Meet Our Class of 2021 Lifers

Meet our lifers

Words by Kim Vreeland

Lifelong friendships, cherished memories, and unparalleled academics are recurring experiences that our 13 Academy lifers in the Class of ‘21 have in common. From deep friendships that began on the Lower Division playground to Upper Division educational trips to the Amazon, our lifers reminisce about their Academy journeys. As they embark on the next chapters of their lives at their respective colleges, they will remain in our hearts and connected to each other.

VanessaVanessa Alexander

Vanessa, an AP Scholar with Distinction, will continue her education and passion for playing softball at Brown University.

“I’ve created lifelong friendships that I will hold dear for many years to come. I cherish the bonds I have developed with my teachers and fellow peers, and with their support, I’ve learned that I don’t have to shoulder my burdens alone.”

MaddieMaddie Bain

Maddie, an NHS Scholar, plans to pursue her dreams in musical theater at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Academy has been a place where I was able and encouraged to find my passion in life. I was able to explore so many opportunities simultaneously and still find my place.”

EthanEthan Cisler

Ethan will continue his studies in science at Purdue this fall.

Ethan fondly remembers the trips to Virginia, Key West, the Kennedy Space Center, and Tallahassee where he explored our nation’s and state’s histories while creating life-long memories and bonding with his peers, “These are exciting trips that I had with my peers that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Dwight Downing

Dwight is headed to Florida Gulf Coast in the fall to study Exercise Science and Physical Therapy.

“I could play a lot of sports and perform musical theater; I did not have to choose between the two. Academy taught me how to be well rounded.”

Hannah Fowler

Hannah, an NHS Scholar, will continue her educational journey at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Hannah Fowler describes her 13 years at Academy like being at home, “Every single year I was at Academy there was a teacher that I loved and made me look forward to going to school.”

NicoleNicole Gilleland

Nicole, an NHS Scholar, is headed to Florida State University this fall to study political science.

Spending her entire educational career at Academy allowed her to make lifelong friends she will never forget and to see those same friends accomplish their goals and dreams, “I got to see people grow alongside me and watch as everyone began to figure out their place in the world.”

Emily Halfpenny

Emily is grateful that Academy worked with her in giving her the opportunity to attend Eckerd College where she plans to major in animal sciences to pursue her dream in wildlife ecology and conservation.

“Academy was my home for 14 years; it gave me a lot of amazing memories and friends.”

ZoeZoe Moore

Zoe, an AP Scholar with Honor, will attend Howard University in Washington D.C. to continue her educational journey and to play soccer at the collegiate level.

Zoe describes her Academy experience as more than an institution for learning, “It is a place where you get to experience different perspectives and activities through all sorts of lenses. It is a community that not only feeds you knowledge but also one that creates a group of young people with a well-rounded perspective as they continue to grow in the future.”

mckennaMcKenna Smith

McKenna, an NHS Scholar, is headed to Duke in the fall to continue her academic and swim careers.

“Over the years, whether speaking to teachers or parents, I have been comfortable speaking with adults. I truly believe that if I didn’t go to Academy, I wouldn’t have this skill and be so comfortable speaking publicly.”

“Every other student, teacher, and faculty truly care about each person and want the best for them. They will help you succeed in any way they can. Being a student at Academy means being a part of a loving and supportive community.”

TaimoorTaimoor Nawaz

Taimoor, an AP Scholar with Distinction, is set to continue his journey at the University of Florida.

“The same student who is a state champion could also star in the school play. That small size allows for opportunities and focus for the students, allowing them to be more than one thing.”

ZainabZainab Nawaz

An AP Scholar with Distinction, Zainab, is headed to the University of Florida.

“There’s a sense of comfort and familiarity you get from being at a school – especially a small school like Academy – that only those who have experienced it can relate to. It’s a certain solidarity and understanding that we have even if we’re not personally close.”

“The memories and people will always be a part of me.”

Tia Nguyen

Tia, an NHS Scholar, is headed to the University of South Florida to study medicine.

“The teachers have always been so willing to help students, which is something that is not universally granted for students.”

SarahSarah Witt

Sarah Witt, an NHS Scholar, is headed to Florida Atlantic University this fall.

“All of this happens whether you’ve been at Academy for 14 years or 2. Academy will definitely become a part of you forever, like it has me, and I will not soon forget the memories I’ve made and the people I’ve met along the way.”