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Shooting for the Stars

These 15 star students go above and beyond in their academic studies in order to create a shining future for themselves.

Even as impressive as the works of Benjamin Franklin, Nicholas Tesla, Albert Einstein and the like are, the world’s brightest minds may not have even emerged yet. Today’s access to technology and a wealth of information available with the touch of a button is unprecedented and sets the stage for a very exciting time in the fields of academia and innovation.

Today, it’s all too easy to take for granted the access to schooling that we have in America. As such, it takes a truly humble and dedicated individual to understand the privilege of obtaining an education and not squandering it—to not only attend school, but also fervently seek out knowledge.

These Central Florida youngsters are prime examples of what it means to be a star student. In addition to their commitment to rigorous academic studies, they are compassionate leaders among their peers and active members of their community. Many have won awards, a few have authored books or taken to an instrument, but they all have one thing in common: a thirst for knowledge and the tenacity to chase after it.


Isabella Delbakhsh
Lake Highland Preparatory School

This senior is looking forward to attending Stanford University in the fall. A student at Lake Highland since pre-K, Delbakhsh has pursued her interests in math, Latin, medicine and women’s rights. She is the president of the Latin and Pre-Med clubs as well as a leadership volunteer for the local nonprofit Orlando Math Circle, where she aims to promote diversity and accessibility to mathematics education. Through her podcast, Hello World, the Future is Female, and her Amazon best-selling book, Freedom Speaks, she amplifies the voices of those championing women’s rights in Iran. In the coming years, Delbakhsh will continue to pursue her interests in medicine and women’s rights.


Kannan and Shyam Garg
Orlando Science Elementary School

Kannan and Shyam Garg are twin third graders who have attended OSES since kindergarten. During that time, the pair received straight A’s, the Principal’s Award and Character of the Month. Exceeding their academic responsibilities, they are also hardworking and kind to their classmates. At the Florida State Scholastic Chess Championship, Shyam took first place in the individual K-3 section and placed first in the 2023 Orange County Public Schools tournament; Kannan placed 10th in her division. Their combined efforts helped OSES win first place overall. With a passion for chess, they continue to work to improve, despite their many accomplishments already.


David Han
The First Academy

As class of 2024 valedictorian, Han has consistently proven his dedication and academic prowess in all areas of his studies. His accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed, as STEM teacher Neil Harrison had plenty of great things to say about the graduating senior.

“Some students lean on their natural ability, and some depend on hard work and dedication, but Han constantly shows both,” says Harrison. “Despite near perfection in the high-level classes, Han remains humble and brings a smile, joy and humor into the classroom every day.”

“Han always makes the effort to befriend those who need it the most, serving as a mentor and leader in many of his relationships,” adds band director Erin Mazza.


Isabella Millan
Cypress Creek High School

A vibrant and engaged student leader, Millan is always seeking out challenges to both better herself and grow in a multitude of areas including mathematics, singing, acting and cheerleading. As an IB student, Millan completed two creativity-activity-service projects—twice the requirement. Last year, Millan co-coordinated the Top Ten Dinner, which celebrates the accomplishments of the top 10 seniors. Millan made the event truly special by adding personal touches and thoughtful details, including creating a slideshow and programs and inviting a teacher guest for each student. Millan is co-founder and president of the ESOL Learners Club, which creates a fun and safe environment for students to practice their English language skills without judgment. She is also active in several on-campus organizations, including drama, sideline and competition cheerleading, flag football, varsity choir, track and National Honor Society.


Sarah Lauren Munjed
Trinity Prep

Set to attend Duke University following her graduation, Munjed has spent her high school years as an active member of the academic community. Since freshman year, Munjed has served as president of the Health Science Club, where she created the Suture-a-Thon to educate members on how to suture and hosted guest speakers through a Doctor Talks program. In addition, Munjed is a research assistant for University of Central Florida under Dr. Xiaohu Xia, where she has investigated the creation of bimetallic nanocages through galvanic replacement. Munjed has been the recipient of numerous awards, accolades and honor society memberships, including National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta National Mathematics Honor Society, Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society and the National French Honor Society.


Kaylan Patel
Windermere Prep

Windermere Prep senior Patel is a National Merit Scholar and will attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in the fall. Patel recently won the Change Maker Junior Award, presented by Heart of Florida United Way, along with a $5,000 donation for his nonprofit, Lending Hands Global Foundation. The organization seeks to provide an array of charitable services to low-income families aimed at building self-esteem and leadership skills to help them pursue their dreams and move upward. Patel’s first published book, Kobe’s World Adventure Book 1, is the first in a seven-book children’s geography series. He has distributed more than 5,000 books to children throughout Florida with the goal of increasing knowledge of geography among elementary school students.


Zion Phillips
Hillcrest Elementary

Quickly proving herself to possess an incredible mind, kindergarten student Phillips earned an induction into Mensa, the oldest and largest IQ society in the world. Membership into Mensa is only available for those who test within the upper 2% of the general population through an approved and supervised IQ test. In addition to her incredible intelligence, Phillips is an avid reader and runs a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing her love of reading with other children. Expanding her abilities, Phillips also plays piano and is learning to speak and read French.


Lenny Polcaro
Montverde Academy

Polcaro is a shining star in both academics and leadership. As captain of the school’s track team, he sets the pace both on and off the field. Polcaro’s pursuit of excellence extends beyond sports, as he earns top marks and serves as a source of inspiration to his peers through his unwavering work ethic. Additionally, he is the student director for Night for the Cure, a local event aimed at fundraising for cancer research and relief. His passion for making a difference in his community is evident in his commitment to this cause. With his exceptional leadership skills and compassionate heart, Polcaro leaves a lasting impact wherever he goes.


Jhadassah Richardson
Fiorella Prep School

With infectious curiosity and boundless enthusiasm, Richardson embodies the essence of a young scholar. Always the first to eagerly raise her hand, she approaches each lesson with unwavering determination and a thirst for knowledge. Whether it’s mastering the art of reading and phonics, or diving into mathematics, Richardson’s eagerness to learn knows no bounds. Richardson also shines as a compassionate friend—quick to offer a helping hand or a comforting hug to her classmates. Her empathy and kindness create a nurturing environment where everyone feels valued and supported.


Caroline Rotenberger
Walden Community School

Since enrolling at Walden in sixth grade, Rotenberger has become an important member of her community. Excelling academically in all subject areas, Rotenberger also enjoys watercolor painting, playing the cello, reading, youth group, working on her Gold Award for Girl Scouts, recreational volleyball, crocheting, roller coasters, and spending time with her family, friends and two cats. Unafraid of a challenge, in 2019, Rotenberger started a small business, Pets & Plants, that provides pet-sitting and plant-care services for her neighbors. After high school, Rotenberger will attend college, where she plans to study architecture with a focus on theme park design.


Maya and Veda Srikantan
Olympia High School

Earlier this school year, juniors Maya and Veda Srikantan received the Congressional Award Gold Medal. The gold medal is the highest congressional award youth can receive. To achieve this award, each of the girls had to complete requirements in four key areas, including voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and exploration. Maya and Veda each completed more than 400 public-service hours; spent 200 hours on personal development in the area of musical performance; completed 200 hours of physical fitness; and explored India during a five-day trip. In October, Congressman Maxwell Frost presented Maya and Veda with their awards.


Tyson Williams
Dream Lake Elementary

Sometimes, it takes more than just academic prowess to truly succeed in the world after school, but that’s no concern for fifth-grade student Williams. Recently, the savvy scholar placed eighth overall out of 360 in the Global Amazing Shake competition, which focuses on life’s soft skills and etiquette, such as a strong handshake and ability to maintain appropriate eye contact. A real people-person, William placed first in the Work the Room competition, where competitors aimed to make the most meaningful connections within a half-hour.


Noah Reid
The Geneva School

In the fall Reid will attend the University of Oxford to pursue an honors BA in Classics & Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Reid is Geneva’s first student to take two languages at the same time—French and Greek—and has also studied classical guitar for over 10 years. He is also president of the Junior Classical League (JCL), member of the All-State Choir and Agon Team Captain. Reid has also received a gold medal on the JCL National Classical Etymology Exam and a silver medal on the National Roman Civilization Exam. In addition to receiving 16 top awards at regional and state competitions, Reid placed first (Greek Language), second (Hellenic History) and third (Greek Literature) at the State Academic Championship.