There are many ways to define success—and just as many ways to measure it. No matter what your gauge, however, it’s obvious that these three high school students are well on their way to lives full of unique experiences and extraordinary achievements. And though their accomplishments more than speak for themselves, we also got the inside scoop on what success means to each of these rising stars.
Wayzata High School
Aneesha Ahluwalia has loved tennis since she was a kid, and though she has achieved many honors in the sport—including a Most Improved Player award and recent selection as team captain—tennis has also played an extremely important role in her career decision-making process, and not in the way you might think.
Throughout the past couple of years, Ahluwalia has become increasingly fascinated by the biological aspect of the sport; particularly that of sudden death and other little-understood cardiac anomalies in athletes. For most high school students, this interest would remain just that—an unapprised curiosity—but last year, Ahluwalia was presented with the unique opportunity to place herself at the forefront of investigations into these medical mysteries.
After qualifying for her school’s Honors Mentor Connection program, Ahluwalia researched at the Minneapolis Heart Institute’s Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center. This replaced Ahluwalia’s regular afternoon high school classes, and allowed her to explore possible career options through shadowing Dr. Barry Maron in both his clinical practice and medical research. During her time there, Ahluwalia also contributed first-hand to the compilation of research results on commotio cordis (a potentially lethal cardiac dysrhythmia), as well as the organization of national and international registries for both commotio cordis and sudden death in athletes—endeavors that will ultimately allow the scientific community to more efficiently monitor, treat and hopefully prevent these maladies in the future. She interned this summer at the Minnesota Heart Institute Foundation.
After being involved in such a spectacular experience, it’s hard to imagine having any extra time or energy left for “regular life,” much less other extracurricular activities. Despite this, Ahluwalia continues to lead her class in academics; is involved in the National Honor Society; participates on the Wayzata Math and Science Olympiad teams; and volunteers outside her school at the Maple Grove Community Hospital.
This fall, Ahluwalia will be finalizing her college applications, and is hoping to be accepted into Stanford, Harvard or Yale where she has plans to continue to pursue her interests with a concentration in pre-medicine.
Success is…“finding what you really enjoy to do and immersing yourself in it, without worrying about what you will gain or what you will win, but enjoying every opportunity for personal growth and fulfilling your potential.” –Aneesha Ahluwalia
Mound Westonka High School
Hockey players might not commonly be known for their juggling skills, but William Griffith has his down pat. Well, not literally, but his ability to manage year-round sports, an impressive academic record, and countless charitable and volunteer organizations certainly earns him an honorary nod.
In athletics alone, Griffith is quite the multi-tasker, playing starting defense in hockey, captaining the school’s state-qualifying tennis team, and serving as the starting goal-keeper and newly elected captain of the Mound Westonka soccer team. “Having that many things going on—it really forces you to learn how to manage your time,” says Griffith. And considering the nine varsity letters he has racked up so far, his tactics are obviously paying off.
Between practices and play-offs, Griffith has also continued to maintain an impressive GPA, and was recently awarded the Minnesota State High School League Distinguished Academic Achievement Award in recognition of this accomplishment.
Griffith’s outstanding scholarliness has additionally contributed to his acceptance into the National Honor Society, where he not only participates in their many volunteer projects as an active member, but also aids in designing and organizing their activities as the acting president. To date, the MWHS NHS chapter has participated in the Pennies for Patients drive, provided staffing for the outdoor ice arena, and organized a group of volunteers to rake leaves for elderly members of the community.
And Griffith’s volunteer work is not only benefiting specific demographics but the community at large, as he works with programs like the MW Youth Hockey Mite group and MWHS Link Crew program to encourage the same type of positive, philanthropic behavior in younger generations.
This coming year, Griffith hopes to continue with his AP class work, and though he hasn’t decided on a specific school as of yet, he plans to explore career options in engineering or business.
Success is… “to enjoy your life and work. In order to be successful, you should feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in your achievements, and success ultimately comes when you are happy with—and enjoy—what you are doing with your life.” –William Griffith
Minnetonka High School
In life, we’re all faced with obstacles, hardships and rejections. What sets Maria Filsinger-Interrante apart from her peers—and even many adults—is her unwillingness to settle for “no” once she’s committed to something. “I think there’s so much that people are capable of,” says Filsinger-Interrante, “they just have to push and keeping pushing and get those doors opened.”
Filsinger-Interrante’s sense of ambition and responsibility began on hobby farm in Excelsior, where she grew up caring for her family’s horses. What began as a duty, however, eventually grew into a hobby, and then a passion. Today, Filsinger-Interrante is an active member of the Pony Club, a national youth equestrian organization, where she continues to further her equine education, hone her technical riding skills and make her way through the skill-based ranks of the organization. She has also played a central role in establishing the Junior Board, a committee designed to educate and mentor the club’s incoming youth.
Her enthusiasm for sharing her knowledge and experiences has proven useful in other areas of her life as well: most notably as a volunteer at the Minnesota Zoo where she facilitates guest interactions with the animals, and as a Backpack Tutor in the St. Paul school system where she helps elementary school students with their studies.
This dedication has not gone unnoticed, as last year Filsinger-Interrante was awarded the Silver Level of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a recognition bestowed upon those who have accumulated more than 200 hours of volunteer service during a single calendar year.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Filsinger-Interrante continues to prove that she’s able to balance a hectic extracurricular life with a blossoming academic career. Currently, Filsinger-Interrante is working on preparing herself for college, and has completed more than eight Advanced Placement (AP) exams with a score of 4/5 or better, qualifying her as the youngest National AP Scholar in Minnetonka High School’s history.
Next year, Filsinger-Interrante is hoping to attend either Stanford or an Ivy League school where she plans to pursue a career in research and college-level education.
Success is... “following your dreams and ending up somewhere where you're happy, even if it's not where you were originally planning on going. It’s overcoming challenges, facing setbacks and exceeding expectations.” –Maria Filsinger-Interrante