Meet the Next Generation of Leaders

by | Aug 2023

Audrey and Andrew Amoah

Audrey and Andrew Amoah. Photos: Chris Emeott

A large part of what makes Woodbury so special is the students in our community: They are our next thinkers and leaders, inventors and workers. These are the students who began high school in 2020 and were quickly faced with the challenges of COVID-19 and distance learning. Now, these students are blossoming into young adults, who will venture into society.

To celebrate this unique group of students, we asked local high schools to nominate students, who will leave a positive imprint on their school and those who best exemplify their school’s community. Keep reading to hear from school officials, who provided us with insight to each student, as well as more from the students themselves.

Audrey Amoah, 17 and Andrew Amoah, 17

Woodbury High School

“Sibling relationships are an essential part of many people’s lives and can have a significant impact on personal growth and development. The bond between Andrew and Audrey Amoah is a powerful one, shaped by shared experiences and future goals. Audrey keeps the pair on track with her diligent organization skills, and Andrew backs that up with his charm and million-dollar smile! They challenge each other in our weekly AVID tutorial sessions as they discuss and process the content of one of their many rigorous courses at Woodbury High School [WHS]. They are involved in multiple clubs and organizations at WHS and are typically the first to volunteer when presented with a new opportunity. Most recently, they have volunteered at Kids Club at Bailey Elementary to mentor younger students. Andrew and Audrey Amoah certainly are rising change makers in our community!” —Julie Onken, AVID teacher

What is the achievement or accomplishment of your high school career that you are most proud of?
Audrey: My proudest achievement in high school is maintaining a GPA of 3.8 or higher. I have always strived for academic excellence at a young age. Entering high school during COVID years made staying interested in academics and doing well a challenge. I am proud to say that I made the academic honor roll all my years in high school. It proves to me that I can still maintain and achieve my goals despite difficult times in life. I am so proud of myself, especially because my class had to complete all of ninth grade online with no physical interactions whatsoever … Regardless of how many times I felt like giving up, I always came back on course and fulfilled my aims.

Andrew: In some ways, high school has been an experimental time for me. It has helped me narrow down on what I like to learn as well as what I like to do in my spare time. There are so many ways to get involved in so many activities, and, because of this, I’ve learned to do what I am interested in and what I am curious about … I understand that if you get involved in anything and it doesn’t work out, that’s OK, but the key is to just get involved. Trying something new opens up doors of possibilities you may not have thought about. Joining the school’s Math Team and Science Quiz Bowl team helped me discover my interest in STEM. Though they are not the most popular subjects among students and can be difficult to understand at times, I love when it finally makes sense to me, as well as their real-world applications.

Who or what has been your biggest influence leading up to this moment?
Audrey: … My parents. Life is not easy, and doing the best you can for your children can be tough. My parents came to this country with hopes of better opportunities, to live better lives and be successful. No matter what is going on in life, they never fail to support the dreams and goals of my brothers and [me]. From constantly taking us to music lessons, concerts, volunteering opportunities and school early for various clubs before we could drive, they showed up. I admire my father’s commitment to his work and Ghanaian community and my mother’s constant willingness to lend a helping hand to family, friends and church members. These are factors that I draw insight from, in terms of who I want to be … I have learned from them that missing steps and obstacles are part of life … My parents’ support has been and will continue to be the foundation I stand on in everything I do.

Andrew: Having parents who have a different cultural background from the one I was born into has been and continues to be an eye-opener. I have the unique opportunity to learn interesting things from my parents’ heritage as well as the culture of this environment. In their culture, there is an adage that “man is not an island,” so I have been taught that I have the freedom to do what I want or like as a person. I was also taught that I need to remember that I am a citizen of the world and not only of my immediate community … You cannot be your own person without looking out for the common good of others and your larger community … They encourage me to think outside the box when figuring out things. When I lean into making the easiest choice, my mom will often say, “You’ve got brains in your hands and feet, put them to work.” I know that because of their influence, I will be able to work with any team that I find myself on in the future.

What’s next for you after high school?
Audrey: I plan on going to college, then medical school and getting my master’s. Though I’m not sure yet where exactly I want to attend college, I know that I want to stay in the Midwest. I want to be an obstetrician-gynecologist and am currently set on majoring in medicine … An OB-GYN will best reflect what I want to do, i.e. be [a] help to women, children, address health issues and stay healthier and longer where possible.

Andrew: I plan on attending college and studying computer science or computer engineering … Since I was a little, I would take things apart and see how they work then try to put them back together. As I got a little bit older, I started to gain an interest in computers and technology in general. I enjoyed tinkering with old devices that were just laying around the house. I took any chance I got to work with technology as an opportunity to explore this interest.

What three words best describe you?
Audrey: Self-motivated, encourager and loyal.

Andrew: Outgoing, optimistic and determined.

More about Audrey:

  • Various clubs including: Black Student Union, Ignite, Key Club, Link Crew, Red Cross Club, Royal Ambasadors and Royal Connections
  • Volunteers with Key Club, Royal Ambassadors, church and services to the community
  • Participant in band and Greater Twins Cities Youth Symphonies; clarinet section leader and first chair
  • Track and field, 10th grade

More about Andrew:

  • Recipient of the ExCel Award, a Minnesota State High School League Award
  • Various clubs including: Black Student Union, Ignite, Key Club, Math League, Red Cross, Royal Ambassadors, Royal Connections, Science Quiz Bowl, Student Ambassadors and Tri-M Music Honor Society
  • Volunteers with Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony, Key Club, Red Cross, Tri-M Music Honor Society and church
  • Participant of various bands, including concert, marching band, jazz, pep and woodwind ensemble; flute section leader, plus piccolo and tenor saxophone player; member of the Greater Twin Cities Youth
  • Symphony, Suburban East Conference Band and Orchestra
  • Honor student
  • Tennis, 10th–12th grade
Arlen Pierce, 17

Math and Science Academy

“Arlen is a quiet, yet very motivated student. He has continuously shown dedication to MSA through both active participation and through volunteer work in the classroom and in many extracurricular activities. Arlen can often be found behind the scenes of many of our school’s performing arts concerts, musicals and plays. When Arlen isn’t working hard in his academics or volunteering to coordinate the technical elements of the various performing arts events at school, he [assists] in shoveling and maintaining our school grounds as needed. He is definitely a behind-the- scenes, active member of our school community.” —Emily Graveen, high school counselor

Arlen Pierce

What is the achievement or accomplishment of your high school career that you are most proud of?
My achievement that I am most proud of is … from the spotlight education with Hennepin Theater. I got an honorable mention from my tech work with Peter Pan and an outstanding with my tech work on Urinetown. During high school, I did tech for six concerts and soon to be nine theater productions … Currently, I am [also] on the honor roll. Last year, I was on the high honor roll while still doing all my other work.

Who or what has been your biggest influence leading up to this moment?
My biggest influence isn’t just one person or idea; it has been many people and the ideas that some of them have told me. For me … the adults in my life and the people I am close to … I take pieces of them that I like or that I think would make a good person and put them into myself. That’s how I gave myself a starting point for who I wanted to be. I have known many people with a strong work ethic, loyalty, integrity and all of their morals. So when you ask what my biggest influence has been leading up to this, pieces of everyone that have been a guardian in my life or a friend, those are the people that have helped me through this journey.

What’s next for you after high school?
After high school, I would want to go to college and study what I think I can enjoy doing while still being able to enjoy life. There are two main things that I am interested in doing after high school: psychology or something with animals.

What three words best describe you?
Moral, loyalty, empathetic.

More about Arlen:

  • Track and Field
  • Theater and Theater Guild
  • Board Game Club
  • Volunteers with MSA in various roles, at church, Experimental Aircraft Association
Vincent Xiong, 17

East Ridge High School

“Vincent Xiong exemplifies our school through his commitment to excellence in the classroom and in the swimming pool as a member of our swim team. Vincent is a positive leader in our building and is respected by all. Vincent is on the student cabinet to the principal, is pursuing his Eagle Scout and is an active member of his church. His moral character is unmatched, and he brightens our school every day!” —Jim Smokrovich, principal

Vincent Xiong

What is the achievement or accomplishment of your high school career that you are most proud of?
Being a student athlete has given me my greatest experiences and proudest achievements. The pandemic made it socially challenging to participate in school and sports; however, I felt like
I overcame the social anxieties and still performed well … I am proud of my educational growth. I am grateful for the opportunity to increase my understanding and appreciation for the world. I feel that this will open opportunities to learn and grow in the future … I am proud of the relationships I have built during my high school career. These relationships have taught and inspired me to be better and have made my experiences more enriching. Overall, I believe my greatest achievement in high school is connectivity. I am proud to be connected to my school and others in various ways and am grateful for the experiences and growth they continue to give me. I am proud to feel like I can make a positive impact on others and that I can continue to grow myself, too.

Who or what has been your biggest influence leading up to this moment?
Being a person of faith, I know that God has played a role in my life for as long as I can remember. I know that He has blessed me countless of times … In terms of physical supporters, first, is my mom. My mom is my #1 supporter and motivator. She’s always pushing me to do my best and provides me with everything I need to be successful … My second biggest supporter is my dad. My dad passed away when I was 9, so he is no longer physically here with us. However, my dad is forever in my heart, and I remember him and his words to me every day. I remember his hopes and dreams for my siblings and I, his character and personality and his love and his wisdom. These things inspire, lift me up and motivate me to strive for greatness every day.

What’s next for you after high school?
… I want to serve a two-year mission for my church. That is something very meaningful and important to me and that I am preparing for right now. Afterward, I wish to reconnect with personal relationships and pursue a four-year university and attend medical school. I am interested in becoming a cardiologist … Among all of that, I want to continue to build myself spiritually, intellectually, socially, physically, mentally and emotionally. I want to keep growing, learning, connecting and progressing in life. No matter what happens, that is my goal in life.

What three words best describe you?
Enthusiastic, friendly and thoughtful.

More about Vincent:

  • Various clubs including: National Honor Society, Student Cabinet and Student Council
  • Volunteers with Feed My Starving Children, tutoring at ERHS, boy scouts and church
  • Swimming
  • Life Scout—currently pursuing Eagle Scout

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