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Wesleyan School Celebrates 25 Years in Peachtree Corners- Mack Family



Four families share their stories

Walking through the grounds of Wesleyan School, it feels more like stepping onto a college campus. For those unfamiliar with the school, it may be surprising to learn that Wesleyan is actually a K-12 private college-preparatory nondenominational Christian school with an enrollment of 1,171 students.

Chris Cleveland, who has served as Head of School for nearly 20 years, describes Wesleyan as many do — a family. The Wesleyan family is made up of teachers, community members and, of course, students and their families.

The Mack family

Athletics were a big factor when it came to the decision for another family to send their two sons to Wesleyan. Audria and Chris Mack had been exploring their options and trying to find a fit for their two academically and athletically gifted sons for years before they stumbled onto the Wesleyan campus.

Charles and Audria Mack on Robinson Field (Photo by Isadora Pennington)

One day, the two were having lunch at a Wendy’s down the road when they saw a number of students filtering in on their lunch break. Curious about what nearby school the students might be from, the two drove through campus after their meal. The next day, they brought their oldest son, Charles, and showed him around to see what he thought of the school.

(Left to right, the Mack brothers. Jordan Mack with Chris Cleveland. Charles Mack.)

“The minute I drove him on campus he said, ‘Yep, this is where I’m going. This is where I want to go,’” recalled Charles with a laugh. “I was like ‘Son, hold on just a second, let’s find out all the ins and outs.’ And so we inquired a little bit more. But I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t gotten admitted here because he was already sold. That’s how we got here.”

Prior to attending Wesleyan, the Mack brothers had tried several other schools, mostly private Christian institutions in and around Atlanta. Living in Lithonia, the decision to enroll Charles and, later, his younger brother Jordan at Wesleyan was not taken lightly. For the Macks, it was of utmost importance to find a school that could provide excellence both in academics and athletics.

“We were willing to drive to Macon every day to pick them up if need be. We discussed that; we didn’t care if it was in South Carolina, if that’s where they needed to be that’s where we would take them. We were going to make sure that they got there if it was the right fit, that’s the main thing,” said Charles.

Fortunately for Charles and Audria, Wesleyan was just a bit closer to their home than South Carolina. A 21-mile drive from their driveway to the campus, this decision was made even easier when Charles was able to drive himself to school. When Jordan eventually enrolled as well, the two brothers would carpool to and from school. Both were active in football, so they had a number of extracurricular activities extending beyond the end of the school day.

It is clear from speaking to the Macks that they have always strived to provide the very best they could for their two talented sons. Despite the distance and cost of tuition, they prioritized not only finding an elite school, but also allowing them to have a say in which school they attended. As luck would have it, Wesleyan was a perfect fit for both boys who excelled and thrived during their years as students.

Since graduating, both Mack brothers received full scholarships to schools of their choice, a fact that Audria attests is in large part due to the excellent education they received at Wesleyan. “I think academics prepared them for the next phase, which was college. That’s what we were looking for. We were ready to make any trade-off to put them into this type of setting.”

During their time at Wesleyan, Charles and Jordan flourished on the football field, and thanks to close relationships with their teachers, they learned time management and gained personal development skills that continue to benefit them in their careers.

Today, 26-year-old Charles is a Graduate Assistant football coach under Bronco Mendenhall at the University of Virginia in Richmond, his alma mater. He was a four-year letter winner as a defensive back and played in 50 career games, posting a career-high 70 tackles in 2016 as a senior. He is also currently pursuing his master’s degree in social and philosophical foundations of education.

Jordan, now 23, also went to UVA and is a two-time ACC All-Academic Team member and a three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll selection. He just departed the NFL over COVID concerns and subsequently took a job at the College Football Playoffs in Irving, Texas.

“For me, personally, I think they take more time listening to the kids’ individual needs here,” Charles said. “Because of their experience here, I feel like they were able to communicate better with the world.”

“They know that they have choices,” Audria added. “We wanted them to understand that, yeah, we are your mom and dad, and we may want things to go one way, but we want to put you all in a good setting and a good position in life so that you can succeed.”

Isadora is a writer, photographer, and designer living in Avondale Estates, GA. She has worked in print for the past decade and has been published in the Atlanta INtown, Oz Magazine, Atlanta Senior Life, and the Reporter Newspapers.

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Seven Norcross High School Students Named as National Merit Semifinalists



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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Four Wesleyan School Faculty Members Named GISA Master Teachers



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



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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