Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy Propels the Class of 2016 Toward a World of Options
As Mason Sands counts down the days until his high school graduation on May 14, he faces a tough choice: Harvard or Yale? The salutatorian for Holy Trinity’s Class of 2016, Mason plans to study international relations and global affairs, with a minor in musical theater. An accomplished vocalist, Mason played the lead role of Gabriel in Holy Trinity’s first-ever chamber opera, “Evangeline,” last fall. He’s also a nationally ranked fencer and Florida high school state champion.
But this modern-day “Renaissance Man” was not always confident enough to stand in the spotlight in front of his peers. Mason credits Holy Trinity’s faculty for helping him develop the confidence to express his passions, as well as the “diversity of opinion and diversity of background” at the school, where he counts international students among his best friends. In fact, celebrating diversity has driven his career path of becoming a foreign diplomacy officer for the State Department. Mason explained, “I want to be a person who will bring the world closer together.”
Mason is one of 97 young men and women in Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy’s senior class, each of whom will earn a college preparatory diploma and each of whom have earned acceptance to college.
The Life of a Holy Trinity “Lifer”
Togetherness is a familiar concept to seniors Josh Moisand, Justin Ganiban and Laura Bell, who, among many in the graduating class, started at Holy Trinity during preschool. Affectionately called “lifers,” these long-time students forge friendships that often extend beyond their school years.
“Having been here for 15 years, these kids are literally my family. I’ve been through everything with them,” said Josh. “Having a small school like this, with awesome teachers and an awesome program, it’s like one big family where I can explore who I want to be and what I want to do and not feel like there’s any pressure for me to do what everyone else is doing.”
This fall, Moisand will attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas, to study software engineering, with plans to one day develop simulator software for the government. His close friend, Justin Ganiban, is considering the University of Texas in Austin to study aerospace and mechanical engineering. Inspired by SpaceX’s recent successes, as well as movies such as “The Martian” and “Interstellar,” Justin plans to apply for NASA’s astronaut corps after completing college.
“I enjoy exploring and seeing new things. It would be so interesting to me to be able to see what’s out there and to be at the forefront of ingenuity, making new discoveries,” Justin said. “And, there are not many people who are willing to do it.”
Along with playing soccer and lacrosse together, Josh and Justin also share a passion for computer coding and formed the school’s game/app testing club together.
For Holy Trinity lifer Laura Bell, the process of choosing a college has been especially meaningful, as her mom, Alison, has been the school’s director of college counseling since before Laura began preschool. Laura is weighing acceptances to Auburn University, her dad’s alma mater, Southern Methodist University, Wake Forest, and Washington and Lee. Each of the schools offers mechanical engineering programs that will enable her to pursue a career in making prosthetics for animals.
“Since I was little, I always wanted to be a vet, but as I made my way through high school, I realized my strongest academic subject is math,” Laura said. “After taking AP (Advanced Placement) Physics, I confirmed that I’d like to do something in that field, but I also couldn’t stray from the idea of helping animals, because that’s my true passion.”
Diving into the Future
Noel Whitlock is not only a Holy Trinity lifer but something of a “legacy” as well. When the youngest of three graduates this month, it will mark the first time in 21 years that a Whitlock sister has not attended the school. A three-time district diving champion, Noel will dive for Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee next year.
Although she’s been at the 825-student school since Pre-K 3, Noel feels prepared for the independence college will bring. “With other schools that are so big, you don’t really get to know your teachers. At Holy Trinity, you do. I can still go to the Lower School and see my teachers and they remember me because I got to know them on a personal level. So, going off to a college with small class sizes, I already know how to establish a relationship with a teacher and to be able to ask for extra help.”
Collegiate sports also will offer a springboard to college for Luca Campanini, who has signed on to play soccer for Florida Institute of Technology next fall. Luca is following in the footsteps of his father, Bino Campanini, who also played soccer for Florida Tech and is now vice president of alumni affairs for the university.
For Luca, athletics hasn’t detracted from his academic career, but enhanced it. “Playing sports has been a great way to make friends and to get involved,” said Luca. “Being captain of my club team and the school team for most of my high school career has helped me develop leadership qualities that translate to the classroom.”
Volunteerism has driven Zoha Irfan’s high school career. Her lifelong passion to be a doctor has led to countless volunteer hours at Health First and Viera Hospital, and even led her to start Holy Trinity’s Interact Club, a student chapter of Rotary International. In her “spare time,” she works as a math tutor.
The uber-organized student credits her teachers and her course load of Advanced Placement classes with teaching her time management. “I’ve learned how to manage time in a way that I never thought possible. Doing all these other activities, like tutoring and volunteering, has been possible because I’ve learned to manage my time.”
Zoha soon will choose between the University of Central Florida’s Medical Scholars program, an advanced admission pre-med option, and the University of Florida, as well as a few pending out-of-state options.
Much Warranted Enthusiasm
For Holy Trinity’s valedictorian, Stuti Mishra, the doors to the future are wide open. She’s currently weighing offers from the nation’s top universities: Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Chicago, University of Virginia, Emory University, and others.
Taking classes in calculus, statistics, government and history this year have pointed her toward a major in economics. For her senior thesis, which she is writing in French, she’s working with an activist in Cameroon to create an e-learning module to help African women learn about leadership and business.
Stuti’s affinity for languages was evident in her 2012 trip to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, where she placed second. The experience of competing in the bee — and misspelling the word “schwarmerei,” meaning “excessive enthusiasm” — was the topic of her light-hearted college application essay.
As she makes one of the biggest decisions of her life, Stuti has been grateful for the guidance from the school’s college counseling office. “The college counseling process is really personalized. They really sit down and try to learn what you’re looking for in a college and what’s best suited for you,” Stuti said. “It’s such a big decision, so it’s really nice to have someone at school to guide you through that process.”
Recent College Acceptances
- American University
- Boston University
- University of California, Berkeley
- Case Western Reserve University
- University of Chicago
- Duke University
- Emory University
- Georgetown University
- Georgia Tech
- Harvard University
- Lehigh University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- University of Pennsylvania
- Princeton University
- United States Merchant Marine Academy
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- University of Texas, Austin
- University of Virginia
- Tulane University
- Wake Forest University
- Yale University
Doors Wide Open
Like Stuti, 2016 graduate Hailey Vice has the world at her feet. A member of five honor societies and a varsity volleyball player, she’s been accepted to the University of Florida, University of Miami, Wake Forest University, University of Southern California, and University of California – Berkeley, among others.
Ultimately, the University of Southern California, which accepted just 18 percent of applications in 2015, was Hailey’s first choice. She plans to earn a degree in English and communications with a minor in cultural media and arts, or perhaps a minor in business and economics.
“I’ve loved all of my classes at Holy Trinity, especially the sciences. People say you’re either a science and math person, or an English and history person, but I love them all,” Hailey admitted. “I think the combination of all those elements will give me more opportunities to pursue different pathways in my career.”
A Look Inside Holy Trinity’s College Counseling Office
At Holy Trinity, students begin working with a college advisor the summer prior to their junior year. Each semester of junior year, the student and parents attend a Family College Conference to develop a list of potential colleges, discuss how to approach the SAT and ACT, learn tips on fine-tuning essays and resumes, and strategize on pursuing scholarships. Before the student clicks “submit” on a college application, their college advisor is available to review it, making sure the application fully captures the student’s abilities and potential.
Holy Trinity has used the Naviance system for more than a decade to help students, parents and advisors organize the college and career planning process, giving them a shared web-based platform to from which to work. The ratio of college advisors to students is unique to Holy Trinity, allowing the advisors to be experts on the college process for each and every student.
For Matt Austin, Josh Porteous and Riley Gustat, coming to Holy Trinity late in their high school careers provided a greater chance at college acceptances. Each came to Holy Trinity their junior year after attending other area high schools.
For Matt Austin, a change of environment meant more opportunities and more support from teachers, coaches and college counselors. “I felt like coming to Holy Trinity was the best way for me to go to college, either athletically or academically,” said Matt. “At my previous school, if anybody went to college, it was community college.”
Matt recently received a full scholarship to play both baseball and football at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. Following college, he plans to follow in his father and brother’s footsteps and join the U.S. Marine Corps.
As soon as Josh Porteous could drive, he made the choice to transfer from his neighborhood high school, seeking greater opportunities for his future. The only senior on Holy Trinity’s varsity basketball team this year, Josh led the Tigers to the Division 4A State Championship game. Josh hopes that incredible season will spark his chances of playing Division 3 college basketball next year. He’s currently exploring opportunities at Washington College in Maryland, Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and Greensboro College in North Carolina.
Josh credits the teachers at Holy Trinity with motivating him to work harder. “You want to have a relationship with the teachers, not just have them talking at you,” Josh explained.
“At Holy Trinity, you can really tell they go out of their way to teach you. They make you want to do the work.”
Riley Gustat was seeking a more challenging academic program and the option to take more Advanced Placement classes when she transferred from a small Christian school two years ago. In a short time, she’s made her mark on the school’s Chapel Council and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and helped restart the school’s Model United Nations club. Gustat will graduate this May with a Global Citizenship diploma, one of three specialized, college preparatory diploma programs offered, with the hopes of becoming a foreign service officer for the government. She was accepted at Wheaton College and Whitworth University, both smaller-sized colleges where she feels she can thrive.
Riley said, “I’m just so grateful for the experience that I’ve had and the opportunities I’ve been given. They say ‘Start Here. Go Anywhere.’ and it’s so true. In terms of classes and college counseling, other schools just don’t have them to the extent that we do. I think it really makes this school experience special.”
For more information, please visit www.htacademy.org or call 321-723-8323.