By Paul Keily
High school is a time where anything can seem possible, and many young people begin paths toward amazing lives. In this issue we introduce you to 10 teenagers, all attending schools in Prince William County and Manassas, who are on their way to becoming extraordinary adults.
Tatayana Allen is an academically talented senior at Forest Park High School. She is a member of the Molly Gill Chapter of the National Honor Society and the Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society. A four-time academic honors student, Allen maintains a 4.1 GPA. She has earned varsity letters in marching band and tennis and won the 2015 IT Student of the Year for Graphic Arts Award.
As a member of Girl Scout Troop 495, she participated in various service projects, inspiring young people to read with the Summer Reading Program at Prince William County Public Libraries, and helping to encourage academic success and involvement through artistic expression. Allen is an oboist and introduces children in the community to musical performance through the Annual Forest Park High School Tiny Tot Concert and the Arlington County Foster Care and Adoption Annual Holiday Party. In 2015 she represented Prince William County at the National Council on Youth Leadership in St. Louis, Missouri.
Allen will attend the University of Virginia this fall. She plans to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in pre-health. Family friend Denita Fairley says, “Tatayana leads by example and places value on helping others reach their potential. She is an active member of the community and has been recognized at various levels for her academic excellence.”
Cecilia Armoh is a senior at Osbourn High School where she is a member of a number of national honor societies. She has held positions in many clubs, including lead chair for the Student Superintendent Advisory Board, director’s board for the Interact Club, treasurer for the Key Club, pep rally/ homecoming chair for the Student Council Association, and leader of The Black Experience. She also plays on the girls’ varsity lacrosse team. She has one letter for lacrosse and two for academics.
Aubrie Sawyer, Cecilia’s lacrosse coach, said, “She is truly an extraordinary young woman. I am consistently impressed and amazed by how Cecilia is able to juggle so much and continue to be extremely successful.”
Christina Bagnati: This March, as a part of Woodbridge Senior High School’s Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Program, Christina Banati represented her school’s engineering department in Washington, D.C. Under her leadership a three-person team presented the project, which was a prototype for a device that would prevent a car from shifting into gear before engaging the seat belt, to Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who tested the prototype and spoke to the group about the importance of seatbelt safety.
Bagnati participates in community service through the Advanced Placement Scholars Program, National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society. As a junior, she served as the historian for the Norsemen Charity Club. She has also earned varsity letters for participation in her school’s crew team. She maintains a 4.432 GPA and is expected to graduate in the top 2 percent of her class with an Advanced Diploma and a Project Lead the Way Engineering Certificate. She plans to attend Purdue University this fall and enroll in its engineering program.
After she volunteered last summer at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, her supervisor, Captain Verdal-Baron of the United States Navy, wrote, “Christina Bagnati is an absolute superstar. It’s obvious that Christina is extremely bright, articulate and dedicated to excellence.”
When asked about her drive Bagnati said, “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to grow up in and around the military and have tremendous admiration for those who selflessly defend our freedom. I have also been mentored by many professional teachers in Prince William County. My passion to work hard and aid others is a direct reflection of their influence on me to think big.”
Jazmine Beatty is a senior at Woodbridge Senior High School where she participates in different student organizations and is in the top 5 percent of her senior class. She is a member of several academic honor and service societies. She is active in sports as the team manager of the freshman volleyball team. In the community she mentors at Antietam and Old Bridge Elementary Schools. She works an exchange student mentor and tutor through USA Connection. At St. Michael’s Church, she is also a religious and spiritual co-teacher.
Beatty started a local chapter of the UN Girl Group program at her school where she mentored more than 50 teen girls from 2013-2016. At Antietam Elementary, she organized and conducts a bi-weekly mentoring program for 5th grade girls to help them prepare for middle school.
Outside of her work in education, Beatty works on a number of community-driven projects. Some highlights include organizing and conducting a baby supply drive and holiday party for pregnant teens in the Washington, D.C. Healthy Babies Project and spearheading a prom dress drive and fashion show to provide free dresses for economically-challenged young ladies in the metropolitan area.
Jazmine’s mother, Felicia Tavares, wrote, “Jazmine has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours toward a better social justice environment by helping those less fortunate than her through her clothing and food drives, mentoring and tutoring students, fitness support projects and beautification arts projects for her school and her community.”
Rachel Hong is a senior at Battlefield High School where she is accomplished in academics, athletics and community service. She is a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and the National French Honor Society. She has been on the Principal’s Honor Roll since she was a freshman and is part of Prince William County’s Gifted Education Program. She has won several academic awards, including the National Merit Commended Student Award, an AP Scholar Award and an Academic Letter Award.
Hong plays volleyball both inside and outside of school. As part of the team at Battlefield, she won three awards: the varsity volleyball MVP, the varsity volleyball coach’s award and the junior varsity volleyball MVP. She served as the captain of the junior varsity team and co-captain of the varsity team. Outside of school she was the captain of the Virginia Juniors Volleyball Club Team and a member of the United States of America Nationals Team, the Amateur Athletic Union Nationals Team and the AllTournament Team at Hokie Super Regionals.
She has helped the community through National Honor Society tutoring and as part of the Key Club. Hong is also active in her church where she was a vacation bible school leader for two years, part of the Joshua Generation Welcoming Committee and an AWANA Leader since 2013. Hong’s home life has impacted on how she sees the world.
Hong said, “I have grown up in a house where anger, fighting and misunderstanding are a part of my everyday life. Living in this environment has taught me that words can be very hurtful and inspired me to show kindness and compassion to my peers and community.”
Gregory (Greg) Klatt is at the top of his class in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at Stonewall Jackson High School with a GPA of 4.43. Klatt is a leader in many other respects. He is the president of his school’s National Honor and Math Honor Societies, the vice president/co-founder of the Engineering Club, the captain of the cross-country team and a supervisor at his job at Splashdown Water Park. Klatt is entering his eleventh year as a referee for the NVSC Soccer League. He plans on studying engineering and computer science at Virginia Tech this fall.
Klatt also pursues a number of volunteer activities. He prepared survival kits for the homeless in the Manassas area. He also volunteers with SERVE and works with his church to help feed the homeless. Klatt is a Boy Scout and earned his Eagle Scout Rank Award in 2015.
According to Klatt’s teacher Kristin Mackert, “Greg is one of the top math students I have ever taught. His extraordinary academic talents are tempered with his compassion and the leadership he offers the other students at SJHS and in our community.”
Matt Ratchford is a senior at Osbourn Park High School where he is captain of the varsity tennis team and an AP Scholar. Ratchford is also a peer mentor and tutor for at-risk middle school students in the area.
This year Ratchford was elected to chair his school’s National High School Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Fundraiser. He oversaw and organized the fundraising activities, which included a 5K run, online donations, a talent show, a dodge ball tournament, a carnation sale, door-todoor donations and restaurant discount nights. These events raised $30, 658 in one month.
Ratchford’s leadership teacher, Robert Watters, had high praise for his leadership ability: “Matthew is the most effective leader that I have taught. His intelligence in using the appropriate style or strategy, his resourcefulness in finding innovative ways to achieve his goals and his ability to work with a multitude of different types of people are unparalleled.”
And if he wasn’t busy enough, Ratchford also maintains a job at Nathan’s Dairy Bar. He has been accepted to the University of Virginia and plans to study business and economics.
Jean Recklau Since she first started elementary school 13 years ago, Jean Recklau has been serving the community as a Girl Scout. As a teen, she has worked with her troop to host ACTS Homeless Shelter meals, father/daughter dances and mother/daughter teas. In 2012, she earned the Girl Scout Silver Award for hosting a kindergarten round up that helped pre-k students prepare for kindergarten.
At Potomac Senior High School, Recklau maintains a rigorous academic schedule as a part of the Cambridge Program. She has been on the academic honor roll since her freshman year. She is a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society (where she was the secretary), and she is the current President of the Student Council Association. Through these positions she has sought to increase awareness of cultural diversity by hosting international nights at her high school.
Her guidance counselor, Mark Williams, praised her work: “Jean’s positive, can-do attitude is infectious, and her leadership qualities and participation have resulted in successful school and community events. She is positive and upbeat, genuine, dependable, adaptable and always willing to help students, teachers and staff in academics and events.”
MacKenzie Reynolds is a senior at Patriot High School. According to Angel Knowlton, MacKenzie’s neighbor, “MacKenzie is a great role model for her friends, family, neighbors and people of all ages.”
Reynolds has shown her care for the community for years. Since 2009, she has tutored many students of all grade levels. She is currently a volunteer/teaching assistant at T. Clay Wood Elementary School in Nokesville, Bristow Run Elementary School in Bristow and Patriot High School in Nokesville where she maintains a 4.4 GPA. Reynolds was also a Patriot High School Sinfonia Orchestra representative. She represented the 70 students of the orchestra and coordinated its volunteer activities and lettering requirements.
Outside of school, Reynolds has volunteered with the Haymarket Regional Food Pantry since 2011. She helped the founders develop and organize their computer system for coordinating volunteers. Reynolds also works at Tropical Smoothie and frequently babysits. Knowlton concluded, “Her aspirations are to become a doctor, specifically a pediatrician, so she can give back to society and do something good in life. I have no doubt she will succeed in whatever path she takes.”
Nancy Zhou is a senior at Gar-Field High School. Zhou was born in Watertown, New York to Chinese immigrants and is multilingual. She grew up speaking Mandarin and English. An avid learner of languages, she takes Spanish in school and is also learning French, German and Italian online.
Zhou’s zeal for languages carries over into her commitment to her studies, leadership and community service. She is the president of the Student Council Association. As student council president, she helped organize the collection of Thanksgiving baskets and Christmas presents for underprivileged community members. On a global scale, she coordinated a book drive for Ghanaian libraries. Zhou is also a peer for Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and is helping to decrease bullying in her school. Zhou is also the vice president of the SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) club where she tutors students and raises money for the ACTS food pantry.
When she isn’t busy with these activities, Zhou is the midfielder and captain for Gar-Field’s lacrosse team. On weekends, she receives firefighting training at the Public Safety Academy.
According to Zhou’s mother Valerie Belmonte, “Nancy is a very hard worker. After lacrosse practices, she works at her father’s restaurant most days. Despite how tired she can be, Nancy never complains about balancing her school life with her work life.”
Zhou had her eyes set on the future when she said, “I am also in an eager pursuit to create something meaningful for myself, something that will provide me endless possibilities and happiness.”
Paul Keily ([email protected]) recently served as Prince William Living’s online submissions manager and is an educator in the county.