Graduates of International District and International District-adjacent public high schools have left their marks on the world in virtually every human endeavor since the openings of Elsik and Hastings in 1975. Since then, Taylor and Kerr high schools have joined the party. A look at the wildly diverse role call of luminaries in entertainment, the arts, science and sports makes it clear that the International District takes a back seat to no part of Greater Houston, especially given that the Alief area is relatively young from a historical standpoint.
Elsik High School
Pity poor Lizzo: winning three Grammys and acclaim as Time magazine’s Entertainer of the Year still found her only the second-most famous single-monikered female R&B singer from her own high school.
She shouldn’t get too down in the mouth about that, as first place goes to Beyonce. While Sasha Fierce did not complete her studies there — career got in the way — she attended for part of her abbreviated high school journey. At any rate, Lizzo’s trio of Grammy wins has a ways to go to catch the 24 Beyonce has earned on her own or as part of Destiny’s Child, but that total cruises them to the top spot among Houston-area high schools in that department.
But famed Elsik alums only begin with that world-famous duo. Others have found success and fame in every endeavor from comedy — actress and improv artist Rasika Mathur starred for many years on MTV’s Wild N’ Out — to classical music: Christopher Theofanidis went from achievement awards in the Elsik Ram band to a career as a composer and professor of music at Yale University. Not to mention Broadway: musical actress Carmen Cusack has toured the world in productions of Wicked and South Pacific and originated the role of Alice Murphy in the Steve Martin / Edie Brickell bluegrass musical Bright Star, for which she took home a Theatre World Award.
Other Rams write the plays: In acclaimed dramas like “The Nether,” “Breadcrumbs,” and “Neighborhood,” and TV dramas such as Hemlock Grove and Mindhunter, writer and playwright Jennifer Haley probes, in the words of one interviewer, “the moral quandaries raised by technology, role-playing games, and the seduction of virtual worlds, while making audiences question the little ways in which technology has infiltrated our lives 24/7.”
Which brings us to Michael “Burnie” Burns, who as actor, director and writer and co-founder of Austin’s Rooster Teeth production company has created many a virtual world himself.
Leading the world of sports for the Rams is Rashard Lewis, USA Today’s Mr. Basketball in 1998. It still irks this writer that the hometown Rockets passed him over in the draft, instead selecting one Mirsad Turkcan, who played a grand total of 17 games in the league, none for the Rockets). For his part, Lewis, a 6’10” sharpshooter who ranks among the top 20 from beyond arc in NBA history, was a two-time NBA All-Star, won a ring with the 2013 Miami Heat, and played for Team USA in the 2001 Goodwill Games in Australia. Not that we’re bitter over that draft day snub or anything…(This writer suffers from Irish Alzheimer’s — he forgets everything except his grudges.)
Siblings Adaora and Chinemelu Elonu are other hoopsters of note from Elsik. Sister Adaora, won a national championship for Texas A&M and plays for Nigeria’s national team, while Chinemelu, another Aggie, has played professionally in Europe for more than a decade.