Even the loftiest achievements are built day by day, and these five exceptional high school students are living proof. They deserve recognition for their multiple awards and honors, as well as for their quotidian commitment to excellence. If you ever wonder how these extraordinary students do it, here’s how—day by day.
Jacob Neis // Minnetonka High School
Jacob Neis came to Minnetonka High School to participate in the esteemed two-year intensive International Baccalaureate program. An AP Scholar with Distinction, Neis is a writer for the school newspaper, a clarinet player in the wind ensemble and the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony and most notably, a mathematics superstar who scored a 36 on his ACT.
Neis credits his astounding math abilities to early exposure. His achievements in math are as dizzying as the complicated math problems he solves. This year, Neis was one of 263 students to qualify for the two-day, nine-hour USA Mathematical Olympiad. “It means a lot to me to go to the USA Math Olympiad,” says Neis. “It’s the gold standard of math competitions, and I’ve been trying for three years.”
Neis was eligible for post-secondary enrollment at any university in the state but explains, “I didn’t want to rush. I’d rather have a great four-year high school experience and a great four-year college experience.” Neis is interested in applying to MIT, Stanford, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Northwestern and the University of Minnesota, with MIT as his first choice.
Neis’ goals for the coming year? Simply put, “I would like to complete my IB diploma and survive the college admissions process with my ego somewhat intact. And I would like to avoid senior slack for as long as possible.”
A Typical Day
I shower, eat breakfast (I never skip breakfast), listen to some music and catch up on my emails. I pack a lunch and drive myself to school.
Wind ensemble – I love to play music with people who are devoted to making something unique happen.
Theory of Knowledge – We explore how humans know and understand. I like the investigative process of history. For a short time, I thought I was going to be an archaeologist.
Spanish – There’s not any one class that I dislike!
Test day – I’ve taken more than 12 AP exams so I can bypass “101” courses in college and get to deeper levels of study.
Homework – I’m writing an extended essay for the IB program about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay by Michael Chabon.
Dinner – I eat with my two brothers, mom and dad. Afterward I play catch with my brother Alex.
Practice the clarinet – It’s really cool to play with other musicians who are equally committed.
Continue homework – Must study for exams!
Practice piano – I’d like to play music as an amateur for the rest of my life.
Bedtime – To borrow a phrase from Gary Paulsen, I read like a wolf eats. I go to sleep around 11:30 p.m.
Callie and Brenna Mack // Mound Westonka High School
Fraternal twins Callie and Brenna are much more than the sum of their parts. Accomplished athletes and scholars in their own right, together they dazzle in whatever they do, but volleyball is their true passion. It all started during a family vacation to Jamaica when some adults invited them to play beach volleyball. By age 11, the twins were playing with the Minnesota One volleyball club.
They joined the varsity team in eighth grade and have since had the pleasure of watching the high school’s volleyball program grow. The co-captains are dedicated to helping the team continue to succeed. “On the court we are better together,” says Callie. “We know each other so well that we complete each other and feed off each other’s energy.”
Both girls have signed on to play Division I volleyball at the University of Akron in Ohio. It was a tough decision, but they wanted to build a smaller program together rather than seek individual stardom at two different top 10 colleges. “It’s what we’ve always done,” says Brenna. “We go into a program and build it up. It’s more rewarding to start as the underdog.”
This year, the Macks vow to take the Mound volleyball team to state for the first time, and intend to uphold their 4.0 GPAs and their places in the National Honor Society.
A Typical Day
Brenna: I wake up first, and then I wake Callie.
Callie: I am not a morning person—I need my coffee! We share a car and drive to school together. We are each other’s best friends and worst enemies.
Strength and Conditioning – Our most interesting class, as we are the only girls!
Student Prep – We use this precious hour for homework. We can’t imagine not having that study time.
AP Calculus – Gearing up for a big test!
AP World History – We take as many AP tests as possible. It’s a great opportunity to get college credit.
Honors American Literature – Yes, we are overachievers.
Volleyball Practice – The school or club team, depending on the season.
More homework – Our parents always say, “We’ll pay you to take it easy!”
Dinner – We eat late because of our busy schedules.
Bedtime – We unwind by debriefing with our parents. The most important part of our lives is their support.
Drake Mjaanes // Wayzata High School
There’s a lot to be said for the inspirational power of community, and no one knows this better than Drake Mjaanes. A gifted athlete in both soccer and basketball, Mjaanes’ love of sports goes beyond the mere physical into the realm of human connection.
Mjaanes has been playing both basketball and soccer since the first grade. He still plays one-on-one with his first basketball coach, his uncle Robby, and his grandfather coaches him on the phone. Mjaanes’ father passed along his love of soccer. In both sports, Mjaanes emphasizes the value of relationships with his family, coaches and team members, enthusing that “the sleepovers and carb-ups are really fun.”
Honors abound for Mjaanes. He was named the freshman soccer team’s MVP and will be one of the three co-captains. And his academic achievements keep pace with athletics: Mjaanes is part of the National Honor Society and the Youth in Government program, and won the Minnesota Soccer Coaches Association award in academic excellence.
This September, Mjaanes will concentrate on making it to state finals in both soccer and basketball. He is determined to get into his school of choice and his parents’ alma mater: the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
A Typical Day
Dad wakes me with an egg sandwich; my neighbor picks me up.
Team sports – My favorite class. We play different kinds of sports, from ultimate Frisbee to floor hockey.
Concert Choir – I’m a tenor. I love the sense of community.
Lunch – I pack it myself, unless it’s Mexican day at the cafeteria!
Practice – Soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter. In the spring I lift weights with teammates.
Practice – Ninety minutes of either basketball or soccer.
Downtime – I’ll watch TV with family and be in bed by 10:30 p.m.
Allison Cornelius // Orono High School
Allison Cornelius wants to make the world a better place. She excels in the wind ensemble and in athletics, but she keeps an eye on her ultimate ambition: to become an engineer so she can help the planet.
Academic studies are Cornelius’ priority. A self-described “fan of math and science,” Cornelius values their practical application. “In engineering, you can make a difference in concrete ways,” says Cornelius. “I’m excited about making a contribution.” These days the National Honor Student is especially interested in preservation and clean energy.
Cornelius views her considerable athletic activity through the lens of life-building experience. She has lettered in both soccer and Nordic skiing, and appreciates the scope of lessons inherent in the two sports. “They’re really different,” she says. “Soccer is about working together to get a job done, while Nordic is about my personal best.”
Cornelius will occupy the first chair in wind ensemble her senior year while gunning for All Conference in Nordic skiing. Colorado School of Mines, Michigan Tech, Rensselaer, Polytech, Iowa State, Case Western University and possibly Purdue will certainly vie for Cornelius’ college choice.
A Typical Day
I like to sleep, so I don’t spend much time primping. I eat toast and sometimes eggs.
AP Calculus – A great class!
Study Hall – I do my calculus homework so I don’t have to haul the heavy textbook.
Honors German 4 – I chose German because of my heritage. We get to go to Germany for a 10-day cultural trip in the summer.
Wind Ensemble – When I was in fifth grade, I heard an amazing oboe solo at Orchestra Hall and knew I wanted to play that instrument.
AP World History
AP Literature and Composition
Homework – I stay at school to do homework with my soccer team friends. I’m in the Minnesota Soccer Coaches Association for academic excellence.
Game time – My family cheers me on.
Dinner – I eat a lot after a game! It’s important to our family to eat together.
Homework – Tons. It can take three hours to finish! When I’m stressed, I bake chocolate cookies.
Oboe practice – Usually around 10 at night. My brothers get mad!
Bedtime – I turn in whenever my homework is finished, usually around 11 p.m. I read before bed.
Where Are They Now?
Catch up with some of our former Lake Minnetonka Magazine prep all-stars.
Denise Chen is majoring in management information systems with a minor in computer science at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Kelley Chen is a student at Penn State University in the Jefferson Medical School program.
Minna Chen is studying chemical engineering with a biology minor at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Ben Kessler attends Cornell University where he studies architecture.
Natalie LeSage attends the College of St. Benedict where she is studying Spanish, education and English to speakers of another language (TESOL).
Grace Gerring is studying kinesiology and sports management at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Peter Goelz is studying political science at American University in Washington, D.C.
Raj Katti is a physics major at the California Institute of Technology and plans to pursue a graduate degree in physics with applications in biology and neuroscience.
Dayna Pitts is studying organizational and relational communication at Bethel University in Arden Hills.
Maria Filsinger-Interrante will attend Stanford University this fall and plans to major in bioengineering.
William Griffith will attend the University of St. Thomas this fall and plans to pursue a degree in engineering or business.
Aneesha Ahluwalia plans to study pre-medicine at Yale University this fall (pictured below). --Katie Rucke