Academy Graduates Return to Alma Mater for Annual Alumni Panel

On Thursday, Jan. 4, eight Academy graduates sat before the Class of 2018, giving crucial insider advice, sharing experiences, and answering questions about a range of topics from mental and physical health to social issues to safety to academics.

Academy graduates shared the differences and the similarities between their high school experiences versus their college experiences and how both prepared them for what was ahead.


Alumni Participants

Maria Baller ’15 is attending Ringling College of Art and Design where she is majoring in Illustration.

Jordan Doromal ’16 is attending Vanderbilt University where he is majoring in Computer Science and is part of three musical theatre organizations: The Original Cast, Vanderbilt Off-Broadway, and Harmonic Notion. He also is involved in Vanderbilt apps (app developing).

Daniel Gamero ’17 is attending Georgia Institute of Technology where he is majoring in Biomedical Engineering and plays soccer, participates in Concert Band, and is a member of Barbell Club and GT eSports.

Chloe Mansell ’14 is attending Auburn University where she is majoring in Public Relations with a focus on Strategic Communications and is a member of the Student Government Association’s Lobby Board. She just finished her term as president of the sorority Pi Beta Phi. She has also served as president of the Society for Collegiate Leadership and Achievement at Auburn since 2015.

Regan McCormick ’17 is attending the University of Central Florida where she is majoring in Pre-ER/Trauma Nursing and is part of UCF LEAD Scholars and is currently rushing a sorority.

David Singh ’17 is attending Nova Southeastern University where he is majoring in Biology and is a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity as well as the Indian Student Association.

John J. Thurber ’17 is attending the University of Florida where he is majoring in Computer Science (Engineering) and is part of the Paintball Team and Wakeboarding Club.

Caitlin Torres ’17 is attending the University of Florida where she is majoring in Animal Biology and plays tennis, is a member of the Minority Pre-Vet Club and the Pre-Vet Club.


A few tips shared from the Alumni

Clubs and Extra-Curricular Acvitivies

  • Greek life is a great way to create connections with friends.
  • Sign up for as many things as you can and try new things, but don’t overextend yourself or you’ll get burned out.
  • Figure out what is important to you so you don’t get spread too thin.
  • At smaller schools, like Ringling, there aren’t quite as many opportunities or clubs. They are more specialized.
  • Manage your time. Know when to say “no.” You don’t have to go to every event or every meeting.
  • Your first semester, say yes more often than no.
  • Networking is just as important in college as it is in the business world.
  • Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal.

Dorms and Roommates

  • Your room is not going to look like a Pinterest room no matter how hard you try.
  • Make your room comfortable, but don’t spend a lot of money trying to make it beautiful.
  • If you can meet your roommate before school starts, do it!
  • If you’re having problems with your roommate, talk to your RA or meet with your area council members.
  • If you are in an environment that is harmful to you or your goals/education, try switching rooms.
  • When you meet with your roommate for the first time, lay out ground rules and make a contract.
  • Be honest in your roommate profile when looking for your roommate.
  • Living alone isn’t always best. You’ll learn a lot about yourself when you have a roommate.
  • Don’t be too critical of your roommates because they’re being just as critical of you.
  • Be civil and you’ll be fine.

Preparing for College

  • Participate in the Facebook group chats for your class if you college has them.
  • You will be coddled a lot during your Freshman year, but be prepared to be on your own after that!
  • Do some introspective understanding of yourself before you get to college. Know who you are and what you stand for. If you start to compromise on those core things, you might lose yourself.


  • Advisors can be extremely helpful through the application process.
  • Visit your advisor at least once a semester and have conversations to make sure you still love your major.
  • It’s ok to change your major.
  • Don’t just take the easy classes, challenge yourself a little bit in small areas .
  • There are several different advisors that can help you with different things.
  • If your advisor is not communicating with you, continue to email them then go to their office and schedule an appointment.
  • You have to seek out help, it will not be handed to you.
  • You don’t have to tie your own self worth to getting an A on a test. Getting an A in the class is not the end all be all.
  • Experience is more important than grades .
  • You have to ask for help, it isn’t just going to be given to you.

Mental and Physical Wellness and Safety

  • Always remember what you’re there for: your academics and your future. Focus on yourself and your passion.
  • Make time for sleep.
  • Go see a counselor. If you’re feeling bad, talk to someone (preferably a professional). It will make you feel so much better.
  • Don’t be afraid to go to Health Services, you’ll get sick a lot your freshman year.
  • Physical activity is important. It’s a great stress reliever.
  • Check to see if your college has a program like Green Dot – a bystander intervention program.
  • Take the drug/alcohol/sexual assault education seriously.
  • There is an assumption when you get to college that you have to party and drink and that’s not the case. Everybody is not drinking and doing all of that, you don’t have to either.


  • Make friends in a variety of groups.
  • Go outside your comfort zone when it comes to meeting people.
  • Don’t be afraid to become friends with people you have nothing in common with.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable in a group of friends, find another group.
  • Have fun! If you’re not laughing, you’re crying.
  • Don’t be afraid to sit down with a group of people you don’t know and introduce yourself. You might meet your best friend that way.
  • Make connections early.

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