Around Academy – Issue Six

A Letter from the Head of School


Mark HellerDear Academy at the Lakes Community:

This month, as we celebrated the annual Martin Luther King Day Jr. holiday, we also experienced the 50th anniversary of the famous march in Selma, Alabama. These commemorations fell just after the horrific events in Paris in which terrorists murdered journalists and hostages in the name of extremist ideology. As I was trying to process the confluence of these events, it occurred to me that they actually are related, for the cause of the terrorists, the ideas that they purport to be defending, are exactly the opposite of the vision of Martin Luther King Jr.

King’s vision, his Dream, had three main components:

1. Integration, not segregation;
2. Change must be achieved through non-violent means; and
3. The only appropriate way to judge a person is “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

1) Integration, Not Segregation
In a world filled with diversity, walling ourselves off from those who are different leads to no good at all – it robs us of challenge, of connection, of our best chance to innovate. Segregation brings stagnation. Segregation brings division. It simply makes no sense in today’s world. Education depends on difference.

2) Non-Violence
Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the best way to bring change is through peaceful, non-violent actions, through the power of words and ideas. Literature and satire make people think, speaking truth to power makes people question, non-violent responses to violence changes hearts and minds. MLK showed us that once hearts and minds have changed, then all kinds of change is possible. King and the protests he led showed us that way.

3) The Content of Our Character
The goal of our enlightened society is not (in King’s words) to seek the day of the black man, or the day of the white man, but the day of man as man — that what should matter to any of us and to all of us is not the color of a person’s skin, but the content of a person’s character.

We all know that the system of race relations in this country for hundreds of years was unjust, unfair, and limiting for African Americans. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that it was limiting to all of us, be we black or white, Latin, Asian, male, female, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, straight, or gay. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that our goal ought to be a society in which all of us are judged not by the color of our skin in both its literal sense and its metaphorical sense, but by the content of our character. That is the enlightened way of the West. That is the way of Academy at the Lakes.

In his famous “Letter From Birmingham City Jail,” MLK wrote:
“We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of [people] willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Our students will lead us through the 21st century. I urge them and all members of our community to always look to the lessons of Martin Luther King Jr. as a beacon of inspiration. Those principles will help us to fight the forces of darkness by casting light wherever we may go. Our Wildcats will know that the time is always ripe to do right.


Mark Heller
Head of School

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Introducing the Graphic Arts and Design Program


Graphic Arts & Design Class

Graphic Design is more than making things pretty or self-expression, it is about problem solving through design.

It is the difference between which book draws your eye in a bookstore, which website you trust, which brand you remember, which billboard or ad catches your eye, and how easy websites are to navigate – all while being aesthetically pleasing.

Graphic Design is an important part of the business, advertising, and marketing world. More and more companies are understanding how important this field is to the success of their businesses.

This school year marks the first that Academy at the Lakes has offered a Graphics Arts and Design elective. This new class opens the door for students who may be interested in pursuing this or similar careers, giving them a head start before college.

Students who take the class will emerge with design skills and program knowledge that will aid them in future business careers, whether or not they become professional graphic designers. A basic understanding of the importance of design and how good design is achieved will give them a boost in the business world.

With a class that requires such a wide range of skills, it was an important task to find the right teacher, and few are better suited for the job than Ms. Kerstin Upmeyer.

Upmeyer joined Academy with over 18 years of teaching experience in illustration and design at the college level. She is also a published author of design tutorials and articles and carries a Bachelor of Arts in Illustration and a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology.

Graphic Arts and Design currently enrolls 13 Upper Division students. The structure of the class begins with basic software skills, covering programs in the Adobe Creative Suite such as Illustrator, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver. Once those skills are learned, Upmeyer hopes to start incorporating real-world projects that build students’ experience and resumes.

“I’d like to have the class be available to do work for the school community and community at large,” Upmeyer explained.

Her plans are to have students work with the Marketing, Admissions and Development team at Academy, as they would actual clients, by creating promotional material for the school and school events.

She also would like to find small charitable organizations that may not be able to afford a nice website or a branding upgrade and have students in the class develop design work for them.

Upmeyer hopes to have the students become more plugged in with local industry professionals by bringing her own contacts within the industry into the classroom.

These are all things she frequently incorporated into her college design classes.

The Graphic Arts and Design class is a great addition to the course catalog for a school that understands the power of technology.

Said Upmeyer: “I think that Academy has invested very strongly into the importance of technology and I completely concur with that. However, until recently, the focus was more on computer programming and that side of technology, but there is an entire aspect that is creative. Yes, we need people on the programming side of things, but we also need people who make it appealing and visually interesting. Even engineering is, in my opinion, equal forms of art and technology.”

As Steven Burnley, the Director of Technology said of Upmeyer’s addition to the Faculty, she is the “softer side of technology,” bridging the gap between Academy’s fantastic arts program and the renowned technology program.

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Life in the Fast Lane: Academy Swimmers Turn in Record-Breaking Season


Swim Team

It’s not easy being a trailblazer.

Just ask the Academy at the Lakes’ girls swimming team.

Before-school practices. After-school training sessions. Meets in 50-degree temperatures.

Worth it?

Without a doubt, says Academy at the Lakes swimming Head Coach Colleen McCormick.

“These girls are dedicated to this sport at an unbelievable level,” said McCormick. “There is never a question as to whether there is practice or not – there is always practice.”

With just 10 swimmers on the girls’ roster – and only one senior (team captain Tori Emerick) – the Wildcats surprised more than a few area competitors during their record-breaking 2014 season.

It began with a history-making win on Sept. 18 in the season opener over Carrollwood Day School (85-80), Academy’s first-ever dual-meet victory over CDS.

That meet was followed by string of wins that concluded with an undefeated season record of 7-0.

Despite their small roster, the Wildcats were determined to make some noise at the District Championship meet on Nov. 1 at Berkeley Prep. And they did.

Even though Academy had the fewest number of swimmers at the meet, the team finished 4th overall and accomplished some more landmark moments: Abbey Duncan ’17 claimed Academy’s first-ever girls’ district titles with wins in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly. (Last year, Dillan Villavisanis ’14 won the boys’ District Championship in the 100 breaststroke).

Abbey followed her district performance with another title sweep in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly on Nov. 8 at the Regional Championships hosted at Northshore Pool in St. Petersburg. In addition, Abbey combined with teammates Regan McCormick ’17, Brooke Duncan ’18, and Katie Erin McCormick ’20 to qualify for the state meet in the 200 medley relay – another Wildcat first.

Entering the FHSAA 1A State Championship meet on Nov. 15 in Stuart, Fla., Abbey faced the pressure of being the defending state champion in the 200 freestyle, a feat she accomplished as a freshman at Wesley Chapel High School.

But if she felt the strain of high expectations, she didn’t show it. In fact, Abbey posted the year’s fastest 100 backstroke time (54.05) by a 15-year-old in the United States en route to winning the state title. She also finished 5th in the 100 butterfly with a time of 55.46.

In December, Abbey competed in four events at the Winter Junior National Swim Meet in Federal Way, Wash., another first for an Academy student.

After turning in such a remarkable year in 2014, what could the Wildcats’ swimmers possibly do to top it in 2015?

“We look forward to continued growth from Abbey as well as our other swimmers,” said McCormick. “Additionally, we hope to grow our team in numbers especially adding to our boys’ team. With the work ethic of our team members I anticipate another strong season in 2015.”

Additional Media Coverage

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Student Showcase: Original I Have a Dream Speeches


AATL Student Showcase


View this article on our blog.


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The Chemistry of Giving: Life-long Academy Students Give Back


While many high schoolers were basking at the beach this summer, brothers Anmol ’18 and Raj Warman ’16 were reading college and graduate-level academic journals on graph theory – Applied Mathematics and Cryptography, and Mercury Absorption.

If, however, you were to observe Anmol and Raj on any given day at school, you would see them hanging with friends at lunch, laughing with peers in the halls, and bonding with classmates in after-school clubs. In some ways, the Warmans are exactly like your typical teenage boys, but when it comes to math and science, they are absolute geniuses.

Raj’s Research

Raj’s high-level research journey began when he contacted University of South Florida Professor Dr. Razvan Teodorescu. Said Raj, “While reading Teodorescu’s essays, the ones that stuck out were the ones on graph theory.”

Raj explains his passion: “Graph theory is a sub branch of cryptology – the graphs are the underlying programs that generate the codes and encryptions that ensure security of data bases.”

However, the rub, Raj contends, is that no matter how randomly generated the graphs, constant factors will always be present, thus compromising the security of the system.” So, Raj’s goal is to identify the constant factors that expose the system’s vulnerability. In short, “We are proving gaps exist and what those gaps are.”

While this sounds like a foreign language to many, to Raj it makes complete sense, and it’s what he wants to study long-term.

“The answer to this project will serve further studies of the Rieman Zeta function – one of the million dollar mathematical questions. Using this math, we can create a similar equation to the Zeta function and then more math is used to determine the topological variants.”

Anmol’s Investigation

Anmol’s research journey began at the state science fair in Lakeland. University of South Florida graduate student Matthew Chrzanowski served as a judge and met Anmol in the process. Because of his interest in Anmol’s topic – Optimizing the Nano Environment of Divalent Mercury, he gave Anmol his card and asked him to contact him.

Like Raj, Anmol explains his research simply. “Cadmium, Zinc, and Mercury are the three most toxic metals. Attempts at chelating mercury have been fairly unsuccessful and even some of the most potent chelates that should have chelated mercury have not.” Thus, the focus of Anmol’s research – absorption versus adsorption. Said Anmol, “If you fill or surround mercury with void frameworks, instead of bringing it in, you literally enclose it.”

Giving Back

Raj and Anmol, along with their mentors, submitted their abstracts to the Army Educational Outreach Program that sponsors the Academy of Applied Science, an organization that encourages and sponsors high school research. The program approved both students’ research and awarded each of them $600 to fund their projects.

The Warman brothers are Academy lifers; they have never attended another school, and in true Academy student fashion, the boys have chosen to give back. Raj and Anmol have each donated a third of their award to Academy, totaling $400 to the school.

And while the theories Raj and Anmol Warman study are highly sophisticated, the motivation behind what they do is purely simple – a love of learning and a desire to give back.