Contributed by Chip Houston, Head of Upper School
Today we celebrate the learning and achievements of our community for the 2018-2019 school year. This year began with a new modular schedule, based on research and consultation, aligned with the mission and vision of the School, and designed for inquiry-based learning. Students demonstrated their learning through a series of exhibitions, as well as student-led conferences. Staff members got engaged, went to grad school, presented at national conferences, and welcomed babies into the world. Alumni returned for homecoming and special events, full of smiles and stories about college and careers. Prospective families toured, interviewed, and applied to Mount Vernon in record numbers. Construction workers turned a softball field into a state-of-the-art school building, including a steel beam that was signed and fingerprinted by all of us. For the 12th consecutive year, seniors – with the help of our College Counseling team, achieved 100% college acceptance including Brown, University of Miami, Tulane, WPI, Washington and Lee, Wake Forest, and an impressive number of Georgia and Georgia Tech. Athletes broke school records and athletic teams competed at the highest levels.
The awards presented this morning represent a significant, yet small portion of all that has transpired this year. Students traveled to London, Greece, South Africa, Thailand, Israel, Hawaii, California, and of course Panama was “Panamazing!” Students led chapel with songs, prayers, and messages. Biology students experimented, dissected, solved crimes, and partnered with PreSchool students to create probiotic rich soda. AP Government students held a Model Congress where they elected house leaders, voted on bills, and debated issues. On Helping Hands Day, students met with service organizations including Love Beyond Walls, Door Atlanta, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Los Ninos, Friends of Lost Corner, and more. The Business and Entrepreneur club hosted guest experts each month including Lars Minns from Mercedes Benz, Dr. Arjun Srinivasan from the CDC, and Mohammad Massoqui, to name a few. We had courageous conversations with Rosetta Lee. AP Physics students designed projectile launchers. Students wrote and published a national magazine called Child Art featuring their work in Virtual Reality. Innovation Diploma took expeditions to Memphis and Montana. They designed the Drum Major Instinct Exhibit, connected with students on a native American reservation, and collaborated with Delta using design thinking to reimagine the passenger boarding experience. Ellie Kurlander stood on the stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and Nick Schab addressed the Sandy Springs City Council on environmental policy. The MV Allstars, competed in Columbus and achieved Two Superiors! Jake Lortz for lighting design and Charlotte Nickel, Win Scott, Tabitha Nagy, Anna Weber, & Ashley Hall for their group acting event! Bryce Jones, Carson Bargeron, Oliver Vanjaria, and Stephen Moseley achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Ethan Ray earned 2nd Place in SCAD’s Sidewalk Arts Festival. Justin Blumencranz networked with Woojer and secured a haptic vest for the VR Lab. Sarah Eaves’ award winning photography will be on display at the Chelsea Neighborhood Art Gallery in New York City in October.
We have achieved a great deal and we are blessed and grateful for the opportunities and resources at our disposal. To the hardest working and most passionate faculty and staff – and to the most generous and committed parents and families – THANK YOU! Thank you for allowing us all to design a better world.
Mount Vernon Mind Awards
This award is presented to the two students at each grade level who consistently demonstrate excellence in the six Mount Vernon Mindsets. These students exemplify the qualities of excellent solution seekers, communicators, creative thinkers, innovators, ethical decision-makers and collaborators.
This 9th grade student is always goes the extra mile, always willing to help others. He’s inquisitive and eager to ask questions and get clarification. He is an incredible and engaging public speaker, and is always engaged. Please join me in honoring Liam Adams.
The second honoree in grade 9 is described as a quiet leader in class. She seeks excellence in all she does, whether that is writing an essay, recording a podcast, designing brochures for local library, or giving tours to prospective students and families. An eloquent communicator, humble collaborator, and empathetic classmate; please join me in honoring Lisa Kosmos.
In grade 10, this student goes above and beyond in seeking additional knowledge about what is being studied in class, asks questions that help not only him but also his peers learn and go deeper; he always goes above and beyond in completing any tasks. So inquisitive. So hardworking. So well respected by his peers. Please join me in honoring Aqil Merchant.
Our second honoree takes initiative for her learning – she goes above and beyond (even when she is out sick, she checks out PSL to make sure she does not fall behind). She has a lot of strong ideas and opinions, but she can back up her claims with real evidence. She is just a pleasure to speak with – it feels like you are speaking to an adult. She is intellectually curious and respected by both her peers and her teachers. Please join me in honoring Christine Turnbull.
This grade 11 student’s positive attitude is contagious. She is super bright and motivated, but she never makes anyone around her feel less smart or less motivated. She can draw out the best in other people – get them to talk, to contribute, to do their best work. Her curiosity about how she can make things better is incredibly admirable. She challenges the assumptions that most of her peers make about what is or is not possible or cool. She is heroic when no one is watching. Please join me in honoring Katieanne Peterson.
He exemplifies all of the great qualities of Mount Vernon. His growth over the year as a communicator and team player is on display both on the baseball field and in the classroom. He has shown consistently that he can tackle complex tasks that are asked of him, and his persistence in improving himself and those around him is one of his defining traits. Beyond just those attributes that we think of as the Mount Vernon mindset, his work ethic demonstrates he is always open to new ideas and intentional with his learning and participation. Please join me in honoring Nate Anderson.
Our first grade 12 honoree has so much to say, but she always chooses the appropriate times to say them. She is inquisitive and hard working when those around her have given up or aren’t putting in 100%. She advocates for herself and her peers, and she challenges assumptions of what it means to be a senior at MV. She truly wants to learn and prove what she can do. She puts in 110% on the court / field, and her teachers and peers can count on her always. She is kind and helpful and just a joy to be around! Please join me in honoring Madeleine Hudgins.
Our final honoree is a quiet leader. She possesses an incredible strength of character, an impressive wit, and a boundless capacity for kindness, all balanced by the humility and poise of someone well beyond her years. She is an exceptional young woman both in and out of the classroom, and is precisely the kind of young person Mount Vernon should be proud to send out into the world. Please join me in honoring Kelly Dickson.
Harvard Book Award
For over a century, Harvard University Alumni have presented the Harvard Book Award at select high school institutions to honor outstanding members of the junior class who exhibit the qualities of excellence in scholarship and strength of character. It is considered the highest academic honor we can bestow on a member of the junior class.
This year, it is my privilege to present this award to a student who has been described as deeply curious, remarkably motivated, kind in spirit, and an incredible leader in and outside of the classroom. Please join me in congratulating this year’s Harvard Book Award recipient, Katieanne Peterson!
Advanced Placement Scholars
Determined by the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program, the AP Scholar awards recognize high school students who have demonstrated exemplary achievement on AP exams over their entire course of study.
First, the distinction of AP Scholar is awarded to students who earn scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams. Please join me in congratulating the following seniors on their achievement:
Anna Kate Pickering
The distinction of AP Scholar with Honor is awarded to students who earn an average score of 3.25 on the AP exams they take and score 3 or more on at least four of those exams. Please join me in congratulating Hannah Hagenau, Bryce Jones, Aria Morrill, and Katie Thompson on their accomplishment!
The distinction of AP Scholar with Distinction is awarded to students who earn an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams. Please join me in congratulating Ivan Mo!
Georgia Certificate of Merit
Each year the University of Georgia, in conjunction with the State Department of Education, recognize Georgia Certificate of Merit Scholars across the state of Georgia in recognition of outstanding scholastic achievement throughout the first three years of high school. To qualify for this prestigious award, students must rank in the top five percent of their junior class.
National Thespian Honor Society
The International Thespian Society, founded in 1929, is an honorary organization for dedicated theatre students at 4,600 affiliated schools across the world. We honor senior thespians who have have performed in more than 3 plays, musicals, or productions and have served the theater program in myriad ways.
Anna Kate Pickering
Mount Vernon Artisan Award
As artists, we are storytellers. Be it a painting or poem, scene or song, we use our voice to share stories of joy and sorrow, love and loss, hopelessness and hope. This year, we decided to celebrate students in the arts by selecting the STORY rather than the student. Each arts teacher submitted a story about a student who had a year of incredible growth and artistic impact in our community. The stories were voted on by our team and today we celebrate the story of Jack Armstrong.
“Jack came fresh into our theatre program with limited experience, he has grown exponentially as an artist. Always committed, he has continually pushed his learning as a performer, and in that learning, he takes every challenge as an opportunity to expand craft in mind, body and spirit. He is our first theatre student to intern with the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern in their summer student program and perform on the Tavern stage. Multi-talented and generous with sharing his gifts in the band and Vernon Vocals, he is a testament to quote, “live out loud. Congratulations, Jack!”
World Language Honor Societies
Cords are presented to seniors who completed through at least level three of the same language and maintained an ‘A’ average for their entire world language coursework.
Anna Kate Pickering
National Spanish Exam Results
This year, we have many students receiving medals for their performance on the National Spanish Exam. We are so proud of their diligence and achievement and are very happy to honor them with these medals and certificates today. Following are the recipients of awards from the National Spanish Exam:
Ty Ross (Honorable Mention)
Emma Perez-Depetris (Honorable Mention)
Grace Griswold (Honorable Mention)
Tabitha Nagy (Honorable Mention)
Nicole Walker (Honorable Mention)
Aqil Merchant (Bronze)
Nicole Hedrick (Silver)
Daniela Jimenez (Honorable Mention)
Alex Thomas (Bronze)
National Honor Society
The seniors who are graduating this year have really set the bar– they serve enthusiastically and without hesitation. Be it through formal service opportunities or by serving their fellow classmates and peers on a daily basis, I am constantly humbled by their dedication and drive. And all of this while also maintaining a 3.5 weighted core GPA! Today, we honor with special cords the graduating seniors who have earned and maintained membership into this prestigious society.
Anna Kate Pickering
iDiploma Stoles and Recognition
Over the last four years, this group of students have:
- Created a marketing campaigns for Porsche North America and AT&T Foundry
- Designed a series of events that brought over 200 people to campus to facilitate design thinking work
- Curated an exhibit for the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
- Developed tools to help facilitate innovation in Chick-fil-A’s corporate offices
- Some even spent a year redesigning the backpack
Next Tuesday, this group will guide a team of Delta Executives through a simulation of what the future of flight looks like. Each one of these designers has taken their ideas to scales that few high school students are capable of.
At every turn, they have challenged the norms of what is expected from people their age. They have asked questions and pushed through roadblocks. They made plenty of mistakes, some that nearly derailed entire projects. But they never gave up because that’s not who they are.
Anna Kate Pickering
Colt Club Honorees
Colt Club pins are presented to students who have consistently been enrolled in Mount Vernon since at least kindergarten. This year’s colt club seniors are some of the most kind, caring, curious, engaged and open hearted students that I can remember. They represent the core of what it means to be a Mount Vernon Mustang.
Colt Club of 2019, you have all made an incredible impression on Mount Vernon and your legacy will echo through our halls for generations to come. Thank You, and thanks to your parents who made your journeys possible:
The Scholar-Athlete award is earned by a student who is competitive in the classroom and on the field. More than just an athlete, this student is the quintessential team player in all aspects of life.
When you first meet this student, you’ll be greeted by a warm smile, bright personality, and nothing but kind and encouraging words. As you get to know her, you realize that she is a diligent student with a servant’s heart. Working hard is just a day in the life for this three sport athlete and scholar.
When she isn’t playing tennis, cheering, or swimming you’ll find her guiding middle school girls through tough conversations, volunteering through National Honor Society or Cumberland Academy, or working as a camp counselor. She often devotes her free time to learning about promoting wellness in others. And in an already packed junior and senior year, she made the time to attend STEM programs for women and explored every opportunity Mount Vernon offered in math or science. She is unparalleled in her dedication to learning and equally committed to her friends.
She will be attending Clemson in the fall and can proudly say that she was accepted to every single school that she applied to; it is no surprise that colleges were fighting to scoop this outstanding student up! It is my most sincere honor to present this year’s scholar-athlete award to Maddy Long!
The Prefect Award is presented to an outgoing prefect who not only has completed his or her role effectively but who also has gone above and beyond what was expected. Being a Prefect requires putting others first, so before I present the award I would like to thank this year’s Prefects for all their hard work.
This year’s Prefect Award goes to a young lady who students and teachers admire and respect. This student is organized, excels at communication whether it is in front of families or her peers, and has made an impact on Mount Vernon during her tenure.
No one doubts her dedication to Mount Vernon. Whether it is planning an entire school service day that gets cancelled due to weather, creating connections by organizing dances and getting student volunteers at Cumberland Academy, representing the high school to prospective families, leading the student panel at Open House, training over 75 student tours guides, visiting schools and sharing the amazing opportunities available for students at Mount Vernon, she consistently displayed pride and passion for Mount Vernon and was able to communicate clearly and effectively the mission and vision of the School.
One of her fellow prefect states her love and compassion for others and the school are without compare and she put that on display throughout the year. Her heart is huge and that is one of the things that sets her apart in every aspect of her life. It goes without saying that without her on the team, this year would not have gone as smoothly. She knew when to step up and be a leader, when to sit back and listen, and when to give a helping hand.
This young lady not only exceeded all expectations for the admissions prefect, she was always willing to contribute to other aspects of the prefect system. Her dedication, work ethic, and willingness to help make her the ideal recipient of the Prefect Award. Please join me in recognizing Jill Parker!
Mustang Spirit Award
The Mustang Spirit Award is given to a senior student who best exemplifies school spirit and represents the heart of the school through character and a positive attitude. This student embodies enthusiasm, involvement, genuine interest in others, and a love for Mount Vernon that runs deep.
This year’s recipient displays genuine enthusiasm for school activities and has been highly supportive of his peers. Whether he was all decked out for Spirit week – although the black morph suit was a little scary, leading the entire school in “Don’t Stop Believing,” or creating a new tradition here at the Vern….the pre-football game tailgating, his goal is to always ensure that everyone feels included. He continually exhibits concern for others and is always willing to help out his peers and teachers. This young man is always positive and never has anything negative to say.
The world needs more young men like him–a person whose unwavering principle and exceptional character are well beyond his years. He is a varsity athlete who still manages to excel academically—so much so that he will attend the Naval Academy in the fall, one of the nation’s most prestigious and demanding institutions. This student’s wisdom and maturity are clearly communicated in his own words in the student newspaper advice column:
“Be kind to people. Find something you’re passionate about and pursue it to the fullest of your potential. Remember who you are and who you want to become.”
It is my distinguished honor to present this year’s Mustang Spirit Award to our Homecoming King, Sid Hall.
AJC Cup Award
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been helping schools recognize outstanding seniors in the metro area for over 75 years. It is meant for a student who excels and shows leadership abilities across many disciplines including community activities, arts, athletics, and academics. Mount Vernon Upper School teachers and administrators vote on this award each year and we consider this award the Best All Around Senior.
This year’s honoree has an infectious energy that he brings to everything he does and he is a true influencer in every sense of the word. When he speaks, his peers listen. When teachers need someone to be an early adopter so that it will cascade to others, we talk to him first. When there is a misstep, he always stands up to take full responsibility. And as a lifer here at Mount Vernon, the pride this student feels for his school is palpable. Once, when walking down a hallway together, I vividly remember him stopping to scoop up trash and carrying it to the nearest trash can without any prompting from me. What teenager does that?! The answer is someone who wants to leave everything they touch a little better than they found it.
And better we are. From his football teammates who will miss the way he somehow made sprints into a fun game, to his fellow prefects who will miss his countless text reminders and thank you notes — all of us have benefitted from having this remarkable young man in our midsts.
If you’ve ever had a conversation with him, you know that he seems impervious to setbacks and is relentlessly optimistic. He is at the top of his class, an athletic powerhouse, active in his faith community, and wonderfully committed to his family and friends. Yet when you try to compliment him about any of those things, he somehow finds a way to say something nice about someone else! This student lifts others up — and that makes him the very best kind of leader.
His hands might have been shaking the day he interviewed to be a prefect, but as our Head Prefect for the last year, his voice never wavered. Attending Washington and Lee in the fall as a scholar and an athlete, please join me in celebrating this year’s AJC cup honoree, our best all around student as voted on the Upper School Faculty and Staff– Parker Corley!
Salutatorian and Valedictorian
The salutatorian and valedictorian awards belong to the students who earned the highest weighted core grade point averages. The medals they are about to receive will be worn during the baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies. We are incredibly proud of the academic accomplishments of these individuals and could not be more excited for their futures.
While her determination to challenge herself with Mount Vernon’s most rigorous classes is certainly impressive, we are equally in awe of the influence this student has had through a variety of leadership roles. During her time at Mount Vernon, she served as our Environmental Prefect and Outreach Prefect. As a freshman, she partnered with her church to provided teams of support to churches and faith-based schools that educate children without the financial means to attend public school in Zambia. Deeply concerned about these students’ inability to continue their education, she helped raise $3000 to cover the cost of high school tuition for sixteen students. She continues this project to this day and raised over $5000 last year to send twenty-two students to high school. Attending Georgia Tech in the fall, please join us in congratulating the co-salutatorian of the class of 2019: Hannah Hagenau
Balancing school and extracurriculars is no easy task, but this student makes it look effortless. In addition to her impeccable GPA, she has been the President of Interact Club and Vice President of the National Honor Society. That’s not all! She has let her personality shine through creative pursuits like theatre, RedBubble design creation, and baking. While she takes pride in all she has accomplished, raising money for Happy Tails holds a special place in her heart. Her fundraising efforts have helped this organization bring therapy dogs to hospitals and schools, including Mount Vernon. Through her reliability and determination, she has earned the respect of faculty, staff, and her fellow classmates. We are proud of her maturity and her sheer force of will to be the best and never give up. Attending George Washington University in the fall, please join us in congratulating the co-salutatorian of the class of 2019: Katie Thompson
The honor of valedictorian belongs to the student who has set the academic bar for his or her class– the true embodiment of academic excellence. This year’s valedictorian was born with music in his soul. A piano player from an early age and later a rare bassoonist, it truly seems as though he moves through the world with a steady beat. From being top of his class, in the band, to an accomplished Eagle Scout, he tackles everything set before him with a steady rhythm that instills confidence and calm to all those he encounters. That calmness is a hallmark of his personality. Teachers are thrilled when they learn he is in their classes because they know that he takes tremendous pride in his learning, has meticulous work habits, and wields an insatiable curiosity that applies to nearly everything. He is the type of student who so genuinely wants to learn that he seeks out opportunities beyond the classroom to ask questions, apply concepts, and experiment. Today, we honor his tremendous academic achievements! Taking his talents to Georgia Tech in the fall, please join us in honoring the valedictorian for the class of 2019: Mark Grove.