In a world where it seems everyone is busy all the time, the high schoolers you know are probably busiest of all. Between class time, sports, volunteering, after-school activities and part-time jobs, it’s a wonder these students make it through the day. But most amazing of all? Between the scheduled activities, they still have time to pursue some “secret” passions their BFFs may not even know about. Here are some of the achievements of the lake area’s best and brightest, along with a special hidden talent.
It seems like the days of achieving Eagle Scout status as a symbol of manhood have become passé. Brett Kleist is a throwback in that sense. Heading into his senior year, Brett points to his Eagle Scout status as his greatest accomplishment to date. He achieved the honor last winter after leading a volunteer project with the city of Minnetonka Natural Resources Department to protect native plants from invasive species.
In addition to being an Eagle Scout, Brett is accomplished academically. He scored a 2350 (out of 2400) on his SAT, and took six advanced placement tests his junior year. He began taking AP classes as a sophomore, and found the transition from standard classes difficult. “AP classes really are on a whole other level, and I wasn’t prepared for that,” Brett says. “But I acclimated quickly with the help of the teachers, and I really appreciate their support.”
Brett takes part in the backpack tutoring program, through which Minnetonka students go to a Minneapolis elementary school to help kids who are struggling in school. He also writes for the school newspaper, plays recreation league baseball and is a member of the National Honor Society.
As he enters his final year of school, he’s looking forward to applying to colleges and is hoping to pursue a degree in the social sciences—either economics or business.
Hidden Talent: Avid Reader
“I really enjoy literature,” Brett says. “During the summer I try to get into a few good books, and I’m not sure people know that about me.” He isn’t going for easy reading, either. Two of his favorite books are The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Meghan Janssen credits her high school success to those around her. She is a bona fide track star, holding the school record in the 4x800 relay, along with three other teammates. “Winning that was pretty awesome because we worked so hard and pushed each other every day and it finally paid off,” she says. At the time of the race, she and her teammates knew they had done well, but didn’t realize how well until after the race ended.
On top of holding the relay record, Meghan has lettered all three years she’s participated in track, and has been named to the all-conference and all-state teams. Her track team also won the state tournament her sophomore year.
Track being her spring sport, Meghan also runs cross country in the fall and takes part in Nordic skiing in the winter. She has been named captain for each of those teams for her senior year, and has lettered in each of those sports as well.
It’s easy to get caught up in her athletic success, but Meghan is far more than just an athlete. She is a member of the National Honor Society, and she gets even more pride out of the success in the classroom than she does in sports. “My biggest accomplishment is pushing myself to get good grades and work hard at school overall,” she says.
Meghan also volunteers with her dad’s second grade class at Burroughs Elementary School in Minneapolis, Tour de Tonka and the Excelsior Running Club at Excelsior Elementary School.
“There are definitely times where it is overwhelming,” she says. “There are times where it will be a late night and you just have to power through or wake up early and finish homework or studying, but you love everything you do so you just make it all work.”
Hidden Talent: Cooking
Meghan loves to cook. She loves making soups, but her specialty is making cheddar biscuits, which is something that very few people know about her.
Once you find out about Kelvin Loke’s academic achievements, it’s not hard to see why he wants to go into neuroscience. Or why he’s almost sure to rock it.
Kelvin took five AP classes his junior year, and that doesn’t include taking part in the Talented Youth math program at the University of Minnesota. The program is essentially for the elite of the elite math students, and is the equivalent of calculus III. Yes, three.
By taking so many AP classes, and passing the tests with a 4 or higher (on a scale of 0 to 5), Kelvin was awarded the AP Scholar with Distinction honor, although he downplays the significance. “It’s an accomplishment, but it is just a side effect of working hard,” Kelvin says.
With all the academic success, it’s hard to believe that Kelvin is proudest of an achievement outside the classroom. However, he scored an internship at the Minneapolis VA Hospital this summer, where he studied neuroscience and took the first step to achieving his career goals. “I want to go into neuroscience because I am fascinated with academics, but I also want to solve problems and make this world a better place—a little safer,” he says.
With all that, it is hard to imagine Kelvin has time for anything else, but he also volunteers at a hospital and plays flute in the school band. He’s played for eight years, and enjoys that it gives him down time from academics, while still pushing him to be productive.
Hidden Talent: Black Belt in Kung Fu
Kelvin can not only beat you up mentally, but physically as well. He achieved black belt status in kung fu after six years of training. Kung fu is similar to karate, but with more fluidity to the movements.
“I think my greatest accomplishment is just that I’ve been consistent,” senior Erin McGinnis says. “That has gotten to me where I am today. I have great friends and I am doing well.”
This is probably the most grounded answer you’ll ever hear from a high school student about their accomplishments. It’s also a good representation of what keeps Erin on track as she works her way through a busy high school schedule.
Erin is an International Baccalaureate diploma candidate, which is basically like being in AP classes on steroids. The two-year program delves deeper into subjects than AP classes do, and is driven by writing and understanding topics in depth instead of being built around multiple-choice tests. “AP can teach a course, but in IB you really have to know it,” she says. “They call the IB program ‘the IB cult’ because we have to be so focused.”
Once they have completed the program, the candidates receive an IB diploma. At MHS, about 50 students end up receiving the diploma, out of 100 who start in the program.
Beyond being an IB student, Erin also plays lacrosse and volunteers through the National Honor Society. She also started a charity golf tournament four years ago with her brother called Golf Fore Good. The event raises money for the Nash Avery Foundation for muscular dystrophy research.
Erin’s experiences in high school are preparing her for college, and she hopes to study neuroscience, either at the University of Wisconsin or somewhere on the East Coast.
Hidden Talent: Art
“I’m really artistic and paint a lot, which most people don’t know,” Erin says. She can also read almost any book in about two hours, a skill that comes in handy when she is studying for all her tests.