Highland Park’s Top Scholars Found Joy in Schoolwork

Arya McCarthy and Ellie Reynolds are Highland Park's valedictorian and salutatorian. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)

Arya McCarthy and Ellie Reynolds are Highland Park’s valedictorian and salutatorian. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)

Arya McCarthy and Ellie Reynolds, Highland Park High School’s 2013 valedictorian and salutatorian, have known each other since their academic careers began — way back in kindergarten, at Christ the King Catholic School.

McCarthy has been named a President’s Scholar at SMU, where he’ll study computer science and applied mathematics. Reynolds, an engineering major, is off to Vanderbilt.

Leading a class of nearly 500 students at a top-flight high school is obviously no small task, and McCarthy and Reynolds managed GPAs of 4.64 and 4.624, respectively.

So how does one do it?

“The strategy behind it is not to be meticulous about grades and how you do on the assignments,” McCarthy said. “It’s about finding what you like in each subject that you take. From the passion in it, performance follows, because you will want to do well — to show that you understand [the material] and want to do more.”

Reynolds “personally enjoyed high school a lot,” having headed up the Academic Decathlon team, the women’s service organization ASTRA, and Highland Park’s student paper, The Bagpipe.

“Finding that balance” — that sweet spot between having a life in high school and doing well academically — “is probably the most difficult part of getting here,” she explained.

By his own description, McCarthy has captained “the three nerdiest UIL teams” — math, computer science, and science — and this month led the latter to its eighth consecutive state championship. He’s also been pipe major in the school’s bagpipe corps.

“He’s unassuming. He’s humble,” AP computer science and Oracle Academy teacher Brenda McGurgan said of McCarthy, whose high-school programming work included an online study guide for his classmates. “He’s one who I would learn from every day as well. The learning went two ways with us.”

Calculus and pre-calculus teacher Melynda Wright described Reynolds as a focused, inquisitive, ever-organized learner.

“She’s never turned in anything late,” Wright added. “Never ‘my dog ate it’ or ‘my computer crashed’ — never. She’s always early or on time. And she’s just a fantastic young lady.”

By Georgia Fisher May. 31, 2013 | 1:25 pm | 6 Comments | Comments RSS
6 comments to "Highland Park's Top Scholars Found Joy in Schoolwork"
  1. HP @ June 1, 2013 at 10:15 am
    It should be noted that Xinyi (Ann) He actually had the highest GPA in the HP Class of 2013. Ann did not attend HPHS her freshman year so was not eligible to receive the Valedictorian or Salutatorian award. She is both humble and gracious and should be recognized as the real top scholar of 2013. Ann plans to attend Stanford University in the fall.

  2. XT @ June 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm
    She may be gracious, but you’ve got some work to do. Rules are rules, and there is no reason to take away from anything these two did by calling her “the real top scholar”. They have all done HP proud.

  3. HP2 @ June 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm
    Perhaps the transfer credits did not meet requirements. Congratulations and best at Stanford.

  4. Observer @ June 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm
    @HP2. Nothing wrong with the transfer credits. It’s the HPISD rule: Valedictorian and Salutatorian can’t be transfer students. There are good reasons for the rule.

    @XT. @HP was just making clear what the article should have: these two had the top GPA’s of all students who attended HPHS all four years. Saying “top scholars” and “leading the class” implied that the Valedictorian and Salutatorian were the top two GPA’s, period, as they are at most schools and as they are at HPHS most years.

    Congratulations to the Valedictorian and Salutatorian, and to the highest GPA in the class, and to all the graduates.

  5. actually @ June 3, 2013 at 9:22 am
    Certain all her transfer credits met all HP requirements. HP rule states student has to be at HPHS all 4 years to be eligible for Valedictorian and Salutatorian awards. But if Miss He’s GPA was the highest in the class than she actually can be called the real top scholar. No rule about that. At least not yet.

  6. HP2 @ June 4, 2013 at 11:35 pm
    Really, who is this all about … parent(s) or Ann? There’s zumba, tennis, yoga and many other things to busy yourself with @HP. Show respect to those who earned it and move on with life. Likely there is a plaque that will print exactly what you want- order it online and be done.

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