Montgomery ISD Valedictorians and Salutatorians stepping into the future, reflecting on paths taken

Next week, both Montgomery ISD 2023 senior classes will cross the stage and step forward into their futures. These students have overcome adversity, with their freshmen years being interrupted by a pandemic, and achieved what only few can. They will each graduate at the top of their class, ready to take on the future.

Charley Wernli, Montgomery HS Valedictorian

Charley Wernli is a Legacy Senior that has attended MISD schools since Kindergarten. She is a member of National Honor Society, Student Council, Mu Alpha Theta, Spanish Honor Society and also played soccer at Montgomery HS, before having two knee surgeries. She was a student in the Engineering CTE pathway who participated in Project Lead the Way and plans to attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, majoring in Biomedical Engineering..

“My knee surgeries are actually what opened my mind to Biomedical Engineering,” Charley said. “As I learned about the brace and devices used by my orthopedic surgeon, and he offered me an opportunity to shadow him in the operating room, my interest was built.”

Charley is the youngest of three kids and is a first-generation college student. She has selected Brown University because of the open curriculum offered, allowing her to learn for the sake of learning, without general education requirements.

“I never really expected to go to college,” Charley said. “But when I got my class rank my freshman year, before Covid, and saw I was number one, I was shocked. I guess I realized my potential then, and it pushed me to realize I could go somewhere and do big things.”

Charley is excited to have the opportunity to explore different interests while pursuing her degree and is thankful for the experience that the Covid shutdown provided for her time in high school. She says that before Covid, her one hobby included studying, taking academics very, maybe too, seriously. The perspective from that time at home forced her to find her passions and interests, which included soccer, painting, sewing, poetry and playing guitar. Brown University will give her a college experience that allows her to study more freely.

“It’s funny to say, but I’m thankful to have learned that my passion is so much more important than my grade point average,” Charley said. “The character development that happened in my life through high school and the Covid experience has allowed me to find other things and enjoy them.”

Charley says she loves Montgomery and has been here her entire life, but she’s excited to experience something different in the culture of Rhode Island and living more of a city-life for awhile.

Cline Piotrowski, Lake Creek HS Valedictorian

Cline Piotrowski will attend the University of Texas at Austin as a student in the Canfield Business Honors Program and the Liberal Arts Honors Program beginning in August. With selections across the state and country available to him, Cline is excited to be in Austin, close to the State Capitol as he considers a career in government.

Cline serves Lake Creek HS as the Student Council President and is also involved in National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, My Alpha Theta and UIL Academics. He also ran cross country and track early in high school, after transferring to Lake Creek from private school.

“When I came my freshman year, I jumped in with both feet, to get involved and find ways to serve my school,” Cline said. “I knew I had potential to be ranked high and believed that obtaining Valedictorian was something I could challenge myself to grow in.”

Cline always knew that he would be a student that worked hard and did well academically, but he also believed it was most important to keep his priorities in order. Class rank could be a healthy thing to push for, but he never wanted it to define him, or saw it as the most rewarding thing about high school.

“I’ve always believed that serving others needed to come first,” Cline said. “My priorities are one, my relationship with Christ. Then comes my family and then my school, through student council. Class rank was fourth and though I knew I was capable, it was never going to be more rewarding than the first three priorities.”

Cline has been a student in the STEM Computer Science CTE Pathway, having first believed that Computer Science was a possible career path. His involvement in student government and public service has changed that future mindset and he is most thankful for the teachers that have been along the journey with him every day, pushing him academically, but also challenging him as a person.

“The educators that have influenced me are one of the most important components to the confidence I have as I go forward after high school,” Cline said. “Mrs. Rice has taught me so much about leadership and how to lead. Mrs. Lorance, oh gosh, her character and the way she has just been such a guide for me. And then there’s Hanel and Whitten, who have both pushed me academically and helped me find my passions. So many incredible teachers helped me get here.”

Cline is the second of four children in his family and is thankful for the experiences that high school has provided. He looks forward to his move to Austin and jumping in with both feet, like he did at Lake Creek, joining all the student organizations he can that will offer opportunities to serve others and be involved in student life.

Cole Haynes, Montgomery HS Salutatorian

Cole Haynes will be attending Yale University in the fall, with plans to study Computer Science. He is the oldest of four children, a member of the Montgomery Bears Cross Country team and participates in UIL Academics and Business Professionals of America. Competing to represent Montgomery HS academically, he was a member of the team that placed 2nd at Nationals with a software creation, he advanced to Nationals individually in Digital Media Production and he has advanced to State in UIL Social Studies this year.

Deciding between Yale and Rice was a tough decision for this academically driven student, but he believes Yale will offer him opportunities to explore a variety of studies and branch out in his interests. Cole has completed the CTE Cybersecurity and Computer Science Pathway in Montgomery ISD and aims to study Computer Science and Cognitive Science in college.

“I’ve been reading about the physical processes behind our thinking and our waking conscious actions,” Cole said. “There isn’t a lot known about what happens inside of our brain when we think, and the opportunity to research and study that really interests me.”

When asked about his class rank and goals for achieving Salutatorian, Cole shared how he found out he was number four his freshman year and realized he had the ability to be in the mix. He enjoys studying and being challenged by taking AP classes, so the potential to compete was there and he just continued to work hard. In addition to academics, he also found joy in stepping outside his comfort zone and trying a variety of things.

“I could’ve done a better job with stepping outside of my comfort zone, but taking CTE courtroom classes was a highlight of my high school career,” Cole said. “The mock trials class with Mrs. Krizan was such a great learning experience. She’s just such a great teacher and after that experience, the idea of studying law isn’t off the table.”

Cole loves to run. He tries to find time to run every day and has found that running while preparing for a test is a great way to test his recall for an upcoming exam. As college provides opportunities for freedom and exploring a new culture in New Haven, it will also require some new running gear to tackle those much colder seasons.

Jada Freeney, Lake Creek HS Salutatorian

Jada Freeney will be attending Texas A&M to study Molecular and Cell Biology with plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in Optometry. She is involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, is President of Spanish Honor Society and has been a member of Mu Alpha Theta, while also playing soccer and running track during her time at Lake Creek.

Jada’s academic experience in high school has her reflecting on the pressure she allowed herself to carry and looks forward to pursuing her passions and interests in college.

“Finding out I was ranked number one my freshman year completely influenced my academic trajectory in high school,” Jada said. “I made my course selections based on holding onto my rank and that required me to sacrifice some of my passions. It was worth it, because I was challenged and had some amazing teachers, but I’m excited to indulge a bit more in my personal interests in college.”

Jada is the middle child of three Lake Creek Lions. Her older brother graduated in 2022 and her younger brother will graduate in 2024. She is thankful for parents that didn’t push her too hard, as she was already very self-motivated, and the teachers she has had that have helped her find her passion and desire to pursue science more fully.

“Mrs. Boyles is an incredible human being that has taught both of my brothers and me,” Jada said. “She has helped me through all of the challenges that I put on myself and has instilled and nurtured this science passion in me. If I decide not to go to medical school, I hope I can be a science teacher and impact students the way that she does.”