Every year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution honors local high school seniors nominated by their schools for outstanding achievement, character, leadership or community involvement.
The annual AJC Cup awards serve as a public recognition of the students’ accomplishments both online and in print.
Several of this year’s recipients are slated to start the next chapter at an Ivy League school.
While some students are still deciding, here’s a list of award winners who have told us of their Ivy plans:
Randolph Mcleod Buckham-White, The Lovett School
Buckham-White will be bringing his musical and acting talents to New York City this fall. The Lovett Singers performer also played football, participated in track and field and served as a student peer leader.
Melissa Juarez, Collins Hill High School
Juarez was heavily involved in her community during high school, particularly while she served as president of HoPe, which helped increase educational attainment among Hispanic youth. "Education is the key to unleashing our potential and breaking stereotypes,” says Juarez.
Clark Peoples, North Atlanta High School
Peoples served as student body president, captain of the mock trial team and cofounder and president of the North Atlanta Student Political Association. During her high school career, she also participated in the coveted Governors Honors Program and was a delegate with the United States Senate Youth Program.
Jarah Karynn Cotton, McEachern High School
Cotton, who is beloved by faculty and staff for her work ethic and enviable character, was a student athlete during her time at McEachern. She also served as vice president of the debate team and as a Georgia Student Ambassador. A true team player, Cotton loves to say, “You can't only consider yourself when you're working alongside others on a team.”
Erika Bailey Smith, Dunwoody High School
Smith served as former co-captain of varsity basketball cheerleading and vice president of student government during her time at Dunwoody High School. She was also president of the BETA club and co-president of Ladies of Distinction. Her favorite personal quote: “Lift others as you climb.”
Yewande Sofola, The Galloway School
A social justice leader and music enthusiast, Sofola spent much of her high school career empowering minorities, raising money for the treatment of obstetric fistula and performing with the Galloway School’s dance ensemble and orchestra.
William Ellsworth, Walton High School
Ellsworth has many accolades and accomplishments to his name, including national finalist for the USA Biology Olympiad and second-place winner in the University of Toronto International Biology Competition. During his time at Walton, Ellsworth also served as class treasurer and class president and studied with the MIT Research Science Institute. In addition to conducting award-winning Parkinson’s research, Ellsworth hilariously officiated the wedding between his former teacher and former principal. His favorite personal quote is a nod to that special occasion: “I now pronounce you man and wife.”
Nazjaa Hughson, Charles R. Drew Charter School
Hughson’s nominator called her “the very definition of a renaissance woman.” During her time at Charles R. Drew, Hughson served in leadership roles for the student government association, math honors society and was president of the CIEE Global Navigator, which makes study abroad opportunities more accessible to students.
Yannie Tan, Atlanta International School
On top of running cross country and track, Tan founded two organizations during her high school career: the Atlanta International School student culture committee and a program called Astutia, which offers statewide competitions designed to encourage young women to enter STEAM fields. Tan is also known for her musical talents. During high school, she performed piano all over the globe, including with the Kostroma Symphony in Moscow, Russia, which aired on NPR and on PBS. As a sophomore, Tan became the youngest Georgian to achieve a distinctive award from the Royal School of Music in England.
University of Pennsylvania
Robert Ruppel, Alpharetta High School
Ruppel embodies all that is school spirit and leadership “with poise and confidence,” according to his nominees. During his time at Alpharetta High, Ruppel served as student council president and captain of the varsity football and track teams. He was also part of the National English Society and the Young Men’s Service League.
"Both my intellectual and athletic experiences at Alpharetta have lead me to develop a passion for new and challenging opportunities,” he said. “The personal improvement inspired by these opportunities has lead me to develop strong passions and pursue them to the point of excellence.”
Isabella Capri Hay, Marist School
Voted Marist’s best all-around senior by faculty, Hay is no stranger to top-notch accolades. She earned valedictorian during her time at the school and served as senior class co-president, peer leader, retreat leader and Eucharistic Minister. Hay was also a student athlete and played both tennis and basketball.
Jesse Chen, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
Student body president Chen “approaches the world with integrity, kindness, and fun,” according to GSMST faculty. During high school, Chen was senior editor of the school’s yearbook committee, served on the executive committee for International Night, was a member of the Scholar’s Bowl Varsity team and participated in Model U.N. “No matter where I go or what I do, no matter how many times I can’t quite get things right, I will always learn and grow. Therefore, I’ll always end up better than I was,” he said.
Medad Lytton, Atlanta Jewish Academy
Before graduating, Lytton served as president of student council, editor of the Atlanta Jewish Academy publication, played baseball and even performed with the Georgia State University jazz ensemble. He was valedictorian of his class and, according to faculty, is an “amazing all-around student” dedicated to academics, service and religious learning.
Tyler Justin Elam, Chattahoochee High School (Princeton, Georgia Tech, UGA and more)
Elam hasn’t made his pick just yet, but the student athlete has plenty of schools to choose from, including Princeton. Known for his “warm and gentle” nature, Elam was recognized as a student leader and even coached the junior cross country team at Chattahoochee High.
Donovan Warwick Pearce, Whitefield Academy (Harvard, Princeton or Rice)
Pearce graduated with the highest GPA ever recorded at Whitefield Academy, where he played trumpet with his school’s highly selective jazz band. The golf connoisseur also served as a peer tutor for math, science and Spanish for middle school students during his time at Whitefield.
“I am motivated to get the most out of my learning and do my best in my assignments and activities,” he said. “I enjoy serving others and using my gifts to help them achieve their goals and overcome obstacles. I want to be able to make a difference in the lives of others and show kindness and patience to those who benefit from my help.”
Gabriela Maduro Salvarrey, Peachtree Ridge High School (Harvard or Yale)
Salvarrey is known to “live her life to help others,” according to her school counselor. During her time at Peachtree Ridge, she served in leadership roles for multiple organizations and was selected as winner of the principal’s award this year.
Congrats to all!
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