This month, Lake Highlands High School will graduate nearly 500 seniors.

These students live in the same neighborhood and are graduating from the same school, but they come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of interests – from juggling to country western dancing to martial arts.

We thought you might like to meet some of our neighborhood’s best student leaders.

These 12 students were selected based upon recommendations from senior counselors Julie Mendelson and Jerry McVay; senior class principal Jack Clark; Fredda Stout, the director of youth programs for the Lake Highlands Exchange Club; and LHHS teachers.

You may be familiar with some of these students. Some, you’ve never heard about.

But one thing that is certain about these 12 students, as well as their classmates – each has worked hard for an education, not only in the classroom, but in life.

‘Mr. LHHS’: Brent Archie

Brent Archie wants to be president of the United States someday.

He’s off to a good start, serving as class president his sophmore, junior and senior years.

“I don’t feel right unless I’m doing something to make people’s lives better,” Archie says. “I’ve seen a lot through a young person’s eyes, and I think I can make a change.”

Archie knows practically everyone at LHHS, he says. In fact, his peers voted him ‘Mr. LHHS.’

“Everybody to me is a human being,” Archie says. “The kids in the school know that. I don’t limit myself to one group. There’s a piece of me in every group.”

Throughout high school, Archie played on the varsity football team, and during half-time, he marched in the band playing the tuba.

He currently dances with the Wildcat Wranglers, a country western group; is a disc jockey; teaches Sunday school at Saint Patrick Catholic Church; and serves as president of the Superintendent Student Advisory Council and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

For three years, students and faculty elected him to be a peer helper, a job that sends him to area elementary and middle schools as a big brother figure for troubled children.

Archie will major in political science in college and plans to attend law school. He has been accepted to Southern Methodist and Texas Tech universities.

Juggling It All: Joann Kleinneiur

Joann Kleinneiur is a Jane of many trades.

She builds gingerbread houses, plays the violin, takes fencing classes and is a self-taught juggler, founding the Anti-Gravitational Society, LHHS’ first juggling club.

As the president of the National Honor Society, Kleinneiur is one of the top five students in the senior class. She has applied to Princeton and Yale universities, and has been accepted to Rice, Southern Methodist and Wake Forest universities, as well as UT-Austin. She plans to study medicine and become a research scientist.

But her main time commitment is academic decathlon, a team competition that tests students’ knowledge of mathematics, science, social studies, economics, language and literature, and the fine arts. This year, LHHS placed sixth in the state in academic decathlon, with Kleinneiur receiving second in fine arts.

She lives alone with her mother Marjorie, who teaches English at Lake Highlands Junior High.

“My mother has probably been the single most-influential person in my life,” Kleinneiur says. “I watched her when my father abandoned us.”

“She put herself through graduate school. She’s been so frugal so I can go to a wonderful college.”

The Next Spielberg: Michael Gibson

Michael Gibson is the next Steven Spielberg, says Ginny Chambliss, who taught Gibson psychology.

Gibson writes, directs and edits short films, and says he is flattered by the comparison, but he’s not trying to follow in the footsteps of any particular film maker.

“I have never thought of myself as the next anyone,” Gibson says. “I’ve always wanted to be the first me.”

Gibson turned to film two years ago after deciding he wouldn’t be able to make a living as a painter. All of his movie-making is done outside of school.

“The stories I come up with try to show people how my eyes see the world,” Gibson says. “I don’t think I’ve been blessed with a talent, so to speak. I just think God gave me different eyes than most people.”

Gibson has had internships with several film companies, including The James Gang and Concrete Productions, and will attend film school at UT this fall.

In addition to making films, he plays piano and guitar and has won awards for photography. He also carries a beat-up black book in which he sketches and writes.

At LHHS, he is involved in theater. He had a small role in the fall play and winter musical and has a leading role in this spring’s one-act play.

Gibson tied in the student vote for most talented boy at LHHS.

In the Limelight: Amy Acker

At age 18, Amy Acker already has received international attention.

During the summer of 1992, Acker was chosen as the International Model of the Year for juniors by the International Model and Talent Association. Approximately 500 teenagers competed for the title.

Acker worked in Japan, putting in 50 to 60 hours a week as a model. She did mostly catalog work and made three commercials – two for Mister Donut and one for Apple Computers.

But Acker’s career of choice is acting.

“I enjoy performing and the response form the audience,” Acker says. “I’ve always loved to dress up and play other people.”

Acker had the leading role in LHHS’ fall play and winter musical, playing Abigail in “The Crucible” and Sugar in “Some Like It Hot.”

She received a best actress award last year in a one-act play competition, and this year was chosen the most talented girl at LHHS by her peers.

When she isn’t rehearsing, Acker studies to maintain her position in the top 10 of the class. She also takes voice lessons and is the student council historian.

She is one of 15 students accepted to the acting program at SMU’s Meadows School of Fine Arts, and she has been accepted to the University of California at Los Angeles.

She applied to Princeton, Duke, Stanford and Northwestern universities, as well.

Grade ‘A’: Blake Hill

Blake Hill is the 1995 valedictorian.

His peers voted him the boy most likely to succeed and because of his honors classes, his grade point average has exceeded 100.

“Grades represent how much of the material you’ve learned,” Hill says. “Obviously, you want to learn as much as you can.”

Hill says he doesn’t have a calculated study schedule. He does homework between varsity soccer games and martial arts practices. This summer, he will take a test to get his black belt in Chung Moo Doe.

“Martial arts and athletics teach you just as much as academics,” Hill says. “Every experience you have teaches you something. Athletics teaches you endurance, competitiveness and discipline.”

Hill, whose father is a doctor, plans to pursue a career in medicine. He has been accepted to Rice, Southern Methodist and Texas A&M universities. He also has applied to Stanford, Duke and Vanderbilt universities.

Hill is a student council representative; a member of Young Life, a non-denominational Christian youth group; and has spent the past two summers volunteering at Medical City Hospital of Dallas.

The Big Sister: Lauri Bertrand

Lauri Bertrand is the third of 10 children, and the oldest living at home. Her parents are divorced, and Bertrand helps her mother with her younger brothers and sisters.

“I baby-sit full time and I tutor,” Bertrand says. “Growing up in a big family, you learn communication and leadership. Being one of the oldest, I have a lot of responsibility.”

Bertrand is not just a big sister at home. She is a LHHS peer helper, which requires her to visit Merriman Park Elementary three days a week to tutor and talk with children needing extra encouragement.

“I love working with kids,” Bertrand says. “A lot of people aren’t around kids a lot. I’m around them, so I appreciate them.”

Bertrand will attend Brigham Young University in Utah next fall. She hasn’t decided on a major.

Bertrand was voted the girls most likely to succeed by her peers. She is one of the top five students in her class. She also serves as the secretary of the National Honor Society; is vice president of Mu Alpha Theta, the math honor society; and plays the piano and organ.

Each morning, she wakes up at 6 a.m. to attend classes at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Through her church, Bertrand completed 80 hours of volunteer service in her junior and senior years.

Full of Surprises: Trent Poscharsky

Trent Poscharsky took over as president of LHHS’ Key Club, a community service group, when no one else wanted to.

Last fall, the Key Club was a dying organization, with only three members.

Poscharsky spent his senior year rebuilding the Key Club. The group now has 12 members and a 1995/96 budget, thanks to fund-raisers Poscharsky organized.

Community service runs in Poscharsky’s family.

His mother, Mary Jo, is president of the RISD Council of PTAs. Poscharsky, brother Ryan and sister Jana help with Council projects, along with father Thomas.

“We always pull together when we do something,” Poscharsky says.

“People are surprised when someone wants to help them. They seem to be even more surprised when it’s a teenager. I like to surprise people.”

This year, Poscharsky’s family received the Council’s award for outstanding volunteerism. Poscharsky was also appointed by Donna Halstead to serve on the Dallas Youth Commission.

“The goal (of the commission) is to look at youth programs in the City and give a perspective of how to improve them,” Poscharsky says.

The Commission is working on a letter-writing campaign to remove liquor stores surrounding South Dallas schools.

Poscharsky has been accepted to UT-Austin’s business college, Boston University, University of Arizona, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Notre Dame and Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. He plans to pursue a career in business.

Learning the Language: Nhu Tran

When Nhu Tran started ninth grade, she didn’t speak a word of English. Now, she’s in the top 10 of her class, taking advanced courses in science and math, and teaching English as a Second Language classes with her mother, Lien Nguyen.

In the summer of 1991, Tran moved from South Vietnam to Lake Highlands with her mother and older brother, Nguyen Tran.

“My mother heard we would get a better education,” Tran says. “That’s really important to her. She’s willing to sacrifice anything to get us a better future.”

“I expected people to be different and strange, hard to get in touch with,” Tran says about moving to Lake Highlands. “I was so wrong. All of the teachers are so warm and enthusiastic. They not only teach me physics, but how to interact with people.”

To keep up in school, Tran spends most of her time studying, she says. She doesn’t socialize much because she says she has to work twice as hard as other students who speak English as a first language.

“I study vocabularies, and I study grammar,” Tran says. “Every time I see a new word, I look in a dictionary and memorize it.”

Tran plans to study medicine and become a surgeon. She has been accepted to Texas A&M, Austin College and Baylor University and is waiting to receive her financial aid packages before making a final decision.

A Trooper: Tarlton Smith

When Tarlton Smith’s mother was pregnant with him, a friend of the family said that Smith would be a trooper when he grew up.

The nickname stuck – Smith has answered to ‘Trooper’ his whole life.

And he lives up to his name. He takes advanced courses in science and math while working at least 30 hours a week at Tom Thumb, including holidays, vacations and weekends.

In August, Smith will be the first in his family to attend a four-year university. He has been accepted to Texas Tech, where he will study engineering.

“I’ve got my goals set,” Smith says. “I’m going to follow them. I’m going to get at least my master’s in whatever I do.”

Smtih has been pushed to do well in school by his mother, who has raised him alone since he was three years old.

With two half-sisters who also are single parents, Smith often baby-sits his nieces.

“The days I’m off, I’m not really off,” Smith says. “That’s why I’m not in many clubs in school. I can’t be.

“My goal is to be a father to my kids when I do have them. I want to stay with them and make sure they have two parents.”

Most Athletic: Liz Hughston

Sports have taught Liz Hughston that hard work pays off.

Voted LHHS’ most athletic girl by her peers, Hughston has played varsity soccer and basketball all three years of high school and was captain of both teams this year. She also plays on a year-round club soccer team.

During soccer and basketball seasons, Hughston practices seven days a week. In the off season, she practices club soccer on Wednesdays and Sundays and jogs two miles other days.

“I’m real comppetitive, and I like staying in shape.” Hughston says. “I’ve learned teamwork and dedication.”

Last year, Hughston’s club soccer team placed fourth in the nation after winning first place in Texas.

In basketball, she has received team awards for best free throw percentage and best defense and was named last year’s Most Valuable Player.

This year, she received honorable mention All-District and made second-team All City.

One week each summer, Hughston works with children suffering from muscular dystrophy at Camp John Marc Myers. This summer will be her fourth with the camp.

“It’s a lot of fun to be with the kids and know that they are having a good time,” Hughston says. It’s a week for the kids to be away from hospitals and doctors.”

Hughston will attend the University of Oklahoma, where she will study to be a physical therapist.

Behind the Scenes: Brian Chubick

Brian Chubick is a student who does all the work, but doesn’t get a lot of recognition.

Chubick has been a member of student council since ninth grade. He was a secretary his sophomore year, and this year chairs the council’s drug prevention program, SMILE (Substances Mar Interesting Life Experience). He also dances with the Wranglers and plays piano.

He has been a Boy Scout since third grade and earned the rank of Eagle Scout last year.

In college, he plans to major in business with a possible international focus, he says. He has applied to Washington and Lee University in Virginia and UT-Austin.

He already runs his own business, a lawn-mowing company called M&A Landscaping Maintenance. He and two partners serve 50 customers weekly during the summer.

“It’s a lot of work,” Chubick says, “but you gain an understanding of money and finance.

This past fall, Chubick gained additional business experience during an internship with Fujitsu Network Transmission Systems’ human resources department. The job was arranged through LHHS Management Internship Program.

“It was interesting to see what employers were looking for and how you are supposed to act, Chubick says.

“In school, they teach you how things theoretically work, but until you actually get into the work place, you can’t really understand.”

On the Job: Jillene Powell

Jillene Powell knows what it is like to have bills to pay.

The second child of six, she pays for her car, car insuance, clothes, phone calls and social activities. She also will finance her college education at Brigham Young University, where she will pursue a career in pediatric nursing with a minor in dance.

To make money, Powell works at Tigerbull’s restaurant four days a week from 6-10 p.m., she says.

Every six weeks, the owner of Tigerbull’s gives two free meals to each straight “A” LHHS student.

Powell volunteered to set up the program and continues to keep up relations between the school and restaurant.

When not on the job, she studies two to three hours a day, she says. Her high school goal has been to make it into the top 10 of her class. She made it to number 12.

“It’s extremely hard for me to hold a job and keep my grades up,” Powell says. “I just have to make sure I don’t waste time.”

At school, Powell dances in the Wranglers. She also teaches country and western dancing workshops at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where she attends church classes each morning before school.

“Probably about 70 percent of my life is based around my church,” Powell says.