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Greater Atlanta Christian Alumni Chosen to Captain U.S. Navy Football Team

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Ford Higgins, GACS
Ford Higgins (photo courtesy GAC)

Peachtree Corners’ Ford Higgins Elected as Co-Captain

Two recent Greater Atlanta Christian School alumni have been chosen to captain the U.S. Naval Academy football team for the 2019 season. 

Captains are elected by a team vote, and for the first time ever, 4 co-captains were chosen. GAC graduates Paul Carothers of Flowery Branch (Class of 2015) and Ford Higgins of Peachtree Corners (Class of 2016) are seniors at the Naval Academy and will lead the team side-by-side, just as they did while they were Spartans.

GAC Athletic Director and head football coach Tim Hardy said, “It is a tremendous honor to be named Captain of the Navy Football Team. The team is comprised of some of the most outstanding young men in the nation. I am not surprised that both Ford and Paul were chosen. These are two of the absolute finest young men to graduate from GAC.  Though different individuals, they possess many of the same characteristics such as strength of character, mental toughness, and selfless dedication to others.  Both of them are elite competitors who confront any challenge with strength and total commitment.  Their effort, attitude, and determination give courage and confidence to those around them.”

Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo said, “This year we waited to elect our team captains…We wanted to go through winter conditioning, our fourth quarter workouts, and spring practice before our team voted to give everybody ample opportunity to select captains based on who earned the privilege. I couldn’t be more excited about the captains that our team selected.”

Coach Niumatalolo noted that Higgins earned two varsity letters and started all 13 games in 2018. Higgins will anchor the line for the second year at the center position.

Carothers, a linebacker, has been a Navy special teams player, seeing action in nine games a year ago and making six tackles. He had an outstanding spring and made a strong push to be a starter in the fall, according to Niumatalolo.

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Seven Norcross High School Students Named as National Merit Semifinalists

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Norcross High School

Nina Ballerstedt, Dylan Christensen, Jordan Katz, Logan Lewis, Holden Thomas, Jonah Wu and Sean Zhong — all students at Norcross High School — have been named as Semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

The Semifinalists were determined by the students’ scores on the 2021 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). They are among 16,000 students from across the nation competing for National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring.

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and the high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2023 will be announced beginning in April and concluding in July.

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Education

Four Wesleyan School Faculty Members Named GISA Master Teachers

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The Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) has named four Wesleyan School faculty members GISA Master Teachers, the school announced on September 7. Laura Jensen (lower school lead teacher), Dr. Ruthie Colegrove (middle school fine arts), Pam Sanchez (middle school foreign language), and Ted Russell (high school social sciences) were all selected after completing a detailed application process through GISA this past spring.

From Left to Right: Laura Jensen, Dr. Ruthie Colgrove, Pam Sanchez, Ted Russell

To be accepted into GISA’s Master Teacher program, candidates must submit a detailed application.

Applicants must also submit a portfolio of three tangible examples of outstanding work related to the classroom and to sharing and collaborating with other educators. The final part of the application is an unedited video of the candidate’s classroom teaching utilizing best practices and five letters of recommendation from colleagues, administrators, parents, and students.

“We are delighted that GISA has acknowledged the hard work of these committed educators throughthe Master Teacher program,” said Chris Cleveland, Wesleyan Head of School. “Laura, Ruthie, Pam, andTed are outstanding classroom teachers and have been impacting the lives of Wesleyan students formany years. They are each deserving of this honor.”

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Wesleyan teacher in group that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro

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Mount Kilimanjaro
CLIMBING FOOD: Here’s what the “dining hall” looks like when you are on a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Lawrenceville’s Laura Jensen, near right, recently made the climb to the summit with this group, a long-held goal of hers. Next to Laura is Sarah Grady of Atlanta. Read more about the hike in Today’s Focus below.

[Gwinnett Forum Editor’s note: the following account of a lifetime mountain climb is from the Pre-First teacher at Wesleyan School. She is also the wife of Ryan Jensen, pastor of the Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church, and the mother to two, Camille, 10, and Knox, 8. The Wesleyan summer Sabbatical Grant encourages faculty to pursue a lifetime of learning. Faculty members may apply for grants for scholarly work. She was awarded the grant in 2019, but because of the pandemic not able to complete it until 2022. Total cost of the climb was $6,495, but for travel, shots, insurance, etc., the total was $10,000.]–eeb

This June I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with Beyond Adventures, bringing to fruition a 20-year dream!

Our group of eight climbers required four guides and 20 porters. Our lead guides have been climbing Kibo, the highest of Kili’s three peaks, for over 20 years with 250+ trips to the summit. Their knowledge and experience put us at ease. Our porters faithfully cooked, set up tents, pumped water and carried equipment on their backs, shoulders, and heads.

The hike took us through Kilimanjaro’s four climate zones – rainforest, moorland, alpine desert, and glacier. We tackled each day with conversations, as our group bonded instantly. We learned about the mountain and its beauty from our guides.

The team rejoices at the summit.
Walking the moors.
There’s the destination: Mount Kilimanjaro. Photos provided.

Walking the moors.

Each day began with a delicious breakfast, prep for the climb, and praying for the day ahead. We set off silently to reflect on our experience. Our second day, I was so surprised to see the mess tent set up at lunchtime with tables, chairs, and a hot meal prepared. Afterwards we headed to higher altitude for acclimatization before descending into the valley to sleep.

Meanwhile, our porters broke everything down, raced past us yet again to the next camp, and set everything up for the evening. Lead guide Gabriel would say at our rest stop, “Okay guys, let’s go home!” We arrived to cheerful porters, a bustling campsite, and time to rest. Our days ended around the table, reflecting on the day, and receiving details for tomorrow. Early bedtime to the sounds of our porters finishing the day laughing and talking in Swahili helped us drift off to sleep.

We hiked for five days through stunning and rugged terrain. We challenged our bodies to acclimate to altitudes and slept on inclines in a tent. We celebrated our successful scaling of an 800 foot vertical rock wall. Each day I grew more aware of the impending final push to the top.

We rested at 16,000 feet before waking at 12:30 a.m. for a 1:30 a.m. departure. We left under a full moon with headlamps lighting the way. Our guides and summit porters carefully watched our every step. After five hours of hiking, we began to glimpse a breathtaking sunrise over the horizon. We continued all the way to 19,354 feet at Uhuru Peak. After congratulations and photos, we quickly began descending to 13,000 ft. for a final night of camping.

Our last morning brought a celebration of gratitude – singing, dancing, giving out tips, and a prayer over the guides, porters, and their families in both English and Swahili. A long day of steep descent was filled with stories, laughter, and sore muscles.

The team rejoices at the summit.

We hiked quickly through the moorland and back into the rainforest. It had rained recently and left the trail very slick. After walking “pole, pole” (slowly, slowly in Swahili) for 5½ days, this rapid pace for 7,000 feet down the mountain felt like a sprint! Despite the rapid pace, we all tried to look around to appreciate the lush beauty of our surroundings, listen for the sound of monkeys and hornbills, and soak up these final moments together on the trail. Arriving at elevation 6,000 feet officially ended our trip. After final hugs, high-fives, and thank you’s for our guides and porters, we boarded a bus to head back to Arusha.

Reaching the summit I will always remember. Yet the greater gift was spending time with the amazing group that included not just those of us climbing, but the crowd of witnesses who loved and served every step of the way.

Written By Laura Jensen

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

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