Every year, YES Prep schools honor the top two students of their graduating class at the annual Valedictorian + Salutatorian Banquet. This year, it was celebrated on May 30, 2023, at YES Prep’s Home Office. An incredibly special thanks goes to Univision 45 news anchor, Osvaldo Corral, for returning this year to serve as the event's honorary master of ceremony.
YES Prep is proud to recognize 31 valedictorians and salutatorians for the 2022-2023 academic year. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate the YES Prep families who, without their support, the students being recognized would not be top-performing students at YES Prep.
This school year, counselors shared that every valedictorian and salutatorian had above a 4.0 GPA, with the average GPA of a 4.40. To earn above a 4.0 GPA, each student had to consistently get an A+ average on their grades in each class. Every student challenged themselves to take difficult courses, strove academically and showed the dedication that will help them succeed after YES Prep.
Valedictorian – Wendoline Urias
Wendoline held the highest academic position in both class rank and GPA in her class. She finished with a 4.386 GPA and completed the most rigorous academic coursework Brays Oaks had to offer, including 10 AP (Advanced Placement) courses, and passing 9 of those AP exams. Wendy received 10 college acceptances and over two hundred thousand dollars in scholarships!
Wendy received numerous awards including 3rd place in a JV debate competition, AP Scholar and the National Hispanic Recognition Award!
Wendoline plans to pursue a degree in Biochemistry at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas from which she received over $60,000 in scholarships.
Co-Salutatorian – Lizbeth Pineda
Lizbeth graduated with a 4.345 GPA and took every AP course at Brays Oaks. She participated in the Art Club, was team leader of the Rice Engineering Club and treasurer of the Latin X Club. Liz participated in the Varsity Girls Soccer team, Varsity Girls Volleyball team where she also served as a captain and the Girls Varsity Basketball team.
Liz will be attending Texas A&M University in the fall to pursue a major in Urban Planning Architecture.
Co-Salutatorian – Itzel Romano
Itzel challenged herself by taking AP Biology and Environmental Systems. She was one of three seniors to double enroll in core content courses and boasted a 4.35 GPA. She served on the Senior Council, Latinx Student Association, the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and the Varsity Basketball team.
Valedictorian – Jacqueline Vazquez
Jackie is described as a goal-oriented student who always found ways to improve her work. Jackie took 10 AP classes, served countless community service hours and was a member of both the Spanish Honor Society and National Honor Society.
With a nursing profession, she hopes to support her family financially and use her ability as a bilingual speaker to help her community. This fall she is attending the University of St. Thomas.
Salutatorian – Yesenia De Leon
Yesenia was president of East End’s Student Council and SolX, the Society of LatinX students. This year, she stepped out of her comfort zone and was part of the basketball team. Her most impactful opportunity was her participation in USC’s Bovard program last summer. Some of her accolades include honor roll every semester, successfully completing nine AP courses and maintaining a 4.4 GPA. This fall she will be majoring in computer science as a QuestBridge Scholar at Boston College.
Eisenhower High School
Valedictorian – Natalia Araniva
Natalia was an active member of the YES Prep Eisenhower community, academically and socially. She served as a member of the Eisenhower High School Color Guard and participated in her community in various roles including working as an election worker. She plans to attend Trinity University in the fall to pursue her dream of working in the medical industry.
Salutatorian – Jorge Plancarte
Jorge will attend his dream school, New York University, with $75,394 in scholarships and grants. At NYU, he will be pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, from the Rory Meyers College of Nursing, one of the top colleges of nursing in the country. He hopes to become a nurse practitioner.
Valedictorian – Yessenia Lizbeth Ramos
Yessenia Ramos was a first-generation college student whose leadership demonstrated her willingness to self-motivate to achieve her goals and her passion to advocate for others. She served as senior class president, led many projects from creating holiday celebrations, movie nights, collaborating with the athletic department and fundraising to make sure that enough funds were raised to have as many senior activities as possible.
Yessenia will attend Trinity University in the fall.
Salutatorian – Damien Aaron Gonzalez
Damien graduated with a 4.48 GPA and completed seven AP classes during his time at Fifth Ward Secondary. Damien served as captain of both the cross country and track teams, in addition to being a team member of the men’s volleyball and JV basketball teams.
He was awarded the National Hispanic Recognition Award through the College Board and was the treasurer of both the National Honor Society and Student Council. He will attend the University of Houston to pursue a business major in the fall.
Valedictorian – Daniela Michelle Menendez
Daniela was captain and four-year varsity letterman on the girls' soccer squad, an avid cross-country runner and even joined the boy's flag football team!
As a leader on campus, she was the president of the LatinX Club and an integral member of Student Council while consistently holding a 20-hour-per-week job. Outside of school, she participated in High Mountain Institute Summer Semester, the USC Bovard Scholars program, and was selected as a Rising Leader through the University of Texas's Subiendo Academy.
Salutatorian - William Mariscal
William constantly worked towards being the best and most true version of himself. He displayed his ability to balance being involved in multiple clubs, taking four AP classes, committing to being a Student Hero at the Houston Food Bank and still managed to have the mental capacity to support his best friends.
William will be studying public policy at Johns Hopkins University.
Valedictorian – Johnathan Mendoza
Johnathan’s diligent work ethic and growth mindset earned him the highest rank in his class. He can best be described as confident, an academic juggernaut and trustworthy.
His accolades included a 4.6 GPA, 10 AP classes, AP Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa Scholarship winner, Dell Scholarship winner, Gates Scholarship recipient; he was president of the Science National Honor Society and a YES Student Ambassador.
With the support of his family, Jonathan will attend Brown University in the fall.
Salutatorian – Jair Sanchez
Throughout his journey at YES Prep, Jair participated in the Compañía Folklórico Alegría Mexicana, a traditional dance group that represents his culture. He has participated in the National Hispanic Institute’s Great Debate Program, where he received first place and the NHI Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative session at Austin College.
Jair was an excellent mathematics student who completed and excelled in ten AP courses. His dedication led him to be the recipient of the “Trailblazer Award,” the highest student award at YES Prep North Central Secondary.
Jair plans to take his skills in mathematics to become an architect. He will be attending Yale University in the fall.
Jair was also featured by KHOU. Click here to view the story.
Valedictorian – Roxana I. Cuadrado Levis
Roxana is a polyglot, who held an officer position in the North Forest Legend Ambassador organization, had her artwork on display, hosted tutorials for her AP Calculus class and led the planning for her senior year experiences, including the senior mural.
Roxana was the epitome of persistence and conscientiousness. She aspires to become an architect and will focus her talents on developing environmentally friendly and sustainable infrastructures at the University of Texas at Austin.
Salutatorian – Yareli Gordillo
Yareli served as North Forest’s captain of the Legend Ambassadors. She earned this title through her hard work, commitment and her integrity. She handled herself with assertiveness and kindness and this was evident in every interaction.
She was a friendly face to all visitors on campus but was also a leader to her peers and leaves a legacy of service behind. She centered herself on family and faith and these values will support her on her journey at Houston Christian University this fall.
Valedictorian – Binh Tran
Binh was a focused, respectful and empowering individual at YES Prep Northbrook. His involvement and leadership in the local Asian-American and Pacific Islander organization and the month-long celebration and education of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage will leave lasting impact for years to come.
His STEM diploma focus led him to take every higher-level math and science course that he could, even though he switched his path from STEM-Engineering to finance. Binh will be attending the University of Houston in the fall, studying at the Bauer College of Business.
Salutatorian – Ashley Avalos
Ashley has been consistently a top student at Northbrook Middle and High throughout her time, making Honor Roll each term. A talented artist, Ashley achieved a 1st place prize in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Art Contest in Art 2 Drawing. She also volunteered to support her local community including volunteering at Spring Branch Elementary’s Summer School Enrichment Program.
She continually challenged herself by taking 9 AP courses and earning college credit on the exam for each course. Ashley will be attending the University of Houston this fall.
Valedictorian – Karla Lopez
Karla demonstrated a high regard for politeness, respect and leadership qualities during her time at Northside. She is a proud alumnus of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership (SEGL) from the South Africa semester cohort of Spring 2022.
Karla sought the most demanding course load offered at YES Prep Northside, including four AP courses in core content areas. She participated in Global Social Leaders World Catalyst, an organization aimed to shape young leaders from around the world to address challenges around the world. She took the lead in tackling plastic pollution at her church with a recycling initiative. As a member of the Student Council, she helped support school-wide events and activities such as the annual Trunk or Treat, Pride Food Market and Movies on the Lawn. She will be enrolling as a QuestBridge scholar attending Dartmouth College this fall.
Salutatorian – Daisy Torres
Daisy is a brilliant individual who consistently embodied integrity, determination and was solutions oriented. Her primary motivation in high school was to achieve at a high enough level that she was awarded an opportunity to study at a top school of her choice.
She was a leader on two committees, secretary of Student Council and co-chair of the 12th Grade Senior Financial Committee and maintained top ranking in her graduating class.
Daisy will be attending Colby College as a QuestBridge Scholar.
Valedictorian – Kelly Binh Truong
Kelly is a multi-faceted student and pride of Southeast Secondary. She was a Wizard Welcome Week leader and founder and president of the Southeast STEM Club.
Kelly was an active member of Girl Scouts and RISE, empowering young women to be independent. She participated in code with Klossy through WeWorks and the University of Texas at Austin’s Women in Engineering professional development programs.
Kelly played for the Southeast Varsity Volleyball team as co-captain and was a member of the Wizard Varsity Cheer Team, who won the 2023 Honor Charter Athletic League (HCAL) Championship, which led her to win the 2023 Southeast Athlete of the Year.
She was selected by the United States Federal Government to participate in a cultural immersion program in South Korea, all expenses paid. Additionally, she is an award recipient of the Gates Scholarship, Dell Scholarship and was matched with QuestBridge.
Kelly will attend Columbia University in New York City to pursue computer engineering.
Salutatorian – Lea Ninfa Garcia
Lea was a highly admired student at Southeast Secondary for being clever, wise as well as an innovative thinker. She challenged herself and took seven AP classes. Her hard work and efforts helped her match as a QuestBridge Scholar and earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of Notre Dame worth almost $400,000, where she will pursue civil engineering.
Valedictorian - Raven Sims
Raven was a member of the National Honor Society and Yearbook staff. She worked diligently on her schoolwork, scholarship applications and helping her peers with their school-related tasks. She also remained at the top of her class, while maintaining part-time employment.
She participated in the University of Houston Pharmacy Camp, was awarded as an IMPACT scholar and a Phi Beta Kappa scholarship recipient.
Raven will be taking her academic prowess, drive and positive spirit to Rhodes College in the fall, as she works towards becoming a nuclear pharmacist.
Salutatorian - Omar Gomez Quintana
Omar was an incredibly sharp and stoic student, served as a significant role model for other students and adults. In addition to excelling academically, he served as a leader on the soccer team, a member of the National Honor Society and worked part-time. His peers looked up to him and relied on him to be an example on campus.
Omar is pursuing a path to becoming an electrical engineer and will be a part of the HCC/University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering partnership program in the fall.
Valedictorian – Ana Carolina Bueno
Ana finished the semester with a weighted GPA of 4.48 and completed seven AP courses. She always helped her classmates and offered her generosity to others at any given time. Ana was involved in many organizations, some of which include the National Honor Society, Spirit Committee and Student Ambassadors.
Ana will be a first-generation college student. She has been accepted to over 10 colleges and universities and has received thousands of dollars in scholarships from each one.
Ana has chosen to attend one of our IMPACT schools, Trinity University, where she will be receiving a full-ride scholarship for her next four years.
Co-Salutatorian – Kamila Joselyn Posada
Kamila is a resilient, determined and intelligent young woman. Her dedication to her academics, extracurricular activities, community work and mental health awareness made her an extraordinary student.
She was a member of the volleyball team, president of the National Honor Society, a model Maverick and member of Student Ambassadors, a consistent volunteer at The Beacon Homeless Shelter and a leader amongst her peers.
She earned a full-ride scholarship and will be studying at Rochester University this fall.
Co-Salutatorian – Aajanea Rae-Chon Wilson
Aajanea has shown tremendous academic achievement as a student. She has worked well with her peers and faculty to aid in bringing about the best practices for Southwest.
Aajanea has juggled AP courses, along with being an active member of Black Excellence, Book Club and yearbook. She began her journey into extracurriculars by co-founding the Korean Culture Club and Southwest’s digital news club, E-Mavs News, where she was an amazing comic strip creator.
She will be attending the Cinematic Arts program at Houston Christian University this fall.
Valedictorian – Adriana Alvarez Echeverria
Adriana was a passionate overachiever that was unaware of her brilliance. Although introverted, she always pushed herself out of her comfort zone by taking on leadership roles on campus, serving as the spirit director of her sophomore class and creative director of her junior leadership council.
She earned a YES Prep Rowlinson Scholarship and a full ride to Johns Hopkins University. She will accomplish remarkable things as an English major.
Salutatorian – Susanna Ezeh
Susanna was a gifted and talented young lady who has demonstrated a consistent work ethic throughout her high school career. She used her love for learning to become a critical and independent thinker while completing five AP courses. Her work paid off and was rewarded with the Phi Beta Kappa scholarship.
On campus she founded the Black Student Associate and Film Club. She has also shown true commitment in extracurriculars as she challenged herself through cross country and playing in the orchestra.
Susanna will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall.
Valedictorian – Ashley Flores
Ashley was kind, intellectual, funny, compassionate and with a whimsical sense of humor. In addition to her passion for reading, she loved working on puzzles and was interested in Korean studies, which she plans to study further in college as a minor.
Ashley was recognized by the American Legion Post 560 for her work making quilts and pillows for veterans. This is one of several examples of her using her personal time to service others or better herself. She is not only a great role model for her younger sister but for all aspiring students who have faced the individual challenges of a first-generation college student.
Salutatorian – Sarai Escobar
Sarai Escobar is driven, committed and most of all enthusiastic about continuing to further her knowledge of issues she is passionate about. Her work ethic and selfless attitude towards others make her stand apart from her peers.
Sarai will begin her new journey at Texas A&M University at College Station.
Congratulations to this year's valedictorians and salutatorians. We wish them continued success in their next chapter of their education.
YES Prep is committed to academic and social development. Our students’ time is designed to ensure that every student who graduates YES Prep is prepared to pursue and complete a college degree or a rigorous post-secondary opportunity most aligned to their needs.
YES Prep is incredibly proud of our Valedictorians and Salutatorians. Each description above was an excerpt of a speech given by each recipients College Counselor, Director of College Counseling, or teacher mentor at our Val + Sal Banquet. Our College Counselors have worked with these students throughout their high school experience, advising them through AP Course Selection, helping connect them to student opportunities like USC Bovard or the High Mountain Institute, and throughout the college and scholarship application process.
Ten of our Vals and Sals will be attending college with 100% of their need met through our IMPACT College Partnership Program, and seven were among the 12 YES Prep Students who received the prestigious QuestBridge Scholarship this year. Five of these Seniors will attend Ivy League colleges and universities. Thank you to each of these students’ families, teachers and college counselors who have invested in them. This accomplishment is shared by both these seniors and those who have supported them.