Meet Plymouth’s 2016 Prep Elite

Five driven high schoolers share their favorite experiences, passions and plans for the future.
From left to right: Zane Winston, Derek Onserio, Ellie Olmanson, Michael White & Kari Preus.

Derek Onserio // Providence Academy

  • Student ambassador
  • Drama Club
  • Theatre Council
  • Speech team
  • Lincoln Society
  • Math League
  • National Honor Society
  • Friends in Transition
  • Quiz Bowl
  • Choir and Brimstone
  • Chamber Choir
  • Show Choir
  • Peer Tutoring
  • Tennis
  • Volunteer at Maple Grove Hospital

What drew you to being a student ambassador?
[I attended] an event in the fall where students went to visit various parochial schools throughout the area. Because we got to miss school and I thought it might be fun, I decided to go. After the event, I realized that I knew a lot about our school and that I liked telling other people about our school and helping them decide if they liked [it] by answering their questions about things such as academic and social life.

Any favorite memories from your involvement with the drama program?
Every show, after we strike the show (take apart the set when the show ends), we all go to Perkins to have a cast/crew party. This is always really fun because we all get to hang out as a big group for the last time and it gives us all a time to hang out and relax after what is usually a stressful tech week.

What do you like most about tennis?
One of my favorite things about tennis—not including actually playing the game—is probably how everyone is essential to winning the game. Even though tennis is considered an individual/dual sport in high school, you are still on a team [and] rely on your teammates to win their matches in order to win the game.

What’s your favorite subject in school and why?
This year my favorite class is my math class. I enjoy the challenge that it presents. With calculus, it usually takes a while until you fully understand the concepts, however the moment when you finally understand them feels great.

What are your plans after high school?
After high school, I plan on attending college. Outside of that I am not completely sure what I will be doing, but I will probably end up working in business.

Ellie Olmanson // Wayzata High School

  • Junior class president
  • Co-chair of PEACE Day
  • Link leader
  • Student Council Senate
  • Student Council executive board
  • Trojan Tribune senior staff writer
  • Trojan Pals
  • Youth Extending Services
  • National Honor Society
  • Varsity basketball
  • Varsity lacrosse
  • Wayzata Leadership Academy (sophomore year)

What sparked your involvement in Student Council?
What have you learned from it? In elementary school, I thought I’d try my hand at Student Council and I’ve been hooked ever since. There are countless opportunities for us to make a difference within our community. My favorite is hearing people talk about how much they enjoyed something I help put on. StuCo really put into perspective the “walk a mile in their shoes” saying.

Best high school memory so far?
My favorite high school memory would have to be my AP U.S. History class. In APUSH, we had a lot of projects that gave us the freedom to add our own creativity, and I’m sure my class would say I took advantage of that. For a Founding Fathers “dinner party,” I was able to convince my entire class to make a Twitter account for the person they were representing. Midway through, we took a break to have Twitter roast battles with each other (nerdy, I know, but it was pretty funny).

You scored 10 goals as a sophomore on the lacrosse team. What’s your secret?
All I had to do was get open and my teammates were able to provide me with great passes. Last year we made the state tournament for the first time in Wayzata history. Sharing that experience with my team made it one of the highlights of my sophomore year.

What do you do to relax?
During the school year, one of my favorite ways to relax is to put some popcorn in the microwave and watch a movie. I am a self-proclaimed Full House addict and have seen every episode (except the last one, I can’t bring myself to watch it).

What are your plans for the future?
I have yet to decide on a certain college, but I do want to go out of state. I’m planning on coming back to Minnesota, but I believe that college would be a good opportunity to branch out and make connections throughout the nation.

Michael White // Robbinsdale Cooper High School

  • Debate team captain
  • National Speech and Debate Association student leadership committee
  • Relay for Life committee
  • Pit orchestra and symphonic band, Jazz I, Jazz II and marching band
  • Short-form improv troupe
  • Varsity lacrosse
  • National Honor Society
  • Intern at University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity
  • Takes PSEO classes at the University of Minnesota

What did you enjoy most about the nationals in Congressional Debate last year? What was the most challenging part?
The most enjoyable part of competing at the national tournament was being able to debate with some of the smartest students in the country. We discussed foreign and domestic policies ranging from the authorization of military involvement in Syria to the regulation of prescription drug advertisement. The hardest part of the tournament was the length of the competition. I was in a chamber for eight hours every day for three days, which was completely exhausting.

What do you like about taking PSEO classes?
The work is very independent and the pace and rigor are unparalleled. For example, in my junior year I completed Calculus 1 and 2 in back-to-back semesters, a task that would take two years at the high school level. Additionally, PSEO allows me to take classes that really interest me, such as political philosophy.

If you could debate anyone, in history or alive today, who would it be and why?
I would love to debate Michael Collins, the Irish politician and revolutionary. Being a first generation Irish immigrant, I have always had an appreciation for Irish history and politics. It would be fascinating to be able to speak with such a renowned orator and controversial figure in Irish history.

What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
People may be surprised to know that I am an avid knitter. My mom taught me before a long road trip with my grand-aunt across the southern United States. By the end of that summer I was making hats for all of my friends.

What do you hope to study in college?
I plan on studying political science or economics and going on to law school after graduation. However, I am also considering going into international business or finance.

Zane Winston // Benilde-St. Margaret’s School

  • Chess Club captain
  • Coaches chess for Twin Cities Chess Club and Hopkins Community Education
  • Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy
  • National Honor Society
  • National Spanish Honor Society
  • High honor roll
  • Business Professionals of America
  • Intramural basketball
  • Matthews Elite Basketball Club
  • Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners volunteer

What do you like best about Benilde-St. Margaret’s?
I like Benilde-St. Margaret’s because of the smaller school size. This allows for better relationships with both the teachers and the other students. BSM also encourages students to do service within the community, and has allowed and encouraged me to get involved with local organizations.

You spent a week at the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama. What did you learn from that experience?
I learned a ton about science and engineering at the camp. More importantly—which I hope I can bring into the classroom, and use in my future—are the communication skills I learned. We worked on a lot of group challenges, so we really had to learn how to work together. There were kids from 36 countries who attended camp with me, and being able to see all the different cultures and viewpoints was inspiring.

Do you plan to keep playing chess after high school?
I really enjoy playing chess and plan on continuing to play after I graduate. I hope to join a college chess club. Many communities also have chess organizations that provide casual games and chess tournaments. The chess community is amazing.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I like teaching chess, spending time with my friends, and playing basketball. I like teaching chess because I enjoy the game and also find it fun trying to share that love of the game with others. Basketball is my favorite sport by far, but I have never been that good, so I play recreationally whenever I can.

What are you looking forward to most after high school?
I am actually really excited to attend college. I’m not sure where I will go yet, but I will probably major in either business or engineering. I’m looking forward to moving out of my comfort zone and taking on some new challenges.

Kari Preus // West Lutheran high school

  • Co-curricular choir
  • Western Accents
  • Drama and musicals
  • Student Council
  • Prom committee
  • Track captain
  • Basketball captain
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Softball
  • Youth group
  • Minnesota Suns AAU basketball
  • Full-time nanny during summer

You’re captain of the track and basketball teams. What kind of leader are you?
For my whole life, I have been taught that you have to work hard to be accomplished. Not only on the court, but also in everything you do. If you lead a team by working hard and showing no fear or discouragement, they follow that example: win or lose, everyone did what they could.

What do you enjoy most about mentoring younger students?
Mentoring younger students is so cool, especially at West. Being a part of this school, you get so many opportunities to show younger students how to do different activities and watching them grow and understand is so fulfilling.

How do you balance all of your activities?
Balancing activities is hard, and ever since grade school I have never been in only one activity. Outside of West, I play AAU basketball for the Minnesota Suns and do as much as I can with my youth group. I have everything that I do in my planner and if there are conflicts, I have priorities among different activities.

What’s your favorite part of starring in a play or musical?

I love drama! Not necessarily starring in the play or musical, but being a part of a production and the ability to be crazy with your friends in rehearsals and the overall experience that you get from acting, no matter what your role is.

What does an ideal Saturday look like for you?
An ideal Saturday for me is very busy, especially in the spring. Usually waking up around 7 a.m. to go to a basketball tournament, then rushing to the field to get to my softball game, and by the afternoon, going to a family, church or school event.

What are your career aspirations?
I'm pretty indecisive on a career at the moment, but I hope in the future I can continue to help people.