TIPsters of Note 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

Duke TIP’s students (or "TIPsters," as we call them) defy the stereotypes about academically talented youth. Some excel at science, math, and language. Others are remarkably talented when it comes to art, theater, dance, and music. Many are also star athletes, and some have already emerged as community service leaders changing the world for the better.

Here are just a few of the many TIPsters currently enrolled in a TIP program and their recent achievements—but we consider every TIPster a superstar with the potential to do great things with their talent:

Rohan Rajeev


Congratulations to TIPster Rohan Rajeev, a 14 year-old eighth grader from Edmond, Oklahoma, who beat out a coast-to-coast field of fierce contenders to claim second place in the 2017 National Spelling Bee.

Makayla Key

Makayla Key of North Carolina was named a Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholar and recently received a Congressional Commendation from Congresswoman Alma Adams for her outstanding community service efforts. She was also awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama for completing more than 120 hours of service to her community within one school year.

Christian Childers of North Carolina won the state championship for gymnastics multiple times for multiple events, including floor and vault. He also received the North Carolina State Academic Award for men’s gymnastics multiple times for his excellence in the classroom while training at a high level.

Kenneth Xu of North Carolina is the founder and executive president of the Student Environmental Education Coalition, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental literacy through unique educational programs, environmental service projects that engage underprivileged youth in STEM, and conferences held for young adults to explore different careers in environmental science. He also recently created and directed a free student-led environmental summer camp for elementary school children.

July Morgan Guess of Kentucky and her mother started the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation, which has raised nearly $100,000 to date for antibullying education and awareness. In addition, Morgan testified before the Kentucky legislature three times and has coordinated events like the annual Paducah

Zach Wiens

Zach Wiens of Kansas won the Alicia Jo Pippin Distinguished Student Award, an annual scholarship award given out each year by the Kansas Association for the Gifted, Talented, and Creative. It is given to a student who has been nominated by teachers for high academic performance, leadership, and character. Zach served as student body president of his high school, captained his basketball team, and played trombone in the Kansas Music Educators Association District Honor Band and State Honor Band. Zach also studied music theory and composition—he even taught and directed a fifth grade band as they performed one of his pieces. He plans to continue participating in band during college and dreams of working as a mission controller at NASA.  

June Sophie Edwards of Georgia is a youth advocate for No Kid Hungry and the founder of her own campaign, the Square Meal Project. Earlier this year, she met with Jim McGovern, a US Representative from Massachusetts and the ranking member of the subcommittee on nutrition. McGovern was so impressed by Sophie that he delivered a speech to the House of Representatives honoring her, saying, “I’m inspired by her commitment, compassion, and drive to end hunger. Sophie teaches us all that you’re never too young to make a difference. I have no doubt that Sophie will continue to do great things to end hunger now.”

Anja Trierweiler of Alabama won Best of Photography (middle school) at the Alabama State Council on the Arts’ Visual Arts Achievement Program for her photograph "Dying Flora." Three other photographs of hers were awarded Gold Keys by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards this year, and another received a Silver Key in Digital Art.

Kyna McGill of Texas has garnered attention for her ongoing entrepreneurial and technological success. In 2014, Kyna was a finalist in the Grow Your Own Business Challenge for an app she created to help design and build crafts. She was able to present her idea to Warren Buffet himself. Kyna was back in the competition the following year with two new projects—one as a team member and one as a mentor—and both were selected as semifinalists. In addition, she has attended the Texas state-level competition for Lego Robotics for three years in a row, winning team awards for innovation and robot performance.

Michael Templeton of South Carolina won the bronze medal at the Prudential Spirit of Community Service Awards for the work he has done helping run the K4Kids Charity,

Andrew Natter

Andrew Natter of Georgia was one of six sixteen-year-old junior counselors selected from around the world to attend a four-week international peace camp last summer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The program was hosted by CISV International, a volunteer organization whose mission is to educate and inspire action for a more just and peaceful world.

Nicole Lambert of Florida was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award in recognition of her work with the AYSO VIP soccer program, which pairs children with special needs with teenage volunteers to provide one-on-one soccer instruction, teamwork, and social interaction with peers.

Jake Jarrett of Tennessee was cast as the character Chuck in the ongoing TV series Gumshoe Lane, about Chuck and Juniper, who run the Gumshoe Lane Detective Agency, and all the adventures they encounter.

Evan Anderson of Texas attended the VEX Robotics World Championship four years in a row, winning North Texas State Championships two years in a row and placing eighth in the world for robot skills.

Jaden T. Waz of Florida was chosen to perform with the Broadway cast of Chicago for their anniversary show in New York City. He also appears as Brian Cranston’s son in The Infiltrator.

Will Lourcey of Texas is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Friends Reaching Our Goals, Inc. or FROGS, which has provided over five hundred thousand meals for the hungry and which works to empower, inspire, and mobilize youth to take action in communities. Will was recently recognized as the Jefferson Awards Foundation Lead360 winner, and FROGs was featured on Nickelodeon’s HALO Effect.

Samuel Pereles

Samuel Pereles of Virginia won the National Junior Beta Spelling Competition, was the Virginia State Junior Beta Spelling Champion, and came in eleventh in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Henry Long of North Carolina won the North Carolina Youth Conservationist Award for two endeavors: a research project on Eastern box turtles for the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, and analyzing waste stream data for his school.

Tenley Soergel achieved First Class Honors in Level 6 piano performance in the Royal Conservatory of Music Performance Assessment Program.

Santiago Gutierrez of Texas acted as student leader in a community improvement group sponsored by the city of San Antonio. Under his direction, the group proposed the construction of a new sidewalk to the city council, winning its approval. Santiago then spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony when the sidewalk was unveiled.

Carlos Del Angel Aguilar of Texas won a Platinum Medal in the American Association of Teachers of French’s Le Grand Concours (the National French Contest), the highest award possible.

Valerie Kitchell

Valerie Kitchell of North Carolina won first place in the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics State Mathematics Fair in the middle school division (grades six to eight) in both 2015 and 2016.

Vivek Beeram of Texas received a gold level Presidential Volunteer Award for his contributions to the San Antonio community. Every month Vivek gets to work with a great volunteer team that shares the same goal: “We Help, We Learn, We Lead.”

James Hirsch of Missouri was chosen as one of ten members from across the country for the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council.

Nicholas McIntosh of Texas won gold in the National Spanish Exam Level 1, as well as the school, regional, and district levels for National History Day contests.

Kendahl Ross of Texas was recognized by the Texas House of Representatives for academics and athletics and was named a Class Act student-athlete by CW39 News.

Mary “Michaela” Scott of Missouri was crowned Miss Teen of Missouri, a scholarship and recognition pageant, and represented her state at the Miss Teen of America pageant.

Sofia Tomov

August Sofia Tomov of Tennessee was one of ten finalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for a project that uses computer algorithms to try to discover who might suffer problematic side effects from new medications. Her work has received coverage in Business Insider and the Knoxville News Sentinel

Marleigh Purgar-McDonald of North Carolina was named best young actress at the Triangle Theatre Awards, placed first in the Scrambler regional competition at the NC Science Olympiad, and achieved second place in Mission Possible at the NC Science Olympiad State competition.

Lawson Brinkley of Georgia won first place in the Georgia Council of Teachers of English Young Authors Contest for his story “The Journey of a Sea Turtle.”

Connie Deng of Texas won a Gold Key for Excellence in novel writing at the 2016 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Caden Kile of Texas won a medal for his 3D sculpture at the annual state Visual Art Scholastic Event.

Hangyul Lyna Kim of California won first place in the extemporaneous speaking event at the National Speech and Debate Association in Dallas, Texas.

Grace Monteith of North Carolina won first place in two events at the North Carolina Technology Student Association (TSA) competition and competed in five events at the national 2016 TSA competition in Nashville, Tennessee.

Amari Holmes

Amari Holmes of Georgia won the 2016 Oratorical Contest (middle school division), hosted by the Alpha Leadership Program for Higher Achievement.

Destiny Sarno of North Carolina earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award and North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service with the American Red Cross.

Helen Stephens of Georgia placed first in bouldering, sport climbing, and speed climbing in the USA Climbing Southeast Regional Championships.

Landry Wells of Tennessee placed second in the Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association’s state cross country meet.

Daniel Kulti of Texas was named regional winner of the Kohl’s Kids Who Care Scholarship for work on antibullying programs. Daniel also works as an actor and is a member of the SEA LIFE Young Environmentalist program.

Do you know any TIPsters in seventh grade or above with outstanding state or national achievements? Submit their information to us and they may be recognized here or in an upcoming student publication.