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These are Houston's 4 best high schools in 2021, says recent report

Here's what Houston schools have been lauded for training the city's future leaders. Photo by skynesher/Getty Images

t's report card time, and four Houston high schools have made the grade, earning top 100 spots in this year's prestigious U.S. News & World Report rankings of the Best U.S. High Schools. One even merited a special distinction.

Houston's Carnegie Vanguard High School ranked highest on the list at No. 42. The school is ranked fifth within Texas. The Advanced Placement coursework participation rate there is 100 percent; total minority enrollment is 77 percent, and 31 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

Following close behind is the prestigious DeBakey High School for Health Professions at No. 46 overall. The renowned medical prep school boasts an AP participation rate of 98 percent, total minority enrollment is 88 percent, and 44 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

Farther down the list is Challenge Early College High School, at No. 89 overall. The AP participation rate here is 100 percent, total minority enrollment is 92 percent, and 76 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

At No. 97 overall is Young Women's College Prep Academy. The AP participation rate here is 100 percent. The total minority enrollment is 97 percent, and nearly all students — some 96 percent — are economically disadvantaged.

The 2021 edition is U.S. News' most comprehensive survey yet, with the consumer advice outlet evaluating more than 17,800 public high schools on how well they serve all of their students, regardless of economic or ethnic background.

To determine rankings, they focus on six factors: college readiness, reading and math proficiency, reading and math performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth, and graduation rates. College readiness specifically measures participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

Notably, the data used in this edition is from the 2018-2019 academic school year, so it was not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Families can use the Best High Schools rankings to see how schools compare at the national, state and local level on factors like graduation rates and college readiness," said Anita Narayan, managing editor of Education at U.S. News, in a statement. "The rankings also provide insight into academic performance among underserved groups showing how well schools are supporting these students."

Eight more Texas schools also appear on the national top 100 list:

  • No. 13, School for the Talented and Gifted, Dallas
  • No. 15, Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School, Dallas
  • No. 39, The Science and Engineering Magnet School, Dallas
  • No. 41, Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin
  • No. 42, Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston
  • No. 46, DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Houston
  • No. 59, Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet, Dallas
  • No. 68, IDEA Frontier College Preparatory, Brownsville
  • No. 89, Challenge Early College High School, Houston
  • No. 96, Health Careers High School, San Antonio
  • No. 97, Young Women's College Prep Academy, Houston
  • No. 98, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Austin

Just over the top 100 threshold is Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy, coming in at No. 101.

Texas had 1,524 schools ranked this year, of which 42 placed in the top 5 percent, 79 in the top 10 percent, and 157 in the top 25 percent nationally.

Statewide, the top 10 highest ranking schools were:

  1. The School for the Talented and Gifted (TAG), Dallas
  2. Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School, Dallas
  3. Science and Engineering Magnet School (SEM), Dallas
  4. Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA), Austin
  5. Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston
  6. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Houston
  7. Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet, Dallas
  8. IDEA Frontier College Preparatory, Brownsville
  9. Challenge Early College High School, Houston
  10. Health Careers High School, San Antonio

So, which school throughout the country ranks as this year's valedictorian? Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia was deemed the best in the country, as well as among magnet schools. Read the full report and search for schools here.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Cheers Health has expanded its product line as it evolves as a wellness-focused brand. Photo courtesy of Cheers

Houston-based startup Cheers first got a wave of brand devotees after it was passed over by investors on Shark Tank in 2018. In the years since, Cheers secured an impressive investment, launched new products, and became a staple hangover cure for customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted businesses, the company rose to the occasion and experienced its first profitable year as drinking and wellness habits changed across America.

Cheers initially started its company under the name Thrive+ with a hangover-friendly pill that promised to minimize the not-so-fun side effects that come after a night out. The capsules support the liver by replacing lost vitamins, reduce GABAa rebound and lower the alcohol-induced acetaldehyde toxicity levels in the body. The company's legacy product complemented social calendars and nights on the town, providing next day relief.

With COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures, the days of pub crawls and social events were numbered. Cheers founder Brooks Powell saw the massive behavior change in people consuming alcohol, and leaned into his vision of becoming more than just a hangover cure but an "alcohol-related health company," he says.

When the pandemic first hit, Powell and his team noticed an immediate dip in sales — a relatable story for businesses in the grips of COVID-19.

"There is a three day period where we went from having the best month in company history to the worst month in company history, over a 72 hour stretch," he remarks.

He soon called an emergency board meeting and rattled off worst-case "doomsday" scenarios, he says.

"Thankfully, we never had to do any of these strategies because, ultimately, the team was able to rally around the new positioning for the brand which was far more focused on alcohol-related health," he says.

"We found that a lot less people were getting hangovers during 2020, because generally when you binge drink, you tend to binge drink with other people," he explains.

He noticed that health became an important focus for people, some who began to drink less due to the lack of social gatherings. On the contrary, some consumers began to drink more to fill the idle time.

According to a JAMA Network report, there was a 54 percent increase in national sales of alcohol for the week stay-at-home orders began last March, as compared to the year prior.

"All of a sudden, you have all of these people who probably aren't binge drinking but they're just frequently consuming alcohol. Their drinks per week are shooting up, and they're worried about liver health," explains Powell.

Outside of day-after support, Cheers leaned into its long-term health products to help drinkers consume alcohol in a healthier way. Cheers Restore, a dissolvable powder consumers can mix into their water, rehydrates the body by optimizing sodium and glucose molecules.

For continued support, Cheers Protect is a daily supplement designed to increase glutathione — an antioxidant that plays a key role in liver detoxification — and support overall liver health. Cheers Protect, which was launched in 2019, became a focus for the company as they pivoted its brand strategy and marketing to accommodate consumer behavior.

"The Cheers brand is just trying to reflect the mission statement, which is bringing people together through promoting fun, responsible and health-conscious alcohol consumption," says Powell. "It fits with our vision statement, which is a world where everyone can enjoy alcohol throughout a long, healthy and happy lifetime,."

At the close of 2020, Cheers had generated $10.4 million in revenue and over $1.7m in profit — its first profitable year since launch.

During the brand's mission to stay afloat during the pandemic, the Cheers team was also laying the groundwork for its entry into the retail space. When Powell launched the company during his junior year at Princeton University, bringing Cheers to brick-and-mortar stores had always been a goal. He envisioned liquor and grocery stores where Cheers was sold next to alcohol as a complementary item. "It's like getting sunscreen before going to the beach, they kind of go hand in hand," he says.

"When we spoke with retailers, specifically bars and liquor stores, what we learned is that a lot of these places were hesitant to put pills near alcohol," he says. Wanting an attractive and accessible mode of alcohol-support, the Cheers team created the Cheers Restore beverage.

Utilizing the technology Cheers developed with Princeton University researchers, the Cheers Restore beverage incorporates the benefits of the pill in a liquid, sugar-free form. The company states that its in-vivo study found that the drink is up to 19 times more bioavailable than pure dihydromyricetin (DHM), a Japanese raisin tree extract found in Cheers products and other hangover-related cures.

"What we figured out is that if you combine DHM — our main ingredient — with something called capric acid, which is an extract from coconut oil, the bioavailability shoots way up," says Powell. He notes the unique taste profile and the "creaminess" capric acid provides. "Now you have this lightly carbonated, zero-sugar, lemon sherbert, essentially liver support, hangover beverage that tastes great in 12 ounces and can mix with alcohol," he explains.

The Cheers Restore beverage is already hitting the Houston-area, where its found a home on menus at Present Company. The company has also run promotions with Houston hangouts like Memorial Trail Ice House, Drift, and The Powder Keg.

Currently, the beverage is only available in retail capacity and cannot be ordered on the Cheers website. As Powell focuses on expanding Cheers Restore beverage presence in the region, he welcomes the idea of expanding nationally in the future to come. While eager customers await the drink's national availability, they can actively invest in Cheers through the company's recently-launched online public offering.

Though repivoting a company and launching a new product is exciting, the process did not come without its caveats and stressors. While Cheers profited as a business in 2020, the staff and its founder weren't immune to the struggles of COVID-19.

"I think 2020 was the first year that it really became real for me that Cheers is far more than just some sort of alcohol-related health brand and its products," says Powell. "Cheers is really its employees and everything that goes into being a successful, durable company that people essentially bet their careers on and their family's well-being on and so forth," he continues.

"It really does weigh on you in a different way that it's never weighed on you before," says Powell, describing the stress of the pandemic. The experience was "enlightening," he says, and he wants others to know it's not embarrassing to need help.

"There is no lack of great leaders out there that at long periods of their life they needed help in some way," he says. "For me that was 2020 and being in the grinder and feeling the stress of the unknown and all of that, but it could happen to anyone," he continues.

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