Friday, May 27, 2016

Stratford Twins Share Top Ranking

Pictured are (left to right) Alex Plant, Alyssa Plant, Filipe Rubinstein and Alex Rubinstein.

They rave about a school counselor who cares.

When a record 41 co-valedictorians from Stratford High’s Class of 2016 parade across the stage at Don Coleman Coliseum on Saturday, May 28, observers will note another interesting fact – two sets of twins are co-valedictorians and others earning this top academic spot have close family connections.

Stratford’s two sets of twin valedictorians won’t solve the puzzle over genes vs. environment in high achievers. They split over twin status helping them earn an honor like valedictorian – one set says it helped a lot, another says not so much.

But separately or together, these four co-valedictorians believe that senior class counselor Vanessa Croix deserves public credit for inspiring them to reach and stretch for top grades and colleges. “She is committed to all students,” one said.

“A parent once told me that to describe a student in the Stratford High School Class of 2016 as outstanding is the norm.  I couldn’t agree more,” the flattered senior counselor said in response during Graduation Week.

“All of my 523 seniors are absolutely amazing.  From our 41 co-valedictorians – which is a school record – to our talented athletes and future Broadway Stars and to every remarkable student in between, this is such an incredible group of young people,” she adds.

“I’m so proud of them and so excited that I got to be a part of their success!”

Alex and Alyssa Plant

Co-valedictorians Alex and Alyssa Plant attended Nottingham Elementary and Spring Forest Middle before they arrived at Stratford High.

Alex is headed this fall to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he’s interested in studying mechanical engineering and finance. He has earned three SMU-related scholarships, including the Discover and Dean’s scholarships.  

Alyssa will study biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University at College Station, where she has earned the College Board Recognition Award. Alyssa is also a recipient of a Spring Branch Education Foundation and the Citgo STEM scholarships. She’s thinking about a career in medicine.

Alex says there was neither competition nor great collaboration in winning two valedictorian spots. Alyssa agrees. “We never studied together. We both had an interest in different classes and I don’t think we competed. It was on our own, I think,” she says.

Both agree that Counselor Croix inspired them to achieve. “She wants to help all students, and also likes to individualize for each student. She’s the counselor who calls you in and then tells you everything you should be doing. She made us send in extra stuff – and it helped,” Alyssa says.

“She helped me so much with career choices, and she’d take the time to discuss pros and cons about choices, too,” Alex adds.

Filipe and Alex Rubinstein

Filipe and Alex Rubinstein attended Houston ISD’s Barbara Bush Elementary and West Briar Middle School before finding a Stratford home in ninth grade.

Filipe heads this fall to the University of Texas at Austin, where he will study both electrical and computer engineering. For graduate degrees, it’s either finance or an MBA for this young man.

A seventh-grade math teacher, Mrs. Mukta Khurana, pushed him forward when Filipe was chosen for an Algebra I pilot program. “She taught good study habits, and showed me the rigor that is expected in high school and college,” he says.

His brother, Alex, plans to major in bioengineering at Rice University, then go on to medical school, and later work with innovative technologies related to genetics and bioengineering.

His heroes are the many middle and high school science teachers interested in how science and technology evolves, and who discuss new proven theories and facts.

“I always was interested in reading science and technology articles, and my science teachers helped me see that I was truly interested in science and technology,” Alex says.

Born in Scotland with parental roots in Brazil, the Rubinstein brothers stuck together at Stratford High to study and review shared courses. Their mom encouraged them often to be the best they could be, too.

“We used to compete with each other in middle school, but at Stratford we began to study together,” Filipe says. He enrolled in BC Calculus first so Alex was able to get help at home from his twin brother, he notes.

Ms. Croix has been the counselor who was always there for them. “She took out time out during the summer to help us with college applications, and she always was a help with SATs and ACTs, and all that,” Filipe says.

As U.S. permanent residents, the twins are pursuing merit and other scholarships they may qualify for. They are currently applying for U.S. citizenship.

Softball Sisters and Related Valedictorians

Co-valedictorian Jennifer Brann and her sister, Elizabeth, who isn’t a valedictorian, leave behind a legacy of accomplishments in the Stratford community. They were each extraordinary athletes on two varsity teams, basketball and softball.

Elizabeth, a centerfielder, has committed to the University of Texas at Dallas as a softball player. She plans to work towards being a veterinarian. Jennifer, a pitcher for the softball team, signed with the University of Pennsylvania. She is interested in business.

Jennifer says that statistics teacher Karl Poetzl impacted her the most. “He taught me so many lessons in high school that I will take with me forever,” she says.

Her sister, Elizabeth, won’t forget basketball coach Buffie Matthews. “She taught me to work hard and push through things when they get difficult,” Elizabeth says.

Among other interesting graduation notes, co-valedictorians Emily Ann Gex and Julia Ann Gex are cousins.

Stratford High School student and SBISD Communications Dept. intern Ellie Herrmann contributed to this report.


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