Senior Salute

By Jon Shoulders

»This year’s high school seniors have their whole lives ahead of them after graduating, but as the following individuals illustrate, many southside seniors have already accomplished an astonishing amount — scholastically, artistically, athletically and beyond. Each has big plans to build on those achievements both during and after their final year of high school.

Megan Linville
Age: 17 // Perry Meridian High School

Already an accomplished artist in multiple mediums, including pencil, oil and acrylic paint, ink and graphite, Megan Linville’s creative momentum shows no signs of abating any time soon. Not limited to only visual arts, she also participates in Perry Meridian’s theater program and Creative Writing Club, and spends some of her down time searching for independent and classic rock albums from the ’50, ’60s and ’70s to add to her vinyl record collection.

Last May, Linville posted on her Twitter page an in-progress picture of one of her many recent artistic creations, an acrylic and pencil piece depicting images from the covers of two of her favorite musical albums, “Abbey Road” by the Beatles and “London Town” by Paul McCartney’s other former band, Wings. A few days later she discovered that the image, which was commissioned by Linville’s fifth-grade teacher, had been retweeted by one of her musical heroes — McCartney himself. “My heart stopped when I saw Paul McCartney’s name pop up,” she recalls. “I’m just a huge fan.”

Linville looks forward to improving her artistic skills during her senior year and inspiring others in the process. “I seem to be my biggest critic, and although I am a pretty good artist, there’s always room for improvement,” she says. With her eye on Ball State University and the Savannah College of Art and Design, she plans to continue her art studies in college and looks forward to branching out into mediums not currently included in her high school art classes, including special effects makeup and glass blowing.

Jasmine Kalia
Age: 16 // Franklin Central High School

Well-rounded is probably an understatement when describing Jasmine Kalia, who, among other titles, serves as a Franklin Central student ambassador, president of the World Cultures Club, varsity tennis player and co-captain of the school’s Robotics Club.

As a two-time recipient of the Aspirations in Computing scholarship from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), an organization that works to lessen the gender gap in the technology and computing fields, Kalia was chosen to present a speech last May at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum’s “REX: Real Voices. Extraordinary Ideas” event on the topic of female representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. “NCWIT is a great opportunity for girls, and I encourage everyone to apply for the award, even if they don’t necessarily think they are techies,” she says.

Also an avid reader, Kalia cites John Steinbeck as one of her favorite writers. “I fell in love with his descriptive prose and his deeper message about the shortcomings of society,” she says. “Currently I am reading (Kurt Vonnegut’s) “Slaughterhouse-Five,” and it feels like my brain is melting — in a good way.”

While her academic interests are diverse, Kalia’s current plan is to enter the physics field after college. “My two passions are astrophysics and neuroscience, and I am having difficulty deciding,” she says. “Junior year, I took a lot of classes in hopes of narrowing my choices, but I just found more things that I am interested in.”

Connor Osborne
Age: 17 // Center Grove High School

Connor Osborne’s interest in engineering and technology was piqued when, in the sixth grade, he joined the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) LEGO League, a team-oriented competition for ages 9 to 14 involving the design and programming of LEGO robots to complete specific tasks. That interest has blossomed ever since.

Luckily for Osborne, Center Grove High School has been home to Red Alert Robotics, an official FIRST team of students that takes on scientific and technological problems in the area of robotics, since 2005. As his high school years approached, Osborne promptly decided to continue his involvement with FIRST, which hosts an annual world championship for its ninth- through 12th-grade division. Last April, the team performed sufficiently well at the Indiana state championship to secure a spot at the world championships in St. Louis, where it advanced to the robotics competition’s quarterfinals. Osborne was named one of two FIRST Dean’s List finalists at the state championship. “I have always been intrigued by science and technology,” he says. “It provides limitless opportunity to a creative mind.”

When he’s not masterminding his latest technological innovation, Connor enjoys playing soccer and video games, and also leads the youth group at his local church. He plans on further developing his talents in the area of science and technology by majoring in either computer engineering or mechanical engineering in college.

Shalee Daming
Age: 17 // Indian Creek High School

Since her freshman year, Shalee Daming has been heavily involved with FFA, an organization geared toward students interested in agriculture and leadership. Since then she has participated in a wide range of functions for the organization, from livestock contests to agribusiness and farm management demonstrations. “Agriculture is my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “The Indian Creek FFA chapter has made me become who I am today and who I will be in the future.” Daming served as the chapter president during her junior year, a title she will hold through the current school year as well.

Already an expert at raising and showing livestock, she has shown chickens, pigs, sheep, cattle and cats at fairs and 4-H events. Most of her weekends and spare time these days are spent showing pigs throughout the state and occasionally around the country.

After high school, Daming hopes to pursue a career in agricultural education and serve as an FFA adviser. “Teaching young people as well as adults about agriculture can make a big difference in the non-farming world and the farming world,” she says. “I want to be the one responsible for telling people farmers don’t carry a pitchfork around and have hay in their teeth all day. It is so much more than that. It’s serving others, it’s feeding the world, it’s having a passion for growing and raising living things, whether that’s chickens or soybeans.”

Jovan Swann
Age: 17 // Center Grove High School

As the No. 4 football recruit in the state of Indiana for the class of 2016 according to, Jovan Swann has plenty to look forward to with regard to both his senior year of high school and the days that follow. The 6-foot-3-inch, 255-pound incoming senior has already received scholarship offers from several colleges and is ranked by among the top 50 national recruits in the defensive tackle position for 2016.

“I have been playing football since the age of 4 and put my first set of pads on early, at the age of 6,” he says. “The sport has always been a passion of mine. I’m most excited to attain a scholarship to the school of my choosing by the end of my high school playing days, due to the hard work and dedication I’ve stuck to for many years — a true blessing.”

Swann enjoys math as a favorite subject in school and likes to stay active even during his time away from the football field with hobbies like pickup basketball games with friends and weight training. “I’m looking forward to playing one last round of “Friday Night Lights” with my senior brothers and the rest of the football team,” he says.

Leah Biasi
Age: 17 // Roncalli High School

Leah Biasi joined Roncalli’s track and field team during her freshman year to stay active and meet new people, and learned fairly quickly that she possessed an unusual amount of talent for the sport. The following year, she ran the third-fastest 800-meter time in the history of Roncalli’s track program, a time she hopes to improve on before graduating. “It was extremely rewarding to know that all my work had paid off,” she says. “I plan on cutting that time down by the time I graduate and hopefully will move up on the Roncalli record.”

Biasi began playing the upright bass in the fifth grade and for the past three years has been a member of the Indianapolis-based New World Youth Orchestra, which consists of more than 180 elite musicians from around the state, alongside her twin sister, Jennifer, a viola player. The group has been chosen to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City next spring.

With a 4.3 grade point average based on her school’s 4.0 scale, Biasi is currently a member of the National Honor Society and the French National Honor Society, which recognizes U.S. students who have excelled in at least three semesters of French language courses. “Roncalli is a family, and I will miss that family so much when I leave, so I plan on making the most of my last year in high school,” she says. “At Roncalli, being a senior means being able to lead the school academically, spiritually, in sports and in school spirit.”

Jennifer Biasi
Age: 17 // Roncalli High School

Among Jennifer Biasi’s many accomplishments, an opportunity to showcase her viola skills at Carnegie Hall in New York City in April with the New World Youth Orchestra, an audition-based group of standout musicians from all over Indiana, ranks as one of her favorites. “I was shocked when I heard the news,” she says. “I am so honored and grateful for the opportunity to play in such an amazing place with such an amazing orchestra. I started playing the viola in fifth grade, and I feel like playing the viola has really shaped me into the person I am today, in that it has taught me perseverance and the importance of diligent practice.”

A member of Center Grove’s 4-by-800-meter and 4-by-400-meter relay teams, both of which clocked times last season that rank in the top five in Roncalli history, Biasi looks forward to her senior track season with enthusiasm and will compete in the 400-meter run and the 800-meter run, in addition to both relays, with her twin sister, Leah. “Leah and I train together every day and run the same events,” she says. “Racing with my twin is one of my favorite things about running track.”

Throughout the course of her high school studies, during which she has maintained a 4.3 grade point average on a 4.0 scale and become a member of the National Honor Society and the French National Honor Society, Biasi has developed a passion for engineering and foresees a career in engineering or architecture after college.

Bawi Phutin
Age: 17 // Southport High School

Being named on the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association’s 2014 Boys All-State Honorable Mention list as a junior is quite impressive in itself, but Bawi Phutin has every intention of improving on his success as one of Southport’s midfielders during the 2015 season. He shone during his team’s 2014 district soccer games, with two goals and one assist.

“I have another chance to be on the first and second All-State team, and I will try harder in my senior year,” he says. “I am also looking forward to getting good grades, getting scholarships and having fun with friends and teachers because it’s the end of high school years and you’ve got to have fun.”

With his sights set on studying and playing soccer at the University of Indianapolis after high school, Phutin expects a busy final year at Southport in the meantime. Currently a member of the National Honor Society and a former member of the school’s Green Earth Society, a group that attempts to make the high school more environmentally friendly through recycling and reusing programs, he plays recreational basketball and volleyball and watches action movies when taking a break from studying or honing his soccer skills.

Mitchell Garrity
Age: 18 // Perry Meridian High School

Considering Mitchell Garrity has wanted to be a Purdue Boilermaker for most of his life, it goes without saying that he was excited upon learning that the university would be offering him a baseball scholarship. “It is an honor to be recognized by such a prestigious school,” he says. ”From a young age, it was always a dream of mine to play baseball in college. I have worked relentlessly in order to achieve this goal and am very fortunate to get the opportunity.”

Primarily an outfielder, occasionally filling in as a pitcher when needed, Garrity was the driving force behind Perry Meridian’s offense last season, leading the team’s conference — Conference Indiana — in hits and achieving All-Conference Indiana First Team status in the process.

In May, Garrity was elected senior class president, and he looks forward to the multitude of duties his final year of high school will bring. “I have always been intrigued by both the math and science subjects in school, which has led to my desire to become an engineer after school,” he says. “This past year, I have developed an interest in physics. I am looking forward to finishing my final year off strong while being a leader both at the school and in the community. I am also looking forward to starting a new chapter to my life once my senior year is over.”

Britton Whitlock
Age: 17 // Southport High School

Few seniors will be as busy as Britton Whitlock during the 2015-2016 academic year. Not only is she a member of Southport’s volleyball team and co-manager of its baseball team, but she also serves as director of operations for the Southport High School Riley Dance Marathon and as a member of the National Honor Society.

During her junior year, Whitlock enjoyed contributing stories and photographs for The Journal, the school’s printed and online student news publication, and she currently serves as co-editor-in-chief for the Southport yearbook. “I enjoy writing about or covering things that have an emotional pull, like the Chin students’ journey from Burma, how social media affects body images, police brutality and so on,” she says. “I also enjoy photographing sports. I think this is partially because as an athlete, I like seeing pictures of myself or my team during games, and I like creating those pictures for other people.”

In addition to the many activities that will make her senior year both fun and hectic, Whitlock also looks forward to certain options afforded only to Southport seniors. “At Southport, seniors can apply for unassigned study hall and lunch periods, where they can leave the school for that time period, as well as blended classes,” she says. ”I think I’m looking forward to the freedom of senior year.”

Emma Clayton
Age: 17 // Whiteland Community High School

Emma Clayton’s acting resume already reads like that of a seasoned professional, having performed in Whiteland High School’s productions of “You Can’t Take It With You,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Pygmalion,” “On the Town,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “Mary Poppins.” She received Whiteland’s Achievement in Acting award as a sophomore and junior, and is currently involved in her school’s show choir, jazz choir, drama club and National Honor Society, among other pursuits.

“What I like most about performing is the liberation it provides an actor,” Clayton says. “There is absolutely nothing more liberating than devoting your mind and heart to a character and story, and fully committing to it until the last curtain call. The theater truly is a place where you can explore the depths of your character without being ostracized for it, and that’s a hard thing to find in high school.”

With plans to study law and political science in college, Clayton looks forward to being a positive influence on Whiteland’s underclassmen as a senior. “High school is excruciatingly difficult, especially with no support system,” she says. “I want to make sure that no one feels alone, and they know with confidence that someone always cares.”

Nathan Chelf
Age: 17 // Greenwood Community High School

As an alto saxophonist, guitarist and vocalist in his school’s marching band, wind ensemble, jazz band and vocal jazz ensemble, Nathan Chelf’s senior year looks to be chock-full of musical duties, and he looks forward to every minute of it. “It really started with me listening to music constantly on my iPod in elementary school,” he recalls. “Then sixth grade started, and I began to play the alto saxophone in band, and I fell in love with playing music. The Greenwood band program is great and has helped me become the musician I am today.”

While Chelf feels excited about the variety of music classes his senior year will bring, he also looks forward to exploring some new territory. “For example, I’m taking a choir class for the first time this year,” he says. “I want all the experiences I can get. I love being able to show people my talents and express myself through music. It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

After graduating, Chelf has his eye on pursuing music education studies toward eventually becoming a music teacher. “I’d love to help younger people find their love for music,” he says.

Blake Andrews
Age: 18 // Franklin Community High School

A golfer since before he began kindergarten, Blake Andrews has stuck with the sport to this day and has become one of his high school team’s standouts. “Golf is the most challenging sport mentally,” he says. “I began playing when I was 4, so golf was just in my blood from then on. I started to take golf more seriously when I recognized how far you can go with golf.”

Andrews spends some of his down time roller skating, watching his favorite television shows and playing basketball and Ultimate Frisbee, but says golf occupies most of the time he spends away from classroom obligations. “If you want to be good at it, you must put time and effort into it,” he says, adding that he has high hopes for the 2015-16 season and expects the Franklin Community High School golf squad to qualify for the state championship as a team.

As a fan of math, art and science, Andrews plans on pursuing a degree in architecture at Ball State University and will participate in an architectural internship during his senior year.