By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
In Leander ISD, girls ruled this year, as female valedictorians were named at each of the five high schools. They share about what is shaping their college plans.
This year’s valedictorians are Amanda Wu from Cedar Park High School, Maddie Sanford from Rouse High School, Priscilla Wong from Leander High School, Neha Mulpuri from Vandegrift High School, and Victoria Lee from Vista Ridge High School.
They are a disciplined, thoughtful group, with big plans for the future. Both Wu and Mulpuri plan to attend medical school. Mulpuri said it was the experience of shadowing doctors and volunteering at local hospitals that made her realize she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. In middle school, she had the unique opportunity to travel with her uncle, who is a doctor, to India to watch him perform surgeries on children with conditions such as club foot.
“In the future I also want to serve underprivileged communities throughout the world and travel a lot doing medicine, so I kind of got a glimpse of what my future could be like,” Mulpuri said.
While an April jobs report showed that employers added the most jobs in more than two years, and unemployment dropped from 6.7% to 6.3%, the portion of Americans 25-34 who were working in April fell to a five-month low of 75.5%, down from 75.9% in March.
Wong said the economy did play a role in her decision to major in chemical engineering when she begins college at the University of Texas in the fall.
“I did hear that chemical engineers have the highest salary when they first graduate, which is really nice,” Wong said. “I do know it’s going to be a really difficult major because of the math and physics. I hope I can do what I enjoy and be able to do my best.”
Wu said many of her classmates are planning to pursue fields in engineering or medicine.
“At first I had no idea what I wanted to do after college,” Wu said. “I knew STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields are in demand now in the workforce. I thought about the different occupations I could have in that field. When I was a freshman, I would not think I would want to be a doctor, but after taking anatomy and biology courses and even pop culture made me want to become a doctor.”
Sanford agrees and says she plans to major in accounting at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. She said she wants to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations as a forensic accountant.
“I didn’t want to major in anything like history or arts just because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a strong job,” Sanford said. “I knew people would always need accountants.”
Wong said the majority of her classmates are planning to attend a four-year university after graduation.
“I think a lot of them have their future planned out,” she said of her classmates. “They’re not just thinking of partying. They’re thinking about medical school or getting into college and finding what really interests them and going from there.”
The high cost of college tuition has also influenced where many of this year’s valedictorians chose to attend school.
“I think that people have become a lot more cost-conscious in terms of the price for college,” Mulpuri said. “Definitely people were really aggressively pursuing scholarships from their schools or going to schools that were more affordable. UT Dallas actually gave me a full ride which was a big incentive for me, and also Southwestern is an in-state medical school so it’s subsidized by the state and the tuition is significantly lower than going to a private medical school.”
Taking classes at Austin Community College is another way many students are saving money.
“I know a lot of kids are doing ACC this summer to get some of the intro classes, just so they kind of get ahead and ACC is a lot cheaper and you get the same credit for it,” Sanford said.
Each of the valedictorians said they never could have gotten where they are today without the support they received from their parents and teachers.
“I don’t think that what I’ve achieved is just my own achievement,” Mulpuri said. “There have been a lot of people that have helped me get where I am now. Definitely my parents – they never pushed me but they always told me to set high standards for myself and to pursue what I’m interested in, what I’m passionate about, and always give my best.”