IPS Celebrates Top Grads

Each year, Indianapolis Public Schools celebrates the top scholars in the district: our valedictorians and salutatorians. From immigrating from another country to overcoming extreme barriers, many of these students beat the odds to graduate at the top of their class for 2016-17:

Valedictorian Justin Smith is a member of the cheer squad, runs track and plays football. Justin plans to study business and psychology this fall at IUPUI.

“I don’t want to be a regular, average person. I want to be great. So, every time I think about my life, it just pushes me to go harder.”

Salutatorian Curtez Hudgins is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Government Association and plays basketball. He plans to major in social work this fall at Indiana University.

“I’m definitely excited for the new experience. I really haven’t been outside of Indianapolis in a long time. I can’t wait to leave.”


Valedictorian Annie King is active with the school’s marching band, theater department and Model United Nations Club. This fall, Annie will study environmental science at Indiana University-Bloomington.

“I’m really passionate about the well-being of the earth and I want to do what I can to help.”

Salutatorian Daniela Lopez is active on her church youth committee and nursery. She plans to major in mathematics education at Marian University.

“I want to leave a mark so large that even after I’m dead, people will still remember me with proudness because everything I did.”


Valedictorian Andres Calvillo has studied the violin since fifth grade and serves as the school’s orchestra concert master. Andres will study informatics in the School of Informatics at IUPUI where he plans to be a video game programmer.

“Video games are a very impactful interest of mine because they help me. It was a way to cope with stress.”

Salutatorian Margaret VanSchaik plays volleyball and baseball and is active in school theater. Margaret plans to pursue degrees in international studies and political science at Indiana University-Bloomington.

“I really want to go in-depth with each track and see which one really clicks with me. But, right now I’m thinking diplomacy, security and government.”


Valedictorian Kayla Hawthorne is a member of the volleyball, tennis and wrestling teams. She is also a member of the marching band and the National Honor Society. She plans to major in anthropology and agricultural communications at Purdue University.

“Playing sports and participating in extracurricular activities helped me get my grades together. They gave me a way to blow-off steam and give my best effort in class.”

Salutatorian Marlene Calderon enjoys participating in the band and the school’s Art Club. She is also a member of the National Honor Society. Marlene plans to study nursing at Ivy Tech Community College.

“My brother was born with Down Syndrome and had many complications. I want to help people going through similar situations.”


Valedictorian Taylor Shoopman is a member of the National Honor Society, volunteers at the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center and maintains a full-time job at McDonald’s. Taylor will study nursing this fall at IUPUI.

“I work a lot because I want to help my mom so she’s not ‘breaking her back’ doing something when I can easily help out. My mom appreciates it.”

Salutatorian Alexis Matthews plays softball, volleyball, basketball and soccer at her school. Alexis will continue her studies at the University of Indianapolis.

“I enjoy volunteering because it helps me stay connected with my community and helps me give back to the places that have made me the person I am.”


Valedictorian Cosmel Euceda plays soccer and football. He’s headed west to California, where he will be an automotive student at Universal Technical Institute.

“Take steps as early as you can to prepare for the future you want.”

Anissa Davis is a member of both her school and church choirs, enjoys singing, drawing and creative writing. Anissa plans to major in art at Indiana State University.

“My friends look up to me and my family is very proud of me because I am the first child to be within the top two of my class.”


Valedictorian Blessing Ajoke Olagundoye is originally from Nigeria. She plays on the school’s volleyball and tennis teams and is a member of the National Honor Society. She will study pediatric medicine at IUPUI in the fall.

“My mom was always encouraging me in Nigeria and I didn’t want to disgrace her. Life here is a lot less stressful. The teachers are so kind and I’m grateful to them.”

Salutatorian Ron Sims currently works for MorningSide of College Park, a retirement and assisted living center and is a member of the National Honor Society. Ron will study dental hygiene at IUPUI in the fall.

“My mom and dad are the two who showed me how the world works. They never forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do. They guided me to the path I’m on today.”


Valedictorian Zacharie Andre Zirnheld is a member of the school’s tennis team, robotics and board game clubs. In the fall, he will study mathematics and computer science at Purdue University. Zacharie started high school at the age of 13.

“Everyone judged me based on my stature and younger age. I was able to make sure that they knew that I was definitely not less intelligent than they were.”

Salutatorian Opeoluwa Obajolu is a native of Nigeria. She plays volleyball and tennis, and is active with Art and Spanish clubs. She will study civil engineering at Purdue University in the Fall.

“Even when you’re tired and you think you’ve had enough, push through because it will be worth it. All that hard work will pay off.”

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