Listen Up! Gunston Student Leaders Have Something to Say

by Kelby Booth ’23
Photo Editor: Mrs. Thomas

In addition to attending and presenting at several recent conferences, student leaders have also teamed up to educate peers on important subjects ranging from bullying awareness, diversity, equity, and inclusion, gender identity, and environmental awareness among other issues.

Student leaders before the Baltimore Diversity Leadership Conference in 2021

From left: (front) Julia McClary '23, Alanna Grace '23, V McCluskey '25, Elizabeth Pupke '25, Benta Owino '25, (2nd row) Mekonnen Sahle-Selassie '23, Joanna Riley '24, Jessica Hammond '24, Sofia Angarita '22 Student Facilitator, Bella De Leon '22. Not pictured, Ashley Escobar '22 Student Facilitator.
 

After my previous high school's response to COVID, I knew it was time to find a new school. While searching, I purposefully looked for schools offering leadership opportunities and a strong community. After a quick glance at the Gunston website, I knew it was a perfect fit for me, so I arrived in the fall of 2020 as a sophomore. There are so many opportunities to help and lead within the community, from being a club leader, a sports team captain, or even creating my own opportunities. 

During my first year, I became involved in four clubs, gave presentations in front of the students and faculty, and facilitated a workshop for Global Awareness day. I am not a rare case at Gunston, just one of many.

“As reflected in our mission statement,” explains Assistant Head of School Christie Grabis, “Gunston believes that leadership is a skill to be learned. To this end, we provide a myriad of opportunities that encourage all students to identify their leadership style and strengths and to put them into practice."

Gunston bases a majority of its clubs and days of celebration around student leadership. The Mental Health Awareness Club alongside the Student Diversity Leaders Club (SDLC) recently celebrated Unity Day to spread awareness about bullying prevention with the goal of spreading kindness and compassion. In honor of this important day, activities were set up around campus including pumpkin painting, rock painting, yoga, bracelet making, tie dye, and a community mural in the Long Academic Building. Students and faculty/staff wore orange to visually represent kindness, acceptance, inclusion, and to express the message that no one should be bullied. Additionally, during midterms week, the club set out treats for the students to help them relax and to congratulate them on getting through the first semester. 

Mental Health Awareness Club Leaders Morgan Garner '22 (speaking), Summer Salos '22 and Lane Parkhurst '23. (right) Jennie LaTorre '23 holds up a rainbow-painted rock. 

“On this day we celebrate Unity Day. A day where we all take into account that bullying is still a thing and it won’t stop until we do something about it. So on this day remember to be kind, include everyone, become an ally, all while upholding the responsibilities of our community, and remember that golden rule “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”  - Morgan Garner ’22, Mental Health Awareness Club Student Leader

Recently, the SDLC and the Student Government Association (SGA) facilitated advisory discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in honor of Transgender Remembrance Month, this past November. Student leaders and faculty members prepared a slideshow presentation which highlighted the importance of the proper use of pronouns and explained how sexuality, gender indentity, gender expression, and sex are on a spectrum. (Click here to see the presentation.)

Dr. Ryan Asprion (Faculty Advisor for SDLC) and Ashley Escobar ’22 gave a joint presentation on gender identity and sexual or

Dr. Ryan Asprion (Faculty Advisor for SDLC) and Ashley Escobar ’22 gave a joint presentation on gender identity and sexual orientation during advisory. 

On Mondays and Wednesdays, the SGA leads Morning Meetings which inform fellow students of daily and weekly activities coming up and other important announcements. In addition to the SGA, each class has a class president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer, and they’re tasked with holding various class fundraisers throughout the year. The Junior Class is responsible for planning Junior/Senior Day, a fun Gunston tradition in the spring. The Junior Class has to conceptualize and execute various fundraisers to fund the day and this year, they held a gingerbread house competition and a Dress Down Day. 

Sofia Angarita ’22, Ashley Escobar ’22 and Jenna Frederick ’23 at the Centreville Holiday Parade with the SGA’s float.

Sofia Angarita ’22, Ashley Escobar ’22 and Jenna Frederick ’23 at the Centreville Holiday Parade with the SGA’s float.


Mock Trial, which is led by Nick Abell ’23 and Grace Anne Phillips ’23, competes at trials during the months of January and February. Our Model UN Team, led by Phillips, Angelina Lin ’23, and Colin Lang ’22, competes in Washington D.C. with hundreds of other schools from around the country and world. Students represent a country in different committees and discuss pressing issues, trying to come up with solutions. 

The Academic Team, led by Abell and Zach Mozher ’23, participates in tournaments which include ten rounds, with 20 questions each. (In fact, congratulations are in order for the Academic Team for officially qualifying for the NAQT Small School National Championships. The team heads to Chicago in April for two days of academic quiz bowl competition against other great schools from across the country.)

Lily Brantner ’25, Margaret Randoph ’25, Zach Mozher ’23, Head of School John Lewis, Tilghman Overton ’24, Nick Abell ’23, Trevor Green ’24, Maren Kneeland ’24, and Justin McCubbin ’25.

Lily Brantner ’25, Margaret Randoph ’25, Zach Mozher ’23, Head of School John Lewis, Tilghman Overton ’24, Nick Abell ’23, Trevor Green ’24, Maren Kneeland ’24, and Justin McCubbin ’25.


Recently, Abell and Mozher got together with fellow students Damian Rene ’23, Maggie and Abby Miller ’22, Ashley Escobar ’22, and Sofia Angarita ’22 to create another student-led initiative! The Gunston Tutoring Service is led by students for students and offers tutoring in all subjects. 

Nick Abell ’23 and Damian Rene ’23 host a student-led tutoring session.

Nick Abell ’23 and Damian Rene ’23 host a student-led tutoring session.

The G.I.V.E. Club collected 16 bags full of shoes for Rukundo International and ran a successfulFood & Basic Necessities Drive for Haven Ministries. They also volunteer for local events and put together an annual school dance to raise money for various local, national and international charities, selected every year. 

G.I.V.E. Club members Zack Adams ’23, Anastasia Clair ’22, Andrew Baughman ’22, Julia Reed ’23, Julia McClary ’23, Alanna Gra

G.I.V.E. Club members Zack Adams ’23, Anastasia Clair ’22, Andrew Baughman ’22, Julia Reed ’23, Julia McClary ’23, Alanna Grace ’23 and Louise Mulock ’25 volunteer at Centreville Day, 2021.

The Environmental Club is heavily involved with Earth Day Celebration planning and recycling initiatives on campus. The Science and Engineering Clubs compete locally and nationally with student-run robotics and rocketry teams, among other cool initiatives.

From left, Kelby Booth ’23 (author) hangs informational signage around campus to help students figure out where to put their

From left, Kelby Booth ’23 (author) hangs informational signage around campus to help students figure out where to put their recyclables. Andrew Steele ’22 is the Hardware Leader on Gunston’s Robotics Team. Paige Kroncke ’23 tests out a rocket. 

Leadership opportunities exist outside of clubs too. The Performing Arts Department tasked students with picking the year’s annual Gunston Players’ production. Each student did some research on (school appropriate) engaging ideas. After some deliberation, the class ultimately chose, “The Misadventures of Romeo and Juliet” which follows the story of a dysfunctional rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet in which many familiar characters intrude on the production, creating complete chaos. (Don’t miss the show at the Church Hill Theatre February 25, 26 & 27th!) 

Joanna Riley ’24 has taken the lead in organization and inventory for the production in addition to designing the production program, collecting and editing biographies, and assisting in the design and construction of the set.

“The Performing Arts Department offers these types of opportunities throughout the school year through various mediums. Any time a student shows interest and potential for leading others, I do everything I can to provide them with that opportunity,” said Dr. Asprion, the department’s director. 

Gunston students even take their leadership skills on the road, facilitating workshops at large conferences. Sofia Angarita ’22 and Ashley Escobar ’22 facilitated two workshops at the Baltimore Student Diversity Leadership Conference (BSDLC) with other members of the student diversity leaders assisting. The 2021 theme was Revolution...It takes a village!  

Sofia Angarita ’22 led the workshop “Mental Health: Protecting your Safe Space,” which focused on mental health issues as they relate to factors such as ethnicity and race. Ashley Escobar ’22 led the workshop “History as Told by Revolution,” and highlighted revolutions including immigration policy, LGBTQ+ history, Indigenous History, and African American History, and how we can use them to build revolutions of our own. 

Sofia expressed that “This experience was very important to me because I got to meet a wonderful group of people and helped organize a workshop that other high school students attended and enjoyed.” Both groups were able to give an engaging and informative presentation on their topic, while also thoroughly enjoying the experience. “I believe that the work that we did was incredibly important, as we gave everyone a background on various landmarks in history,” said Ashley. 

There are many other opportunities for student leadership at Gunston including at the beginning of each year at the Student Leadership Institute & New Student Orientation, as Admissions Ambassadors, or leading their teams to victory as Green and White Captains. Student leaders are also instrumental in the planning of Global Awareness Day

 

  • class of 2023
  • Kelby Booth '23
  • Leadership
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From left, Kelby Booth ’23 (author) hangs informational signage around campus to help students figure out where to put their

From left, Kelby Booth ’23 (author) hangs informational signage around campus to help students figure out where to put their recyclables. Andrew Steele ’22 is the Hardware Leader on Gunston’s Robotics Team. Paige Kroncke ’23 tests out a rocket. 
 

G.I.V.E. Club members Zack Adams ’23, Anastasia Clair ’22, Andrew Baughman ’22, Julia Reed ’23, Julia McClary ’23, Alanna Gra
Nick Abell ’23 and Damian Rene ’23 host a student-led tutoring session.
Student leaders before the Baltimore Diversity Leadership Conference in 2021

From left: (front) Julia McClary '23, Alanna Grace '23, V McCluskey '25, Elizabeth Pupke '25, Benta Owino '25, (2nd row) Mekonnen Sahle-Selassie '23, Joanna Riley '24, Jessica Hammond '24, Sofia Angarita '22 Student Facilitator, Bella De Leon '22. Not pictured, Ashley Escobar '22 Student Facilitator.