Central High valedictorian Dowon Park is headed to the United States Military Academy at West Point with the goal of serving his country as a medical doctor.
Park was inspired to seek the academy appointment after hearing of the dire need for more doctors to work with the Veterans Administration hospitals.
It took him a year and a half to complete the admission process, from passing a physical fitness assessment to getting congressional backing from U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess. Park plans to get a degree in biomedical engineering before going on to medical school.
Salutatorian Bao Ni Thai also intends to pursue a career in medicine and is considering orthodontics. She plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin to study chemistry.
Thai volunteered at Texas Rep. Matt Krause’s office this year, manning phones and doing data entry.
“I learned a lot about how government works at the state level,” Thai said.
Park said he was inspired by his father, who came to the United States from South Korea before Park was born.
“He’s always been there for me,” he said. “He taught me to never give up and always be yourself. I used to get picked on when I was little, and he said, ‘Don’t worry. Just be yourself and you’ll succeed.’”
Thai said her older sister encouraged her to keep working hard. “It’s important to make others proud, but it’s more important to make yourself proud,” she said.
The other members of Central’s Class of 2015 Top 10, in alphabetical order:
Claire Allbright plans to go to the University of Texas at Austin and major in journalism.
Vladyslav Bondar will go to the University of Texas at Austin and plans to study biology.
Quynh Vi Marium Hameed will attend the University of North Texas and will study music and science.
Michelle Lam plans to go to the University of Texas at Austin and major in biology.
Madeline Oles will go to Texas A&M University and plans to study biology.
Austin Sivoravong plans to attend the University of North Texas and major in biology and minor in music.
Benjamin Sivoravong will attend the University of North Texas and plans to study business management and finance.
Eric So will go to Stanford University and major in engineering physics.