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Senior Spotlight – Isaiaz Whitaker, South High School

South High senior Isaiaz Whitaker Isaiaz Whitaker will be the first in his family to graduate high school and has earned a full-ride scholarship to Princeton University where he plans to study mechanical engineering.

He’s overcome a lot to get to where he is today including experiencing a house fire, homelessness with his family and living in a shelter.

“I’ve lived in 19 different houses, three homeless shelters and three different cities,” said Isaiaz.

“I had four younger siblings and I knew that I had to set an example,” Isaiaz said. “I got a bunch of Bs first semester my freshman year and knew that I had to step it up and get this done.”

School became a refuge for him.

“When I lived in a shelter during my sophomore year, I felt trapped,” Isaiaz said. “When I went to school, it was like a life saver.” 

During his time at South High he’s played baseball all four years, he’s the yearbook editor, serves as the historian for the school’s National Honor Society chapter, and he has played chess all four years placing 17th last year, and 15th this year, in the state in competition.

He has also participated in the Better Academics and Social Excellence (BAASE) program since 6th grade, which encourages students to have good behavior and take advanced placement and honors courses to help prepare them for college.

Church is a big part of Isaiaz’s life. He is active in the Young Life program and has taken mission trips as well as volunteered in the community.

Isaiaz has received several scholarships based on his academic achievement and community service including the Horatio Alger National Scholarship and the United Way of the Plains’ Aaron Joel Smith Memorial Youth Volunteer Scholarship.

He was also one of 100 students chosen to participate in Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA), a five-week program at Princeton University that helps high-achieving students from under-resourced backgrounds with academic preparation for college, leadership training, college guidance support, SAT/ACT preparation, and a chance to experience life on a college campus.

He’s looking forward to attending college and using what he learns to give back to others.

“My goal is to give back to my community and use the skills I learn in mechanical engineering to improve things for low-income families,” said Isaiaz.

Watch Isaiaz’s Senior Spotlight video.