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Local Students Conquer Competition at International Problem Solving Contest



Odyssey of the Mind world finals 2023
The Paul Duke STEM HS Odyssey of the Mind team in their costumes at the World Finals. Left to Right: Molly Ellner, Sophomore at Norcross HS; Addie Ebert, Sophomore at Paul Duke HS; Kylie Dommert, Sophomore at Norcross HS; Emma Betteridge, Sophomore at Paul Duke; Elisa Banks, Sophomore at Paul Duke; Sophia Dommert, 8th grader at Pinckneyville MS; and Claire Ott, Sophomore at Paul Duke. (Photos Courtesy of the Dommert Family)

Back at it again, seven girls from Peachtree Corners recently participated in the 2023 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals held at Michigan State University, competing against teams from across the globe. 

After winning at the state level, these girls represented Peachtree Corners as shining examples of the innovative and creative young minds that Peachtree Corners has to offer.

The Paul Duke STEM High School (PDS HS) Odyssey of the Mind team includes Elisa Banks, Emma Betteridge, Addie Ebert and Claire Ott, all sophomores at Paul Duke HS, as well as Kylie Dommert and Molly Ellner, sophomores at Norcross High School (HS), and Sophia Dommert, an 8th grader at Pinckneyville Middle School.

Molly Ellner, a team member who has competed in the Odyssey of the Mind team for the past five years, said she has learned how to apply creative thinking and teamwork skills through Odyssey of the Mind. 

“I love seeing how the best version of each team member’s ideas works together to create our unique solution,” said Ellner.

Sharpening minds

Odyssey of the Mind is an organization that encourages originality and ingenuity among its participating students. Founded over 40 years ago by Dr. C. Samuel Micklus, it has become a leading force in creative education, fostering learning internationally for the past 30 years.

The organization’s mission, as expressed by its founder, is to promote creative problem-solving in a fun environment that tasks students to solve challenging problems with the highest levels of innovation. Participants in the program learn how to think and express themselves through teamwork without the fear of criticism.

Every year, students showcase their problem-solving skills during the State and World Finals. Students choose from five problems to solve, and each team is evaluated based on long-term problem-solving, style and spontaneous problem-solving.

This year, the group continued to grow their skills. “We approached our problem with group brainstorming and research,” said Ellner. “As a team, we compiled our favorite ideas and almost fit them together like a puzzle to draft our final solution.”

This year’s World Finals at Michigan State University hosted 749 teams from across the globe, including teams from China, Korea, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Thailand, Singapore and Japan, as well as teams from across the United States.

Another successful year

The seven girls, representing NHS and PDS HS under the sponsor school of Paul Duke, competed in Division Three and tackled “Problem #5 The Most Dramatic Problem Ever!!!” coached by Lisa Dommert.

One of Dommert’s favorite parts of being their coach is seeing how the girls create an outstanding performance, “something magical,” from a simple prompt.

“Each year I think they can’t outdo the year before, and each year they do,” said Dommert. “They are an amazing group of girls, and it has been an honor to coach them.”

The girls’ efforts paid off when they were awarded first place in a tie with William A. Hough HS from Cornelius, NC, during the Awards Ceremony on May 27.

This success is not a one-time occurrence for team members Kylie, Sophia, Claire, Elisa, Molly, Addie and Emma. They have continuously placed first in Georgia and have won several first-place wins in the World Finals. 

Learn more about the Paul Duke STEM High School Odyssey of the Mind team at performance-pc.info/PeachtreeCorners.

Zoey Schlueter is a senior who attends Greater Atlanta Christian School and has lived in Peachtree Corners her whole life. She enjoys written journalism inside and outside of school and plans on pursuing journalism in college.

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Norcross High School Student Lisa Van Ness named a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist



Officials from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the names of 56 Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) semifinalists considered for the 69th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

One of these semifinalists is Lisa Van Ness, a senior at Norcross High School. Van Ness excels in all academic areas but really enjoys her STEM classes. 

Besides her success in the classroom, Van Ness is a member of the school’s color guard for the marching band and has spent three years on the cheer team. 

She is also an accomplished pianist and enjoys dancing, reading and baking in her free time.

Over 1.3 million juniors from 21,000 high schools entered the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2022 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Van Ness is among 16,000 semifinalists from across the nation competing for National Merit Scholarships worth almost $28 million and offered next spring.

To become a finalist, the semifinalist and the high school must submit a detailed scholarship application. 

They must provide information about the semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, honors and awards. 

A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, a recommendation 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 2024 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July 2024.

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Mayor Mason Visits BIA Charter School for Mayor’s Reading Program



On Friday, September 8, Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason visited the BIA Charter School to read to the kindergarten class of Meredith Huxtable.

The mayor visited BIA as part of the Mayor’s Reading Club. Launched in August, the program is designed to support literacy skills and early reading success for children in Georgia cities. 

During his visit, the mayor read “Georgia Caroline Visits City Hall,” and answered student questions.  Following his reading of the book, the mayor took part in an interview conducted by the school’s morning news team, that was broadcast to the entire school.

The Mayor’s Reading Club was developed by Georgia City Solutions and is designed to foster partnerships between the city, county, local nonprofits, schools, libraries and businesses. Other elected officials, city staff, youth and community members can participate in the program as guest readers.

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Four Wesleyan School Faculty Members Named GISA Master Teachers



Wesleyan GISA Master Teachers
Top Row from left, Juliette Ball, Paige Glass, bottom row from left, Suzanne Ragains and Laura Riester (Photo courtesy of Wesleyan School.

The Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) recently named four Wesleyan School faculty members GISA Master Teachers.

After completing a comprehensive application process through GISA this past spring, the following teachers were honored:

  • Juliette Ball, lower school lead teacher;
  • Paige Glass, lower school lead teacher;
  • Suzanne Ragains, a high school modern and classical languages teacher and
  • Laura Riester, middle school math teacher.

To be accepted into GISA’s Master Teacher program, candidates must submit a portfolio featuring three examples of outstanding work related to the classroom and collaborating with other educators.

The final part of the application is an unedited video of the candidate’s classroom teaching as well as five letters of recommendation from colleagues, administrators, parents and students.

“We are delighted that GISA has acknowledged the hard work of these committed educators through the Master Teacher program,” said Chris Cleveland, Wesleyan Head of School.

“Juliette, Paige, Suzanne, and Laura are outstanding classroom teachers and have been impacting the lives of Wesleyan students for many years. They are each deserving of this honor.”

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