Meet the Star Students

By Emily Ober, Chris Klimkowski and Katelyn Patterson

2023 Star Students

Pictured: Photos by Breanne Johnson, breannejohnsonphotography.com

We talked to 18 local students who have shown what it means to be a star student. The top students of 2023 share their weird study habits which helped them get through high school and their tips for incoming freshman. They also know how to give themselves downtime at their favorite hangout and with their favorite show or book. Read which teacher inspired them on their journey so far and what they’re most excited for as they prepare for the next chapter in their lives.


Allie Schneider

Bosqueville High School
Hoping to attend Texas A&M University or Baylor University

Tips for incoming freshman Stay on top of grades so you’re not having to worry about your grades later.

My weird study habit I like to study with my friends.

My favorite teacher Mrs. Jones. She cares about her students, she likes to get to know them and likes to know what’s going on in their lives. She’s always there for you when you need her.

Introvert or extrovert Introvert.

Favorite book, podcast or show There’s so many. I like thriller books.

What I’m most looking forward to about college Meeting new people and getting to figure out living more independently, I guess.


Victoria Ledesma-Amaro

La Vega High School
Hoping to attend Texas State University

Tips for incoming freshman Stay focused on what you want and don’t let anything distract you. At the end of the day it’s about you and what you want to make yourself happy. Anything is possible as long as you try.

My weird study habit I like to write down flashcards and read them to myself and question myself. Ones I don’t understand, I write on a whiteboard, cover it and try again. When I know it, I erase it.

My favorite teacher Coach Jackson. She always inspired me and always made sure I understood everything. She went over everything slowly and always encouraged me. She’s such a positive person.

Favorite hangout I mostly stay at home but I like going downtown and riding the scooters and exploring the area.

Introvert or extrovert I’m a little of both but more of an extrovert.

Favorite book, podcast or show The new show on Netflix, “Wednesday.”

What I’m most looking forward to about college Exploring more. You can have more of a network and be more involved and know more people.


Grace Doolittle

Live Oak Classical School
Still deciding

Tips for incoming freshman Plan out your assignments and look at what it is that you have going on, especially when there’s big things happening.

My weird study habit Especially around finals season, I get out this whiteboard. I take one subject and I just start writing everything I remember down and repeat and repeat and write and draw arrows. I’m a very visual learner.

My favorite teacher Mrs. Pitts, my biology teacher. I’ve had her for many years. She has many sound effects to keep the class awake when we’re deep into studying photosynthesis or something like that. She’s such a fun person, and a huge role model and advisor. She cares about the person more than the student. It’ll be really hard to leave her next year.

Favorite hangout Woodway Park or Cameron Park when it’s nice outside. I love being by the water and bringing friends and just having a picnic, reading books or playing music.

Introvert or extrovert An extrovert, but I need alone time to be able to recharge.

Favorite book, podcast or show Most recently, the thing that’s brought me the most joy is [watching] “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” with my family. It’s a sweet place that I look forward to all day.

What I’m most looking forward to about college I want to study business. I want to train and equip women in the developing world, with business skills so they’re able to support themselves in something they love. Waco is awesome, but I’m excited to see what else, who else is out there.


Ezekiel “Zeke” Ryan Borland

China Spring High School
Hoping to attend Texas A&M University or Texas Tech University

Tips for incoming freshman Use your time at school efficiently. The things I really enjoy doing are things I should only do at home. Get stuff done now so you can enjoy things later without any guilt on your mind.

My weird study habit I use the ensemble rooms. I can only really get stuff done at school. I have a very distinct memory of studying and hearing the choir sing “Old Dan Tucker” in the background while I worked.

My favorite teacher Mrs. Conner, my theatre director. I never thought I would be particularly good at drama and acting, but with her I felt comfortable. She doesn’t just tell you what to do, she asks you what you think you should do.

Favorite hangout The ensemble room and concert closet that me and some of my band friends would hang out in before band rehearsals. Other than that, the Brazos trail.

Introvert or extrovert I used to say I was an introvert, but then around middle school, I met some people who took me in and ever since then, I started considering myself much more of an extrovert.

Favorite book, podcast or show “Fire Force” was an anime one of my friends recommended me.

What I’m most looking forward to about college I’m excited for learning how my knowledge will be applied to the thing I want to do. I think I’m going to study engineering, so I’m looking forward to learning how to apply engineering knowledge.


Kennon McNew

Robinson High School
Plans to attend University of Texas

Tips for incoming freshman Minimize distractions and focus on not procrastinating, however that works for you. Make a list or chart of what you need to get done.

My weird study habit Not weird to me, but other people may find it weird. I have to isolate myself because I’m easily distracted.

My favorite teacher I’ve had a lot of great teachers so it’s hard to choose. Mrs. Godfrey was my kindergarten teacher and she’s a great person. She’s done a lot for my family.

Favorite hangout I’m usually studying or doing homework so I really like Dichotomy or Common Grounds. It’s a peaceful place to get work done and minimize distractions.

Introvert or extrovert I grew up as an introvert but I’ve recently become more extroverted. I still lean more to introvert though.

Favorite book, podcast or show I like watching sports but prefer to be outdoors.

What I’m most looking forward to about college I’ve loved Waco and Robinson. I loved growing up here, it’s such a cool area. But I’m looking forward to seeing what the world has to offer. Making new friends and seeing the world.


Vania Gonzalez

University High School
Hoping to attend University of Texas or Rice University

Tips for incoming freshman Join clubs and focus on building connections with other students.

My weird study habit I’m overly organized and always in a routine, and I need to learn life isn’t always like that. So, I have this really huge planner and an online schedule.

My favorite teacher My favorite teacher is Mrs. Gunn. She’s my child development teacher. She’s been very supportive and having that as a class is really important to the students. It also ties into my future psychology major.

Favorite hangout Besides home, I really like going to Cha Community. It was one of the first places I tried almond milk, and having it with strawberries and boba is really good.

Introvert or extrovert Definitely an introvert. I thought I was an ambivert at some point, but a bunch of personality quizzes has disapproved that.

Favorite book, podcast or show My favorite book would be “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body and the Healing of Trauma.” It’s by Bessel van der Kolk. It goes into the psychology of different people going through trauma, and how we can come to terms and cope with it.

What I’m most looking forward to about college I really want to flourish in a new city. While Waco is blooming with opportunities, I think I’d like to meet new people. It’d be a big step for my future.


Kaylee George

McGregor High School
Plans to attend Tarleton State University

Tips for incoming freshman Just be yourself and don’t be scared of all the Seniors cause they’re really not that scary. It won’t be as bad as you think.

My weird study habit I wouldn’t say it’s a weird study habit, but I really like to watch Disney while I’m studying, just hear something while I’m looking over a review. I feel like it helps me for the test, it’s just my zone of comfort.

My favorite teacher Coach Bowling cause he’s so funny. He always talks about football and all the sports. He really prepares us for the AP tests.

Favorite hangout My favorite hangout would be the Coffee Shop (Café) in our town (McGregor). I like to study there. It’s really cute and has good coffee so that’s a plus. I can really focus in on what I have to do there.

Introvert or extrovert I’m an introverted extrovert. I’m extroverted with my friends but introverted around other people, so that’s why I call myself an introverted extrovert.

Favorite book, podcast or show “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka.

What I’m most looking forward to about college Meeting new people, experience more of a social environment, since I’m so busy with extracurricular activities. Also, joining a sorority. They look so fun.


Thomas Warkentine

Midway High School
Plans to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tips for incoming freshman To really focus on what works for you. No one ever teaches you how to study so the most important thing to do when you reach high school is to figure out how you study best.

My weird study habit A lot of cramming is what really works for me. A lot of practice problems and vocabulary studying the night before so it’s fresh in my head.

My favorite teacher Mr. Evans, my physics teacher. This is my third year in a row having a class with him. He has a chaotic sense of humor so there’s never a dull moment. Even though it’s a difficult class, he teaches in a way you can understand.

Introvert or extrovert I would most certainly call myself an introvert.

Favorite book, podcast or show “The Complete Cthulhu Mythos Tales” by H.P. Lovecraft.

What I’m most looking forward to about college Research opportunities where I can explore a field or subject I want to in a lot more depth than I do in high school.


Paige Badinger

Bishop Louis Reicher
Plans to attend Baylor University

Tips for incoming freshman Pay attention but have fun while you’re doing it. Your work definitely matters, but enjoy time with your friends.

My weird study habit I like to study early, just a little bit here and there to make sure I understand the basic information.

My favorite teacher I would say Mrs. Clapp because she was my chemistry teacher. She inspired me to go into the field of chemistry and pursue research.

Favorite hangout I would have to say my dance studio, “All That Jazz.”

Introvert or extrovert I would say a bit of both. I tend to lean towards the introvert side around new people, but I’m definitely an extrovert around my friends.

Favorite book, podcast or show My favorite book is “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.

What I’m most looking forward to about college The new environment, meeting new people and the awesome research opportunities at Baylor.


Tyler Black

Waco High School
Hoping to attend Texas A&M University

Tips for incoming freshman Just find a way to balance your work and time outside of school with friends. That’s what got me at first, but once I figured that out, school was way easier than I thought it’d be.

My weird study habit I usually just eat a lot when I study.

My favorite teacher This year, my favorite teacher is Mrs. Giddings, my English teacher. Before, English was always my worst subject. I didn’t understand writing, but Mrs. Giddings really helped me and made English my best subject.

Introvert or extrovert Probably an extrovert.

Favorite book, podcast or show “The Office”

What I’m most looking forward to about college Just meeting new people, experiencing new relationships. Kinda just living on my own and taking on that responsibility.


Sierra Veracruz

Meyer High School, Rapoport Academy
Hoping to attend University of North Texas

Tips for incoming freshman Do your best and do your work. Don’t worry.

My weird study habit I don’t like to listen to music. It has to be quiet.

My favorite teacher My Spanish teacher, Mrs. Palaez. I’ve taken her class for the past three years and have learned so much from her.

Favorite hangout Somewhere to get tea or boba, like Cha Community.

Introvert or extrovert Introvert.

Favorite book, podcast or show “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo

What I’m most looking forward to about college I’m looking forward to studying the things I’m interested in.


Trey Watson

Crawford High School
Plans to attend Texas A&M University, Mays Business School

Tips for incoming freshman When you get to high school, the biggest thing is to get out of the 8th grader mindset. In order to be successful and achieve your goals, you’re going to have to study a lot and sacrifice some things. Look at the long term. You might have to sacrifice now but at the end of the day, it’s really going to benefit you. You have to exercise a lot of maturity.

My weird study habit When I have free time, I take glances at my notes. I don’t really sit down and study, I just use whatever free time I have to look over my notes.

My favorite teacher My Spanish teacher, Coach Ely. I’m not super interested in Spanish, but I took the Spanish 3 elective cause it’s a fun class. I always have fun and laugh in that class.

Introvert or extrovert Extrovert. I love public speaking. Whenever there’s a presentation in front of class, I love that.

Favorite book, podcast or show “The Joe Rogan Experience.” He has such a volume and wide variety of people. I can choose whenever I want to learn about a topic. Also, it has a casual vibe.

What I’m most looking forward to about college The networking. College is a new start so I want to start networking right away. Especially with a business degree, I want to meet people right away and learn as much as I can.


Hannah Moffett

Bruceville-Eddy High School
Hoping to attend University of Mary-Hardin Baylor

Tips for incoming freshman Just do your work.

My weird study habit I have to make a drink. Tea, coffee or Italian soda. Some sort of fun drink.

My favorite teacher My Sophomore and Junior English teacher, Ms. Morgan. She’s really strict and hard but I like having a set of rules to follow and to know the expectations. She was also my One Act Play director and I like to perform.

Favorite hangout I like to eat with friends at Union Hall and study at Fabled.

Introvert or extrovert Introvert.

Favorite book, podcast or show The “Percy Jackson” series.

What I’m most looking forward to about college The change of pace. High school is long and you’re at school all the time. In college, you go to class, get your homework and you’re done. At college, it’s not so rigorous. I’m also excited for more personalized classes.


Sophia Serr

Vanguard College Preparatory School
Hoping to attend Rice University

Tips for incoming freshman Be ready for it to get harder as you progress in your education. Nail down good study habits. Going to bed on time, making sure you get enough sleep and learning how to manage your time are all important, I think.

My weird study habit I don’t know how weird this is, but I can really only study effectively in my room. I know a lot of people like to go to coffee shops and stuff, but I can never focus when there’s a bunch of people around.

My favorite teacher My favorite teacher is Dr. Allman. I’ve had her since freshman year, and we just get along so well.

Introvert or extrovert I think I’m an introvert.

Favorite book, podcast or show I have a bunch of books, so it’s hard to say which one my favorite is. But my favorite show is “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.”

What I’m most looking forward to about college I think I’m looking forward to some new experiences. It’s kind of scary, but also, it’s obviously something that has to happen. I don’t know, I guess growing up.


Marissa Zechmann

Lorena High School
Plans to attend Baylor University

Tips for incoming freshman Not to stress too much about it. It may seem like a big deal, going to high school but it’s just a new building. Also, to try anything you want to. You don’t want to look back and have regrets. There are so many opportunities in high school so try whatever you want to.

My weird study habit Listening to brown noise. It sounds like you’re on a road trip, driving in a car. It calms my brain and helps me focus.

My favorite teacher Mrs. Beheler, my Drill Team director. I’ve been on the team for four years. She’s my mentor and has helped me grow as a dancer and leader.

Favorite hangout Probably the Marketplace or the Richland Mall. There’s a lot of shops and food places. You can meet your friends and eat or go shopping.

Introvert or extrovert I would say introvert, but I’m very outgoing. My downtime is still very much needed. I do like going out with my friends and meeting people, talking to people.

Favorite book, podcast or show “Manifest” on Netflix. I like the mystery part of it, and it’s interesting to learn what happened to them when they were gone. I guess the mystery of it all is what I like most.

What I’m most looking forward to about college Meeting new people. I love all my friends in high school, but I’m excited for new friends from different backgrounds and countries. Also learning. I want to go into public policy, learning what we can do to help the environment. I also like the government, so I’m excited to learn the behind the scenes.


Te’Asmine Carey

Connally High School
Plans to attend Texas A&M University

Tips for incoming freshman Don’t be afraid to fail. When I was a freshman, I failed a lot. I was a star student so I thought too highly of myself, but when I failed, I got really depressed. It’s okay to fail and make mistakes. It’s a new environment, so they have to learn.

My weird study habit I always have to study on the floor. I can’t sit at a desk or on my bed, always the floor. When I’m on the floor, I feel like I can’t get distracted.

My favorite teacher Ms. Munson. My dance teacher and mentor for everything. She’s my favorite because I know I can talk to her about anything. She always has a listening ear and never judges. And she’s really bright and bubbly. I just love her personality.

Favorite hangout The movies. I like Cinemark. They got me hooked on their seats.

Introvert or extrovert Extrovert. I do a lot of stuff. I’m in a lot of organizations, I like going out with friends. I do love to stay at home, but sometimes you need that social recharge.

Favorite book, podcast or show “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I also love the movie.

What I’m most looking forward to about college To find my independence and find what I want to do in the world. In high school, it’s all thrown at you but in college, you can choose what you want to do, what you want to put the effort in. Also to figure out who I am as an adult and individual where I make my own decisions.


Ethan Morgan

Eagle Christian Academy
Hoping to attend Baylor University

Tips for incoming freshman Make sure that you don’t procrastinate. Do what you don’t want to do now so you can do what you want to do later. Stay on top of things.

My weird study habit I guess I’ll start then stop halfway through to do something completely unrelated then continue later.

My favorite teacher Mrs. Suggs. She’s so kind and gives me advice on a lot of stuff. She’s always there if I need something or need to vent.

Favorite hangout Either Chipotle or Slow Rise. I’ll probably say Chipotle. All my senior friends go there for lunch a lot.

Introvert or extrovert Definitely introverted but I’m not opposed to meeting new people. I’m more extroverted among my friends, if that makes sense.

Favorite book, podcast or show “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan Peterson.

What I’m most looking forward to about college Meeting new people and learning more.


Katie Tate

Parkview Christian Academy
Hoping to attend McLennan Community College then transfer to Texas Tech University

Tips for incoming freshman Don’t be scared to be you. Make friends, but focus on your schoolwork.

My weird study habit My biggest study habit would be note cards and just taking notes as I go through my workbooks.

My favorite teacher Mrs. Bell. She is very encouraging. She makes us laugh, but she also makes sure that we’re learning what we need to know.

Introvert or extrovert I would say more of an introvert until I get to know people.

Favorite book, podcast or show My favorite books are the “Harry Potter” books.

What I’m most looking forward to about college Just new friends and new experiences.