Athletes with Character: Remembering Scott Leister ’05

Athenian student-athletes are known for their character, both on the field and off. We value leadership, dedication, service, playfulness, and compassion. Scott Leister ’05 was an outstanding student-athlete who embodied the pillars that are the foundation of an Athenian student. Scott’s life was tragically cut short at age 21 when he was killed by a drunk driver. August 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of Scott’s passing.

Scott before a high school dance

Scott embodied the pillars that are the foundation of an Athenian student. Scott played varsity soccer all four years at Athenian and was a valued member of the team, for his athletic ability, game strategy, and team spirit. He was also an active participant in international experiences, committed to community service, and a frequent outdoor adventurer. Scott went on to become a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Rochester, was a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, and was intending to pursue a medical degree to further his international humanitarian efforts. In 2013, California Highway Patrol published a service video about Scott.

Scott’s memory is kept alive at Athenian. For the last ten years, we have recognized a student-athlete with the Scott Leister Spirit of Athenian Award. The Scott Leister Award is inscribed with the following text: “We will teach our sons about Scott. We will cultivate in them the qualities he showed the world: Responsibility, Humility, Service, Play, Love. They will become men who live Scott’s message. They will teach their children about Scott and the values and qualities he embodied. Over and over again Scott will live in new lives. Like thousands of raindrops falling from the sky, his compassion and his play will keep dancing in this world and beyond.”

The winners of the Scott Leister Award to date are Ben Wang ’09, Jeff Sohn ’10, Jared Madden ’11, Ian Truebridge ’12, Tyler Huntington ’13, Anthony Aguilar ’14, Brendan Suh ’15, Andrew Kocins 16, Bradley Altomare ’17, and Victoria Akinsanya ’18.

To provide Athenian students with the opportunities Scott had as a young person, Scott’s family started The Scott Leister ’05 Endowment for International Community Service. Scott’s mom Carol Leister has become a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Advocate and she and her family have spoken to thousands of people including law enforcement officers and DUI offenders. And every year, Scott’s family sometimes accompanied by Athenians march with Walk Like MADD.

Athenian teaches students about the hazards of drinking and the fatal consequences of drinking while driving in its health classes. MADD publishes the following statistics on its website:

  • Drunk driving is still the #1 cause of death on our roadways.
  • There are 300,000 drunk driving incidents a day
  • There are 10,497 deaths a year. That’s 29 deaths every day and one death every 50 minutes. Each and every one of them is 100% preventable.

Athenian Students’ Innovative Projects

by Kate Oxley ’20
Originally published in the March 2018 edition of The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper

A scalable bionic heart. A bio-digester to make methane from compost. A mobile refrigeration unit with electronic generation for third world countries. A prosthetic limb that simulates a ball and joint socket. What do all of these have in common? They can all change the world, they all took hundreds of hours to develop, and they were all made by students while at The Athenian School.

Classes such as Applied Science, CADFab, and Engineering enable students to pursue personal projects while receiving class credit for their efforts. Many students rise to the opportunity and exceed all class expectations in their projects for more than just a good grade. These students can spend hundreds of hours in a semester on their project, but what drives them to do and learn so much in such a short period of time?

“I think individual passion should lead students through the learning process,” Dave Otten, teacher of Athenian’s new Science and Engineering class, said. “It should be the thing that keeps them going when they get stuck. When doing projects, it should help determine what they need to learn.”

One former student who thrived in project-oriented classes is Baxter Eldridge ’13. In high school, he claimed he had a tendency to work on “way too many projects at any given time” in and out of class. One of these projects was a scalable 3D printed bionic heart.

“There are these ventricle assistive devices, which were a super recent medical device when I worked on it,” Eldridge said. “They work like a motor, but the rotor in the motor is a turbine, think a jet turbine, so it pulls fluid through it as it runs…. There was this popular science article about these two doctors who were trying to use two of these ventricle assistive devices to make a complete artificial heart. The reason that’s currently somewhat challenging is that while these devices work quite well, they do damage blood cells. So, while one patient can handle the damage to blood cells caused by one of these devices, if you use two you damage too many blood cells to use as a long-term heart. My idea was to take the concept of the ventricle assistive device and the premise you eventually get to make it a complete heart, and focus on trying to make the device so you can tailor its output depending on the size of its patient… The goal of my project was that you could choose, let’s say three motors, then 3D print the size of the auger so the optimum running speed of the motor pumped out the optimum amount of fluid for the patient.”

Projects like these are one of many reasons that The Athenian School is developing a more project-based curriculum for the coming year. Whereas in some classes students currently find interest in the topics presented to them in class, Eldridge pushes Athenian teachers to tailor their curriculum to take cues from students’ passions, and to teach students how to deconstruct their ideas into smaller, quantitative milestones.

“Rather than telling students to produce this report, then this report, and this little thing, when you’re not really excited about each milestone, it’d be better to [build milestones where] you’ll be able to say ‘ok, now this is a real thing, I’m holding it in my hand,’” Eldridge said. “The school could [work on] taking ideas from understanding students’ goals and visions, then helping them see how to break those down into distinct and satiating milestones.”

Rock Williams ’17 and Ryan Keller ’17 were another pair of students who took project-based learning to a new level in their Applied Science class.

“I worked with Ryan on a ball-and-socket motor, which we’d originally planned on purchasing online for a robotic arm,” Williams said. “For all the joints of the fingers where all the phalanges meet the metacarpals, all of those have the range of motion of a ball-and-socket. Because of this, we thought it’d be easier to use a ball-and-socket motor, rather than a set of multiple motors.”

Upon looking for a ball-and-socket motor, the pair discovered that it did not exist. Rather than moving on to a new project, they “decided to delve deeper into how [they] could counter this problem, and into the possible future applications of a ball-and-socket motor,” marking the beginning of a school-year long project to create a ball-and-socket motor for a functional prosthetic limb. Williams hopes more people can work on projects they are passionate about, however, he has some concern about the visibility of such projects.

“I think it’s difficult because, at least with the old Makers Studio, it’s a little hidden, like its own little world,” Williams said. “I think Eugene, Lori, and Dave do a really great job of getting projects going and getting them completed, but as a whole school, I don’t think the Makers Studio is completely integrated. It’s kind of like an isolated event.”

Another way to participate in these projects is through the entrepreneurship program. Laura Victorino, teacher of the entrepreneurship G period class, hopes to bridge the gap between business, technology, and social justice issues, however, she fears that false assumptions about entrepreneurship could discourage student participation.

“One of the things that disappoints me is that people associate the word ‘entrepreneurship’ with too narrow a set of ideas. People think it’s all about being the next Facebook or Tesla, and while those are very high profile entrepreneurial ventures, to me entrepreneurship is a much broader thing which involves making social change or solving health problems, or environmental problems, or education problems. I think you can bring an entrepreneurial attitude and toolset to all the important problems we have, not just entertainment or transportation or finance… Entrepreneurial thinking is one of the most valuable things you can learn to take to almost anything you do.”

Athenian will be opening the new Carter Innovation Studio in the fall of 2018, a significant upgrade from our current tucked-away Maker Studio. The Carter Innovation Studio will stand at the entrance to our campus and will be an integrated hub of learning for all of our students to work on projects. Athenian believes in hands-on education where students can work on real-life projects that have meaning to them. We can’t wait to see what our students will create in this new space. Learn more about the future of project-based innovative learning at Athenian.

New Athenian Sports Team Formed: Sports Credit for Women’s Lacrosse

As of the 2017-18 school year, a girls lacrosse PE class will take place during the winter sports season.

Students Mimo U. ’19 and Sam C. ’19 planned the addition of the sport over the previous school year.

Both girls played lacrosse before coming to Athenian, and have since stopped playing because of the lack of a team at school.

They were inspired to take their idea of having a lacrosse team at Athenian and put it into action because of the fact that there were fewer girl sports at Athenian, due to the loss of the softball team.

It was important to them and others that there were more opportunities for girls to play sports.

“When I applied to Athenian they said there was probably going to be a team by my freshman year because there was another group of people trying to get a team started, but when I came there still wasn’t a team,” Mimo said. “I tried out other sports but in the end, I really wanted to have a sport at the school that I was good at and experienced in.”

This year the sport will just be held as a PE for a trial year, but with regular sports credits and after-school practices. If it goes well, there will most likely be a team next year that will compete against other schools.

Director of Athletics, Darek Cliff, said the goal of the PE class this year is to “wage the commitment and dedication” of the team for next year.

“Head Royce has a team that’s pretty new, Lick Wilmerding has a team as well, and there’s definitely a lot of private schools in San Francisco that have teams,” Mimo said. “There might be club teams during that season to play, but we’re not sure exactly which season we will be playing in yet.”

In the school’s past, some sports teams, including football, have been attempted to be added by students, but this is the first successful one in a while.

“It was really hard [to get the team started] because a lot of the efforts had to be lead by Sam and I [sic],” Mimo said. “It’s really amazing that they gave us the PE, but it was really hard to get and took a lot of work.”

Teams like softball have been canceled and re-added multiple times, but none have been added for the first time in the school’s recent history. Cliff explained that because softball is in the BCL East division, the games were closer to campus and with schools in our division.

“Lacrosse is part of the BCL West division, so most games would be across the bridge, which gives a geological disadvantage,” Cliff said.

All skill levels are welcome to participate, and the team will not be participating in the league with other teams until next year.

BlendEd Seismic Studies Class Shakes Up Learning

by Katie Furlong ’18

This fall, I took a class called Seismic Studies & Earthquake Engineering. The class was a BlendEd class, so it was composed of students from Athenian, Marin Academy, Lick-Wilmerding, Urban, and College Prep. The main benefits of BlendEd classes are that they allow students to work independently and perfect time management skills, as well as meet and work with students and teachers from other Bay Area independent schools. The majority of the class was based online, but there were also a few dates where we met in person, either to have an in-class lesson or to participate in a discussion with engineers who work to design earthquake-proof structures.

Our final project for the class was to build a three-foot tower out of just balsa wood and glue that we would test on the shake table at UC Berkeley. This project was intended to help wrap up everything we had learned about the structural integrity required of buildings needed to survive an earthquake.

We first tested our towers with two earthquakes that are programmed into the shake table: the 1995 Kobe earthquake (Magnitude 6.9) and the 1994 Northridge earthquake (Magnitude 6.7). My tower survived the replications of both the Kobe earthquake and the Northridge earthquake.

After, we were able to design our own earthquakes to test our buildings by changing the amplitude and frequency of the seismic waves. While I was subjecting my building to an earthquake of my own design, I saw weeks of hard work shatter right in front of my eyes. Despite the demise of my tower, I thought this project was a great way to put into action everything we had learned in the class and it made it more memorable than just taking a test to finish off a semester of hard work. I can certainly say that it was one of the best demonstrations of Athenian’s commitment to hands-on and experiential education that I’ve experienced throughout my four years here.

Students Redesigning Spinal Surgery

Reprinted from the Athenian Magazine 2017


When Sofia Kavanaugh ‘17 started Applied Science at the beginning of her senior year, she thought she would learn how to use a saw and wasn’t really sure what else. Little did she know that she would embark on a project that could change the way surgeons treat scoliosis.

Applied Science is an untraditional course, Sofia explains. “Eugene [Mizusawa] sets us loose and tells us to think of something we’re interested in, not something that’s going to bore us a couple months from now.” Some of Sofia’s classmates set to work on a range of projects. William Yao ‘17 wanted to build a robot that could carry heavy camera equipment on movie sets. Emma Cottrill ‘17 used a personal experience with a concussion to fuel her search for an on-the-field concussion detection device. Rock Williams ‘17 and Ryan Keller ‘17 wanted to build a motor that mimicked the movement of a joint socket, rolling around rather than backward and forward or side to side. But Sofia wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.

Eugene prompted her to think about what she was passionate about. “He asked what my interests were and I told him I was interested in medicine and anatomy,” Sofia remembers. Eugene thought of a 9th grader on the robotics team who he knew had scoliosis and had undergone an experimental surgery. In short, Grace True ’20 had a spinal surgery that in time overcorrected her scoliosis, forming a curve in the opposite direction and necessitating a second surgery. Surgery is always risky, so Grace, Sofia, and fellow Applied Science classmate Peni Magari ’17 set about creating a mathematical and computerized 3-D model that could help surgeons perform the surgery with more precision necessitating fewer surgeries.

An x-ray of Grace’s spine

Unlike older scoliosis surgeries that fuse the spine together restricting movement, Vertical Body Tethering (VBT) works to correct spinal curvature by screwing a tether into the spine of a still-growing scoliosis patient. As the patient grows, the tether pulls the spine back while still allowing for a full range of motion. The problem is that there is no way to test how tight to screw in the tether. In Grace’s case, she grew more than was expected in a short amount of time, and the tether pulled her spine past vertical into a curve opposite of the one she started with. While the first surgery went well, after a year, Grace needed a second surgery to alter the tightness of the tether to accommodate her rapid growth.

Sofia and the team were left with the question: How can we measure the tension in the tether and figure out a mathematical and computerized model of predicting how tight the tether will pull and how much the spine will correct? They set about creating a model that surgeons could use to enter the patient’s height, weight, predicted growth, and other measurements and predict using a 3-D model what tether pressure would have the best outcome.

3D printed spine

After extensive research and pulling into the project a 9th grader with coding expertise, Kate Oxley  ’20, they used Grace’s x-rays and cat scans to create a digital 3-D model of Grace’s spine. They were able to print the model using 3-D printers so they could feel and see for themselves what they had been studying. Using the Cobb Method, they set about measuring the degree of spinal curve. Measuring the Cobb angle at various stages of growth is the baseline data needed for making predictions.

A highlight of the project, the team spoke with Grace’s surgeon to get more information on the flaws in the surgery and what problems he anticipated with the model.  Sofia says, “Up until we met with the surgeon, it had been all talk. What if we did this? What if we did that? The surgeon showed us what we needed to work on. He saw the project for what it was and really believed in it. It was definitely a cool moment.”

Sofia notes how important and also how unusual this class is, even at Athenian. The students are given freedom to explore a passion and see where it takes them. “In other classes, you’re more dependent on the teacher, but in this class, it’s all you doing it. Athenian is one of the only places that would allow that kind of freedom.” A class without strict attendance rules and no specific assignments may not sound like a class at all to some people. Yet the outcomes of this course make its value self-evident. Sofia shares the impact the class had on her, “I’ve always been a motivated person, but this class tested me: if someone isn’t watching, will you still put in the work? It taught us how to be self-motivated and learn about the things we really wanted to. The kind of perspective the class gave me I’ll definitely carry with me through college.”

Sofia further raves, “This class and these types of classes are really important. Getting to learn in a new way that is purely directed by you is incredibly beneficial. It gave us more confidence as there’s no one telling us this is the exact procedure you have to follow. Everything was driven and created by us. Since we are younger and we still have a lot of school left, we often get told we don’t know or can’t do certain things. This class was the complete opposite of that. A high schooler can come up with a super complex project and have it be used by the world.

The team made a lot of progress during the year but there is still more to do. Sofia isn’t exactly sure where it will go from here, but she hopes Grace and Kate will keep working on the project the next couple of years and take Applied Science as seniors. She also plans to stay involved in whatever way she can as she moves on to college.

Sofia started at University of California Los Angeles in fall 2017; while her major is undeclared, she plans to be in the pre-med track. Asked what she wants to do after school, she responded with a wise smile, “Right now, I want to be a vet. But there’s still a small chance that I might become a physician given that I would probably be the 5th generation. It’s kind of in my blood.”

Learning from the Experts: Journalism Class Goes to SF Chronicle

A reflection on the Journalism as Literature field trip to The San Francisco Chronicle and KQED. 

by Rosalie Kenward ’19

I arrived in San Francisco at 8:30 am yesterday morning. The air was crisp and cool, and I found myself clutching the edges of my coat together in order to encase my chest in whatever small bit of warmth I had the power to retain. The doorway to the Chronicle was composed of thick glass, which appeared to have stood for perhaps longer than even I had. The panels were encased in a dark wood frame and two curved bronze handles. I wrapped my numb fingers around the left fixture and entered.

As soon we stepped into the cramped elevator, packing ourselves in like matchsticks, I felt the excitement and anticipation accumulate within me as we shot upward.

The hallway we were deposited onto was fairly narrow, opening up into a room lined with cluttered desks and harried workers typing furiously on their computers, papers strewn haphazardly as they drew hurried dregs from their coffee cups, allowing the caffeine to pull the exhaustion from their sunken eyes.

We soon entered the site of the meeting. The room quieted instantly upon our entrance, and I felt that all-too-familiar feeling of “latecomers’ guilt.” We squeezed in as tightly and diminutively as possible, making our way to the small row of chairs set aside for us. The editors sat around a large, ovate wooden table in dark, plush chairs which appeared to recline slightly when met with one’s weight.

Phrases were thrown back and forth from editor to respondent with a kind of furious exasperation. We watched in awe, as tomorrow’s newspaper was outlined before our eyes, created in our stupefied presence.

But none of it compared to talking with Kevin Fagan. His words spilled effortlessly from his throat as if his mind had its own personal team of editors. Each phrase was expertly crafted and unique, as we attempted to peer inside his churning mind and latch onto some understanding for the nature of genius.

Athenian Continues to Send Leaders Into the Educational Community

Two years ago, after years of contributions to and growth at Athenian, two employees went on to become Heads of Schools at independent schools in Marin and Washington, DC. This past year, two more veteran Athenians moved into leadership roles in the world of education. Nancy Nagramada is now the Head of Middle School at the San Francisco School and Lisa Haney is the Executive Director of the California Teacher Development Collaborative. Both Lisa and Nancy embodied so much of what makes Athenian special and we will miss their dedication, joy for teaching, genuine love of the students, and sense of fun and humor they brought to their work at the School.

Nancy began at Athenian in 2003 as our Dean of Diversity. Nancy wore many hats in her 14 years at the School. Teaching in the Middle School for ten years, she created signature curricular components including the 8th-grade English class family migration story project, the annual production of West Side Story, the 8th grade speech project, and the hallmark Interim trip to Washington, DC. Nancy ran Athenian’s Summer Programs for five years, furthering Athenian’s “public purpose” work through engineering programs for girls and a pilot partnership with Aim High. Nancy lived on campus with her family for ten years and was a pillar of the residential community. She rallied the faculty and staff every year for the Faculty/Staff show, pulling off elaborate musical productions to benefit the Starehe Schools in Kenya. Nancy was also the Middle School Dean of Faculty, a leader and participant in many school improvement projects and task forces, the leader of the Admission Ambassador program, and in her last year was the Special Assistant to the Head of School for Strategic Initiatives, and 9th grade history teacher. Nancy was always the first to volunteer, whether it be an improv performance, setting up a meal train for new parents, cleaning up a messy room, or rallying students and faculty alike for fun and games.

Nancy has now moved across the Bay and is taking her extensive teaching and leadership experience to a philosophically similar school in the heart of San Francisco. Like Athenian, The San Francisco School has been delivering an education rooted in intellectual curiosity, playfulness, diversity, and engagement to preschool through middle school students for over 50 years. We will miss Nancy’s energy, can-do attitude, and sense of fun that she brought to everything she was involved in. We know that Nancy will continue to be a fierce advocate for students and a champion of social justice in the world of education in her new role.

Lisa came on board at Athenian in 1991 as the Director of International Programs. Lisa taught ESL and started the first student club focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School called The Multicultural Alliance. Lisa’s continued interest in supporting deeper cross-cultural understanding inspired her to lead six international interim trips, two to China and four to Tanzania. Lisa’s global interest reflected in the courses she taught, including the 9th-grade world literature program. She developed a variety of seminars including Utopian Literature; Migrants, Nomads, and Aliens; and regional literature seminars focusing on Africa, South Asia, and India.

As Lisa’s role in the community expanded, her care for student and faculty wellness continued to focus her work. Lisa held a number of leadership roles during her time at the School, including Humanities Department Chair. She became the Upper School Dean of Faculty and advocated for and supported her colleagues as a member of the Upper School leadership team with strength and compassion. Lisa spearheaded a process to develop Athenian’s professional development and evaluation program and helped the School define its “Standards of Excellent Teaching.” Lisa worked closely with student members of the Gender Equity Coalition to found the Athenian Sexual Assault Prevention Program, now a required part of the Athenian curriculum. Creating a warm and welcoming space wherever she was on campus, students and faculty alike looked to Lisa for guidance and support.

Lisa’s substantial work developing teachers at Athenian was complimented by her work with teachers through UC Berkeley Extension and the Berkeley and San Francisco Unified School Districts. Lisa also has leadership experience with international and diverse school populations, including working with the State Department improving English language education in Tanzania. Lisa will bring all of this experience with her to California Teacher Development Collaborative where she will continue to be a teacher of teachers. Lisa is the perfect person to continue CATDC’s mission of supporting teachers to collaborate and create a teaching and learning environment that is rewarding, inspiring, and productive. Athenian faculty will continue to benefit from Lisa’s wisdom and care through CATDC professional development opportunities.

While we miss seeing Nancy and Lisa on a daily basis, we are lucky to have them remain members of our community. Both Lisa and Nancy’s spouses, Mark and Charlie respectively, work at Athenian and they both are parents of alumni. Nancy has a son in the Upper School who will now commute from San Francisco to remain an Athenian Owl. We are so grateful for Lisa and Nancy’s nearly 40 years of combined service to Athenian and we are thrilled they will remain directly connected to Athenian.

Life in Flight: What’s Possible After Athenian

Updated November 28, 2017

The core values of Athenian’s mission provide the foundation for 21st-century success: critical and analytical thinking, collaboration, teamwork, and creativity.  For proof of this, look no further than Keenan Wyrobek ’99.  During his Athenian experience, he built rockets, competed on the swim team, and embraced failure in projects and experiments as a learning opportunity. The skills Keenan built at Athenian served him well at Johns Hopkins and Stanford, and in developing the reading app Bam Boomerang and the Personal Robotics Program at Willow Garage.

In founding Zipline, Keenan combined his robotics expertise and a strong desire to help others. Recently featured on National Geographic’s Chasing Genius series and CNN, Zipline gets medical supplies to communities that are difficult to access. Keenan’s drone-operated delivery system sends urgent medical supplies to patients who can’t be reached otherwise. Health workers can order critical items like blood by text message from Zipline; within minutes, a drone takes off and medical products are delivered quickly and safely by parachute. Zipline, one of Keenan’s service-oriented tech startups, has raised nearly $50 million in funding for its innovative, humanitarian, life-saving projects and has delivered thousands of units of blood saving countless lives. Keenan tells us, “My Athenian education prepared me for what I do at Zipline. In my work at Zipline, I draw on the hands on the problem-solving experience, technical knowledge, and leadership skills I gained at Athenian every day.”

Keenan delivered a TEDMed2017 talk at the beginning of November sharing about his work providing blood and medical supplies to hard to reach populations and Zipline was a winner of the 2017 INDEX: Designs to Improve Life Award, which came with a €500,000 grant. One of the jury members, Ravi Naidoo, said Zipline “is a great systemic interplay of designers, governments and society bringing the best first-world technology to the poorest.” With a successful operation in place in Rwanda, Zipline will be establishing four distribution centers in Tanzania in 2018 and plans to continue expanding to countries across the world. Plans are in the works to begin delivering blood to remote areas of Maryland, Nevada, and Washington as well, serving as a pilot project for a global rollout redefining the delivery of emergency supplies.

Watch ZIPLINE – 2017 BODY WINNER from INDEX: Design to Improve Life® on Vimeo.

Concussed: Learning for Living


The moment the soccer ball slammed into my head, everything went white and then black. When I first opened my eyes, a blurry, light, and dizzy world surrounded me. I will never forget that view of the world. – Emma Cottrill ’17

At Athenian, we believe the best way to master academic subjects is to experience their application firsthand. Our academic program resonates and sticks with students because we all learn by doing, by applying what is learned to real world situations. Whether in or out of the classroom, this approach allows our students to incorporate their learning with their living, laying a strong foundation for a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution.

Inspired by a freshmen Interim trip where Emma Cottrill ’17 bonded with classmates and teachers over photography, she continued to study photography throughout her Athenian experience.  Emma’s final photography project created a digital gallery of photographs and reflections on her recovery from a traumatic concussion. Emma begins her piece with the following:

My life changed forever the night I was hit in the back of the head with an over-inflated soccer ball. The impact from the ball caused my head to whip forward. Simultaneously, the momentum forced me to the ground, where my head violently slammed into the turf. Concussion was the immediate diagnosis, but the two-week normal recovery morphed into months. Isolated. Bored. Angry. Initially, I hated that this happened to me, but eventually, I recognized that I could resent the accident or embrace it.

My approach to the world altered after I got hurt. Before my injury, my life was black and white. Numbers and science drove my beliefs, and I required proof for acceptance. However, after my injury, the gray areas became more interesting to me. Less rigid, more whimsical, I embraced the magic in the daily simplicities. I found energy and inspiration in the imperfect.

In Concussed, I photograph all aspects associated with my concussion: the way I see the world, my view of soccer, the doctors, the medicine, my brain, and who I became.

Emma describes herself on her project’s website, “In addition to the creativity that comes with photography, I also enjoy structure and procedure and a rigid schedule. I love my Chemistry and Math classes, and I am a competitive swimmer who is training intensely with a goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials.” Emma’s work reveals a mastery of photographic theory, a comprehensive understanding of concussion science and medicine, a facility with meaning-making, and a great capacity for self-reflection. As a senior, Emma applied her many skills learned through years of scaffolded Athenian experiences to conceptualize an independent, self-expressive project, applying her usual rigorous and creative approach.

This is just one example of what is possible here. Each one of Emma’s 83 senior classmates could tell their own Athenian story revealing how they have discovered “there is more in you than you know.” We could not be more proud of our students.