Young Women’s Preparatory Network Announces its Valedictorians and Salutatorians

“Exceptional,” “bright” and “driven” describe the Young Women’s Preparatory Network valedictorians and salutatorians this year. YWPN supports seven all-girls public schools in Texas with private enhancements, and six of those schools just held their graduations. Grand Prairie’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy will graduate its first class in 2017.

Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (Austin):

Valedictorian: Emma Foster

College: Rice University

Emma Foster is a creative and driven young woman who is interested in architecture, engineering and design. A self-started, she launched her own business, Studio Erf, that helps teachers explain lessons with posters and launched and served as the co-editor in chief of the Polaris Press student newspaper. An accomplished student, she took many AP classes at ARS as well as drawing and engineering courses for credit at Austin Community College. She also was a cellist in the school orchestra and the Austin Youth Orchestra and received many awards related to that interest. Emma volunteered at the Laguna Gloria Art School to share her expertise in drawing and cartooning with children and developed communications materials for the Workers Defense Project.  She was president of the National Junior Honor Society and a member of the National Honor Society.

Salutatorian: Miranda Toy

College: The University of Texas at Austin

Miranda Toy has many gifts including being a talented artist, a reporter for the school newspaper, a Young Women’s Preparatory Network ambassador and a math tutor. A graduate of ARS in the Engineering Pathway, she served as a team member with the Intel Maker Challenge where she competed with adult engineers with her team’s idea to create a wearable device that aids in recovering people from potentially drowning through sending a beacon to nearby smartphones. She interned with the City of Austin Public Works Department, worked as a camp counselor for Little Stars Camp, and volunteered at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Zilker Elementary. She received an outstanding recognition in digital electronics, a superior rating at the Visual Arts Scholastic Event, and an outstanding achievement award from Commercial Real Estate Women.

Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School (Dallas):

Valedictorian: Maria Mendoza

College: University of Notre Dame

When her 7th grade science teacher handed her a scalpel and a pig’s heart to dissect, Maria nearly burst from excitement. Over the last five years, she has demonstrated that same energy with a variety of STEM endeavors. She’s worked alongside graduate students and professors at UT Southwestern through the STARS program every summer conducting research in biology, chemistry and physics. Maria complimented this program with the yearlong UT Dallas Young Women in Science and Engineering project where she worked again with an academic team from the university and other high school women on a venture the group designed. Because she is so committed to professional exploration and experiences in anticipation of a career in medicine, she completed two sessions with the Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program.  A first generation college bound student, Maria is aware of the sacrifices her parents made when they immigrated to the U.S. As a member and officer in the nationally recognized chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, she has contributed hundreds of service hours to agencies and organizations in the local community and spoken out on political, social justice issues. A varsity lacrosse player for several years, she absolutely loves the sport and being a part of a team.

Salutatorian: Rosa Mendoza

College: Dartmouth College

An accomplished scholar, servant leader, scientist, athlete and polyglot, Rosa Mendoza thrives in project-based learning and brings all that she has learned from her extensive experience with programs through UT Southwestern and UT Dallas to conversations. The past four summers, she’s worked alongside graduate students and professors conducting research in biology, chemistry and physics. She is also a veteran of the UT Dallas Young Women in Science and Engineering project, which matched her with an academic team from the university and other high school women on a group designed venture. Rosa also completed two sessions with the Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program because she is so focused on a career in the health sciences and medicine. A STEM devotee, she is determined to serve the medically underserved in the USA and abroad. After an outstanding performance in AP French Language and Culture as a junior, Rosa was initiated into the National French Honor Society. She understands that her post-secondary studies and success will impact future generations of her family and her community. She is also devoted to “paying it forward” and is a champion of diversity. An active member of the nationally recognized League of United Latin American Citizens, Rosa is a passionate spokeswoman for the organization and its mission. When our Rainbow Rangers (GSA) found its footing, she served as Treasurer. Rosa brings her trademark enthusiasm and work ethic to the Lacrosse field where she has led the charge across the field for years.

Young Women’s Leadership Academy (Fort Worth):

Valedictorian: Kennedy S. Woodard

Southern Methodist University

A driven young woman, Woodard skipped her junior year of high school so that she could graduate a year early in the first graduating class of 2016 along with her sister. According to Kendra Strange, YWLA College Bound Advisor, “Kennedy is determined, smart, hard-working and passionate, all of which have contributed to her success.” Woodard has received the President’s Award for choir, the Ann Brannon Award (mathematics and engineering) and Athletic Scholar award. In addition, she has served as cheer captain, Whiz Quiz captain and a student council representative. She plans to attend Southern Methodist University majoring in mechanical engineering.

Salutatorian: Redmond S. Wortham

College: Texas A&M University

Since 4th grade, Redmond has wanted to be judge. She always wondered what her gift or talent was, and it finally dawned on her. “I could capture a room with the tone of my voice, the strength, determination and conviction with every word that proceeded out of my mouth.” As young as three years old, she has spoken in front of audiences, and at 10 years old, she even introduced her dad at a conference. Throughout her life, Redmond utilized her talent and gift of public speaking to help be the mouthpiece and leader for many organizations. As a member of the Student Educational Advisory Council for Fort Worth ISD, she represented her school. As a Teen Court representative, she met other youth who didn’t make good choices but desired a second chance. Serving as a YWLA Student Ambassador, she gave tours to prospective students and families, the Mayor of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Rotary Club, among others. She was also tapped plenty to speak about her experiences at DFW Inc., Girls, Inc., YWLA’s school opening dedication and many other places. These experiences have developed her speaking and leadership skills. According to YWLA College Bound Advisor Kendra Strange, “She speaks with compassion, love, knowledge and authority.” Redmond has received the President’s Educational Excellence Award, Exceptional GEM Award, Service Award and Best All Around Rising Star Award. She has also taken government and economics courses at Tarrant County College for dual credit. She added,  “I have been taught to treat everyone the same no matter who they are, and being a judge will help me provide that lesson to others. My love for history and the philosophy behind politics and government will definitely keep me focused.” With those interests, she plans to major in political science.

Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy (Houston):

Valedictorian: Paige Moore

College: Smith College

According to YWCPA College Preparatory Program Specialist, Lee Canales, “Paige is the student professors want in the university setting: a challenging, intellectual force who will sit up front, eye-level, waiting to be engaged.” Her favorite subjects are math and science, and she was one of the five pioneering students to enroll in AP Computer Science, showing her  academic bravery and curiosity. Her Chemistry and Physics teacher, Dr. Sudha Raghav, remarked, “Paige..has been one of my best students in my classes. She put me in awe in one of her most successful science projects that turned out to be a research project.” Paige chose to work with Dr. William E. Cohn, cardiovascular surgeon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, to research artificial hearts, a time-consuming project that required much time and research. Paige has won several awards including National Center for Women & Information Technology National Runner-up, UIL Computer Science Finalist, Women in Science Volunteering Awards Luncheon Recognition, Merit Award: Concepts of Engineering and Technology. Her activities include National Junior Honor Society, Goodwill Industries of Houston Volunteer, VEX Robotics, First Tech Challenge, National Society of Black Engineers, EMERGE, 4-H STEM Program and Aspire IT Program. Paige added, “During my senior year, my mother lost her job, but I still remained on the honor roll.” With her interest in math and science, she plans to major in biochemistry.

Salutatorian: Yenifer Martinez

College: University of Houston

According to Yenifer, “In order for me to achieve the attribute of humbly serving others and becoming a nurse anesthesiologist, I will need to understand not only human anatomy but also the demand in hospitals: translators.” Her care, compassion and understanding of her family, including a disabled brother, her peers and her friends have shaped this young woman as begins college to study nursing and education using her bilingual abilities. She has been a member of the IPAA/PESA Petroleum Academy, a three-year program sponsored by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association, that included an externship. She has received several awards including first place in the National Seaperch Competition and second place in Houston ISD Science and Engineering Fair and YWCPA Outstanding Student. Her activities include National Honor Society, National Forensic Debate League, Eagle U Leadership Camp and Seaperch Robotics. She’s active in her church and a Leadership Board Member of Project 88. She has received the HBU Presidential Scholarship ($60,000) and the Holy Cross Scholarship ($49,800). Her hobbies are playing the piano, writing poems and music, and creating choreography.

Margaret Talkington School for Young Women Leaders (Lubbock):

Valedictorian: Emily Noelle Wade

College: Texas Tech University

Emily has earned the title of valedictorian of the Talkington School for Young Women Leaders Class of 2016 with a 4.71 weighted GPA. She is a distinguished graduate having excelled in advanced placement classes throughout high school. She is actively involved in the community as a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House and Guadalupe-Parkway Neighborhood Centers. Emily excels in choir and has earned the highest ratings in UIL Choir Solo competition for the last three years and has just completed at the state level one last time in late May. Emily is a member of the Talkington Symphony Orchestra, the UIL Ready Writing Team, and the Lady Warrior Show Choir.  The faculty selected Emily as Miss Talkington High School for 2016. She has been a member of the National Honor Society for three years and has served as President of the organization her senior year. She plans to attend the Texas Tech University Honors College in the fall to study Agricultural Communications.

Salutatorian: Keri Enos

College: The University of Texas at Austin

Keri Enos was named the 2016 Talkington School for Young Women Leaders class salutatorian after having earned a 4.61weighted GPA. Keri has displayed active participation in Academic Decathlon, Orchestra, and National Honor Society. She has competed at the state level in Orchestra for the last three years, and competed in late May. She has been named a UIL All-Region musician, and she was selected to play as a member of the Texas Tech University Tango Orchestra. She has been an A Honor Roll student throughout high school, and she has worked diligently to serve her community through various volunteer programs. Keri will attend South Plains College to complete her Associates Degree after which she plans to enroll at the University of Texas in Austin to study Aerospace Engineering.

Young Women’s Leadership Academy (San Antonio):

Valedictorian: Nadia Balderas

College: Yale University

Nadia Balderas is the first student in the network and at YWLA to be accepted to Yale University on a scholarship that will cover her tuition and expenses. When Balderas found out that she was accepted, YWLA Principal Delia McLerran texted her: “I’m so proud of you, Nadia! You have no idea what your success means for your younger sisters on campus. You’ve given them hope and true faith that anything is possible when you work hard for it.” Balderas is an accomplished young woman. She was a member of the National Hispanic Institute, which taught her the fundamentals of debating. In addition to being named a National Commended Merit Scholar—something her father credits the school for preparing her—she has participated in the Duke TIP program since 7th grade. With encouragement from McLerran, who tells her students to do something outside of school to challenge themselves, Balderas attended a summer program at Columbia University and took courses in urban planning, which is something that interests her. While there, she visited some of the Ivy League schools and liked Yale University. She received many scholarships including the Valero Alamo Bowl Scholarship, Yale Award, SAS Millennium Scholarship, Amy Blumenthal Scholarship, and the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame Scholarship.

Salutatorian: Jessica Alanis

College: Rice University

Jessica Alanis is the daughter of Ricardo and Yesenia Alanis. At a very young age, they taught her the importance of education and many accomplishments have surfaced because of this early instillment. She was an officer in the National Honor Society and in the Gamma Sigma Girls and took as many challenging courses as she could throughout high school. Graduating magna cum laude, Jessica Alanis is headed to Rice University to study environmental science. She received many prestigious scholarships and award offers including the Baumberger Endowment Scholarship, Rice Award and San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame scholarship.

About Young Women’s Preparatory Network:

Founded in 2002, the Young Women’s Preparatory Network is a nonprofit agency that partners with public school districts in Texas to operate the largest network of all-girls, public, college preparatory schools in the nation. The organization provides funding and other resources to eight Texas schools with more than 4,400 students in 6th through 12 grade. Each YWPN school features a STEM-focused curriculum and is largely attended by economically disadvantaged students. In 2015-2016, the network’s 291 graduates received offers of more than $44.1 million in academic and merit scholarships and have matriculated to 115 different colleges and universities. More information can be found at