Efficiency and time management, the mastery of both, along with focused motivation, an appreciation of balance, a commitment to excellence and a dash of good humor—the combination of all this often lead to success in a wide array of endeavors. Just ask any of the following Edina High School (EHS) students who excel both in and beyond the classroom.
Karwehn Kata seems destined for a career in politics. Having taken to heart the advice his parents gave him as he began high school—“Befriend those who challenge you”—and committing to making EHS a better place, Kata, a student government representative, says that “if I were to leave Edina without having contributed in some way, I would be remiss in not repaying it for everything it has given me.”
Kata, who will be a senior this fall, contributes not only through student council, which, he says, “has been an excellent way to become more informed, present ideas, plan events and cultivate friendships,” but also as a mock trial captain, Planning Commission student member, 212 Leadership Committee chair, and member of both Purple Ground (a non-partisan political group) and Sober Squad. This year Kata captains the varsity boys’ soccer team.
When he isn’t encouraging others on the field or through leadership forums, Kata is a youth instructor at his church, where he tries to help kids “communicate, have integrity and appreciate others for who they are.”
The endless activity requires effective time management and compromise, Kata acknowledges, but “you only experience high school once so you should take advantage of every opportunity, even if that means sacrificing some sleep.”
And what’s beyond high school? College and law school, says Kata, who plans to continue his involvement with student government, mock trial and political groups. Sounds like excellent preparation for public service.
Favorite TV Show: Boston Legal
Favorite Music: Song: Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap; Band: Maroon 5; Genre: Classical
Favorite Way to Unwind: “Embarking on the treacherous journey to Buffalo Wild Wings in Chanhassen with my friends and then indulging in precious bro talk.”
Favorite Words of Wisdom: “Read. Get involved. Be humble and be friendly.”
Danielle Brown’s passion and gift for creative expression is rare among high schoolers. A musician, writer and actress, Brown made the most of her time at EHS as a flute section leader for the school’s marching band, Concert Choir Ensemble vocalist, member of the concert and jazz bands, founder of a flute quartet, actress in several theater productions, and author of novellas, poems and music.
“I love to be immersed in ideas and able to explore outside of life’s regular constraints,” observes Brown with the insight and maturity more commonly found among those twice her age. “Music and writing offers a break from being your normal self.”
When she wasn’t creating or performing, Brown, who graduated last spring, also cheered on EHS sports teams with the musical ensemble Bleacher Blasters, worked to end human trafficking through End Slavery Now and tutored younger students in flute and writing. Both an AP scholar and an Edina scholar, Brown lettered multiple times in band and theater and earned five Solofest contest superiors. She was twice accepted to the Augsburg Invitational Poetry Reading and was a finalist in the NCTE writing contest.
The inspiration for all of this achievement? Besides crediting the wisdom and guidance of her parents and several teachers, Brown cites poetry. “My goals can be summed up by a couple of lines from If a Child: ‘If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world;’and from The 51st Dream State: ‘Why don’t we get our hopes up too high?’” she says. “I want to learn and I want to teach.”
Indeed Brown will do just that this fall as she studies education at the University of Minnesota Morris with merit scholarships in preparation for a career in teaching English literature and continue to write and tutor on the side. If her schedule becomes too hectic, Brown’s likely to follow her own advice: “Be optimistic about curve balls and have an attitude of determination, not panic.”
Favorite Television Show: The Office
Favorite Music: Matt Epp, Roma di Luna, Lights Out Dancing
Favorite Way to Unwind: “Writing 20 pages at 2 a.m. in my book.”
Favorite Words of Wisdom: “Attitude is key, everyone needs a hand sometimes, and enjoy what you’ve got when you’ve got it.”
When she initially stepped onto the basketball court to play with a boys’ team in first grade, Jamie Bresnahan immediately felt at home. “I was so excited and full of energy,” recalls the senior who comes from a family of athletes and is driven by a desire to constantly improve. “I kept asking my dad to go to the gym to work on skills and shooting.”
Lettering on the EHS’ varsity girls’ basketball team since her freshman year and named all conference twice, Bresnahan currently helps lead her team in defensive play. Last year she earned The Hornet Award for her consistent, reliable, influential performance. When she isn’t representing EHS, Bresnahan plays both post and forward for the AAU Minnesota Metro Stars basketball club.
“You feel a true sense of accomplishment when all of your hard work pays off in the long run,” notes Bresnahan. “Through basketball, I’ve learned the importance of teamwork and have made lasting friendships. But most of all, I just love to play.”
Off the court, Bresnahan belongs to Sober Squad and the 212 Leadership Committee, works as a project manager for the assistant principal, is a lifeguard and has coached EBAA summer leagues.
Yet basketball remains her greatest passion. After losing during the last minute of the Section 6AA semifinals by a bucket last year, Bresnahan became determined to help her EHS team reach the state tournament this year.
“Teamwork is critical,” says Bresnahan, a team captain, “and you can always push yourself harder than where you think you can go.”
That’s likely to be pretty far for this talented athlete who hopes to also play basketball for a Division 1 college or university in the not-too-distant future.
Favorite Television Show: NCIS and The Office
Favorite Music: Country
Favorite Way to Unwind: Listen to music or watch a college basketball or baseball game on TV
Favorite Words of Wisdom: “Definitely don’t hold back! Get involved in everything that interests you, but also have a good balance and manage your time well.”
Recent graduate Michael Wu says that of the many activities he was involved with at EHS, playing the cello often made him the happiest.
“I love to communicate on such a personal level and it’s always fun to be on stage,” says Wu, who began cello lessons in fourth grade. “The collaborative aspect of music is very gratifying, especially in small chamber groups.”
While Wu says he practiced only “a shameful one hour a day” due to his incredibly busy high school schedule, he managed to assemble an impressive array of musical credentials, including principal cellist with the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies’ premier orchestra, cellist for the Minnesota All-State Orchestra, three MSHSL “Best-in-Site” winning titles as an EHS orchestra member, multiple school letters and leadership awards plus too many other coveted local and state music accolades to list.
“Music has taught me to really appreciate intense emotions,” Wu observes. “Of course, the instrumental aspects of cello have also taught me discipline, problem solving and perseverance.”
Those skills translated to significant success outside of music for Wu. As a 4.0 student who qualified as a National Merit Scholar program finalist, Wu achieved perfect scores on five AP exams and earned the Yale Book Award as a junior. He received second place in the individual foil state fencing championship, led his EHS Knowledge Masters team to a state championship as co-captain and was elected by his peers as senior class homecoming king, a distinction the self-proclaimed “nerd” found both amusing and humbling.
Wu also was selected as one of four “A” team Quiz Bowl members during his junior year, performed regularly with a student string quartet both voluntarily and for pay, worked as a cello instructor, and graduated at the top of his class from a 10-year Mandarin and Chinese culture program. He’s fluent in Mandarin and Spanish.
This fall Wu is attending Harvard and will continue to fence and play the cello.
Favorite Television Show: The Discovery Channel
Favorite Music: Everything classical
Favorite Way to Unwind: Sleep
Favorite Words of Wisdom: “Don’t view high school as purely a means to get to college. Remember that education is valuable in itself. Develop your true interests and work hard; college will follow.”
At the beginning of his junior year, when James Warner was asked to be a school mascot, the prospect of becoming “a giant green hornet running around inside a huge piece of insulation” didn’t daunt him in the least. “It sounded like a bunch of fun,” he says.
That attitude has governed much of Warner’s involvement during high school. Now a senior with an impressive academic track record including AP scholar (Warner has taken 11 AP exams, including eight last year), Warner has spent much of his time at EHS on stage either acting—he was the supporting male actor in the comedy Moon Over Buffalo and in the musical Curtains—or performing string bass with the EHS symphony and chamber orchestras. Last spring Warner performed with the pit orchestra for the school’s production of A Grand Night for Singing.
“I love music and theater, especially the musical aspect of theater,” says Warner. “It’s such a great diversion with a wonderful mixture of good natured fun and a people who have a strong work ethic.”
When he isn’t in front of a crowd, Warner serves on the board of Edina’s Connecting with Kids. He also enjoys writing and was a finalist for the NCTE writing competition last year. Warner has participated in Knowledge Masters and will compete in Quiz Bowl this year. He belongs to two school book clubs, including one that he founded.
“We focus on works that critique society and stand outside of the norm. Think George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, Orson Scott Card,” explains Warner.
Despite the “insane amount of schoolwork that I do,” Warner finds time for friends and socializing, something he considers an important aspect of the high school experience.
Currently in the process of applying to colleges, Warner plans to study economics, preferably at his dream school, the University of Chicago.
Favorite Television Show: West Wing
Favorite Music: Brahms, The Hold Steady, Atmosphere, The Jam, Kaiser Chiefs
Favorite Way to Unwind: Netflix
Favorite Words of Wisdom: “Take difficult classes that interest you.”