Edina Senior Spotlight 2022: Shining a Light on Local Students

by | Aug 2022

Sabeehudeen (Sabeeh) Mirza of Edina High School

Sabeehudeen (Sabeeh) Mirza of Edina High School

These outstanding high school seniors are leaving a positive impact on their schools and community.

Each year, we ask area high school administrators to nominate a few rising high school seniors who are leaving a positive impact on their schools and the Edina community at large. It’s not easy to decide who to feature; so many deserving students were nominated for this year’s profile. But, after careful consideration, we’re pleased to introduce you to five outstanding area students who are about to embark on their senior years in high school.

Sabeehudeen (Sabeeh) Mirza, 16

Edina High School (EHS)

“Sabeeh is a student that is willing to do whatever it takes to make the world a better place. An amazing speaker, he is willing to talk to anyone about any topic. He is incredibly thoughtful in working with debate, Student Senate, Model United Nations and other various groups throughout the building.” —Andrew Beaton, Edina High School principal

In Sabeeh’s Words:
What is one thing or person that has shaped who you are today?
One of the largest things that has shaped who I am today is the variety of places I’ve lived. While I grew up in Toronto, I spent four years in Arkansas and two years in Kansas. I moved to Edina in eighth grade and have been here since! I’ve lived in a variety of places culturally, politically and geographically. Being in so many schools with so many different types of students has allowed me to reflect on the experiences of others, as well as my own. I think it … taught me how to adapt and how to grow within different environments. It also pushed me to advocate for myself, as I tended to see problems and issues that administrators and teachers didn’t.

What has been your favorite activity or achievement in high school?
My favorite activity is probably being the president of the Student Senate. While debate, speech and Model UN gave me argumentative and delivery skills, Senate has given me a way to work with students and administration, working to improve both. I think for a school to be successful, there has to be a clear link between the two bodies, and my work with Senate has allowed me to shape change, while also working with others to address a variety of issues.

What service activity did you find most meaningful, and why?
I think my work on the Edina Human Rights and Relations Commission (HRRC) has been the most meaningful. As a member of the HRRC, I’ve had the ability to look through city policy, plan events and, most importantly, work with members of the community to make change and improvements to the city as a whole. As a person of color, I have experienced feeling “unwelcome” within a city, and working to ensure that others don’t have to feel that way is a priority that will always be at the forefront of my life.

What’s next after high school?
Hopefully college! I’m divided between the fields of psychology and law, so I hope to spend the first year of college exploring both before focussing on one track.

More to know about Sabeeh Mirza

  • Student commissioner of the Edina Human Rights and Relations Commission
  • Student board member of Edina Give and Go
  • President of the Edina Student Senate and the Edina Orchestra Leadership Council
  • Co-president of the Asian American Pacific Islander Union
  • Captain of Model UN and debate
  • Edina Community Foundation Connecting with Kids award recipient
  • National Speech and Debate Association Academic All American
  • Johns Hopkins University Book Award recipient
  • Lettered in community service, debate, Model UN (with distinction), orchestra, speech


Charles and Claire Abdo, 17

Academy of Holy Angels (AHA)

Claire and Charles Adbo

Charles and Claire Abdo

“The Abdo twins have a special story and are wonderful, high-achieving members of our school community. They were both adopted from Guatemala and live in Edina. Charlie is a talented snowboarder who competes internationally and is also quite faith-filled. He is a generous friend who really cares for his peers and has a lot of unique interests. Claire has been a hand model since she was 12 (!) and is very interested in science and pre-health careers. She did a Scrubs camp last summer and volunteers at M Health regularly. Charlie and Claire are incredibly close siblings and really good community members in all regards. We love this family!” —Ann Kjorstad, college and career counselor

In Claire and Charles’ Words:
What is one thing or person that has shaped who you are today?
Claire: My family has shaped me into the person I am today. They always support me and encourage me to try my best.
Charles: The one thing that has shaped who I am today is my faith. I have always been strong in my faith and beliefs, and it helps me do things to better myself as an individual.

What has been your favorite activity or achievement in high school?
Claire: My biggest achievement in high school is making the High Honor Roll. I work hard to keep my grades up, and it’s nice to see my efforts pay off.
Charles: My favorite achievement has been placing second at the 2022 National Snowboarding Championship in Colorado. The support from my school and all those who have cheered me on throughout the years was very meaningful to me.

What service activity did you find most meaningful, and why?
Claire: The most meaningful service that I do is at M Health Fairview Ridges Hospital where I am a transport pool volunteer. I deliver different items to the nurse stations, and I also pick up pharmacy items. I help escort people through the hospital and wheelchair people once they are discharged. I have learned a lot from being at the hospital, and it has been a great experience.
Charles: Feed My Starving Children has been the most meaningful volunteer experience. It felt good to help those less fortunate and provide food for them.

What’s next after high school?
Claire: After high school, I plan on going to college and pursuing a career in the medical field.
Charles: I am planning on going to college and continuing with my snowboarding career.

More to know about Claire Abdo

  • Member of: Academic All-State Golf Team, AHA golf team (2022 conference champions), National Honor Society, AHA ping pong, AHA soccer team
  • Received academic high honors and the St. Joseph Award
  • 2022 All-Conference in Golf
  • Lettered in golf, academics and service
  • Volunteer at MHealth Fairview Ridges Hospital
  • Member of the National Honor Society
  • Hand model for Moore Creative Talent
  • Attended the 2021 SCRUBS Camp at St. Paul Technical College and the 2022 National Youth Leadership Forum: Medicine at Tufts University

More to know about Charles Abdo

  • 2021 National Title for USASA Alpine Snowboarding – Youth Men Division
  • Ranked #1 in US for USASA in Slalom and Giant Slalom Snowboarding – Youth Men Division in 2022
  • 2022 MN State High School Snowboarding Champion in both Slalom and Giant Slalom
  • Silver medalist at the 2022 USASA National Snowboarding Championship in both Slalom and Giant Slalom – Youth Men Division
  • Finished in top 15 in NorAm/FIS Alpine Snowboard races in 2022
  • Member of: AHA Track & Field, GTeam Pro-Am Alpine Snowboard team, GTeam National Snowboarding Team,  USASA Alpine Snowboarding, US Snowboarding
  • Lettered in snowboarding, track & field, service
  • Volunteer at Feed My Starving Children
  • Received the St. Joseph Award
  • Honor Roll
  • Stock associate at Bachman’s

Sydney Schnell, 17

Academy of Holy Angels (AHA)

Sydney Schnell

Sydney Schnell

“There is so much to say about Sydney! Sydney is a competitive [figure] skater. She skates most mornings before school, getting to the rink by 6 a.m. In addition, she is an integral part of the AHA tennis team and is playing tennis at Inner City Tennis in the off-season to improve her skills. There are many days where she will have skating in the morning, school and then tennis after school. She is a hard worker in school (never missing an assignment!); is taking three Advanced Placement courses this year, with advanced math; and is on High Honors. She also holds a part-time job teaching younger students to skate and serves on the school newspaper. Sydney is incredibly kind and sweet; she would give you the shirt off her back. Next year, she will serve as one of the faith leaders of our school as a member of the Campus Ministry Team.” —Tina Proctor, college and career counselor

In Sydney’s Words:
What is one thing or person that has shaped who you are today?
One person [who] has made me the person I am today is my friend Meredith Diehl. I met Meredith my freshman year, and ever since we have had a very strong friendship. Her truthfulness, honesty and kindness is unlike any other person I know. Her positive attitude and willingness to help others has inspired me to be more like her. Her kindness and consideration for others is contagious.

What has been your favorite activity or achievement in high school?
My favorite activity in high school has been synchronized skating, since I am able to do something I love—figure skating—while being with my best friends and also being highly competitive. I really enjoy traveling with the team and competing in figure skating events with them. All the achievements of the team have meant more to me since I have been able to do it with my friends.

What service activity did you find most meaningful, and why?
A service activity I find meaningful is the Christ the King Thanksgiving baskets. Every year for the past six years, my family has had the tradition of shopping for a family who may not be able to afford to provide their family with a Thanksgiving meal. Although I am not able to meet the family in person, I feel like I have been able to make an impact on multiple families and help provide them with something they might not have had otherwise.

What’s next after high school?
After high school, I plan to major in biochemistry or engineering. I want to go into a STEM-related field since I enjoy chemistry, math and science classes.

More to know about Sydney Schnell

  • 3x US Figure Skating Gold Medalist (Moves in the Field, Freestyle, Senior Solo Free Dance)
  • Midwestern Section Silver Medalist and national competitor for Synchronized Skating (US Figure Skating)
  • Captain of women’s varsity tennis team
  • Member of: Holy Angels Blue & Gold (newspaper), lacrosse team, Math STARS, National Honor Society, Northernettes Junior Synchronized Skating, tennis team, speech team
  • Volunteer for: Feed My Starving Children, Christ the King Catholic Christ Thanksgiving Baskets, Alter Server at Our Lady of Grace Church, Academy of Holy Angels Open House, Twin Cities Figure Skating Association, Inner City Tennis “Super Saturday”
  • Skate Camp supervisor and skate school assistant at St. Paul Figure Skating Club


Samantha Steensland, 17

Benilde-St. Margaret’s School (BSM)

Samantha Steensland

Samantha Steensland

“I have been Samantha’s counselor for the past three years, and she is one of the most genuine and truly impressive students I have worked with during my 20 years at BSM. Sam is very warm, funny and caring, making her a delight to know. She is also extremely ambitious, mature and confident. This combination of personal attributes makes her such
a dynamic force in the classroom and in her activities. Her teachers, coaches and advisors are thankful for her leadership skills and positive attitude.” —Amanda Anderson, guidance and college counselor

In Samantha’s Words:
What is one thing or person that has shaped who you are today?
This one is easy: My mom. Pamela, as I like to call her (against my dad’s wishes), is the anchor of my life. She keeps my schedule, feeds my strong Starbucks addiction and is the reason I have been able to stay standings at times. Although … I am biased, each person [who] knows my mom has told me how special I am to have her in my life. Since I can remember, Pamela has taken every stone thrown her way with grace and kindness. She is the mom to fix my friend’s dress five minutes before we leave for a school dance, while finishing the handmade corsage she’s making for another one of my friends who forgot hers at home. She is the most organized-disorganized person I have ever met. Her drive within all aspects of her life and pure love for just everyone in it, is what I aspire to be.

What has been your favorite activity or achievement in high school?
My favorite activity I have been a part of in high school is a program at our school called Link Crew. Link Crew is made up of around 65 seniors and juniors and led by three amazing teachers from our school’s math department: Ms. Seppala, Mr. Groess and Mr. Johnson. This program is designed to assist the incoming freshman transition into the BSM community in a smooth and stress-free way.
I have had the opportunity to be accepted as a leader both this past year as a junior and this upcoming year as a senior.
I have loved being a part of this program because I have loved meeting and learning about all of the freshmen and building new friendships. Knowing that I can make a scary experience [like] starting high school that much less stressful is truly an amazing feeling and experience.

What service activity did you find most meaningful, and why?
The service activity that I have found the most passion for is volunteering at my church, Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC), each Wednesday night, leading a small group of fifth grade girls. Each week, my group of [two to seven] girls would come to Club and genuinely be so excited to learn about Jesus. This program is set up for all of the kids to learn and grow in their faith, but they weren’t alone. Seeing Jesus and the Bible through … their eyes was such an eye-opening experience for me. It brought me back to the simplicity of being a Christian. The girls and I have developed such a great relationship.

What’s next after high school?
As of right now, my plan is similar to that of most other high school students: college! Although I am unsure which college I am attending, I do know the qualities of what I’m looking for … The big things include a safe campus, a medium-sized college (around 15,000 undergrad) and, overall, a place I know I will be able to call home nine months out of the year.

More to know about Samantha Steensland

  • Member of: Chess Club, Crochet Club, Fashion Club, Golf Team, Knight Life (Sober Lifestyle Club), Link Crew, National Honors Society, Red Knight Volunteer Corps (RKVC), Spanish National Honors Society
  • Girls Golf Team Captain (upcoming)
  • Head Media Manager for Chess Club
  • Girls Swim Team Manager
  • Girls Volleyball Team Manager (upcoming)
  • English Teacher’s assistant
  • Intern for the BSM Admissions Team
  • Small group church leader, VBS leader and camp counselor at Christ Presbyterian Church Edina

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