Shining Students

Top notch kids from local independent schools

By Deena C. Bouknight

For various reasons, some students shine. Some exemplify academic achievements, while others are strong in athletics. Some overcome personal or emotional obstacles, and a handful muster bravery in the face of adversity. Following is a snapshot of some shining students who attend Columbia area independent schools.

Riley Bearden
Ben Lippen School

Senior Riley Bearden is known throughout Ben Lippen for her attention to detail and her organizational skills. A student there since 4K, Riley thrives when there is an event to organize, according to Linda Dixon, director of guidance at the school.
“Riley’s three best qualities are organization, determination and enthusiasm,” says Linda. “Once she takes on a task, she takes personal responsibility for it and will persevere until she completes it.”
In eighth grade, Riley was rewarded for her strong character traits with the Governor’s Citizenship Award. During Student Leadership University, a program for teenagers who demonstrate leadership qualities, she participated in a question/answer session in the National Press Club.
Riley is in the top 15 percent of her class and a member of the National Honor Society. She says that what’s been most impressive during her time at Ben Lippen is the positive Christian atmosphere that resonates throughout every aspect of the school.

Rob Smith
Heathwood Hall Episcopal School

Rob Smith says the best thing about Heathwood is that a student can pursue a variety of unique interests. Rob, a senior, sings and plays the acoustic guitar. He is in the school chorus, an a capella group that he founded and directs, a jazz band and a pep band. He also is captain of the golf team and bowls with the school team.
“I get to do all this crazy stuff, and I’m still able to juggle challenging academics,” he says. “It keeps things fairly interesting. I’m not stuck just doing one thing. Heathwood really encourages you to pursue your interests.”
Rob says he feels like he knows Heathwood inside and out since he has been going to school there since 4K. He says the teachers are approachable and encouraging. “There is a lot of collegiate style learning that goes on,” he says. For instance, his French teacher once took the students out for coffee and reviewed for a mid-term exam.
Winterim at Heathwood, which is a break that allows students to pursue travel and/or career interests, has provided Rob opportunities to intern at Microsoft and an engineering firm in California. This piqued his interest in engineering, which he will be studying at Duke University in the fall.

Mary Katherine Hall
Cardinal Newman School

According to Cardinal Newman’s principal, Jacqualine Kasprowski, Mary Katherine Hall embodies excellence. For her efforts, she was recently awarded the Bobbi Rossi Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a student who is dedicated to classmates and community.
Mary Katherine, who began attending Cardinal Newman in seventh grade, has been highly involved. Not only has she been Student Body President, but she also has been a member of the National Honor Society, Quiz Bowl Team, Key Club, Spanish Club, Pep Club, Alpha Theta and the Catholic Commission. She also serves as president of the WINGS Mentoring Program, which mentors new students.
In athletics, Mary Katherine has concentrated on Varsity and South Carolina United Club Soccer. She was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association All Region III Teams.
Jamie Hall, Mary Katherine’s mother, says: “This school has been excellent for the whole child – spiritually, physically and intellectually. I don’t believe you can find a better education anywhere in Columbia. The environment is quality in every way, and it has served our daughter well.”

Alex and Jackie Rice
Hammond School

Fraternal twins Alex and Jackie Rice have grown up not only close with one another but also with their classmates at Hammond as well. They have been attending Hammond for 12 years and say they love it because of the many and varied opportunities.
Both girls are involved in the select ensemble choir, National Honor Society, Cum Laude Society, peer mentoring and tutoring, the school magazine, the multi-cultural club and the Go Green Club. Jackie has played varsity basketball and plans to become an English professor; Alex has focused on biology and plans to enter college as a pre-med student.
“I like that you are able to get into anything that strikes your fancy here,” says Jackie.
“It’s a tight-knit community,” says Alex, “and we’ve formed strong friendships. You can really tell that the teachers care about you and want you to do well.”
Academics can be tough, they admit, but teachers are there to help.
“I’m thankful that they’ve prepared me for college,” says Jackie. She points specifically to writing intensives. “I’m used to writing essays and to thinking critically when I’m writing.”

Lane Kosmata
Sandhills School

Lane Kosmata says that enrolling at Sandhills School was one of the best things that has happened to her. Now a freshman, she started at the school six years ago because she was having trouble reading and writing.
“I was really low in these areas, but now my reading and writing levels are very high,” says Lane.
She attributes her success to the small class sizes, which average six to 10 students, and the individualized attention. She has learned how to break down words so they are easier to spell. As a result, her confidence in her abilities has increased.
“Teachers here understand that you’re not just one of many students who all learn the same way,” she says. “We’re all very different, and we have different learning styles, and they address that.”
Lane, who is involved in soccer and basketball, also believes that everyone from the teachers to the coaches to the principal is amazing. She refers to Sandhills as a family.

Carolyn Ng
Heritage Christian Academy

Other than being home schooled during her fifth grade year, seventh-grader Carolyn Ng has been attending Heritage Christian since kindergarten. She says growing up with the other students, teachers and faculty is like having a second family. During a seventh and eighth grade retreat to the mountains, the students were able to even better connect as a group.
“The school is small enough that there’s not anyone you don’t know,” Carolyn says. “The best thing is that there is a good solid foundation of Christian teaching. We start each day by reading the Bible and praying … a good way to start a day. I’ve learned so much about the Bible that I’ll feel good about sharing my faith when that chance comes.”
Even though she admits that Heritage is academically challenging, Carolyn says teachers like Mr. Phost, who teaches science and history, make learning fun.

Savannah Calvert
Glenforest School

Savannah Calvert’s family and friends say she exudes confidence. That character trait hasn’t always been present, however. Her father, Barton Calvert, a fixture at Glenforest School since the early 1980s and currently Dean of Students, says she struggles with the same issues he has: ADD and dyslexia. Falling behind in reading in public school was causing Savannah a lot of stress. The move to Glenforest in sixth grade dramatically boosted her confidence and her skill level.
“Suddenly, she was reading on her own: newspapers, novels, anything she wanted to,” says Barton. Now a senior, Savannah’s confidence shines in everything she does: Student Government President, summer camp counselor for physically and mental disabled youth, a participant at Girls State and an athlete.
Savannah’s confident character served her well in a dramatic episode last November that could have turned out differently had she not kept her wits. Home sick and alone during a school day, she heard a knock at the door. Assuming it was a delivery person, she chose not to answer. When the person went around to another door and knocked, she began to think that it might not be a delivery person; more violent knocking confirmed her fears. Keeping low and away from windows, Savannah crept to the laundry room to hide, where she knew she’d be able to escape through a back door if she had to. She heard a screen being torn from a window and glass breaking. She called 911 and calmly stayed on the phone with the dispatcher while the intruder filled a pillowcase off her bed with random items. He eventually left without discovering her.
For her confidence and bravery, Savannah received a call from Sheriff James R. Metts and was featured on the local news. She admits that, even though she remained calm and collected during the robbery, the incident unnerved her. The family installed a security system, and she says she feels stronger now. “Besides that experience, I lead a pretty normal life,” says Savannah, who will attend Brevard College in North Carolina next year on the prestigious Brevard Leadership Scholarship, which is given to one freshman per year. Her ultimate career goal is to work with special needs youth.

Victoria Collins
St. John Neumann Catholic School

Laura Collins says that St. John Neumann has allowed her only daughter, Victoria, a sixth grader, to blossom. She touts the school’s atmosphere as caring and wonderful and says, “I’m so appreciative for not only the challenging academic structure, but also for the nurturing environment.” Plus, she says that St. John Neumann is family-based with an infusion of religion. “They teach these children right morals.”
Victoria is part of the Rosary Club, which makes rosaries and sends them to individuals in other countries. She has also been involved in tennis, soccer and Lego Robotics. She loves to read and says she feels like St. John Neumann has supported that love of reading by continuing to add more books to the school library.
Victoria, who has attended St. John Neumann since preschool, says, “I love how the rules are strict, but understandable. Whenever I have trouble with anything, the teachers and faculty make sure I understand. They give me extra time and are so kind.”

Will Chontos
Saint Joseph Catholic School

Amy Chontos knew Saint Joseph was the right school for her children when she first walked through the doors. “I visited all the schools available in the area, and I felt comfortable here,” she says.
Will, her older son, began attending in the first grade, and her younger son, Mackey, began in 4K. Will, now in sixth grade, has become a Beta Club member and a lifelong learner with a love of reading, his mother says. “I feel that St. Joseph develops every aspect of a child: academic, character, faith.”
Rose Tindall, principal, has seen Will’s character develop. Reindeer Run is an annual event that involves story time for students ages two through five. “It’s a way for them to get comfortable with ‘real’ school,” Rose says. Will volunteered for this event, and she observed him “down on his knees talking to these little prospective students about how wonderful school was and that he hoped they’d come some day.”
She adds, “He’s one of those unsung heroes around here. The teachers are always telling me he’s a natural leader and that he loves to serve.”
Part of the reason he enjoys serving may be to return the respect his teachers show him. Will says, “The teachers care about me, and I can be myself.”


Brenna Lloyd
The Timmerman School

Brenna Lloyd loves that the school she has attended since first grade is small enough that she has been able to form lasting bonds with students, teachers and even the principal, Liz Jordan.
“I’ve known most everyone this whole time, and I’ve been able to become very involved,” says the eighth grader. “My principal even teaches me tap. We’re very close.”
Besides dance, Brenna is involved in cheerleading to support the school’s girls and boys basketball teams, as well as chorus and Student Council. This past Christmas, the choral group sang at The Village at Sandhill. Brenna also attended a leadership conference last summer for Student Council. In her spare time, she says she loves writing fictional stories.
“I like that this is a small school because we get so much attention from our teachers,” she says. “Our homeroom teacher, Mrs. Nance, is like a mother to all of the eighth graders.”

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