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Rising Stars

These students and graduates are making their mark in Alabama and beyond

Jihad El-Amin III, 17

New Century Technology High School

Huntsville native turned brief New Yorker, Jihad is making big waves in our community. Recently elected student body president of New Century Technology High School, he said that while running he was focused on unifying the student body. He focused on the collective change his fellow students wanted to see. “The first thing I did was build a bridge of my peers, weaving together our hopes and aspirations for our school. Once that was finished, whether I won or not didn’t matter because the students saw unity.” Student body president isn’t the end of his leadership aspirations; Jihad ran for governor of Alabama Boys State and cherishes that campaign amongst his accomplishments. He is also currently serving as the Huntsville Guide Right Chapter’s Kappa League President. “I’ve been in HKL since fourth grade and always dreamed about leading the organization myself one day.”

Headed into his senior year, Jihad wants to pursue a degree and career in computer science, earning a doctorate in data science and eventually starting his own tech firm. Though he’s not leaving politics behind after high school - Jihad wants to also pursue public service and eventually run for office. “Through politics, I’ll be able to help and unite people. It will allow me to help others while giving back to the country and state that have molded me into who I am today.”

Margaret Foster, 22

University of North Carolina

Born and raised in Huntsville, Margaret Foster is motivated by exciting experiences, meeting new people, and adventure. A recent graduate from the University of North Carolina, Margaret was able to study at The Paris Institute of Political Studies aka Sciences Po. Through this exchange program, she took both French and political science classes. “From the friendships I made to the many cities we explored across Europe to the chance to really immerse myself both culturally and linguistically, the experience was remarkable.” Margaret recently received the Jacques Hardré Undergraduate Award for Excellence in French from UNC. “It was an incredibly rewarding moment for all of the time and effort I have put into my language studies,” says Margaret. Our Huntsville Francophile enjoyed her time in France so much that she will be returning this fall to the Greater Paris Metropolitan Area through the Teaching Assistant Program. When asked to provide tips for living abroad, Margaret shared a few ways to assimilate. “Open-mindedness is essential.” She also shared that while it can be challenging to adapt to a non-American lifestyle, it is also very rewarding. “Curve balls are inevitable, as well as homesickness, so make sure you go into it with a flexible attitude and an appreciation for other cultures.”

Nic Strong, 18

University of North Alabama

Born and raised in Huntsville, Nic Strong made frequent headlines playing football for Randolph School. Nic says it’s the women in his family who keep him motivated. “The sacrifices I have seen my mother make for me and my sister along with seeing my grandma be willing to take the shirt off her back to help someone else keeps me going.” He began his football journey at the age of five. “I got into football after watching my older cousin play football on Friday nights and every Saturday and Sunday watching football on television with my family. At the age of four, I would pretty much beg my mom every day to play football until she finally said yes at five.” Recently Strong signed to play for the UNA Lions. He says that he prayed over his next steps, knowing that God would open the right doors. “Not too much longer Coach Cruce called me. Ever since that phone call, I knew I was going to be a Lion.” Nic plans to study political science at UNA with law school on the horizon.

Megan Alyssa Jordan, 22

University of Alabama in Huntsville

Alabama native Megan Jordan moved to Huntsville in 2019 to pursue her dream of a career in aerospace. Thanks to an uncle, Megan spent many summers with her nose in workbooks, solving equations. “It’s something I truly enjoyed. I just never really thought that engineering was for me,” says Megan. Her parents enrolled her in the Student Introduction To Engineering (S.I.T.E) program at the University of Alabama. On the last day she met with aerospace engineering department leaders and toured their facilities. “I could not believe that people had careers in space and aviation.” Then she saw the film Hidden Figures. “Sitting in the theater, I knew I could pursue a career in aerospace and was going to do just that!” While at UAH, Megan was named a class of 2021 Patti Grace Smith Fellow. The Fellowship has enabled Megan to discover her S.T.E.M identity. “I myself struggled with the belief that I truly belonged in a sector that is mostly composed of men. Patti Grace Smith Fellowship connected me with a community of other black students in aerospace who were going through similar experiences.”

Chase Hammett, 23

Miami University of Ohio

A 2019 graduate from Randolph School, Chase Hammett was born and raised in the Rocket City. A lifelong learner, Chase says his motivation lies in achieving tough challenges and continuing to educate himself through his interactions with others. Chase earned a finance degree from Miami University of Ohio in May, and it was during commencement that he received an award recognizing the top finance student in scholastic achievement, leadership ability, and personal character. “It was an absolute honor, and I am still thinking they must’ve gotten me confused with someone else.” Chase credits the support of his professors, colleagues and family for helping make his achievement possible. As far as what led him to finance? Chase says it was the structured yet personable approaches to the field. “I’ve always found finance to be super fascinating. Any individual who reads or studies the different avenues of finance will learn about the fundamentals of the field, but what makes finance different is how you choose to utilize that information.” Headed to Minneapolis, he will be joining Lazard as an investment banking analyst within their Mergers and Acquisitions advisory teams.

For fun, Chase loves spending time outdoors, whether that be on the lake, at the golf course or a simple walk around the neighborhood. “If I am able to get a good amount of time off I try to spend those moments with friends and family,” says Chase. 

As far as Chase’s aspirations for Gen Z? In the short term he hopes they can put down their screens and spend more time on the tangible. Long-term he says, “Generation Z is in a unique position to really capitalize on the current and continued globalization of ideas and cultures. Never before have we seen the interconnectedness of people like we do today, and I think this will ultimately help the world become a better place.”

Julia Holifield, 18 & Maggie Holifield, 15

Huntsville Ballet Company

Sisters Julia and Maggie Holifield moved to Huntsville with their parents almost four years ago. They’ve lived all over due to their father’s Air Force career, including Dayton, OH, and Valdosta, GA, but agree that Huntsville is special. Together they’ve been dancing for a combined 17 years, each beginning their ballet journey in elementary school. They’re part of the pre-professional company at Huntsville Ballet Company, which is celebrating 50 years of dance training in Huntsville. “Ballet is such a beautiful, artistic sport,” says Julia when asked what she loves about dancing. Maggie echoes that sentiment but adds, “It’s always a fun challenge to undertake.” The sisters each love performing on stage and the moments backstage that allow them to bond with their company. The Holifields see their company as a team and appreciate that ballet has taught them hard work and how to work with others. When they’re not dancing, these ballerinas have many hobbies. Maggie enjoys making earrings and cards. Julia says she relaxes by taking walks, listening to podcasts and music. Like most their age, they enjoy their time spent with friends and family. Amongst their many performances together, Carnival of Animals 2021, Tumbleweed Symphony 2022, and Cinderella 2023 are some of their favorite moments on stage together. The sisters unanimously agree that playing off of each other, especially in more comical roles, is what they enjoy the most about being on stage together. “I love how easy it is to have a good time on stage with her,” shared Maggie.

They have high hopes for their generation. “I would love for my generation to be known as the generation that slowed down from life’s busyness and devoted itself to ministering to others,” says Julia. For Maggie, “I hope that our generation finds a cure for cancer. I also hope our generation finds ways to help the people around them who are in need as well as being a positive influence on kids younger than us."

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