Each spring, CBT selects 20 well-deserving high school seniors from across Columbia who stand out as exceptional leaders and students to join our 20 Under 20 class. Nominations and recommendations for this year’s class poured in from teachers, mentors, community leaders, and even a senator. The new class members are globally and socially minded students who make the most accomplished professional feel under-accomplished. We could not be prouder to have them all in our community.
Who Are They?
This year’s class is comprised of Kavin Anand, Kate Bedsworth, Riley Cole, Quin Colhour, X’zaviaun Conson, Emelia Knarr, Ben Lewandowski, Joseph Lutz, Trenton Marks, Drew Morris, Pranavkumar “Pranav” Diptesh Patel, Taylor Reed, Daniel Schroeder, Grant Slusher, Heather Snow, Grace Stotler, Anna Kate Sundvold, Yahor Vazmitsel, Lauren VerBrugge, and Jasmine Walker.
While their areas of interest vary, this class’s core is driven by a desire to help others.
“Attending a smaller, private school has taught me one thing above all: the importance of community,” says Lutz, a Father Tolton Catholic High School senior. He plans to study biomedical engineering or biochemistry in the hopes of completing medical school and joining Doctors Without Borders.
Lutz found inspiration for his major in his favorite high school class, honors biology. “From learning about the seven characteristics of life to the intricacies of an ecosystem,” says Lutz, “it gave me a newfound appreciation for the natural world that I had never experienced before.”
A Columbia Independent School senior, Walker plans to major in business administration while completing her pre-med requirements at the University of Richmond with the aim of combining her business degree and medical knowledge to open a private practice. “My goal is to help decrease birth rates among minority youth,” says Walker. “In order to accomplish this goal, I plan to hold a free clinic on Saturdays to provide medical care for high-risk youth and women who do not have access to affordable healthcare.”
Colhour, a Heritage Academy senior, plans to major in biology with an emphasis in neuroscience at Hillsdale College. “I want to become a successful psychiatrist who is able to assist people as they navigate the challenges of life,” says Colhour.
Knarr plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design where she will major in illustration. Knarr, a Hickman High School senior, wants to help kids know they’re not alone. “I want to become an accomplished author and illustrator. I hope that the stories I tell will one day reach people and make them happy,” says Knarr.
Dedication to Community
It goes without question that the 20 Under 20 class members have strong academic performances, but the hours of work outside of the classroom also set them apart from their peers.
During her junior year, Walker created Columbia Independent School’s first glee club. She provided the leadership and heart for the club’s more anxious members to overcome their fears in order to lead duets and solos. She now leads middle school students in glee club rehearsals and helps them learn new song lyrics and choreography.
Columbia Independent School teacher Lisa Heffernan Weil says, “Jasmine is not someone who pursues things because they look good on a resume. She follows her heart.”
Stotler, a Christian Fellowship senior and future pre-med student at MU, initiated a workshop in her school, through the Stop the Bleed campaign, to train her peers on how to save lives in emergency bleeding situations before professional help arrives. She has also published three poems and two short stories.
“I would love to have a book published,” says Stotler. “That would be a dream come true.”
VerBrugge, a Hickman High School senior, developed her Adobe programming skills to the point where she walked into an internship at KMIZ as a news promotion manager intern. She plans to attend MU and major in strategic communications. Eventually, she wants to work on the creative staff of an ad agency.
One of VerBrugge’s proudest high school accomplishments was working her way up to become the editor-in-chief of both the school’s newspaper and award-winning art and literary magazine.
Lewandowski, a fellow Hickman Kewpie, wants to work as a human or civil rights lawyer. He currently serves as his school’s student body president. He plans to study social policy or political science and then move on to law school. Fittingly, Amnesty International, where students discuss and work to support efforts ending human rights violations, was Lewandowski’s favorite club in high school.
The Columbia Aeronautics and Space Association — the largest student led space simulation in the country — has been in decline for several years. In Knarr’s first year as director of public affairs, she began restoring community relationships, reestablishing the educational outreach program, and completely redesigned the program’s website. She has since taken on the student director role. She has been able to change the culture of the program to set up many successful years to come.
While Bedsworth, a Father Tolton senior, pursues a dual major in business management and accounting at Drake University, she plans to participate in campus activities such as faith groups and the Engaged Citizen Corps program. “My future goals are to graduate college with at least a master’s degree and obtain a secure job that I love,” says Bedsworth. “I want to be able to spend my free time with my family and friends, volunteer, and travel.”
Stotler has found a somewhat unusual role model in Boris Karloff, the horror movie star best known for his portrayal of Frankenstein. “His work ethic was incredible,” says Stotler. “He overcame racism and a disability to become the legend we know today.”
“When I look for role models, the trait I value foremost is selflessness,” says Lutz. Mike Jenner, from Lutz’s Boy Scout troop, is one of those people. “His compassion for the boys in the troop, his family, and even those he doesn’t know, is clearly shown in his life, and I aspire to be just like him.”
Slusher, a Father Tolton senior, says, “Not to be cliché, but I would have to choose advice that Michael Scott gave to Dwight Schrute in the television show, ‘The Office’: ‘Don’t be an idiot.’”
Slusher has plans to study history with an eye on law school. Already on the way to his goals, Slusher was a founding member of Father Tolton’s mock trial team. He, alone, recruited a local attorney and a faculty member to sponsor their club to keep the team competitive.
While some have found advice and role models in after-school groups and media, sports continue to be a major influence on these high school students as well.
“The best advice I have ever received came from my soccer coach, who taught us unrelentingly to ‘keep showing up,’” says Colhour. “Over and over, he would recount the necessity of this principle for us, with regard to soccer as well as our lives as character-based young men.”
Reed helped usher in Battle High School’s first women’s wrestling team. Serving as captain, Reed led her team to be a state qualifier, and she plans to continue her wrestling career into college. “My future goal is to become a secondary education teacher and to help kids with behavioral issues,” says Reed. “I’d like to make a difference in kids’ lives like so many of my teachers did for me.”
Anand, a Rock Bridge senior, is Stanford bound, where he will study neuroscience. “I’d like to change the pervasiveness of depression and anxiety in today’s youth and truly help individuals rediscover the excitement and easygoing attitude that marks childhood,” says Anand.
Planning to major in accounting at MU, Patel says the best advice he heard was, “Passion gets the ball rolling, but commitment and discipline is what keeps you going.” Known for dressing in khaki pants and button-down shirts, Patel, a Rock Bridge senior, seems like he was born for his chosen accounting future. He would like to one day become a CFO.
While Sundvold, also a Rock Bridge senior, is a nationally-recognized competitive dancer, she has diversified herself outside the dance studio. Sundvold is involved in Junior Leadership Columbia, a program for high-achieving, business-minded students.
Jennifer Lee, of the Columbia Performing Arts Centre, says, “Anna Kate has always been a natural born leader. Her assistance in running rehearsals and influencing her teammates around her has been paramount to the success of our program. Her assistance is impeccable. As an adult, I find myself learning from her just as much as she does from me.”
The admiration flows both ways; Sundvold says Lee is the person she most admires. “She has been in my life for as long as I can remember. She has taken in so many young dancers and not only given them a passion for dance, but has also taught them how to be better people. I hope that I can inspire children the way she has,” says Sundvold.
Sundvold will graduate in the top three percent of her class. She plans to continue dancing into her collegiate career.
While it may not sound like there’s any time for fun, this class acknowledges the need for balance.
“I like to browse Reddit and look at ridiculous stories,” says Knarr. “The ones about crazy parents and ‘choosing beggars’ are my favorite, but ‘beans in places where beans shouldn’t be’ is a pretty great board.”
Marks, a Battle High School senior, likes to spend his time reading or playing fantasy role playing games. During the summer, he stays active on the water with his wave runner or on land by hiking whenever possible. He undoubtedly deserves a break after he earned a full-ride scholarship to Davidson College after matching through the National College Match, a college and scholarship application process that helps outstanding low-income high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to the nation’s most selective colleges. He plans to major in biology and minor in English. After his studies, he hopes to become a wildlife biologist.
“Later in life, I would like to get to a point where I can begin writing books, engaging in philanthropic endeavors, and ultimately acquire a house nestled in a forest,” Marks says.
Cole, a Battle High School senior, has collaborated with the Youth Community Coalition in creating the GOCoMo app in hopes of connecting younger students to community events. He says his biggest lesson in high school was to “be kind to all people, because we are all deserving.” Cole plans to major in environmental sciences at MU.
Joining Washington University’s architecture program, Rock Bridge senior Schroeder wants to create buildings that are sustainable and use local material, that produce more energy than they use, and that are accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. He has been interning for Peckham Architecture in Columbia during his senior year.
Reach the Top and Keep Going
As a Father Tolton student, Snow was required to complete 80 service hours, but she surpassed that requirement and accumulated 150 service hours. In addition to her service work, Snow serves as the production supervisor at her family’s business, the head farmhand on the family farm, and a caregiver for a local family.
Fluent in Spanish, Snow wants to make an impact in the agricultural industry and to help end world hunger. She plans to attend MU to earn a degree in animal science. “My ultimate career goal is to improve the health and efficiency of livestock in commercial operations, and in turn, aid producers in feeding the ever-growing populations,” says Snow.
A transfer student from Belarus, Vazmitsel, learned AP-level chemistry before coming to Rock Bridge. When his AP chemistry teacher went on maternity leave, he took over teaching the class. Vazmitsel will be attending MU for free to study chemical engineering. He plans to earn a PhD in chemical engineering or a related field. He will also be listed as an author on three upcoming peer-reviewed MU papers.
Despite these being a few of his accomplishments, Vazmitsel is still humble. “Marks and grades only reflect how good you are in a certain subject rather than your true intelligence,” says Vazmitsel.
Morris, a Rock Bridge senior, made his mark on Senator Josh Hawley’s recent campaign. After a summer of canvassing and organizing rallies, Morris moved into a staff position, allowing him to travel with Hawley throughout Missouri.
Amalia Chua Halikias, policy director for Josh Hawley for U.S. Senate, says of Morris, “Few college graduates with whom I’ve ever worked have demonstrated the level of concrete policy knowledge, the combination of humility and drive, and the keen self-awareness and social acumen I have seen from Drew.”
During his free time, Morris reads Wikipedia pages on everything and anything, pursues photography and videography, and goes to McDonald’s for their uniquely formulated Sprite, he says. Morris plans to pursue government and politics, practice law, and work with the increasing use of social media and technology.
Not every 20 Under 20 student is headed to college right away. Conson, a Battle High School senior, will attend college after serving in the army. An active member of Men of Color, Honor and Ambition, he mentors younger students in the community. Conson served as team captain and a varsity letterman on the Battle football team, which has reached the state final four times, three of which happened while he was on the varsity team.
Conson says his proudest accomplishment in high school was being on the AVID site team. AVID is a college preparatory program for first generation college students or students that may have barriers to college. It is a program that students must apply to and interview for.
As the class of 2019 makes their way across the stage, may they listen to their peer Anand’s favorite advice: “Immerse yourself in the moment and don’t let the results, expectations, and stressors distract you from having fun and growing.”