White Bear Lake Senior Spotlight 2022: Local Leaders

Dhruva Pingale of White Bear Lake Area High School.
Meet the next generation of movers and shakers.
Dhruva Pingale of White Bear Lake Area High School

Students are the leaders of tomorrow. And in an area chock-full of passionate leaders and volunteers, our local high schools are no different. For more than a decade, White Bear Lake Magazine has taken a moment each year to highlight just a few of these outstanding students, and we are ecstatic to return to the practice after taking a pause during COVID-19.

We asked administrators from four local high schools to nominate students who have stood out and made an impact on their schools and communities. Selecting our standout seniors from a plethora of deserving students was no picnic, with each student just as inspiring and determined as the last. Suffice to say, our local future is in good hands.

Without further ado, it’s our pleasure to shed the spotlight on four bright young leaders:

Dhruva Pingale

White Bear Lake Area High School

A driven and respectful student, Dhruva Pingale has been on the “A” Honor Roll since his freshman year, all while participating in a variety of extracurricular pursuits, including NASA SparX, cross-country and track and field. Now captain of the cross-country team and a leader of the Environmental Club, Dhruva is setting his sights on becoming an aerospace engineer.

Dhruva in his own words:

What has been the highlight of your academic career so far?
The highlight of my academic career so far has been the course load that I have taken the (last) ongoing school year. After taking one AP class in my sophomore year, I decided to take on a course load of one College in the Schools (CIS) class, in addition to four AP classes, as well. I was especially surprised by my ability to keep up in AP Physics, a class that required me to self-study math that was ahead of the curriculum for my math class. This increase in coursework, paired with increasing commitments for out-of-class activities, has taught me about my limits, but they have also taught me a lot about how resilient I can be.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
People might be surprised to learn that a lot of who I am as a person is influenced by my experiences with the cross-country team that I have been on these last few years. I have met some of my best friends and the people that I look up to the most within the three years that I have been with the team. Being in an environment filled with camaraderie, balanced with equal amounts of willingness to work hard, pushed me not only to see how much I could truly achieve, but also to work toward that goal.

What’s important to you?
One of the most important things to me is to never give up, regardless of how bad things look in the moment. My motivation to do so is largely scientific: As long as the chances of something happening are above zero, that thing will come to pass, given enough time. Most things that we wish for are plausible and therefore, given enough time and effort, they must come true at least once.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I am planning to go to college, although I have not decided where I am going to be going yet. I feel like for the career that I want to pursue, it would benefit me significantly to attend college, so that I can contribute to society rather than just being an observer.

Eleanor Anderson

Mahtomedi High School

Eleanor Anderson of Mahtomedia High School.

Described by her advisors as a “bold volunteer” in the Mahtomedi community, Eleanor Anderson has devoted her time in high school to helping others. Through her roles as a student representative on the Staff Equity Leadership team and a member of the Building Awareness Surrounding Equity student club, Eleanor works to promote an inclusive learning community at Mahtomedi High School. She’s also involved in various extracurricular activities, including National Honors Society (selected as president for the 2022-23 school year), Model United Nations, Zephyr Press, Human Rights Club, tutoring at Solid Ground and coaching volleyball and gymnastics.

Eleanor in her own words:

What has been the highlight of high school so far?
The highlight of my high school career so far has been making connections with various teachers. I’ve felt very lucky to have had at least one teacher each year that I’ve been able to ask any question to or go to when I need help with something school-related or personal.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Something that I think [people] would be surprised to know about me is that I am an avid Spider-Man fan. It all started in 2020 when my family tried to find something we could all enjoy watching while stuck in lockdown and quickly spiraled into binge-watching every Spider-Man movie and ordering copious amounts of Spider-Man paraphernalia.

What brings you happiness?
My happiness often stems from the simplest part of my life: my parents. I feel very fortunate to have such a strong relationship with both of my parents because their endless support and unconditional love ensures that our home is always a safe and comforting place. Without them by my side, pushing me to try new things and making sure I never feel alone, I doubt I would feel as happy or successful as I do today.

What are your hopes for the future after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to attend college and, while nothing is set in stone, I’m thinking about studying political science and government. I’m interested in schools both in and out-of-state and am very excited to see what this next step holds for me.

Vivian Gacek

Hill-Murray School

Vivian Gacek of Hill-Murray School.

Cross-country MVP and DECA project winner Vivian Gacek is a high performing student who continues to give back to her school community. Alongside her pursuit of extensive honors and College in the Schools (CIS) courses, Vivian is involved in peer ministry, tutoring and CARE, a peer empowerment group.

Vivian in her own words:

What has been the highlight of high school so far?
My highlight of high school has been through the club Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA). This year for my project, I worked with the Children’s Cancer Research Fund to plan a children’s cancer awareness week at my school, and we qualified for finals at the state level. At my school, I am a DECA officer, and I recently qualified for the international competition in Atlanta. 

What is something about yourself people would be surprised by?
Something people would be surprised to know about me is that during my first year of cross country, I broke the school record five consecutive times. I also was runner up at the conference championship. A fun fact is that I also do shotput in track.

What advice would you give someone just starting high school?
Get involved freshman year. Joining clubs can help you find long lasting friends and build relationships with teachers and mentors. Clubs are a great way to find what you’re passionate about and possibly give you some ideas of what you might want to do with your future. 

What are your hopes for the future after graduation?
My hopes for the future are to major in biology, pre-med. I am not sure what college yet, but I am hopeful to attend college down south to get away from the cold winters. 

Samuel Johnson

Liberty Classical Academy

Samuel Johnson of Liberty Classical Academy.

Through various athletic and academic pursuits, Samuel Johnson has shown himself to be a caring and kindhearted human capable of great things. When he’s not crushing it on a field or mountain as soccer team captain or ski team MVP, Samuel loves working with groups and friends in classroom settings and volunteering in kids’ ministries at Eagle Brook Church.

Samuel in his own words:

What has been the highlight of high school so far?
High school has been full of several different highlights, but perhaps the one on the top of my list is growing in deep friendships with my classmates. Being in a smaller-sized class has enabled me to get to know each individual on a much deeper level. I’ve grown up with several of the boys in my class since second grade, and it has been really special to be able to build lifelong friendships.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Most people probably wouldn’t have guessed that I’ve played three varsity sports and two club sports. School can be very demanding at times, but you always can make time for what you love, and for me, it’s athletics. I enjoy volleyball, soccer, running track, Nordic skiing and playing
basketball on the side.

What’s next after graduation?
After graduation I hope to play Division I soccer. I’ve played soccer almost all my life, and this has always been a dream of mine. Furthermore, I plan to major in landscape architecture and hope to one day start my own landscape and design company.

What advice would you give someone just starting high school?
To someone just starting high school, I would simply tell them that high school is going to be four of the best years of your life, so don’t waste it. High school is full of new opportunities to meet friends, try new activities and begin learning real life skills. Most importantly, I would say to have fun. Having balance is important. Be diligent in your schoolwork, but don’t let yourself be so caught up in studying that you can’t ever go hang out with friends.