The Tribune-Herald presents the third and final installment of the top high school graduates in McLennan County this year. Previous groups were also showcased June 2 and June 9.

Graduates are presented in alphabetical order by school. Not all schools provided information or photographs.

(Editor’s note: The top graduates for Methodist Children’s Home are being presented again due to an editing error in last Sunday’s group.)


Connally val Deanna Hopkins.JPG

Valedictorian • Deanna Hopkins

Parents: Kimberly Hopkins and James Hopkins

Plans: Attend Upper Iowa University on a bowling scholarship. Will major in forensic science and mathematics to pursue a career in criminal case solving.

Achievements: Board of Trustees Scholarship at Upper Iowa University ($18,500); Bowling Athletic Scholarship at Upper Iowa University; Soldiers of the Wooden Cross Scholarship; Texas 500/600 Bowling Club scholarship.

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Salutatorian • Natali Perez

Parents: Jaime Perez and Fidelina Perez

Plans: Attend McLennan Community College, then transfer to Texas Tech to earn bachelor’s degree in biology. Plans to attend medical school to become an anesthesiologist.

Achievements: UIL theater awards, including “best technical technician” at the regional level; cheer captain; class president (3 years); AVID program; Theatre Booster Club Award scholarship; Karen Davila Memorial Scholarship.



Methodist Children's Home val Arianna Yingst

Valedictorian • Arianna Yingst

Parent: Diane Daly

Plans: Serve a year at Americorps in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, working with at-risk youth before pursuing college.

Achievements: Council of Residential Education Student of the Year (2018); Charles W. & Mariam Hawes Academic Excellence Award; MCH Scholarship; first place in employment portfolio in Skills USA for Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy; completed OSHA 10 and residential coding certifications at GWAMA.

Methodist Children's Home sal Deborah Yisihak

Salutatorian • Deborah Yisihak

Family: Berhanu Gola (uncle)

Plans: Attend the University of Texas in Arlington to study public health.

Achievements: Charles W. & Mariam Hawes Academic Excellence Award; Albaugh Scholarship; earned CNA certification from Greater Waco Advanced Health Care Academy; Student Leadership Council; Bulldog Pride member.



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Premier val Brian Kleibrink.jpg

Valedictorian • Brian Kleibrink

Parents: Karen Kleibrink and Ken Jemmott

Plans: Attend Texas State Technical College and pursue an associate’s degree in computer science.

Achievements: Volunteered at a nursing home; learned how to cook; learned how to build a computer.

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Salutatorian • Alan Dela Rosa

Parents: Margarito and Irma Dela Rosa

Plans: Attend McLennan Community College and earn an associate’s degree in general business. Plans to return to college and major in international affairs.

Achievements: Honor student; early graduate.



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Valedictorian • Paula Ortiz

Parents: Jesus and Nora Ortiz

Plans: Attend Texas A&M University, majoring in allied health. Upon graduation, wants to pursue a career in health care administration.

Achievements: Texas A&M University Regents Scholar Program and scholarship recipient; Waco NAACP Scholarship; Waco ISD Academic Achiever (3 years); Texas A&M Century Scholars Program and scholarship recipient; Future Business Leaders of America president.

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Salutatorian • Savanna Vidana

Parents: Jose and Tisha Vidana

Plans: Already earned associate’s degree in general academics through MCC. Will attend University of Texas to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology and work as a child and family therapist.

Achievements: Brazos Education Foundation Scholarship; Waco Public Schools Alumni Association Scholarship; coach with Little League Challenger Division; head cheer coach with No Limitations program; Key Club president.



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Valedictorian • Matalynn Thayer

Parents: Joshua and Maggie Thayer

Plans: Attend Honors College at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to study marketing.

Achievements: Senior drum major of the Class 2A UIL State Marching Band gold medalists (2018); lead actress in UIL One-Act Play; National Honor Society president; student council secretary; Waco Rotary Club Outstanding Youth Citizenship Award nominee (2019).

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Salutatorian • McKenzie Sexton

Parents: Michael and Tracy Sexton

Plans: Attend Texas Tech University and major in pre-nursing.

Achievements: Brazos Education Foundation Scholarship; Texas Tech Academic Scholarship; A honor roll; cheer captain; Jerry French Scholarship.



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Vanguard Academic Excellence • Ria Goyal

Parent: Vibha Goyal (mother)

Plans: Attend the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and Bachelor of Arts in the Plan II Honors Program.

Achievements: National Merit Finalist; President’s Volunteer Gold Service Award; TAPPS solo violin Superior rating (10th, 12th); TAPPS academics top chemistry medalist, first in science (12th); named to Outstanding Young Women in Chemistry.

Editor’s note: Vanguard recognizes only one top graduate.



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Valedictorian • Olivia Henderson

Parents: Ron and Charlotte Henderson

Plans: Study in the Canfield Business Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business.

Achievements: Dorothy Crippen Hurd Scholarship; National Honor Society (3 years); Waco ISD Academic Achiever (3 years); Waco High Mock Trial Team (4 years); AP Scholar with Honor; varsity tennis (4 years); Waco Youth Council (2 years).

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Salutatorian • Rachael Stephens

Parents: Matt and Ashley Stephens

Plans: Study business at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business. She is one of 13 new members of the 2019-20 UT “White Squad,” an all-girl cheerleading team.

Achievements: National Honor Society (3 years); Waco ISD Academic Achiever (3 years); Waco High Mock Trial Team (4 years); AP Scholar with Honor; Waco High Show Choir and Waco High Chamber Choir; Heart of Texas competitive cheerleader (4 years).



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Valedictorian • Toby Cook

Parents: Donny and Charlene Cook

Plans: Attend Texas A&M University with a focus on business.

Achievements: Brazos Education Foundation Scholarship; HILCO Scholarship; all-district first team in football; Super Centex honorable mention in football (defense); Destination Imagination (first in state, advanced to globals).

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Salutatorian • Kain Klish

Parents: Jason and Hope Klish

Plans: Attend McLennan Community College, then transfer to either Tarleton State in Waco or Texas A&M for bachelor’s in either criminal justice or political science. Afterward, attend law school.

Achievements: All-district football second-team tailback (2017) and honorable mention (2018); Nick and Nick Memorial Scholarship; UIL science team regional qualifier (2017); UIL Scholar Award recipient.

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