A Higher (School) Calling

They Learn. They Play. They do.  Achievement comes in many forms, and we found 10 private school students who are making their mark onstage, in the lab, on the field, in the community and beyond.

Photography by Izabella Viktoria

Joanne Wang, 16
Senior, Hathaway Brown

Sure, Joanne Wang invented a tiny biosensor to detect liver disease and won awards at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. But the future doctor is also the lead singer in a band (and recording her own CD), lives on her own (almost) and used to be a figure skater.

Patented plan: Case Western Reserve University, where Wang does research and lab work, has submitted the paperwork to obtain a patent on her biosensor. She hopes to have the device available in hospitals in a few years.

College prospects: Northwestern, Brown or Harvard

Go figure: Wang started figure skating when she was 3. “I had to learn how to skate backward, and I didn’t like it because I was confused.” A broken tailbone a few years ago sidelined her permanently. “At that point, my tailbone just gave up.”

Favorite class: AP calculus. “It murdered me, but I loved it.”

Leaving the nest: Wang lives in an apartment with her 24-year-old brother. Her parents think moving out will prepare her for college. “There’s a little more freedom, but I call them every day.”

And her friends? “They thought it was cool at first,” she says. “But now I complain about having to deal with my life.” She knows how to do laundry but is working on cooking. “I boiled beef, and it tasted like crap.”

On her mentor: “Dr. [Chung-Chiun] Lu has been the most supportive person I’ve ever met,” she says of the director of the Electronic Design Center at the Case School of Engineering. “He’s so generous with his time. There is no way I could have accomplished anything without him.”

She’d like to talk to: George W. Bush. “I’d ask him some tough questions and see what he’s like as a regular person,” she says. “As a president he gets a lot of criticism.”

The music scene: She likes to check out bands at the Grog Shop and House of Blues. She really likes Something Corporate, The Academy Is and David Mellilo.

On Hathaway Brown: “HB is blazing the trail for all of us to start working in the science field at such a young age,” she says. “The main goal is to encourage us to be passionate about what we do.” — Kim Schneider

Nate Oliver Jr., 18
Senior, St. Edward High School

As a running back and safety for St. Edward, Nate Oliver caught the eyes of some pretty big names: Notre Dame, Pitt, Michigan, Illinois, LeBron James, LeCharles Bentley, The Plain Dealer, ESPN and, of course, Ohio State, where he signed a letter of intent to attend the Big Ten school in his junior year. We had to restrain from asking Oliver to sign our reporter’s notepad (ethics, you know) during the photo shoot, where our flattery made him blush rather than smile. He may be humble, but we’re not. He’s going to be a star.

His favorite NFL teams: Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins

Pump it up: Oliver gets ready for games with “The Final Countdown” by Europe, “Don’t Push Me” by 50 Cent and “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC.

Giving it his “all”: He earned all-county, all-Plain Dealer and second team all-state last year. Rivals, a scouting service, ranked him 117th out of 250 athletes in the nation.

Major-league dreams: “Actually I didn’t even want to start playing football when I was little,” he says. “I was more of a baseball fan. Then my dad forced me to play football, and it got me here.”

Toughest competition: Cincinnati’s St. Xavier High School, last year’s Division I football state champions

The businessman: Oliver has been interning at Boyd Watterson, a downtown investment firm. He plans to pursue a career in business management. “It’s like a game of chess,” he says. “You have to know where to move and when to move. I like that.”

Foot races: Besides football, Oliver runs the 4x100, 4x200 and the 4x400 relays on the track team.

Three favorite football players: “Ricky Williams, Roy Williams, T.O. [Terrell Owens], Walter Payton, Jack Tatum, Jim Brown.” OK, six.

Heroes: His father. “He is a police officer in Cleveland’s Second District. I’ve always looked up to him.”

On Ohio State: “When I started playing football, I started watching Ohio State. I always wanted to go there. I knew once I got a scholarship there, that’s where I was going to go,” he says. “It’s taken a lot pressure off of me.”

Brownie buddies: “I have faith in the Browns every year,” he says. “Charlie Frye’s the underdog and LeCharles Bentley — I’ll forgive him for going to St. Ignatius.”

More than just a school: “It’s like a family here,” he says of St. Ed’s. “The teachers are nice and you know everyone. The classes are small enough that you can ask a teacher a question or you can go after school, and they can help you.”

What makes him happy: Football. “You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?" — Kim Schneider

Walter Boykins, 17
 Senior, Benedictine High School

Walter Boykins’ art reflects what’s important in his life: His cartoons help him cope with his brother being deployed to Iraq, he’s painting a “faceless Jesus” at the New Life Tabernacle Church, and he’s showing his school spirit by painting a mural at his school.

Sold!: He just sold his first piece of art, a flower watercolor painting, to a guidance counselor at Benedictine.

Artist who inspires him: Jackson Pollock. “I like the way he uses color to captivate the eye.”
What’s important to him: Church, family, sports, art. His late father was a pastor, and he describes his mother as “strict, a disciplinarian” but “a strong woman and fun person to be around.”

His favorite work: A set of cartoon drawings done in his art class at Benedictine that includes characters such as Sebastian, the crab from “The Little Mermaid.”

On his self-portrait: It’s a pencil drawing titled “Mumpie” (his childhood nickname). His father originally called him Mumphry, but his sister, too young to say this correctly, always said, “Mumpie.”

Sports fanatic: Boykins is the starting forward for the school’s basketball team, and he hopes to win the state championship this year. “We have been close before, but I think this is our year.”

After graduation: He would like to stay in Ohio and play basketball and run track in college. He is still deciding on a school but would like to pursue graphic design.

Three words to describe himself: Humble, active and silly. “That’s pretty much how anyone would describe me.”

Living with diabetes: He’s learned to manage the disease without it affecting his day-to-day life. “I rarely miss a day of school or practice. Living with diabetes has taught me self-discipline and how to take care of myself.”

Training table: “I’m a big eater. If I sit down at a table, I will eat whatever’s there. I don’t really have a favorite food,” he says. “I like, and will eat, everything.”

Why Benedictine?: “In a small school, you’re noticed,” he says. “The dress code teaches you to have a positive appearance, which is a huge thing in life.”
— Marissa Mikolak

Andrew Bluebond, 17
Senior, Archbishop Hoban High School

Andrew Bluebond’s mop of curly hair and flip-flop sandals contrast with his shirt-and-tie wardrobe, but don’t let his appearance fool you. As defense attorney for his school’s state champion mock-trial team, he’s determined to graduate “not feeling like I’ve had an empty four years.”

The Big Red: “I really hope to get into Cornell’s industrial and labor relations program. They sent me a brochure about it, and I decided that’s what I want to do with my life.”

On his hair: “To be honest, my hair does most of the work itself. The key is to not use too much product or it will lose its natural shape.”

His heroes: Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King Jr., Edward R. Murrow, Jon Stewart, Margaret Sanger and his parents

10 years from now: Bluebond hopes to have finished law school and be working for a candidate in the 2016 presidential election.

Landmark case: Roper v. Simmons, the 2005 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court found the execution of juveniles to be cruel and unusual. “It reminded me that good lawyers are still needed to argue the basic principles on which our country was founded.”

Something that makes him happy: “Election Day, sometimes.”

Something that makes him sad: “Election Day, sometimes.”

Making the team: To try out for the mock-trial team, Bluebond prepares an opening statement and presents it to advisers. “It is pretty easy to get nervous about the tryout, but a few little mistakes won’t kill you if you’re confident.”

Teen lawyer: Bluebond hones his skills as a lawyer for the teen court of Summit County. “Each time I go, I learn something more about the juvenile justice system and myself,” he says. “It’s hard not to think in terms of wins and losses as an attorney, but I try to remember that the purpose of the teen court program is to help offenders correct their behavior.”

Favorite movies: “American Beauty,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Bowling for Columbine” and “Good Night and Good Luck”

His three favorite lawyers: Johnnie Cochran, Janet Reno and Atticus Finch

Bad habit: “Sometimes I burn the candle at both ends. People have to tell me to slow down.”

Why Hoban?: “There’s a lot of tradition of success at Hoban,” he says. “I learn from every moment of it.” — Joanne Bello

Kathleen Morriss, 17
Senior, Lake Ridge Academy

Some may call her a horse whisperer, but Kathleen Morriss just sees herself as a girl who loves horses. Beginning in seventh grade, Morriss began horse-training classes with her mother, where they learned how to work with troubled horses. Now her family buys those horses, Morriss helps them and when they’re ready, she sells them and puts aside the profits for her college fund.

Animal house: Between her home in Ohio and her grandparents’ ranch in Texas, the family has eight horses that “we would never sell.” Her family also has nine cats, a dog and a goat.

Horsing around: “If I see a horse, I can really tell what they are thinking and what is wrong with them. A lot of time they learn to block people out and become rude and disrespectful,” says Morriss. “You have to get them to respect your space and learn to get them to do what you ask.”

Better than a pacifier: When she was a baby, her parents would take her out to see the horses to soothe her crying.

Colorful colts: The first pony she rode was named Blue, and the first horse she sold was named Silver.

Summer vacation: When we spoke to her, Morriss was at her grandparents’ ranch in Texas and then she was off to see her mentor, horse trainer Peter Campbell, and stay at his ranch for a few weeks. “I work a bunch of horses there.”

Tack and trade: Morriss braids leather “to make tack for the horses” and ropes out of parachute cord for reins to trade within the horsing community.

Riding along: She is adamant about paying attention to each horse so, “if I have five horses, I spend an hour riding each one,” she says.

Least favorite chore: Stall cleaning. “I don’t mind a little bit, but it’s the worst when it’s really cold and muddy. It’s gross to have to go out and mess around in the mud.”

When she’s “board”: She likes to play Risk with her friends. “I never win,” she says. “But we like to joke around about global domination.” — KS

Caroline Goulding, 14
Freshman, Gilmour Academy

Most 3-year-olds wouldn’t have the patience to start learning the violin, but Caroline Goulding wasn’t an average preschooler. Today she’s not your average teenager either. She currently plays first violin in the Cleveland Youth Orchestra on a 389-year-old Amati violin on loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago. She’s released her own CD and scored guest spots on “Martha” and NPR’s “From the Top.”

Practice makes perfect: If she’s not at lessons with teacher Paul Kantor at the Cleveland Institute of Music, rehearsing with the orchestra or performing, she’s practicing at Gilmour. “I don’t have a normal schedule, but I have a well-balanced life,” she says.

Girls just wanna have fun: When she puts down her bow, you might find Goulding shopping at Legacy Village and Beachwood Place or having sleep-overs with her friends. “We like just talking and listening to music. I don’t really follow the pop music that they listen to, so my friends help me,” she says. “I sometimes listen to Green Day because my best friend does.”

Must-watch movies: “I love comedies, especially romantic ones,” she says. “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Runaway Bride” top her list.

In the key of food: “Oh, my gosh, I just love food!” she says. She can’t resist fries with vinegar, anything Italian (especially Alfredo pasta), bread, dark chocolate, lemon and chocolate gelato (she swears they’re the best combo) and pizza, especially a pie with green peppers and pepperoni from Dewey’s in Cleveland Heights.

Music therapy: “The whole idea is to share your gift with audiences, that’s what you do to make people happy — share music. To get them away from whatever makes them sad. Make them not think about their troubles,” she says. “Music should take them away.”

The best feeling: “It’s a blast, the feeling of performing. When you get on stage and first put your violin under your chin, you get the most exhilarating rush through you, almost like a roller coaster down the hill.”

Keeping her composers: She rattles off Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Paganini, Brahms, Franck, Mozart and Bach as her favorites.

Write on: Goulding loves English and creative writing — the subjects, the teachers and her friends in class, with whom she might talk “a little too much!”

Why Gilmour?: “Gilmour is very flexible; I’m thankful for that. It’s a great school, the campus is so beautiful, and the education is amazing.”
— Tori Woods

Will Forte, 16
Junior , Lawrence School

Will Forte isn’t even old enough to register with the Selective Service, but he’s already battle-tested. Forte travels the country as a Civil War soldier, re- enacting the First Battle of Busll Run or the Battle of Antietam in full uniform.

All in the family: He and his dad joined the 9th Ohio Light Artillery reenactment unit six years ago. His mom has dressed as a Civil War nurse and his friend Eric has also donned a uniform.

School days: Forte knows so much about the Civil War that he has helped the AP history teacher with a class to gain a different perspective on the historical period. He brought in his uniform and artifacts to the class.

It’s not a costume: “They are reproductions of uniforms that use reproduction fabric to reconstruct the outfit completely,” he says.

Bang, bang: He is considering buying a horse pistol, which was used to shoot horses out from under the soldiers. Don’t worry; he’ll only fire blanks.

His take on Civil War history: “There is always more to learn. You’d be a fool to say, ‘Oh, I know everything.’ ”

Going to Gettysburg: Forte visited Gettysburg College for an academic camp.

What irks him: He discovered that part of Gettysburg might be turned into a casino. “I find it almost insulting as an American; turning a piece of our history into a conglomerate, moneymaking scheme,” he says.

Favorite uniform: The basic infantry uniform is lightweight for hot days. But if going purely on looks, he likes the artillery uniforms. “They are so bright and colorful.”

If he were president: “I would change the law of flag burning. Freedom of speech is fine, but it sometimes conflicts with patriotism. A flag cut up or being burned is offensive. I feel it’s anti-American, period.”— Adria Barbour

Tom Kopchak, 17
Senior, St. Ignatius High School

In the Arrupe House across the street from St. Ignatius High School, Tom Kopchak and the Technical Support Squad have transformed the basement into a computer lover’s haven — three main servers, a virtual private network server, motherboards, 10 computers and all the fixings to keep everything running smoothly. The group repairs, networks and maintains donated computers and in turn gives some of those computers to children participating in the Arrupe Summer Camp along with other Arrupe programs such as Club Invention and the Bigs and Littles program.

The Geek Squad: Well, not quite. But the Technical Support Squad will fix any of the computers they give away. “A lady called and said her computer wasn’t working,” he says. “It took us about a week to get all the parts and to get it fixed.” And they do it for free.

Way of the future: “Everyone needs to know how to use technology,” he says of donating the computers to underprivileged children. “This lets kids in the neighborhood have exposure and prepare them for the workplace.”

Classical challenge: Kopchak plays the piano and violin. He is currently working on Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. “Bach makes you think it doesn’t look too bad, but it’s really hard because there is a lot of counterpoint in it.”

Mr. Roboto: He is co-captain of St. Ignatius’ U.S. FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team, which competes internationally building various kinds of robots. But don’t ask him about naming the robots. “Only girls do that,” he says.

The first of many: Kopchak didn’t get his first computer until he was in sixth grade and now his home collection has grown to seven. “I try to hide the wires as much as possible, but my mom always says, ‘What did you wire today?’ ”

A fair man: Kopchak lists chicken noodle soup as one of his favorite foods, but says, “I am an equal opportunity eater.”

Three words to describe himself: Multifaceted, technological and altruistic

Donations welcome: “We’ve had 100 computers donated so far,” he says. “We can always accept more donations. We are in need of network cards and hard drives.”— KS

Caitrin Kennedy, 17
Senior, Andrews School

Give this girl a stage, and she might debate abortion and immigration rights — or belt out a little Billie Holiday. (“God Bless the Child” is a favorite.) Caitrin Kennedy, president of Respectors of All Diversities and the Ohio high school coordinator for Young Democrats, started a chapter of Student Democrats at Andrews School, which earned Chapter of the Year in 2004.

College prospects: She’s leaning toward American University. “This seems to be the best match for me. I’d love to be in D.C.”

Career ambitions: Work for Amnesty International or for an international law firm. “I want to fight cases for people who’ve been oppressed or abused by government.”

Favorite food: “I drink coffee a lot.”

Current events and dating: She lists Time and Cosmopolitan as her favorite magazines. “Everyone at Andrews reads Cosmo, and we pass it around.”

Surprise party: Kennedy says she wouldn’t be opposed to voting Republican. “Only if there was a really crappy Democrat,” she says. “John McCain is cool. I’m not a Republican hater; I’m just very into being a Democrat. We all have to work together.”

Three words to describe herself: Abrasive, compassionate and loyal

Sexy Democrat of the Month: “We don’t necessarily pick [based] on sexiness, just someone who’s a good role model,” she says of the monthly bulletin board in the student center at Andrews. Past Sexy Democrats of the Month include Jane Fonda, Diddy, Lee Fisher, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Top three presidents:
1. Franklin D. Roosevelt: “He completely turned around the economy when he came in during the Great Depression.”
2. Bill Clinton. “Things were nice when he was president.”
3. Abraham Lincoln. “Lincoln managed to preserve the Union in a time of deep division.”

Hard-knock life: “ ‘Annie’ was the first show I ever saw,” she says. “It introduced me to theater.”

Best advice: “Don’t talk to people, but talk with people.”

The name game: Yes, people have asked her countless times if she is related to JFK. “They always say I should definitely run for office, because people would vote for me.”

Why Andrews?: “Andrews gave me the opportunity to take an idea or cause and really run with it. If you really want to make a difference, they encourage you to do that.” — KS

Gina O'Riordan, 15
Sophomore, Walsh Jesuit High School

Gina O’Riordan knows all about the art of managing. In addition to balancing her poetry, sports and social life, she is co-managing editor of Walsh Jesuit’s literary magazine, Sketch. She also watches what she eats to keep her juvenile diabetes under control and helps raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

New Englander forever: Originally from Massachusetts, O’Riordan likes the Indians, but loves those Red Sox — especially in 2004. “The Red Sox won, the Patriots won. It was big year for us.”

Future Ivy Leaguer: Harvard could be a possibility for O’Riordan, who wants to pursue a career in medicine or computer technology. “I have the T-shirt and the hat.”

On diabetes: “It was a shock to find out you were going to have to take a couple of needles,” she says of the six shots she gives herself daily. She is on the committee for school fund-raising for the JDRF this year. “I am so proud to be representing them, and I get to talk to all these people who have diabetes.”

Latin lover: Her father also studied Latin when he was in high school. “It’s so fun, but I don’t understand how people can speak it,” she says. “There’s so many verbs.”

Making memories: O’Riordan and her younger sister like to create scrapbooks. “She is more into the scrapbooking, and I am more into the photography,” she says of the new digital camera she received as a gift. “I definitely have a lot of pictures.”

Poetic justice: She published a poem on her diabetes in Sketch last year, but she also likes to write poetry about her family and holidays.

Three words to describe herself: Intelligent, compassionate and well-rounded

Match point: O’Riordan plans on trying out for Walsh’s tennis team this year. “I play with my family a lot just casually. I’ve never taken any lessons. It takes a lot of power to get the ball where you want it.”

Inside her mailbox: Sweet Sixteen, Newsweek, Vogue, In Style and Guidepost.

Why Walsh?: “I love everything about Walsh Jesuit, especially the student-teacher interaction," she says. "Walsh is really accepting of everybody, and they make you feel really comfortable.” — KS

Read the Intro: Secrets of the Ivy League

Share this story: