Finish line

Four years ago, the Class of 1997 entered the uncharted waters of high school.

Leaving behind juvenile artifacts such as lunch boxes and trapper keepers, these wide-eyed freshmen, learner’s permits in hand and Gap jeans dangling from their waists, stepped out of home room eager to tackle adventure ahead.

Fast forward eight semesters. The Class of 1997 is graduating, stripped of all it once held dear including morning pep rallies and forged hall passes, this giddy group of 17- and 18-year-olds is set to conquer a new frontier.

This month, The Advocate profiles eight graduating seniors from our four neighborhood high schools. Nominated by their counselors and teachers, some of these students are star athletes, others caring volunteers dedicated to improving our community.

There’s a perfectionist who scored an 800 on the math portion of her SAT and a perennial underachiever who finally decided to live up to his promising potential.

From various backgrounds, each took different paths through the adventure known as high school. The finish line is here as a whole new race awaits.

REALIZING POTENTIAL – Joseph Portera

Joseph Portera had a revelation a few years ago while tagging along behind his older sister on one of her college visits.

Inspired by what he heard from an admissions counselor, Portera realized the time had come to ditch his “under-achiever” label and realize his academic potential.

“At that point, everything snapped,” says Evan Higgon, College Placement Director at Lakehill.

“He leapt from being a little kid to a responsible young man in one afternoon.”

Portera has thrived inside and outside the classroom ever since. A skilled guitar player, Portera enjoys spending his spare time playing in a jazz/blues band. Portera’s band was one of the featured performers at a fund-raiser for Lakehill’s Calumet Coffee House, an auxiliary of the school’s Calumet Literary Magazine.

Spring afternoons find Portera smashing serves past opponents as a member of the Lakehill tennis team. Portera says he enjoys the sportsmanship associated with tennis.

“Sports are fun here and not super-competitive,” Portera says. “That’s the reason I play them.”

Portera plans to attend Colgate University and major in political science or economics.

BORN LEADER – Andrew Doyle

Teachers at Lakehill Preparatory rave about Andrew Doyle’s cool, calm and collected nature.

“He is highly respected by his classmates and by all Upper School students,” Higgon says. “Andrea is fairly quiet but has a cutting sense of humor and is extremely intelligent.”

Doyle spent his high school years ripping through books in the classroom and ripping through opposing linemen on the football field.

A two-way player, Doyle lined up at both offensive and defensive tackle for the Warriors, who posted a 9-1 record last season.

“Andrew is very dependable,” says Coach Keith Melcher. “He’s always at practice, giving it all he’s got. He never complains, he just does it.”

That type of attitude caries over to the classroom, where Doyle has been recognized as an outstanding student and a role model for younger students.

In addition to playing football and excelling in the classroom, Doyle found time to participate in a well-rounded scope of community service projects that included volunteering at the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas and Lakehill’s annual Senior Citizens’ Christmas Luncheon.

Doyle, who plans to attend either Vanderbilt or Dartmouth, says he wants to study law or engineering in college.

“Andrew is pretty gung-ho and capable of making good decisions,” math teacher Susie Shull says. “I see a lot of leadership in him.”

MAKING THE GRADE – Kelly Morgan

Kelly Morgan was branded the day she first set foot on the campus of Bryan Adams High School.

“I followed my sister here,” Morgan says. “She was a good student, and I had a lot to live up to.”

During her four years at Bryan Adams, Morgan has carved her own identity and no longer lives in the shadow of her sister, who incidentally returned to Bryan Adams this year as a substitute teacher.

As a member of P.A.L.S. (Peer Assistant Leadership), Morgan contributed countless volunteer hours mentoring young children at local elementary schools and participating in a variety of other charitable projects throughout our community.

“Last year, we had to go to the Gateway Homeless Shelter and pick a person to visit with once a week for the reminder of the school year,” says Morgan, who is considering attending Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M or Southwest Texas State.

“After awhile, I started to see her outside of school, and I still go see her. She has a hectic, horrible family life.

“But she knows she has someone out there who cares.”

SOCCER STAR – Allison Sherman

If there’s a soccer ball on the Bryan Adams practice field, you’ll find Allison Sherman somewhere nearby.

Sherman has been playing soccer since the second grade, and will continue her career this fall at West Texas A&M University.

In each of her four years at Bryan Adams, the soccer team won the district championship.

“Last year (1996), we went deep into the playoffs, further than we have gone before,” Sherman says. “It was a lot of fun going that far.”

Sherman’s accomplishments extend well beyond the soccer field. She’s a star in the classroom and active in several extra-curricular activities.

In 1995, she and 10 other students from throughout Dallas founded a community service club.

“A friend of mine’s mom is a member of the Variety Club of North Texas,” Sherman says. “They do many things that need volunteers. I helped out and got hooked, so we decided to form a junior club.

“(In two years), we have grown from 11 to 150 members.”

HOOP DREAMS – Neely Richards

Neely Richards knew she wanted a good Catholic school education, but she also wanted to play for a good basketball team. Her decision to attend Bishop Lynch High School was a perfect fit.

“When I look back, I will remember my basketball days the most,” Richards says. “Those have been the best memories, being part of three state championship teams.

“You think you’d get used to it (winning state titles), but the feeling is awesome, knowing you’re the best.”

While Bishop Lynch’s reputation weighed heavily on Richards’ decision, her Catholic faith also played a major role. A lector and eucharistic minister at her church since seventh grade, Richards places a great deal of emphasis on her religious beliefs. “I didn’t want to just go to Mass,” Richards says. “Being a minister, I get to bring the church to people.”

As an active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Richards was nominated for the Christian Athlete of the Year Award. Richards plans to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Nursing a recently torn anterior cruciate ligament, Richards hopes to elevate her basketball career to the collegiate level.

“If I’m not ready, I will redshirt,” Richards says. “I just want to be part of a team.”

HELPING OTHERS – Issac Lynch

Issac Lynch enjoys giving back to the community. As a four-year member of Zero Tolerance for Violence, Lynch and others have taken their anti-violence campaign to area schools, educating kids about violence.

“It helps me keep in touch with people in my community,” Lynch says. “I feel like I’m doing something to help people. It’s fun and nice to know that I could help.”

For his work with Zero Tolerance for Violence and many other service related activities, Lynch was named Youth Partner of the Year.

When Lynch isn’t lending a helping hand in the community, he can be found on the football field.

A member of two state championship football teams at Bishop Lynch, Lynch says his gridiron experience taught him a great deal.

“Football was always great,” Lynch says. “It really helped shape my life. I learned a lot about responsibility and leadership on the field.”

No slouch in the classroom, Lynch is ranked eighth out of 178 students, and is deciding between Austin College, Trinity and Grinnell College (Iowa).

THE COACH – Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson came back to school last September with newfound respect for his coaches.

Johnson spent his summer months coaching the swim team at Harry Stone Pool and learned “sometimes leading kids is not that easy.”

A four-year letterman on the Woodrow swim team and a lifeguard at Harry Stone, Johnson takes his swimming seriously.

“A lot of them (the swimmers he coached) looked up to me,” Johnson says. “But some kids were not there to work.”

Johnson followed his older sister into lifeguarding. She paved the way as a lifeguard at Harry Stone.

“I’ve been a swimmer since I was six,” Johnson says. “I’ve always liked the water.”

Away from the pool, Johnson can be found launching drives on the golf course or working complex math problems in preparation for the annual Mathematics Olympiad.

Bradley Sue Howell, Woodrow librarian, says Johnson’s easy-going nature makes him a great student to work with. “Every time he’s been in the library, he’s always been courteous,” Howell says. “He works hard and is always on task.”

Johnson plans to attend the University of Virginia in the fall and study engineering.

THE PERFECTIONIST – Erin Armstrong

Erin Armstrong is a self-proclaimed perfectionist. If her score on the math portion of the SAT is any indication, Armstrong doesn’t merely strive for perfection, she attains it. As one of only six students in Dallas Public Schools last year to score a perfect 800 on a section of the SAT, Armstrong ranks in elite company with the finest scholars our high schools have to offer.

“A lot of people talk about how ironic it is (that three of the six students with perfect SAT scores attend Woodrow) because Woodrow is considered a low-performing school,” says Armstrong, who plans to attend Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

She joined the math team at J.L. Long Middle School in seventh grade and has regularly tested her mathematical aptitude against others ever since.

“That’s when I fell in love with math,” Armstrong says. “I would like to be a math professor: I think that would fit who I am.”

An avid singer, Armstrong is not always immersed in solving some complex math problem. As a member of Woodrow’s show choir, the Variations, Armstrong and others put in long hours learning music and practicing routines.

“My music has grown more important to me,” Armstrong says. “That’s how I can express my artistic side. There’s a lot involved in it, and I like the challenge of working on a piece.”


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