WHS National Merit Scholars lead on, off field
Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
By Judy Truesdell
Wylie High School seniors A.J. Walker and Corbin Williams have been named National Merit Semifinalists, based on their PSAT scores, an achievement that means they have scored in the top 1 percent of the 1.5 million students taking the test each year.
If they meet certain additional criteria, they’ll advance to the level of Finalist in the spring, a prestigious designation likely to result in scholarship offers from many colleges and universities.
If the two seem comfortable with the honor, it may be due to the fact that they’re used to being out in front, literally as well as figuratively. A.J. is the captain of the Pirate Pacesetters drill team, and Corbin is a drum major for That Wylie Band.
They’re used to the spotlight.
A.J. Walker – A.J. is the daughter of Michelle Lindsay and Rick Walker. With a grade-point average of 5.627, she’s ranked number one in her class at WHS. Her PSAT score was 215 out of 240.
She’s lived in Wylie for nine years; before that, she lived in Garland, Richardson and Sachse. She joked that her favorite subjects in school are “late arrival … and lunch,” and she said her biggest high school challenge has been “not having a late arrival for three years.”
Late or on time, the bright-eyed senior has many accomplishments and awards on her resume. She’s received academic recognition for several subjects including English, world geography and math, and has been honored for outstanding citizenship. A recipient of WHS’ Principals Award, she is an AP Scholar with Honors and a member of the National Honor Society.
A.J. has won every dance and leadership award possible as a member of the Pacesetters, both at school and at summer drill team camp. She was co-captain of the drill team with Macey Archibald as a sophomore and the lone captain for the last two years.
Regarding maintaining the balance between academic excellence and extracurricular activities, A.J. said, “Well, Jesus helps me a lot. The key is balance. I make sure I take time to play and have fun, because otherwise I would go crazy. I manage my time wisely. I try to multitask as much as possible, and I make sure I get the most important things done first.
“You have to enjoy whatever it is you are doing, so I find a way to make it fun and then give it my all.”
She said the best advice she ever received from an adult was “Be who God created you to be; live life to the fullest; give everything you do your absolute best and then trust God to do the rest.”
For students who may be frustrated with homework, projects and feeling overwhelmed, A.J. said the key is to prioritize.
“Take care of the most important stuff first, then take a big break! You need to take time to relax or play and ‘unstress,’ then come back to your work and do the next most important thing.
“If you have SOAR time or tutorials at school, use them! Try to get as much of your homework done at school so that when you come home, you can enjoy some chill time.”
She said her grandparents inspire her and, “I love Jesus!”
Although she hasn’t finalized college plans, A.J. said she’s considering Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, the University of North Texas and Texas A&M among others. She also knows she wants to continue dancing.
Corbin Williams: Corbin is the son of Marty and Shannon Williams and is ranked fifth in his class of 721 with a GPA of 5.51. He scored a 227 out of 240 on the PSAT.
He moved to Wylie in 2000 from Rowlett, he said, and he enjoys math and science classes. Topping the “most challenging” list is English, although he said he enjoys doing the projects, even though they can be difficult, and feels that he learns a lot from them.
Corbin said he is “very honored” to be considered a National Merit Semifinalist, but he’s also been honored to be a leader in That Wylie Band. “I have had the privilege of serving on That Wylie Band leadership team for three years – French horn section leader as a sophomore, brass captain as a junior, and drum major as a senior.” He was also an All-State French horn player as a junior and hopes to repeat the honor later this year.
He was selected as the Rotary Youth Leadership Award candidate for WHS as a junior; RYLA is a selective leadership camp that takes place over a week in the summer. He’s a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society.
Although Corbin said he doesn’t have an abundance of “down time,” when he does have a break in the high school action, he enjoys playing the piano, playing computer games, and following the Dallas Mavericks. “I love playing hymn arrangements while my dad and sisters sing,” he said.
How does he do everything and maintain his academic excellence? “I love the things I do, so it’s not difficult to juggle my activities,” he said. “I think that’s the secret – I would not be able to participate in everything I’m involved in if I didn’t enjoy it.”
Corbin said the best advice from an adult came from Todd Dixon, his band director. “He tells us all the time to ‘follow through’ or ‘seal the deal.’ While he usually is referring to a range of band-related activities, from finishing phrases in music to turning in our practice records, this advice can be applied to many aspects of life outside of band as well.
“To me, it simply means never give up. I have had many opportunities in my life to quit, but when I ‘follow through,’ it is always better.”
As for younger students who may be struggling, Corbin advises them to keep forging ahead. “Your life may be challenging and difficult now, but you will always be happier with the results if you push through. I’ve been there many times – you’ll be able to look back on all that you accomplished and amaze yourself with what you were able to do.”
He said his dad inspires him “to do the best I can in every aspect of life.”
“Looking back, I am glad he has seen potential in me and pushed me to reach that potential,” he said. “He always held high expectations of me because he believed that I could achieve excellence, and I am grateful that he did so.”
Corbin is considering Rice University or Baylor University, where he plans to major in chemical engineering while taking the prerequisites for medical school. His goal is to be an orthopedic surgeon.
He’s also a member of First Baptist Church Wylie where he sings with the youth band on Wednesday nights. “My faith is a large part of what I do. My goal is always to bring glory to God in everything I do.”
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