Investing in the Future Makers of Mount Vernon

Jan 16, 2019 | MV Mag Issue 4, Parents

“I feel like our family is Made in MV. We came six months before Dr. Jacobsen! “

“In 2008, our eldest daughter, Hunter Reese, was 10 months old. My husband Tony and I had heard about Mount Vernon from neighborhood friends, so I’d say we came here because of the location. What made us stay, however, was Dr. Jacobsen’s vision and the community that has been created. We feel we have grown up with the School, because we’ve seen a LOT of changes. Maybe I’d call them improvements. While we have been embraced by the community, we’ve also helped grow it. It’s pretty remarkable to be able to start at the ground level of something so amazing.”

Ashley and Tony Giardino have been extremely involved at the School from day one. Their family is grounded in Christian values and their girls, Hunter Reese (grade 5) and Hadley Ryan (Kindergarten) will be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders, by the time they graduate from Mount Vernon. Ashley has held several leadership positions within the MV community. Tony has built sets for dance recitals and lent a hand at most Mount Vernon events. The girls have danced in recitals, cheered on squads, swum on the swim and dive team, and sung in talent shows. Most importantly though, they have absorbed the Mount Vernon culture and have participated in some of the School’s most leading-edge programs — design thinking, project based learning and maker.

“Math and Science are Hunter Reese’s strong suits. She likes to figure things out. She wants to know the how and the why, and then recreate it herself. Maker spaces allow her to do that. Shops are now embraced. Kids are encouraged to tinker and engineer things. It’s a mindset. When they can be hands-on, combined with physical movement, it helps them learn.” – Ashley Giardino

In 2016, when Hunter Reese was in grade 3, she was selected to be featured in the School’s digital Christmas card, centered on Maker, taking place in Studio(i). She was chosen because of her drive, initiative, and interest in Maker. She was curious, she had a passion, and Director of Media and Maker Programs Jim Tiffin knew it.
“Mount Vernon has exceeded our expectations at every level. I never question the direction, the focus, or the execution. We trust the School to do what it does — we partner together to raise our kids. We are able to accept advice and we appreciate the attention to detail. Teachers and administrators KNOW my children and they are intentional about both the challenges and opportunities they provide.”

Most may not know that Ashley is the granddaughter of James S. (Starkey) Thomas Sr. and his wife Imogene (Jean), the founders of Arrow Exterminators. Founded in 1964, the Atlanta-based company is “55 years young” and has grown significantly. Ashley finds that her family’s business shares the same creative and entrepreneurial spirit with the School.

“Everything we do at home is reflected at school: Christian values, being engaged in the community and beyond, embracing innovation, and seeking to make an impact. We want all of these things for our girls. This parallels the values of Arrow and the extended Thomas family. We are tightly aligned. Even down to customer impact – because the experience is important. Family, community, and worldly impact, creating jobs, giving opportunity, providing an atmosphere where you can do it if you work at it. At just six years old, Hadley Ryan gets excited what she fails because, ‘I get to try again!’ She is an original from Dr. Jacobsen’s arrival. It’s all she knows, and the School is part of her.

Recently, the Giardino/Thomas family and ARROW made a generous contribution to Mount Vernon’s Pioneer Tomorrow Capital Campaign (thank you!), to help build the new Upper School building that will open in August of 2019. In doing so, they had an opportunity to name one of several areas within the School.

“We opted to name the Maker/STEM spaces on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building for several reasons:

1) The experiences that will take place in those spaces speaks directly to the environment created at Arrow.

2) We believe the students who have the opportunity to go to school at MV will be far ahead of the curve.

3) Growing up, my brother, two cousins, and I were influenced by the same values MV is imparting on our children.

By the way, the fourth generation of the Thomas/Giardino family are current students at the School.

While Jean and Starkey’s great-grandchildren will eventually grow up and take full advantage of the space in the Upper School building, these kids have already been involved throughout construction by studying the math and physics of the structure and observing the site and drawing what they see. It has all been intentional and purposeful. Even down to physically being a part of the building by placing their fingerprints on one of the beams in the framework of the building.

“I’m so excited that students currently in Lower School and Preschool will get to sample the innovative equipment in the Maker/STEM spaces. By the time they get to the spaces in the new building, they will already be a part of the fabric. They will learn more because they are invested from an early age. They are getting the training now, and it will be a part of their mindset forever.”