we’ve collected some of their advice and study hacks as well. Find out why one student uses blue ink to take notes, how studying with friends helps another student from getting stressed out and who is the sole early bird of the group.


 

Haven Booker
Meyer High School, Rapoport Academy
Plans to attend Baylor University or Abilene Christian University

Study hacks: I use [the app] Quizlet to make flashcards, and there are different settings to use to teach you different things.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? When it comes to things in math that I just flat-out don’t understand how it’s working. Especially when I have a game or something that day as well. I play basketball and volleyball, and it just all piles up.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I would say be confident in what you are working on and make sure you do it way ahead of the deadline.
Early bird or night owl? Early bird, 10 p.m. is the latest I can stay up.
Study with friends or by yourself? By myself, just because it’s easier for me to focus.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? The bottom of the ocean to see all the different creatures that glow in the dark.
Favorite app: PUBG [PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds] video game app. I’m not even into video games, but it’s pretty addicting.
Favorite emoji: 🥴 It’s really cute and funny, and it kind of describes how I am most of the time.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Creative, brave and intelligent.


Hannah Chudej
Robinson High School
Plans to attend Baylor University

Study hacks: For me, when I study I just like to be alone and in the quiet. I also like to color code. I read somewhere if you color code notes it helps you associate it better and remember.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? It’s always been important to me to manage my time in a way so that I can enjoy things and practice self-care so that I don’t get to that point. I’ve been super stressed, but I’ve taken preemptive measures so that I don’t burn out.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: Definitely not to be so rigid and uptight about everything, like grades most importantly. It’s OK not to know everything all the time, and it’s OK to enjoy your high school experience more instead of just focusing on the grades.
Early bird or night owl? I’m definitely a night owl. I like to do a lot of work at night and I drink coffee, and I like to sleep in the mornings.
Study with friends or by yourself? I like to study by myself to focus, but there are certain situations where it’s helpful to study with others.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? The moon. I like space. I think it’d be interesting to go up there.
Favorite app: I like playing Trivia Crack. I feel like it’s kind of on par.
Favorite emoji: 🥳 I think it’s cute, and it can be used for a lot. If I’m excited, I’ll use that. But I also use it ironically, like if I’m upset about something I’ll use it, and it’s like it’ll all be OK.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Resourceful, connected, determined.


Davis Golden
China Spring High School
Plans to attend Texas A&M University

Study hacks: I wouldn’t say hacks necessarily. I’d say conceptualizing the different ideas and topics as connected ideas, like conglomerates. Instead of memorizing the individual things, think about how everything connects to each other.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? Honestly, I wouldn’t say I’ve come close to snapping. I’ve definitely become stressed over different grades and tests, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: Don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s always going to be small stuff and stressors. There’s always going to be things that get in the way, like if you make a bad grade, but don’t let that get to you.
Early bird or night owl? Definitely a night owl. I stay up way too late, and then I’m tired every morning.
Study with friends or by yourself? I would say a lot of people study with friends, but my best studying is done by myself. I like the quiet. It helps me concentrate, and I retain information a lot better that way too.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? Probably the moon. I think that’d be really cool. Under the ocean would be cool too, but I’ll go with moon.
Favorite app: Spotify. I listen to a lot of music; it’s a really good way of finding new artists.
Favorite emoji: I don’t know if I have a favorite. I’d say the most used is 😂.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Ambitious, innovative and adventurous.


Ariane Helms
Harmony School of Innovation
Plans to attend Texas A&M University, Baylor University or Rice University

Study hacks: Don’t procrastinate, at the very least. If you’re easily [distracted], doing multiple homework assignments at once because a little progress is better than no progress at all.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? There have been a lot of assignments that have been really tough. One that was exceptionally hard, I was happy my teacher decided to just make it extra credit.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I’m tempted to say it gets easier. You get into the groove of having more work and stuff, but on the other hand there’s a lot more stuff you have to learn. Just don’t procrastinate.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl probably. I tend to stay up later than I wake up.
Study with friends or by yourself? Most of the time I study by myself.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? I honestly don’t know. It’s tempting to say moon just for the pizzazz of it, but at the same time there’s nothing alive there and it’s kind of empty. But at the bottom of the ocean you could see some crazy creatures.
Favorite app: I’ve been on an older phone for a long time. It stopped running apps because I ran out of space. But I remember back in 2016 Pokémon Go was fun at its peak.
Favorite emoji: 😒 I just think it’s kind of funny sometimes. It’s as the kids say — a mood.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Tech-savvy, not 100% serious on anything, and I think we’re all tired. We should probably sleep more.


Madeline Kiss
La Vega High School
Plans to attend Texas Tech University through McLennan Community College

Study hacks: One hack I have is to study class notes right after I get them for at least 30 minutes and keep reviewing them each day for at least 10 minutes. And I also put a piece of candy between every 10 pages for reading assignments so I can reward myself.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? After I took my first exam at college dual credit with a full load and I barely passed it. I’d never failed a test before, and at that point I wanted to give up. I talked to the teacher, and she taught me a different way of studying. Since then I’ve been able to pass the class.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: To enjoy being a teen and not grow up too fast, to not stress over little things, and to create as many good memories as possible with friends.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl. I usually stay up late and study. I snooze my alarm multiple times.
Study with friends or by yourself? I prefer to study with friends. We make funny acronyms and help each other remember information in unique ways.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? Bottom of the ocean. There’s a lot that hasn’t been explored, and I feel like there are a lot of things that can be discovered, like maybe a new species or maybe something that can cure a disease.
Favorite app: I would have to say Instagram right now because of the hilarious memes.
Favorite emoji: 🎷 I’ve played saxophone since I was in sixth grade.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Generous, accepting and innovative.


Alicia Maldonado
McGregor High School
Plans to attend Texas State University

Study hacks: Basically, just don’t cram it all into one night. Study over a few days and then you can have a crash course the night before or day before you have a test.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? Probably this year. I’m taking calculus AB and BC at the same time, and the first six weeks was back to back with different events like band. We, as a class, all realized it was too much too fast. So we slowed down, and it’s been much easier.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I would tell myself to keep doing exactly what you’re doing, you’re on the right track. Just maybe stop procrastinating so much.
Early bird or night owl? I’m kind of a mixture of both. I can stay up until 1 a.m. studying, or I’ll wake up randomly. Say if I go to sleep at 9 p.m., and I’ll wake up at 4 a.m. when my mom gets home from work and do what last-minute studying I need to do before school.
Study with friends or by yourself? I’d rather study with friends because they make it easier and more memorable.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? Bottom of the ocean easily, just because of how much there is down there that we haven’t explored yet.
Favorite app: Instagram. It’s the one and only app I use to communicate with my friends.
Favorite emoji: 😅 I use it a lot.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Loud, easy-going and weird.


Noah Fau
Vanguard College Preparatory School
Plans to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Rice University

Study hacks: Always make sure you do your homework on time. In algebra II or I, I would skip my homework, and I would bomb the quiz.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? Before the summer of seventh grade, I was assigned a book, ‘The Whispering Land.’ It was the worst book I’ve ever read.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: Try as hard as you can at school. During middle school and early high school, I wasn’t totally committed to the academic process. I realized it’s better to put in the effort instead of just coasting along.
Early bird or night owl? I guess I’m more of a night owl.
Study with friends or by yourself? I definitely prefer to study with a group of friends. When I study by myself, my mind tends to wander and I will find something to distract myself. When I’m in a group, they keep me on track. I like that the environment gives it more levity. It’s harder to get extremely stressed out about an upcoming test when you’re with a group of friends.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? For me, the bottom of the ocean is more interesting. I think the deepest depths of the ocean represents the unknown, and while that could be really terrifying, I think it could be equal parts amazing.
Favorite app: Snapchat and Twitter. My friends and I use Snapchat as our main form of communication.
Favorite emoji: 💯 I guess when I say it, it means like ‘for real.’
Three words to describe Gen Z: Progressive, determined and optimistic.


Jadyn Pavlas
Bruceville-Eddy High School
Plans to attend Texas Tech University

Study hacks: Honestly, I don’t really [have any]. I typically just cram the night before so it’s fresh on my brain.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? Probably the end of the first semester of junior year. It was a mixture of in-season for basketball, I had missed a bunch of school, and taking difficult classes. I was just trying to balance my life, and it was just a rough time.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I would tell myself to not take everything so seriously. I would also tell myself to not be so hard on myself.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl.
Study with friends or by yourself? By myself. I get way too easily distracted.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? I would rather travel to the moon. I think the ocean is a very scary place.
Favorite app: Probably Twitter. You can find funny things while also there is news you can follow. I just feel like it’s the superior app. There’s a lot of information and always something to look at.
Favorite emoji: 😎 I think it’s like just ‘cool.’ I think it’s cute.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Creative, opinionated and headstrong.


Clare Pruss
Live Oak Classical School
Plans to attend Baylor University

Study hacks: Doing homework always helps. Even in math class where it doesn’t actually affect my grade.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? Just some certain classes.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I’d tell myself to practice writing more because there is a lot of writing required as you get older. I think it’s important to practice those skills.
Early bird or night owl? Neither really, I’m always pretty tired.
Study with friends or by yourself? By myself. If I’m around friends, I start chatting with them, and it’s hard to focus.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? I think I’d rather travel to the moon. I’ve always had an interest in space.
Favorite app: Pokémon Go
Favorite emoji: I don’t think I have one. I don’t really like emoji.
Three words to describe Gen Z: I don’t know much about Gen Z as a whole, but I can say about my classmates they are snarky, worried and upbeat.


Eli Ratliff
Eagle Christian Academy
Plans to attend Baylor University

Study hacks: Writing the information helps me retain it so much better than just reading. Other than that, using flashcards for memorization, and taking study breaks so I retain the information.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? The week that my dog had just died. I was really stressed out because I had a bunch of math homework due the next day. I had a friend stop by to bug me because she was bored. She was just being playful, but I almost snapped at her, but I caught myself and I didn’t.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I think I would tell myself to be patient and trust God. Remember that when I lose sight and stress out to remember God will get me where he wants me and equip me to go where he calls me.
Early bird or night owl? Definitely a night owl. I proved that last night by doing homework super late.
Study with friends or by yourself? It honestly kind of depends on what I’m studying, but I usually prefer to study on my own.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? I think I’d travel to the moon so I could get a better view of the ocean.
Favorite app: This game I always play called Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes. It has good strategy to it so you get to think of the next moves to make and that sort of thing.
Favorite emoji: 👍🏼 I use that a whole bunch.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Goofy, energetic and sweet.


Sophia Swenke
Waco High School
Plans to attend University of Texas, Southern Methodist University or Texas A&M University

Study hacks: Well the main thing I do is break up my work into groups. I have a set amount of things I have to do and I know that after I do that, I’ll be able to do something fun with my friends or family.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? I think the most is this semester. My classes have been a little bit harder and also working on my college applications for most of the semester.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I would tell myself to slow down and enjoy high school and the time with my friends and family because it’s gone by a lot quicker than I thought.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl.
Study with friends or by yourself? It depends on what I’m working on, but usually by myself.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? I guess the moon. To be completely honest, the ocean kind of scares me, but I guess I would love to see what’s outside of the earth. I spend every day here, and I’ve never been to space.
Favorite app: Spotify is the app I use the most.
Favorite emoji: 💃🏼 That’s just a fun one that my friends and I use a lot.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Innovative, inclusive and driven.


Casey Towner
Lorena High School
Plans to attend Texas A&M University

Study hacks: I guess I would say using a planner for sure helps me. I have to manage things out. I also have to study where I can get in the mood like outside or in my room with a candle going or something like that.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? It’s not related to school, but I put everyone else’s problems on myself and I want to be able to help everyone all the time while I have my own things to worry about. It’ll all get to me, and I’ll have a bit of a breakdown sometimes.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I would say to get involved and try new things as soon as possible. I didn’t get out of my comfort zone my freshman year, but my sophomore and junior year I joined the drumline and PALS program, and that’s where I really made true friends.
Early bird or night owl? Definitely a night owl, but I wish I was an early bird.
Study with friends or by yourself? I’d say by myself because if I’m with my friends I’ll get distracted and not get anything done.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? To the moon. I really like stargazing, so that’d be really cool.
Favorite app: I guess either Snapchat or Amazon, because I have an addiction to Amazon Prime. I like buying stuff on there because there’s always good deals and it comes the next day.
Favorite emoji: 🥰
Three words to describe Gen Z: Creative, sarcastic and aware.


Bryce Tonkin
Reicher Catholic High School
Plans to attend University of Texas

Study hacks: I talk to the teachers and go in for tutoring. And the night before the test I read the chapter again as I go to bed, so I think about it when I’m sleeping.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? I was at the academic state meet trying to study for the social studies competition, and I had tests for my dual credit classes in the morning. It was really stressful, but I got runner-up in social studies at the state meet and did well on both my tests.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: Sleep. Go to bed before 2 a.m.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl, for sure.
Study with friends or by yourself? I like both because with friends you can learn from each other and talk about stuff, but I feel it’s best to end a study session by yourself so you really get to soak up the information.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? Bottom of the ocean because it’s right there, and it’s still so unexplored. It’s crazy. I feel like we should learn everything we can about the earth before we go check out everything else.
Favorite app: Probably Snapchat because it’s easy to connect with people and talk to people real quick.
Favorite emoji: 🤷🏼‍♂️ It’s my most used. I feel like it’s a pretty good indicator of how I generally respond, like kinda laid back and try not to stress out.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Ambitious, optimistic and underestimated.


Amilia Warkentine
Midway High School
Plans to attend Rice University

Study hacks: I always use a planner to keep track of tests and other assignments.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? Probably a time in middle school when I had homework for the first time and poor time management skills.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I would tell myself to stop stressing out so much.
Early bird or night owl? I am more of a night owl.
Study with friends or by yourself? I would rather study by myself because it’s easier to focus.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? I would rather travel to the moon because the trip would be the ultimate roller coaster.
Favorite app: My favorite app is Google.
Favorite emoji: 🤡 Because my Abuelita uses it all the time without rhyme or reason. It makes me laugh every time it happens.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Tech-savvy, socially conscious and meme-obsessed.


Anne Williams
Crawford High School
Plans to attend Texas A&M University

Study hacks: Yes, I like to use flashcards and always try to rewrite study guides or vocabulary. I read somewhere if you write with blue ink, it helps you retain the information, so that’s what I try to write with.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? Honestly, I tend to stress out quite easily, multiple incidences come to mind, but one specifically. The spring season is very stressful for me because of extracurricular activities — tennis, track — and one day every one of my sports and social activities had something going on, but it all worked out in the end.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I would tell myself to focus on prioritizing my schedule and doing [important] things first.
Early bird or night owl? At this point I’m a bit of both. I typically stay up pretty late studying homework or just watching Netflix, and then I wake up early to go to practices.
Study with friends or by yourself? Study alone because I find that I’m more productive and focused.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? To the moon. The bottom of the ocean seems terrifying to me, and I think I’d just rather go to the moon.
Favorite app: Snapchat because it allows me to communicate with my friends more directly. It’s like texting, but not as official.
Favorite emoji: 🤷🏼‍♀️ I don’t know why; I just use that a lot.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Multitasking, technologically advanced and independent.


Katlynn Wright
Parkview Christian Academy
Plans to attend Baylor University

Study hacks: Notecards. They are like my best friend. I probably went through a couple thousand since freshman year.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? The third paper I had to write for English 1301 at MCC. It was a hard paper.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: That grades really do matter, and it’s best not to think ‘It’s only freshman year’ because your grades will always come back to you. Also, to not take the people who have made a huge impact on my life for granted
Early bird or night owl? Night owl. I work best late at night when its quiet
Study with friends or by yourself? I’ve learned to study by myself better because I’ve learned there are a lot less distractions and I can get things done faster.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? Definitely to the moon because I’m scared of sharks and feel like it would be awesome to float in midair.
Favorite app: Amazon because I can shop for clothes, and I get my study packets and class books on there as well.
Favorite emoji: 😄 Because even though we go through a lot sometimes, we have to learn to laugh and not take things so seriously.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Ambitious, inventive and entitled.


Destiny Wilkerson
Connally High School
Plans to attend University of Texas

Study hacks: I wouldn’t say hacks, it’s more about prioritizing your time in your classes. If you know when a test or quiz is approaching, you can study little by little instead of trying to cram the day before.
Closest you’ve come to snapping? I participate in a lot of activities, and I think I’ve come close to snapping at my friends and my teachers when I’m feeling overwhelmed trying to get everything done and when a deadline is approaching.
Advice you’d give yourself as a freshman: I would say it’s OK not to be perfect, it’s OK to miss a day of school, and most importantly to live by your standards and not the standards others put onto you.
Early bird or night owl? It depends on the circumstance, however I pull a lot of all-nighters so probably a night owl.
Study with friends or by yourself? I would rather study by myself because if I study with friends probably not much stuff is going to get done.
Would you rather travel to the moon or the bottom of the ocean? Recently in class we watched the movie ‘Hidden Figures,’ so I’d probably say to the moon because one of the astronauts made a comment about the view, so I’d like to see it for myself.
Favorite app: Pinterest because of the wide variety of content.
Favorite emoji: 🤷‍♀️ Because sometimes you just don’t know the answer.
Three words to describe Gen Z: Motivated, diverse and competitive.

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