With the previous week’s trend of daily thunderstorms temporarily on hold and the jazz band from McKinney North High School kicking off the evening with plenty of upbeat, musical thunder of its own, the McKinney ISD Community Event Center (CEC) was the place to be on May 2 as MISD hosted its 2019 Distinguished Student Awards (DSA) Dinner. 


The annual DSA dinner celebrates everything that is good about MISD. In a district abounding with talent, the 45 honorees who were invited to the CEC Thursday night stand out among their peers. 


Fifteen seniors from each of the district’s three high schools are chosen each year in 11 categories (English, Science, Social Studies, Mathematics, Career & Technology, Foreign Language, Fine Arts [3 awards], Athletics [2 awards], At-Large [2 awards], Salutatorian, Valedictorian) to receive the Distinguished Student Award—the highest honor that MISD bestows upon a student. Honorees are chosen not only for academic excellence, but also for demonstrating character, integrity and selflessness at each of their campuses. 


In addition to being honored themselves, each Distinguished Student was asked to name the teacher who most inspired them during their high school years, and each of those teachers shared the stage with his or her student to receive the Inspirational Teacher Award. 


“This dinner is absolutely one of my favorite events of the year,” said MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel of the celebration. “These students represent the best of McKinney ISD, and I love the opportunity to recognize not only their success in the area of academics, but also the character and work ethic that helped them achieve it. These are not names that you will have only heard tonight; these are students who are involved in a wide range of activities and interests, who lead and serve on their campuses and stand out as an example for others to follow.” 


2019 marked the first time that the event was held at the CEC, and McDaniel welcomed the 45 Distinguished Students, their parents, teachers and other guests on behalf of the district before inviting MISD Board President Curtis Rippee to the podium. Rippee lauded the honorees for their hard work and encouraged them to soak in the moment, to relish it. 


Then, one by one, each of the 2019 MISD Distinguished Students and their Inspirational Teachers was called to the stage:


McKinney Boyd High School

Thomas Coppin (English)—Inspirational Teacher: Devon Vochoska

Julia Cortazzo (Science)—Inspirational Teacher: Phillip Galyon

Sarah O’Brien (Social Studies)—Inspirational Teacher: Scott Martin

Gillian Burleson (Mathematics)—Inspirational Teacher: Maggie Coake

Eric Burdick (Career & Technology)—Inspirational Teacher: Laura Peters

Kevin Anderson (Foreign Language)—Inspirational Teacher: Stefanie Jones

Cassidy Bergenthal (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Joe Nuñez

Rachel Bowsher (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Caris Dunn

Andrew Rappold (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Samuel Thomas

Alexandra Fowler (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Roland Nelson

Benjamin Altizer (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Paula Martin

Miranda Rotunno (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Colin Bado

Maximus Philachack (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Joe Nuñez

Ryan Eldin (Salutatorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Colby Peek

Rajpal Bal (Valedictorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Terry Walter


McKinney High School

Evan Varghese (English)—Inspirational Teacher: Mark Bayer

Oliver Prows (Science)—Inspirational Teacher: Theresa Horvath

Nitish Patel (Social Studies)—Inspirational Teacher: Richard McGowan

Leonard Humphrey (Mathematics)—Inspirational Teacher: Theresa Horvath

Teagan Coady (Career & Technology)—Inspirational Teacher: Kelly Briley

Sarah Kirkpatrick (Foreign Language)—Inspirational Teacher: Shannon Kelly

Matthew Dexter (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Cindy Johnston

Alexandra King (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Dondi Moran

Brook Naulty (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Amy Neely

Caroline Swan (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Erinn Higginbotham

Nicholas Simpson (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Kristen Pereira

Lexi Harris (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Alyssa Boehringer

Allison Navejas (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Cindy Johnston

Alec Weigel (Salutatorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Carol Winters

Jacob Harsch (Valedictorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Carol Winters


McKinney North High School

Cassie Vestal (English)—Inspirational Teacher: Andy Myers

Kasey Wells (Science)—Inspirational Teacher: Shruti Mehrotra

Caroline Herod (Social Studies)—Inspirational Teacher: Tanya Smith

JD Craft (Mathematics)—Inspirational Teacher: Faisal Khan

William Potter (Career & Technology)—Inspirational Teacher: Doug Woodall

Meg Yamada (Foreign Language)—Inspirational Teacher: Cynthia Povliches

Eyoel Abera (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Alan Harkey

Alexis Hunt (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Audrey Martin

Samantha Kessler (Fine Arts)—Inspirational Teacher: Brenda Files

Kaitlyn Derheim (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Olivia Guin

Ezra Gore (Athletics)—Inspirational Teacher: Brandon Villarreal

Jackson Kays (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Faisal Khan

James Kays  (At-Large)—Inspirational Teacher: Deanne Pratt

Zoe Baker (Salutatorian)—Inspirational Teacher: Deanne Pratt

Abigail Fuller (Valedictorian)— Inspirational Teacher: Ty Muennink


As each student made his or her way to the stage, some of their high school achievements were read aloud. Here’s a collective look at what these 45 remarkable students listed as their proudest accomplishments over the past four years: Oak Ridge High School Mountain Bike Team (Freshman & Sophomore), Eagle Scout Award with 5 Palms, National Honor Society, Leading a Church Youth Group of Young Men, All-State Swimming, Swim Teacher for Young Children, CPR and First Aid Certification, Cancer Fundraising Minithon, French Club, Completed AP French 4 as a Junior with High Honors, Reading and Comprehension Award for AP French 4, Overcame 3 Concussions (Junior year), Distinguished Student Award, MHS TSA Chapter Officer, Computer Science Club Secretary, Teaching Middle Schoolers about Electronics and Coding, Helped Host Digital Divas (All Women Coding Competition and Seminar, Productive Internship (Summer 2018), 35 on ACT, AP Scholar with Distinction, AES Honors Scholarship at UTD, Entering University with Junior-Level Credits, First Youth Elder at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Girl Scout Gold Award, National AP Scholar, Spanish Club President, MNHS Orchestra Co-President, Associate Teacher at Blue Bonnets Highland Dance, Lion’s Club Student of the Month, Scholar Artist of the Week, Sports Medicine Officer, HOSA, NHS, National Merit Semifinalist, Melissa Public Library Volunteer, AP Scholar with Distinction, Medical Insurance and Coding Specialist, Model United Nations, Texas Youth and Government, Student Council, Orchestra, National Honor Society, National Charity League, Congressional Youth Advisory Council, AP Scholar with Distinction, Top 3 Percent of Class, Mission trips to Mexico and Colombia, Senior Class Press Secretary, Outstanding Student Leadership Award (Sophomore), Volleyball 2nd Team Academic All-State, Academic Excellence Awards, National Honor Society, UIL State Qualifier, Nat’l AP Scholar, UC Irvine Medical Center’s Camp Neuro Attendee, Georgetown University Medical Immersion Attendee, Camp RYLA Alum, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens Volunteer (200 hours), Computer Science Club Treasurer for Digital Divas, State Piano Ensemble Performances (9 years), TSA Coding Team (1st Place), AP National Scholar, All-Region Band, National Merit Commended Scholar, Basketball (4 years), Basketball Captain (2 Years), Student Council (3 years), National Honor Society (2 years), Top 5 Percent of Class, Rotary Student of the Month, PALS, Academic All-District (Football & Baseball), Student Council, Football (3 years), Baseball (4 years), Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, 2018 SkillsUSA Automotive Service Technology District 5 Champion, 2019 SkillsUSA Automotive Service Technology District 5 Champion, Student ASE Certified in Brakes, Steering & Suspension and HVAC, National Merit Commended Scholar, Summer Aquarium Guide for The Children’s Aquarium, National AP Scholar, Passed Written Portion of Cosmetology Operator Licensure Examination, Substitute Teacher at Dance Studio, Academic Excellence Cord Recipient, SkillsUSA Vocational Program, Academic Excellence (3 years), Distinguished French Student (Junior), Football Academic All-State 1st Team, AP Scholar Award, In Charge of Communications for Science Club, Project Lead for Senior Year Engineering Project, National Honor Society, Eagle Scout, German Club Vice President, Metroplex Aquatic Swim Coach, MNHS Varsity Swim Team MVP (3 years), Blue Blazers, SPCA of Texas Volunteer Mentor, National Honor Society, AP Scholar with Distinction, Rotary Academic Excellence Award (4 years), National Merit Finalist, Drum Major (2017, 2018), AP+PLTW Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, McKinney Rotary Club Student of the Month, MISD State Farm Scholar Artist of the Week, Outstanding Boyd Honors Band Member, Boyd Bailadoras Captain (2 years), 3-time Solo Champion (2017, 2018, 2019), National Runner-Up Soloist 2018, 2-time All-State Dance Team, Officer of the 2-time National Grand Championship Team, Academic Excellence, McKinney Lions Club Senior of the Month and Citizenship Award, All-State Choir (2 years), Harmony (3 years), All-Region Choir (4 years), All-Region Orchestra Member (2 years), Lead in School Musical (3 years), Active Contribution to the Children’s and Youth Ministry at Church, Social Studies UIL, Figure Drawing, Face Painting, State VASE—Art (Freshman), Scholastic Arts & Writing Competition (2 Silver Keys, 1 Honorable Mention), Performed with 2018 World Class DCI Champ. Santa Clara Vanguards, Commended Scholar, 5A All-State Trombonist, AVID Summer Institute Student Leader, All-Region Jazz Trombonist, Outstanding Soloist at MISD Solo Contest (3 years), MNHS Varsity Drill Team (1st Lieutenant), Academic Excellence (3 years), Most Improved Member (2017), National Honor Society, Certified Nursing Assistant, Kimbell Teen Council, Nasher Student Council, Fort Worth Modern’s Teen Artist Project, Curated Art Show at MISD Central Office, National AP Scholar, 12 Art Competition Awards in 3 Years, Art Guard for the Rachofsky Warehouse, Ranked 3rd in Class, AP Scholar with Distinction, MISD Scholar Athlete of the Week, Outstanding Student in English, Scholar Athlete of the Year, Golf Team Co-Captain, Congressional Youth Advisory Council, Green Cord, Governor’s Cabinet in Youth & Government, NHS, 3 Academic Excellence Cords, Highest Score at Varsity Marquette Tryouts as a Freshman, Varsity Marquettes Officer (Lieutenant, 1st Lieutenant and Captain), 3-time Winner of Regional Solo Dance Competitions, 2nd at Nationals, Varsity Volleyball MVP & Captain (MHS, 2018), Second Team All-State Academics (2018), Area Volleyball Champions (MHS, 2018), Outstanding Achievement in Athletics Female (2017 & 2018), D/FW Top Stats Leader in Kills (2018), Excel Volleyball Club 17s MVP (2018), National Art Honor Society, National Honor Society, Swim Team Captain, German Club Treasurer, Lion’s Club Student of the Month (February), MNHS Guard Dawg, Academic All-District for Volleyball, Softball, Basketball & Track; 2nd Team All-District for Softball and Volleyball; Weekend Volunteer for a Dog Rescue; Top 15 Percent of Class, 2019 District Champion in Discus, Ranked 8 out of 629, Football Captain, Engineering Club Vice President, NHS, Bronco Way Coin, AP Scholar with Honor, Various Community Service Leadership Experiences, State Farm Scholar Athlete of the Week, Boyd Homecoming Athletic Queen, Top 10 Percent Academic Award, Bronco Way Award, MMA American Mathematics Competition, UIL 6-6A 2nd Team All-District, UIL 6-6A District Honorable Mention, SMU President’s Scholarship, Elite Academic All-State, National Merit Commended Scholar, 2-time Social Studies Student of the Year (2017, 2018), AP Scholar with Distinction, NHS Vice-President, Yearbook Editor (2 years), 21 Design Awards from Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circles, Quill and Scroll National Honor Society, Texas Association of Journalism Educators, Academic Excellence Awards, 2017-18 All-District OLB (Football), 2018 All-District OF (Baseball), Interact Club Officer, All-State Elite Academic Debate Team, Varsity Football & Baseball Team Captain, Team Bible Study Leader, National Merit Scholar, Eagle Scout, National AP Scholar, THSCA All-State Academic Elite Team (Football), TMEA All-Area Tenor Trombonist, 3-time All-Region Tenor Trombonist Soloist at Carnegie Hall, MBHS Marching Band (4 years), Club Soccer, MBHS Citizenship Award, Junior of the Year Award in Band, State Farm Scholar of the Month Nominee, McKinney Rotary Student of the Month, MBHS Band President, Rotary Student of the Month, Key Club President, Dennis Baker Scholar Athlete of the Week (2018, 2019), Undefeated District Soccer Champions (2016, 2018), District 6-6A Honorable Mention, Academic Excellence Scholarship Recipient, VASE Regional Art Competition Medalist, Technology Student Association National Finalist for Architectural Design, Region Mixed Choir, School and Club Soccer Captain, Elite Vocal Jazz Ensemble (Harmony), Engineering Club Vice-President, Varsity Choir (4 years), Literary Criticism UIL Captain, State Literary Criticism UIL (3rd place, Individual), National AP Scholar, National Merit Finalist, NACLO Invitational Round Qualifier, National Latin Exam (Gold Medal), Sectional Times 100 & 200 Breaststroke, NHS Secretary, Eagle Scout, National Merit Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, THSCA All-State Academic Elite (Football), 2-time UIL All-Region and All-Area Trumpet and Soloist at Carnegie Hall, PSAT National Merit Commended Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, Academic All-District (4 years), 1st Team All-District Soccer (2 years), NHS President, Spanish Club Treasurer, Interact Club Secretary, Rotary Academic Excellence Award (4 years), 2018 YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas Youth Character Award, Beto for Texas 2018 Dallas Headquarters Staff, Founder of Hooping with the Blue and Flag Football with the Blue 4-time Youth and Government State Champion, 4-time Time Model United Nations State Champion, Jay Inslee 2020 D/FW Headquarters Staff, NHS President, Literary Criticism UIL State Qualifier, Perfect Score on AP Computer Science Exam, TSA TEAMS National Qualifier, All-Region Band, National Latin Exam Cum Laude Award, Shift Lead at Emporium Pies, Student Council President, National Art Honor Society Secretary, Interact Club, Spanish Club, Political Science Club, State VASE Art Competition


That’s worth celebrating.