Meredith Lawhead. (Courtesy of her mom)

This story was written by Bridget Fesko and Lillian Baptist

Ithaca, N.Y. — Periodically, over the next few weeks, The Ithaca Voice will be highlighting some of the many talented class of 2014 graduates from high schools across Ithaca and Tompkins County.

Our second entry in this series is Ithaca High School, where we’re celebrating eight students. There were so many more who deserved inclusion.

(Know a talented recent graduate The Ithaca Voice should celebrate? Email me at

To Oseoba Airewele, Archer CowenMeredith LawheadKatherine MarteBrian Okumu, Naomi Powers, Josiah Rawlings and Michael Stern: Congrats on your accomplishments — and know that whatever comes next, Ithaca will be cheering you on.

Without further ado…

Budding engineer sets triple jump record, collects supplies for S. African schools

Oseoba Airewele has an extensive list of achievements from his high school career, including in the areas of athletics, academics, and leadership.

Oseoba Airewele (Provided by Airewele)
Oseoba Airewele (Provided by Airewele)

Airewele was a co­captain of Ithaca’s varsity soccer team, which won sectionals and was ranked 13th in the state.

He was the Class A, Section 4 triple jump champion in 2013 and 2014 and qualified for the State and National Championship meets. Airewele also set Ithaca High School’s record for triple jump distance.

Airewele also held many leadership positions in the community. He was head chair of the Ithaca Youth Council, president of Ithaca High School’s African Latino Club, and the Vice President of the class of 2014.

Airewele also organized The Pencil Project, which collected over 90 pounds of school supplies for schools in South Africa.

Airewele won multiple awards during his high school career.

He was a finalist for the National Achievement Scholarship and won the Joseph Tatascore Memorial Award. He also won the Rotary Club James B Marsh Memorial Award and the Lillian Kuppinger Prize.

Airewele will be attending Cornell next year to study engineering. Airewele will also be running track and field at Cornell.

A modern Louis Armstrong plays local radio, heads to conservatory

Talented musician Archer Cowen will be attending the Oberlin Conservatory in the fall.

Cowen has played in the Ithaca High School band and was elected band president. He also plays in his own band, J’maal. J’maal has played on the radio and won Ithaca High School’s Battle of the Bands.

Archer Cowen (center) rocks the sax with his band, JMAAL. (Courtesy of the JMAAL Facebook page)
Archer Cowen (center) rocks the sax with his band, JMAAL. (Courtesy of the JMAAL Facebook page)

Cowen has received the Carol Buckley Performing Arts Award and the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award.

The band plays what it calls on its Facebook page a kind of “jazz funk.” It has performed at GrassRoots.

Take a listen!

Just look at those! IHS artist creates beautiful paintings

Meredith Lawhead is a talented artist who is also a part of the Cascadilla Boat Club.

In October 2012, Lawhead had her art shown at GreenStar. That Summer, she was accepted to the Interlochen Summer Camp for Arts, where she focused on Visual Arts.

During her junior year, Lawhead started an independent study with her teacher, Judy, which included interviewing artists, experimenting with media, and creating many works of art.

Meredith Lawhead. (Courtesy of her mom)
Meredith Lawhead. (Photo credit: Her mom)
Meredith Lawhead. (Photo credit: Her mom)

Throughout her high school career, Lawhead also participated in athletics, including rowing and roller derby. She joined Cascadilla Boat Club in her freshman year. Since then, she has participated in crew, dragon boating, outrigging, and junior roller derby.

Meredith Lawhead will be attending SUNY Purchase next year, where she will study drawing and painting. (See some of her art here.)

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 11.33.16 AM
Lawhead calls this a “work-in-progress” on her Facebook page. It looks pretty amazing already to us! (Courtesy of Lawhead’s Facebook page.)
Lawhead calls this a “work-in-progress” on her Facebook page. It looks pretty amazing already to us! (Courtesy of Lawhead’s Facebook page.)
(Courtesy of Meredith Lawhead's  Facebook page)
(Courtesy of Meredith Lawhead’s Facebook page)
(Courtesy of Meredith Lawhead’s Facebook page)

Tri-sport varsity athlete wins slew of awards on the field and off

Katherine Marte, class of 2014 has been known as a outstanding student and athlete during her time at Ithaca High School. Marte played volleyball, basketball, and softball while maintaining a high grade point average throughout high school.

From her sophomore year on, Marte played on varsity sports teams. Marte has also been very active in the Ithaca Community, volunteering at places such as Southside Community Center and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center.

(Courtesy of Emily Farewell)
Katherine Marte (Courtesy of Emily Farewell)

Marte, known as a positive and friendly person as well as a team player, has been recognized for her achievements.

She received scholarships such as the Beverly J. Martin Scholarship and the Wegmans Scholarship. She also earned the RYLA Award, Distinguished Youth Award from the Legislative Chambers, and the Susan B. Anthony Award.

She will be attending Onondaga Community College, where she will continue to play basketball.

Two-sport varsity athlete … since his freshmen year

Brian Okumu has been a very active member of the high school community over the past several years. Through his participation in clubs and sports, as well as his leadership, Okumu has received awards and scholarships.

Okumu was part of at least one Ithaca High School sports team during each of his four years at the high school. During his freshman and sophomore years, Okumu swam on the high school’s Varsity Swim Team. Okumu also played lacrosse all throughout high school.

In addition, Okumu was chosen to be a Link Crew Leader, helping incoming students to feel comfortable at Ithaca High School. Okumu served as the Vice President of the African Latino club.

(Courtesy of Shannon Pinney)
(Courtesy of Shannon Pinney)

For his efforts, Okumu was a recipient of the Penelver Scholarship Award and the Noreen Memorial Scholarship. He will attend Tompkins Cortland Community College next year, but plans to transfer to either Pennsylvania State University, Ithaca College or Syracuse University in the future.

Journalist, stage manager, R2D2, winner of the ‘Bronze Pen’

Naomi Powers has been a big part of Ithaca High School’s fine arts community since her freshman year.

She was the stage manager for Ithaca High School’s The Jury, and one of the first student­-produced productions, 4 AM. Powers also stage managed and contributed to writing Pockets, an independent theater production. She played Claire in Take Ten’s production of The Breakfast Club and R2D2 in Take Ten’s Shakespeare’s Star Wars.

Powers also has an interest in journalism. During her senior year, Powers was the photo editor and music columnist for The IHS Tattler.

Naomi Powers. (Courtesy of April Carroll)
Naomi Powers. (Courtesy of April Carroll)

She also designed, wrote, edited, and published Brass Magazine. This new fashion and culture publication, created for the WISE program, turned a profit in sales within a week of distribution. Powers also received the IHS Bronze Pen Journalism Award.

Powers was one of only eight students to take Ithaca High School’s new AP Art History Course. She also took AP Studio Art and submitted a final portfolio of paintings.

Powers also won the Janet Aguirre Memorial Scholarship. She will be going to the School of Art Institute of Chicago.

IHS varsity tennis All Star for 3 years, soon to be mechanical engineer

Josiah Rawlings is a skilled athlete and a skilled actor.

As if that weren’t enough, he was also a prominent personality in the high school community by doing the morning announcements during his junior and senior years.

Rawlings played on Ithaca High School’s varsity boys tennis team for five years. He received the All Star player award three out of five seasons.

Rawlings is also a talented actor. He has done six shows with Running to Places, a youth theater company in Ithaca. He played a lead role in three of these shows. These roles included Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Curly in Oklahoma, and Baker in Into the Woods.

Josiah Rawlings. (Courtesy of Sarah Blodgett)
Josiah Rawlings. (Courtesy of Sarah Blodgett)

Rawlings has also been a member of Vitamin L for 8 years and is now on the board.

Rawlings will be attending Binghamton University next year. He will study mechanical engineering.

Trumpeter writes new IHS alma mater

Michael Stern has become a prominent figure when it comes to music in the Ithaca High School community. Stern plays trumpet, piano and has sung in multiple choirs.

He has participated in not only the majority of the ensembles at Ithaca High School, but also many of the music opportunities in the area and state. Stern has held positions at the high school and received several awards for his music related accomplishments.

Michael (Courtesy of Jeff Dunn)
Michael Stern (Courtesy of Jeff Dunn)

Stern performed in a great number of the musical groups at Ithaca High School. This list includes the Ithaca High School Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band, Jazz Band, and Chorale. Outside of school, Stern participated in the Concorde Trumpet Ensemble and the Christ Chapel Choir.

Stern’s list of Honor Ensembles is also lengthy. He participated in both All­County and All­State opportunities, as well as ACDA National Honor Choir throughout his high school years. Stern also attended the Ithaca College Summer Music Academy in 2011 and the New York State Summer School of the Arts School of Orchestral Studies in 2012 and 2013.

During his senior year, Michael wrote a new alma mater, titled “Our Ithaca,” for Ithaca High School as part of his WISE project. Very few people at the school knew of the old song. Stern introduced the new alma mater, which he composed, to the Ithaca High School choir with the help of Kristin Zaryski, the new choir director. The song included references to the Ithaca College and Cornell University alma maters. The alma mater was debuted at his graduation.

Stern held the positions of the Ithaca High School Chorale President and the Ithaca High School Concert Band Treasurer during his senior year. Stern has received many awards for his musical achievements over the last several years. His most recent awards include the Carol Buckley Award in Fine Arts, the National Choir Award, the PTSA Achievement Award for Academic Excellence in Music, and the Frank L. Battisti Award.

Stern will be attending Ithaca College this fall and is planning to double major in Music Education and Trumpet Performance.

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.