ASU Prep’s May 25th graduation celebrated more than 550 students from across the five ASU Prep Academy campuses as well as the ASU Prep Digital program. Among these impressive graduates were gifted scholars, competitive athletes, flourishing artists, and students with inspiring stories of success. ASU Prep is proud to have played a role supporting these dynamic students and their journeys.
Paris Cepkauskas: Creative Artist
Paris Cepkauskas is well-prepared for her future, thanks in big part to the concurrent classes she took while still enrolled at ASU Prep Digital. With an impressive 47 college credits already applied to her major (graphic design with a minor in fashion design), Paris will be able to graduate in just three years. What’s more, those courses gave her a sneak peek of what to expect when she becomes a full-time Sun Devil; she’s headed to ASU’s Barrett Honors College this fall.
Paris says, “ASUPD was the best decision I could have made for my education, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.” She adds, “Having the flexibility gave me so many more opportunities to follow my passions and spend time with the people I love.” For Paris, this means more time to dedicate to art, family, and friends.
Paris’ creative interests include theater, art, and design. The artistic design she created on her graduation cap earned her second place. It’s no surprise her future plans include working as a graphic designer.
Paris advises incoming freshmen to really work with their teachers, asking questions and building relationships.
Vivek Habbu: Badminton Player
As a professional badminton player, Vivek Habbu knows a thing or two about staying fast on his feet and keeping his eye on the prize. An international student from Pune, India, Vivek has taken advantage of the flexibility ASU Prep Digital offers so he can balance academics with his badminton career.
ASU Prep Digital’s approach, including academic rigors, interactive learning tools, and one-on-one time with faculty have been an ideal fit with Vivek’s practice schedule and learning style.
Vivek says ASU Prep Digital has given him an “important overview of college life” and he has enjoyed the experience so much that he plans to study physics as an undergrad through ASU Online. He looks forward to continuing his education as well as his badminton career.
Mahkaylah Hopkins: The Importance of Relationships
During her time at ASU Prep Academy South Phoenix, Mahkaylah has learned the importance of relationships – with staff and peers, family, and most importantly, herself.
One of Mahkaylah’s favorite aspects of ASU Prep is the connections she made with supportive staff members. She gives special shout-outs to Mr. Gibbs for being “so consistent, reliable, and caring,” Mrs. Avise for being “an outlet” for Mahkaylah to express her feelings, and Miss Tahj and Miss Tendai for being “beautiful people,” providing strong African American female influence. Also important to Mahkaylah are her classmate connections and “learning what it meant to be a friend.” As student body president of the Class of 2023, Mahkaylah was able to really immerse herself in school spirit and culture.
After experiencing her parents’ tumultuous divorce and her mother’s passing in 2015, Mahkaylah values the profound effect her family has on her. She recognizes her dad for “unconditional love and support,” her stepmom for being “a breath of fresh air for our family,” and her Chicago family for support from afar.
Mahkaylah has grown through navigating life experiences, including her personal journey to overcome depression. The most important relationship she’s fostered along the way is the one with herself. She proudly attests, “Discovering how to love yourself is definitely one of the best experiences in the world. I did the work, I adapted, I learned, and I loved.”
This path has led Mahkaylah to be a nationally recognized scholar with numerous scholarship offers from various institutions. She plans to attend ASU in Tempe this fall, where she’ll be majoring in philosophy with an emphasis on morality, politics, and law.
Terra Jang: Multi-faceted Learner
A stand-out scholar, Terra is graduating from ASU Prep Digital with an unweighted 4.0 GPA, plus 31 college credits – all courses she earned dual credit and straight As for completing. Not to mention that she is a National Merit Finalist, scoring a perfect 36 on the ACT college admission exam.
Terra also excels outside of the classroom, designing and crocheting amigurumi (Japanese-style little creatures made of yarn). In an International Amigurumi Design Contest, Terra won 21st place (out of 687 design entries) for an adorable sea otter.
A well-rounded community member, Terra volunteers as an ASU Prep peer tutor, as well as within her own neighborhood as a “Big Sister.” She has been a part of various clubs, including the robotics club and the video game club.
Terra will be studying computer science at Vanderbilt in the fall. Impressively, she is one of just 10 students among the incoming class at Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering who have been selected as this year’s Clark Scholars and will receive, among other perks, a spot in the university-funded summer program and $15,000 per year.
Saraia Lolly: Career-Driven
When asked about her experience at ASU Prep Academy Polytechnic, Saraia focuses on her career ambitions and the learning opportunities to pursue them.
As a sophomore, Saraia earned a spot in a highly competitive Running on Sun Internship that gave her a front-row seat to ASU’s chemistry program. Through the internship, Saraia gained hands-on experience with scientific projects that opened her eyes to the countless ways technology solves problems – in science and beyond.
That experience inspired her to pursue a career putting technology to practical use solving modern world problems. Saraia was accepted into the Building Leaders and Creating Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) Community, a residential program that incorporates Black/African American/African cultural knowledge and experiences with academic support in a living community. “I’m looking forward to being surrounded by people who look like me and have the same goals and values,” Saraia says, noting it’s an extension of the recipe for success she discovered at ASU Prep Poly. She plans to major in business management with a minor in cyber security at the University of Arizona this fall.
Saraia encourages future students to “focus on education because that is what will get you where you want in the long run.”
Paul Montoya: Ahead of the Curve
Paul Montoya, Jr. graduated from ASU Prep Digital with 26 Arizona State University classes under his belt (78 college credits in all), putting him well on his way to earning a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering with a focus in cyber security.
Combined with credits earned through community college, Paul has enough hours stacked up to enter ASU’s College of Engineering as a college senior – at the age of 18. He plans to live on campus in the freshman dorms, but he’s also planning to celebrate his college graduation exactly one year after he receives his high school diploma.
Paul covered most of the requirements for his freshman and sophomore college courses during his sophomore year at ASU Prep Digital (and the summers before and after).
Starting his junior year, he began attending more advanced courses on the ASU campus, in addition to fulfilling his high school requirements. He earned credibility among his older peers by carrying his weight (and then some) on group projects, and he began competing in monthly tournaments with the ASU Chess Club, where he again held his own.
The only thing holding him back from entering the professional workforce just a year after finishing high school is a desire to experience the social aspect of college. So as any academically gifted student would, he’s considering a dual undergraduate degree – or maybe even attending grad school to pursue a PhD in nanotechnology, which he mentions with humble nonchalance.
This summer, he is spending twelve weeks in Houston as an intern at Honeywell.
More Awesome Graduates
ASU Prep is so proud of all of our graduates. We asked each graduate to tell us where they are headed for their post-secondary plans, their favorite memory from ASU Prep, and who they would like to thank. Read their responses here.