The Academic All-Stars of 2005: Where are they now?

The 2005 Journal-World Academic All-Stars are, clockwise from bottom center, Nat Wells, Lawrence High School; Lynne Stahl, Free State High School; Shawn Turner and Jennifer Harness, Ottawa High School; Flora Jiang, Free State; Chelsey Forge, Oskaloosa High School; Marie Hull, Free State; and Kristin Lynch, Baldwin High School. Not pictured are Emma Willis, Oskaloosa, and Hunter Samuels, Tonganoxie High School.

So what happens to these Academic All-Stars who are named every year?

As is tradition, the Journal-World caught up with as many All-Star alumni as possible from the team 10 years ago. The class of 2005 left high school as decorated and ambitious students, and here’s where they stand today:


Then: An Ottawa High School graduate who wanted to be a nuclear medical physician and considered majoring in engineering physics. She kept a 4.0 GPA in high school, was a National Merit Semifinalist and volunteered in the radiology department at Ransom Memorial Hospital in Ottawa.

Now: After high school, Yoest earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and genetics at Kansas University. She then enrolled in medical school at the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 2014. She is now married and enrolled in a residency program in Pittsburgh. Her concentration is pathology, where she diagnoses cancer and other diseases. After her residency, she hopes to receive a fellowship in molecular pathology.

Advice: “Stick with it. Whatever you want to do, work hard.”


Then: On her way out of Free State High School, Hull did not know what she wanted to do in or after college. She expressed an interest in math and hadn’t yet decided where to attend to school; there were four choices at the time. She held a 4.0 GPA, was named an AP Scholar and won a Brown University Book Award. She was the co-president of a community service organization at Free State as well.

Now: After graduating from Kansas University with degrees in economics, math and Spanish, Hull is about to receive her doctorate in economics from Duke University. She specializes in applied microeconomics with an emphasis on labor economics and the economics of education. She will become an economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro next fall.

Advice: “I think putting yourself in situations where you’re uncomfortable is really important, or not restricting yourself to situations where you are comfortable. You learn a lot more by being uncomfortable and failing than you do by being comfortable and succeeding.”


Then: A Free State High School student with plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania to major in Chinese and economics, to become either a translator, college professor or work in international business. She was a National Merit Semifinalist and a Kansas Honor Scholar with a 4.0 GPA. She competed in state piano festivals and volunteered at the Lawrence Public Library.

Now: Jiang did attend Penn, but after making friends with several business school students, she got “immersed in the business world.” She graduated in 2009 with degrees in psychology and Chinese and moved to New York City to work in marketing. In 2012, she moved to Chicago, where she is now employed at the Nielsen Company, doing market research.

Advice: “I would say that you think you have your (career) figured out, but your experiences change that plan. Always be open to a world of possibilities and opportunities that are out there.”


Then: The Baldwin High School senior had plans to attend Kansas University and study to become a secondary education math teacher. She had been a vegetarian for two years at that time and began sharing her favorite recipes online as part of a senior project. She was a Kansas Honor Scholar and participated in debate, forensics, theater and band.

Now: She attended KU but ultimately went with a degree in computer science. She married shortly after graduation and worked in web development for KU’s Center for Research and Learning. The department eventually lost funding for her position right around the time she became pregnant with a baby girl — who turned 1 not long ago — and has concentrated on raising her ever since. She has been a vegan for seven years and blogs about her recipes and her experience being a vegan during her pregnancy.

Advice: “Always trust your instincts and do what feels right for you. It doesn’t matter what other people say or think. You have to do what’s right for you.”


Then: The Free State High School student wanted a job involving traveling abroad and writing. Stahl considered attending Kansas University, Cornell College in Iowa or University of the Pacific. She finished with a 4.0 GPA and was a national Merit Commended Scholar and won a Kansas Cromwell Book Award.

Now: Stahl attended Colorado College, earning degrees in English and Hispanic studies. From there, she enrolled in an English doctoral program at Cornell University, where she currently is. Her dissertation is on cultural conceptions of gender, sexuality and emotion in filmic narratives. “It’s sort of focused through the figure of the tomboy in film,” she said. After completing her work, Stahl said she would like to enter student advising at the university level.

Advice: “Whatever you do, whether it’s classes or jobs or studying abroad, try to do something that makes you challenge your assumptions about yourself and the way the world works.”


Then: The Ottawa High School senior said he planned to attend Kansas State University to earn degrees in agribusiness, agriculture education or agricultural technology management. He had a 4.0 GPA and was named a Kansas Honor Scholar and a National Honor Society president. He was also active in a range of agriculture-related organizations and activities.

Now: He did attend KSU and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in agriculture education and a minor in horticulture. He taught agriculture education at Spring Hill High School for two years before returning to the family business, Turner Flowers and Country Store in Ottawa as co-owner. He sits on the executive board of the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce and is still active in several other agriculture-focused groups. He also owns a small farm of his own.

Advice: “I think it’s important to further one’s education but not to get too hung up on what that education is in. Having a degree shows that you are teachable, you can acquire a new skill and that’s what employers are looking for. At least, you put forth the effort to keep your nose clean and to have some sort of indication that those skills are adaptable can show employers that you can do about anything. And it’s amazing how your interests change over time.”


Then: A Lawrence High School student enthusiastic about politics, he started a Republicans club at LHS, while also serving on student council, the school newspaper’s editing staff and acted as one of two Kansas delegates in the U.S. Senate Youth Program. He was a 4.0 student considering a number of schools at the time. He thought of majoring in political science or international relations.

Now: Wells attended Dartmouth College with the intention of studying political science. But he switched to economics his sophomore year. “It was an interesting blend of politics and math, another subject I really liked.” Since graduating in 2009, he got married and he moved to New York City, where he works for the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Advice: “Don’t take yourself too seriously and whatever you think your goals are or what direction your life is going in right now, it definitely may change. That’s normal. And obviously a lot happens in the next 10 years and so you may find other things that interest you and you may go in a different direction and that’s OK.”


Then: A student at Oskaloosa High School, Supica planned to major in music education with an emphasis in the French horn and vocal music at Kansas University. She was a 4.0 student and served as a National Honor Society president, student council member and participated in a catalog of music activities.

Now: Supica went to KU and earned a degree in music education. After graduating, she taught music for grades 1-12 in Morrison, Okla. She later left that job and met her future husband, whom she moved to Nashville with. She now works at the W.O. Smith Music School, teaching classes (50 cents a lesson) only to students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. She will soon attend Belmont University to receive a master’s degree in education nonprofit leadership.

Advice: “Be kind and be good. I always say be good and be safe to my kids. And that’s all that matters.”


Then: Each member of the 2005 class was given a backpack as part of being named to the team.

Now: Several members of the 2005 team still had their backpacks in the closet, though some were beginning to fall apart. Supica said she took it around the world and through five caves. Hull said she had it with her for eight years, including two study abroad trips. Yoest, Wells, Jiang and Lynch all said they used it for several years while in school.

“I still use it today,” Turner said.

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