IA Okma Junior Honors Program

Class of 2021

Principal Gibson's Opening Remarks

Juniors Honors Program Welcome




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Mrs. Kiriazis's Speech:

I would like to recognize Vivian Yee as this year’s recipient of the Biology department award. Vivian is highly engaged with the content and does very well with our IB Biology expectations, but her curiosity and passion for Biology extend far beyond our school walls. On the first day of class back in August, Vivian introduced herself and asked if I would be willing to provide feedback on a research outline she was submitting to the Journal of Emerging Investigators. I quickly learned that not only did she already have a college-level understanding of cellular and molecular biology, but she also has some of the high level lab skills to conduct genetic research. When competing in the Science and Engineering fair of Metro Detroit (where she was awarded grand prize!), I had an opportunity to preview Vivian’s presentation on how the nuclear localization of a protein and the mechanosensitivity of breast cancer cells influences their proliferation rates. I was impressed with her ability to answer all of my questions about the lab techniques used to collect her data and how she made connections between her work and its implications for the future of cancer research. Currently, she is examining the genetic basis behind premature vascular aging for a Genes in Space competition and was recently published as a co-author on a research paper conducted with a grad student at UM.

Needless to say, Vivian’s Biology endeavors expand far beyond expectations in the classroom and exemplify her ambition, curiosity, and passion for science. She has enriched my own knowledge of molecular biology and I look forward to seeing what else she explores in the future. Congratulations, Vivian!

DP1 Biology Award

DP1 Chemistry


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Mr. Davies's Speech:

Daniella Ghafari is inquisitive, persevering, intelligent and one of the hardest working students at the IA. Appropriately, Daniella has earned this year’s Chemistry Department Award for a Junior. It seems to me that every day is game day for Daniella. She comes to class prepared and ready to go. She is not afraid to ask questions or go the extra mile. When the day is done and it is time to relax, she will. But when there is still time on the clock, Daniella will use it to get any needed clarifications or explanations. She actively looks to make connections to prior material and is keen to see if any new information comes in conflict with her prior understanding. Daniella is always happy to help another student in need. She handles setbacks in stride and knows that she can circle back and make another attempt. Said another way, Daniella is an exemplar for the other students. For these reasons and more, the Chemistry Award proudly goes to Daniella Ghafari.

Junior Chem Award 2020

DP1 Physics


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Mr. Immekus's Speech:

This year's Junior Honors Award for Physics is presented to Sofia Tonin. Sofia has been a model student in every way in her DP1 Physics class. She maintains a high level of focus while in class and works tirelessly outside of it to make her understanding complete. Sofia asks all of the essential questions related to our content and brilliant questions that go far beyond our curriculum. She takes a genuine interest in her studies and misses no subtleties. She works incredibly well with her peers, and is as patient in helping others as she is gracious when they help her. Outside of our class, she has been a dependable volunteer for our Physics tutoring program. In total, it has been a great pleasure to work with Sofia, and I look forward to great things from her as she completes the Diploma Programme.


DP1 English


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Mr. Connolly's Speech:

Toni Morrison declares,” Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be.”

As a teacher of English, I generally do not feel comfortable with giving English Awards for three reasons: 50 people could be worthy of this accolade; a plethora of others will assume the recipients are my favorite students; finally, my idea of an English Award may be found in the college recommendations I write. Let me disabuse people of the misconception that your teachers have favorites, at least, speaking for myself. This educator feels the same about all students: I am a short stop on a long journey. These awards are based on my criterion and mine alone.

Two students have been chosen for very different reasons. When I arrived in my first IB class, this individual walked in 2 seconds before the bell and plopped down a copy of Fountainhead on the desk. The first thought that rattled the skull evoked laughter (not gut-busting, more of a church laugh). One of my two inner voices said, “Great, a sixteen-year-old who reads Ayn Rand for enjoyment. This lunatic will end up challenging me and playing an advocate for Mephistopheles and I will spend the year having to strengthen analysis to defend my assertions.”

Over the course of the semesters, this young writer worked diligently to elevate the quality of her essays. She devours literature; more importantly, Miss Tabin exhibits a fearlessness for attacking unique topics and she demonstrates a genuine intellectual curiosity that will serve her well. Congratulations and I await your counterargument with bated breath.

Every once in awhile, I get to work with students who seem unafraid to “don the jester’s motley” for the team. For this second symbol of respect, I felt I needed a young man to represent the IB1 Lit B4 section. Literature is replete with dark, heavy, and often unsettling text. My last class of the day is very important, especially on Fridays. The recipient of this award arises from the need for laughter in the face of difficult genres and the perils of adolescence. Jim Morrison says, “I have the soul of a clown.” This dimwitted presenter would be a shameless prevaricator if I did not admit to being cut from the same Burlap Bag. Mr. Stach freely admitted English was not in his wheelhouse. He made an honest effort to improve all year in each facet of the curriculum. In him, I see someone who genuinely cares about others and a courageous individual who commits to the moment to provide levity for the last class of the day respite. This young man is a cure for the end of the day torpor and he has the heart of a farmer.

I am remiss if I do not take a moment to express my gratitude to all my juniors. If you look at what we achieved since November, you will see how you went beyond the expectations of the curriculum, you prepared for the volume of writing that happily awaits you as seniors. To all you buffoons, (said with the deepest respect and I add myself) I will miss you. Thank you for making the worst year of my life stay in the car when I stepped into your classrooms. As a gesture of thanks, I will write a college recommendation for the first 74 of my students who ask. Congratulations to these two honorees and all of my juniors. I find a Dr. Hunter S. Thompson quote from a movie, that I took poetic license liberty to alter a semi-appropriate ending. “I guess if I had to swear one way or another, I’d say [my juniors} weren’t insane.{They} just have some very strange rhythms. But {You}stomped on the terra. Lord Buckley said that.”


Every year the math department has the privilege of honoring students who have demonstrated an exemplary level of talent and dedication to the field of mathematics. In addition to being excellent students, each of these individuals possess the critical thinking and risk taking skills necessary to be truly great mathematicians.

The math department is proud to recognize the following students:



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Mrs. Casper's Speech:

Emily Frega & Megha Bhatia have both earned this award for their achievement in Math Applications. Emily and Megha are both hardworking, thoughtful, and enthusiastic students in Math Applications. They show great dedication to their learning with their detailed homework and notes, participation in class by leading discussions and assisting their classmates, and always asking the big math question, "why?".

Math Analysis SL


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Mrs. Hessler's Speech:

Among so many incredible students, Adrianna Kallabat stands out in our Math Analysis Course. She is inquisitive, hard-working, and always actively engaged in our class. Additionally, Adrianna’s kindness and compassion for those around her is obvious, and she has a genuine joy of learning that she spreads to others. She comes to class every day with a smile on her face and a dedication to learning that is unmatched by her peers.



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Mrs. Hessler's Speech:

Megan Fan is a wonderful addition to the Math HL class. Her positive attitude enhances the classroom community. She is an intelligent and keen mathematician. She is hardworking, principled and caring. Last, but not least, she is always willing to help a classmate with a question.

Overall, as a math department we feel fortunate to have taught the entire class of 2021, and we look forward to continuing with them in the year ahead.

Junior Honors Mathematics Awards

History department award

DP1 History


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Mr. Morrison's Speech:

As a budding historian, there are few who compare to Soenke Pietsch. From the first day of class, Soenke impressed both me and his fellow classmates with his intellectual curiosity and exceptional work ethic. His ability to combine both a European and American perspective in class is noteworthy as well, and Soenke's interest in international relations has added so much to our study of interwar Germany and Italy. Soenke never shied away from asking excellent and challenging questions which drive class discussion. Both the research and revision of Soenke's internal assessment on Angela Merkel's rise are exceptional but his contributions in class this year are worth so much more. Soenke is also the first recipient at the IA for the Richard Gilder History Prize and has been invited to apply to the National Academy of American History and Civics. I am so very proud to have been Soenke's teacher this year and know the entire history department feels the same.

Mrs. Rabourn's Speech:

It is my pleasure to honor Jonah Liss as an outstanding student of history. Jonah is a natural for this award because he clearly has a passion for the social sciences. His work beautifully integrates analysis and evaluation of the past with the themes of economics and global politics. For example, his internal assessment asked the question “To what extent were the Soviet administrators the most significant reason for the occurrence of the Chernobyl Disaster?” In this focused work, Jonah evaluated the potential causes of the disaster including the government response and the extent to which politics hampered the ability of the nuclear program to proceed in safety. Fully engaging in the craft of an historian, Jonah was able to put the events of the disaster in context, critically evaluate his sources, and understand the historiography around the event. In class, he displays an excitement to participate and an eagerness to both ask questions and develop well reasoned responses. He truly wants a firm understanding of our past. Jonah is not someone that simply works for a grade, he clearly has a love of history and this love of the subject goes well beyond the classroom. Many of Jonah’s extra curricular activities are related to the social sciences, notably his award winning participation in Model United Nations. It is clear that Jonah is well deserving of recognition by the history department. Congratulations, Jonah!

Theory of Knowledge Award



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Mr. Davies's Speech:

My name is Mr. Davies and I would like to talk about Katherine Swanson. This year’s Junior Theory of Knowledge Award goes to Katherine Swanson.

I believe that Katherine is starting to continually look at the world through the lens of ToK. She questions how we assemble evidence to create knowledge, and how this knowledge leads to our personal identities and the communities we are involved in. Katherine is very comfortable in the classroom, making powerful contributions to the dialogue, but never overpowering the conversation. She is willing to question her own assumptions while also respectfully “pushing back” on another student’s argument. The lesson of the day is richer because of her presence in the community. For these reasons and more, the ToK Department Award goes to Katherine Swanson.

ToK Junior Award 2020




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Frau Schultz's Speech:

Hello! It is with great pleasure that I present the German Department Award to Seth Fox. Seth has demonstrated a strong passion for German since the beginning of his freshman year. He had never taken German before coming to the IA, but he has worked hard to develop his skills and has already reached a very high level of proficiency. Seth has a natural gift for language; however, he does not take this gift for granted. He seeks out every opportunity possible to continue building his skills. Over the years, Seth has researched additional German materials in his free time and has shared these with me, so that I could then share them with the class. These materials have ranged from politics to songs to readings on a variety of topics. Seth also tries to speak as much German as possible with me, and writes his emails in German. At the beginning of his junior year, when most students are trying not to think about the Extended Essay ahead, Seth had already decided to write his in German and started brainstorming ideas with me. Seth was also an officer of the German Honor Society this year, and worked hard to make sure that all of our events ran smoothly, and that everyone was informed of our activities. Even during the quarantine, Seth reached out to me to talk about elections for GHS for next year, further demonstrating his dedication to GHS and the German program. I am very proud to give Seth this award this year. Congratulations!

DP1 German Junior Honors Award



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Madame Cinader's Speech:

Hello. Madame Cinader here with the French Department Award. This honor goes to JJ Niskar for always going above and beyond both in and out of the classroom. Not only does JJ have beautifully written notes with extra detail in the margins along with color-coordination, but his classmates look to him for when assignments are due and for help with clarification on grammar and vocabulary concepts. I've also had the pleasure of speaking with him in French ONLY in class as well as out of class. We also like to discuss our love of French music. If I could, I would share JJ's Culture class music video as well as his French cooking picture and a photo I recently found of him from MYP French Culture class, where he shared a personal artifact that showed his own culture. Overall, JJ is a hard worker who challenges himself to use French on a daily basis. Congratulations again, JJ!

Junior Honors French Award



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Senor Shamanski's Speech:

The Junior Honors Award for Spanish is given to a student who picks up the language very well, communicates with the teacher primarily in Spanish, helps others in time of need, loves traveling abroad and learning about people's culture and language, and who is also working toward becoming a member of the Spanish Honor Society. It is very difficult to choose just one because we do have so many students that fit this criteria.

This year's award goes to Ashley Lee. Ashley Lee is extremely dedicated to learning the language. She goes above and beyond on all of her assignments that she turns in. She is a leader in class with how much she speaks in Spanish and she continues all these great things outside of the classroom. Next year she will be traveling to Spain to study abroad and she is also offering herself as a virtual tutor during COVID-19. Congratulations Ashley! Excellent Job!

Junior Spanish Honor Award 2020




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Mr. Tecmire's Speech:

Over the past year, Raegan has become a pivotal part of both Economics Club and IB1 Economics. Whether it is helping mentor our EuroChallenge team, agreeing to become co-chair of Econ Club next year, or simply assisting her classmates and underclassmen while they learn econ, Raegan is always eager to help in any way she can. It's this helpful nature, coupled with her incredible work ethic and positive attitude that makes Raegan a deserving candidate of the Economics Award.

Raegan- Thank you for everything you do for the club and class! You make my job SO much easier and I can't thank you enough for everything you do! Congrats!




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Mr. Lewin-Ziegler's Speech:

I am honored to give the DP Music award to Yasmeen Khalifa. During class, Yasmeen always has something insightful to say about the music we are discussing and is often helping out her classmates. She always seeks help when needed and isn’t afraid of being wrong. She has a great musical mind and is a pleasure to have in class.

Junior Honors DP Music Award



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Mr. LaNoue's Speech:

The 2020 recipient of the Junior Honors Jazz Band Award is Gabriele Dushaj. As a bassist, Gabriele has been an essential part of the Jazz Band rhythm section for the past 3 years. In that time, she has demonstrated great dedication and passion, and has grown immensely in skill as a bassist. She consistently works to improve every day, and puts up with my constant nitpicking as a director (since I am a bassist too....we are the worst.) Gabriele has accidentally adopted the role of section leader for the rhythm section (though we don’t have formal section leaders), as she is constantly keeping track of other people’s instruments, music and general whereabouts. She is the one I can count on to be full present and engaged, every Monday and Wednesday. Her work ethic, caring disposition, and sense of humor make her a joy to work with. Congrats and thank you, Gabriele!



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Mr. Lewin-Ziegler's Speech:

I am honored to give the Orchestra award to Chinyere Aguwa. Chichi is an amazing student and works hard during every rehearsal. What impresses me the most is her dedication outside of the classroom. She organizes fundraisers to help programs bring music education to everyone. I always enjoy our conversations about music that we are programming and value her insight.

Junior Honors Orchestra Award

full orchestra


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Mr. Lewin-Ziegler's Speech:

I am honored to give the Full Orchestra award to Lila Reddy. Lila is a dedicated musician who practices tirelessly for Full Orchestra. She can often be a calming presence, helping me remain somewhat calm before a concert. She challenges herself to get better at every level and helps bring the standard of performance up for everyone.

Junior Honors Full Orchestra Award



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Mr. LaNoue's Speech:

The 2020 recipient of the Junior Honors Choir Award is Melina Pardales. A skilled singer and communicator, Melina makes use of her infectious positivity toward music to better those around her as a Soprano section leader. She adds much needed character to every choir rehearsal, making herself an integral part of the class culture. Listening to the progress on her a cappella mash-up arrangements and quirky harmonizing videos has been a weekly highlight of my grading routine in quarantine. Congratulations, Melina, and thank you for your contribution!



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Mr. LaNoue's Speech:

The 2020 recipient of the Junior Honors Band Award is Jacqueline Li. Jacqueline has demonstrated considerable skill as a clarinetist, and has regularly engaged in private study and earned high marks at Solo and Ensemble Festival. Jacqueline is also clearly passionate about music and band, and never needs encouragement to share her opinions on how the group is doing in rehearsal. Her passion and dedication are an important part in the success of both her section and the band as a whole. Congratulations on this well-deserved award, Jacqueline!




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Mrs. Murawa's Speech:

It is my honor to present this year's Junior Art Award to Noor Saber. Noor is not only a very talented artist, she is also a very hard working and deep thinking student. Her artwork is successful because she pushes herself and takes risks to make her artistic visions come to life. She is not afraid of trying new techniques and mediums that she is not accustomed to and even when things don’t work out as planned she remains motivated, positive and determined. It is clear that Noor puts her heart into every project that she creates, she takes her time considering how to make her work meaningful, personal and impactful. She is never boastful, but instead is extremely humble and is always open to feedback and suggestions. I have used Noor’s work as an example to the DP class on multiple occasions. She constantly sets the bar above and beyond the basic requirements and expectations.

Besides her impressive artistic abilities and work ethic, Noor is a very kind and gentle person. Her caring demeanor makes her very approachable and comfortable to her peers. She is also non-judgmental and very open minded, these characteristics make her a gentle leader at the IA. I am really looking forward to seeing her grow into this leadership role even more as a senior. Starting in the Fall, Noor will have complete flexibility and control when producing artwork for her final DP Exhibition. I am so proud of her and I am looking forward to working with her and supporting her creativity next year! Wishing you all the best! Mrs. Murawa


yearbook award


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Madame Cinader's Speech:

The Yearbook Award goes to... Dhravid Kumar and Aabid Syed. Congrats you two! Throughout the school year, these two repeatedly showed their talents of photography, design, and journalism. Several times, they would volunteer to go on the AC excursions to the ropes course so they could take pictures and interview students in class, even though neither of them were assigned to these spreads. Aabid even helped edit and upload images for dividers and features that were not assigned to him. It is no wonder that these two are getting this award. It was an honor to have them in class, and I hope that they can/will be in yearbook class again next year!

CAS Award


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Ms. Clancy's Speech:

This is the first time the Okma campus honors a junior student who is exemplifying the Creativity, Activity, and Service lifestyle. This acknowledges a student’s desire to use their interests and skills to develop themselves and sometimes impact the world. In this case, Jonah Liss is the student I’d like to recognize for rising to the challenge of the IB mission to “develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world”. If you have not yet heard of Mediumize, be sure to click on the link. Jonah, very quickly into Michigan’s fight against COVID-19, used his web development (creativity), high energy (activity), and caring nature (service) to connect volunteers, many of his IA classmates, with vulnerable people who needed errands like shopping done. His quick thinking, creative energy, organization, and reflection on the question that led to his action: “What can I do during these times to serve those around me through my own abilities?” is why he is earning this honor. Jonah also participates in Forensics, BuildOn, and plays tennis. He is truly living a CAS lifestyle especially with his most recent endeavor. Jonah, thank you for showing us what it means to be a caring, balanced, and reflective student. I look forward to following your CAS journey further and reading more of your reflections on your personal growth and how you’re impacting the world. Congratulations!

Okma Campus CAS Award


Various colleges give awards to juniors who exemplify certain characteristics that are valued by their respective institutions. These awards are books authored by faculty members at their universities, and it is a great honor for an IA junior to have been chosen to receive one of these prestigious awards.



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Ms. Acton's Speech:

The Dartmouth Book Award is given to a junior student who has demonstrated exceptional academic performance, responsible leadership, dedication, and commitment to community. This year the Dartmouth Book Award goes to Shams Ahson.

Harvard Book Award


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Mrs. Dittus's Speech:

The Harvard Book Prize is awarded to a junior student for excellence in leadership and character, one who demonstrates respect and appreciation for diversity and difference, an ability to establish relationships to foster community, and inclusive leadership. This year our Harvard Book Prize winner is Soenke Pietsch.

George Washington University Book Award


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Ms. Acton's Speech:

The George Washington University Book Award is given to a junior who embodies the GW drive and spirit, specifically with their academic excellence, leadership outside of the classroom, diversity of thought, and ability to put knowledge into action. This year the George Washington University Book Award goes to Adrianna Kallabat.

oberlin book award: social justice


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Mrs. Dittus's Speech:

The Oberlin Book Award for Social Justice is awarded to a junior student who exhibits a deep sense of ethical and social concern. This year, the Social Justice Oberlin Book Award goes to Grace Tavi.



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Mrs. Dittus's Speech:

The Oberlin Book Award for Science is awarded to a junior student who demonstrates tremendous intellectual curiosity in any science area. This year, our Science Oberlin Book Award winner is Vivian Yee.

Brandeis Book Award


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Ms. Acton's Speech:

The Brandeis Book Award is for a junior in the top 15% of the class who demonstrates a commitment to civic engagement, community service, political activism, social justice, or volunteer work. This year the Brandeis Book Award goes to Jonah Liss.

rensselaer medal


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Mrs. Dittus's Speech:

The Rensselaer Medal is awarded to a junior who is in the top 10% of their class. In addition, this student must excel in advanced math and science courses, demonstrate potential for success in a challenging academic setting, exhibit significant involvement in extracurricular activities. This year our medal winner is Ekanem Okeke.


Junior Honor Ceremony Conclusion

Congratulations Class of 2020!