The Tower Winter 2023/24

A magazine for Montverde Academy alumni, family, and friends.

A magazine for Montverde Academy alumni, family, and friends.


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Sparking Ideas and Innovation pg. 6<br />

Where in the World Is Monty? pg. 20<br />

Dance Conservatory pg. 36<br />

WINTER <strong>2023</strong>


Mr. Jon Hopman<br />

<strong>2023</strong>-<strong>24</strong> BOARD OF TRUSTEES<br />

Mr. Tim J. Bach<br />

Mr. Sean Parks<br />

Mr. Jon Frere<br />

Mr. T. Scott Ohmstede<br />

Mrs. S. Renee Lundy ’79 Mrs. Lori Specht ’84<br />

Mr. Michael Mason ’84 Mrs. Sandra O. Stephens<br />

Dr. Sidney McPhee Dr. Walter L. Stephens,<br />

Mr. Gregory L. Nelson Trustee Emeritus, 1999-2020<br />

STAFF<br />

Mrs. Clara Winborn<br />

Mrs. Ginny Holm<br />

Mrs. Nichole Smith<br />

Mrs. Kimberly Braden<br />

Creative Director<br />

Creative Editor<br />

Editor<br />

Photographer<br />

Contributors include faculty, staff, students,<br />

and parents of Montverde Academy.<br />



Montverde Academy<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Tower</strong> Magazine<br />

17235 Seventh Street<br />

Montverde, FL 34756<br />


Cromer International Press<br />

On the cover: Middle School students Efe Kozan and Lorenzo Rivera-Alvarez in the Chemistry Lab<br />

Interior: Upper School students enjoying the brand-new Education and Technology Innovation Center<br />

“<strong>The</strong> <strong>Tower</strong>” magazine is published exclusively for the alumni, parents, students,<br />

friends, faculty, and staff of Montverde Academy. It is intended to bring the latest news<br />

and information about the Academy’s growth and ongoing events.<br />

Every attempt has been made to present the information and listings in “<strong>The</strong> <strong>Tower</strong>”<br />

magazine as accurately as possible. We apologize if there are any discrepancies and<br />

would ask that you forward any amendments to our office. It is our policy to correct<br />

significant errors of fact in a timely fashion.<br />


Are you looking for photos, events, news, and more? Montverde Academy provides the<br />

latest news and Eagle happenings on a variety of platforms. Follow us on social media.<br />

Visit montverde.org<br />

2 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

WINTER <strong>2023</strong> | VOLUME 8, ISSUE 1<br />


6<br />

Sparking Ideas and Innovation<br />

An Inside Look at the Brand-New Education and<br />

Technology Innovation Center<br />

20<br />

Where in the World Is Monty?<br />

An Enrollment Management Spotlight<br />


Message from the Head of School.....................................4<br />

Sparking Ideas and Innovation........................................... 6<br />

News Around Campus...................................................... 10<br />

Lower School Costume Parade........................................ 14<br />

Diversity Fest.................................................................... 16<br />

Parents' Perspective......................................................... 18<br />

Where in the World Is Monty?.......................................... 20<br />

Student Spotlights............................................................ 22<br />

Fall Sports Wrap-Up......................................................... 26<br />

Sports Highlight................................................................ 28<br />

College Signing Day......................................................... 30<br />

Fine Arts........................................................................... 32<br />

Dance Conservatory......................................................... 36<br />

Legacy Ball....................................................................... 38<br />

Notable Alumni................................................................. 40<br />

Alumni Class Notes.......................................................... 42<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 3



By Mr. Jon Hopman, Head of School<br />

I have been an educator and parent<br />

for most of my adult life. As with<br />

many things, theory and reality do<br />

not always align perfectly, and it was<br />

not until I faced the reality of sending<br />

my son to college that I began to<br />

seriously question whether I had<br />

prepared him to be on his own.<br />

My son had great teachers his<br />

entire life, so I had confidence in his<br />

academic knowledge base and ability<br />

to meet the academic rigor he would<br />

face at the next level. Of greater<br />

concern were the more intangible<br />

life lessons that truly prepare a<br />

person to go out into the world and<br />

find success. As a parent, I want my<br />

children to be confident, grounded,<br />

respected, and capable. Being<br />

‟successful” is a given, but success is<br />

often defined by the individual.<br />

As society changes with each<br />

generation, parenting styles have<br />

changed, as well. We have all shared<br />

stories of our parents doing the<br />

unthinkable by today’s standards. We<br />

were allowed to climb trees, drink out<br />

of the garden hose, ride in the bed of<br />

a pickup truck, and even stay out all<br />

day without any notion of checking in<br />

until the streetlights came on. Societal<br />

norms involved answering with ‟sir”<br />

or ‟ma’am,” giving a firm handshake,<br />

and looking one another in the eye.<br />

Change is inevitable, but the pace of<br />

change is exponentially increasing,<br />

dramatically changing parental norms<br />

and strategies to raise their children.<br />

Shortly after I began my career in<br />

education, ‟helicopter parents” were<br />

identified. <strong>The</strong>se parents insisted<br />

on hovering over every aspect of<br />

their children’s lives, but they did not<br />

necessarily interject themselves into<br />

the action.<br />

A few years later, parents began to<br />

be known as ‟snowplow parents” and<br />

‟lawnmower parents” who monitor<br />

every aspect of their children’s daily<br />

lives and are more aggressive in<br />

plowing away or cutting down any<br />

obstacles that might get in their<br />

children’s way. <strong>The</strong>se parents are the<br />

first to argue any perceived injustice<br />

directed at their children. <strong>The</strong>re are<br />

no limits to what will be disputed as<br />

unfair or even labeled as ‟bullying,”<br />

including grades, homework, any<br />

communication that is not positive or<br />

uplifting, friendships, athletic playing<br />

time, birthday party invitations, or<br />

even the lunch menu.<br />

I realize that I could have fallen into<br />

any of those parenting styles for both<br />

of my children. After all, society has<br />

labeled this as ‟good parenting.” It<br />

would have been easier in many<br />

ways to simply solve my children's<br />

problems for them. However, I<br />

discovered that if I hovered or plowed<br />

away the obstacles, I would take<br />

away the gift of adversity that teaches<br />

necessary life skills.<br />

If I were to insulate or remove<br />

some of the hard parts of life,<br />

such as adversity, criticism,<br />

responsibility, work ethic, decisionmaking,<br />

adherence to deadlines,<br />

self-discipline, and interpersonal<br />

relationship skills, would my children<br />

be able to function independently?<br />

Ultimately, we want our children to<br />

be prepared for the world we launch<br />

them into. We want them to be<br />

successful in college, but ultimately,<br />

we want them to be successful in life.<br />

What do employers look for in<br />

employees? How do entrepreneurs<br />

gain success?<br />

4 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

Jon Hopman with his wife Mindy and their children, Haylee and Hunter<br />

<strong>The</strong> skills our children learn beyond<br />

the curriculum found in our Lower,<br />

Middle, and Upper Schools should<br />

prepare them for success in the<br />

future. From my experience in the<br />

business world, beyond a given skill<br />

or knowledge base, the following<br />

personal characteristics are in high<br />

demand: being a problem solver and<br />

solution finder, being self-motivated,<br />

having resilience, possessing a good<br />

work ethic, being coachable, being<br />

loyal, being dependable, having grit,<br />

having a passion, being curious,<br />

being creative, being empathetic,<br />

being determined, being trustworthy,<br />

and having the ability to be<br />

an independent thinker with a<br />

team mindset. This list is not<br />

all-inclusive, but it touches<br />

on some of the significant<br />

characteristics essential to<br />

success in life.<br />

Are you allowing these<br />

essential characteristics to<br />

develop in your child? Can<br />

your son or daughter adapt<br />

and overcome when they<br />

face adversity? Does your<br />

child understand that life<br />

is not always fair? Can they selfadvocate?<br />

Are they compassionate<br />

and empathetic toward others? Are<br />

they willing to grind through adversity,<br />

knowing they will be better for it?<br />

Reflecting on my parenting journey,<br />

I appreciate, more than ever, that my<br />

children were raised and educated in<br />

an environment such as the one we<br />

have at Montverde Academy. It is<br />

so much more than simply an<br />

academic experience.<br />

As a parent, I want my<br />

children to be confident,<br />

grounded, respected, and<br />

capable. Being ‘successful’<br />

is a given, but success is often<br />

defined by the individual.<br />

Mr. Jon Hopman, Head of School<br />

Our students will face life’s<br />

challenges in an environment where<br />

adversity and even failure are lessons<br />

in themselves. As a parent, I want<br />

my children to be challenged in a<br />

nurturing home or school environment<br />

before going to college and beyond.<br />

Going through life’s challenges while<br />

guidance, love, and grace are present<br />

is a healthy experience that can help<br />

build resilience and fortitude for times<br />

when they might not have a support<br />

network in place. <strong>The</strong> ultimate<br />

question we as parents must ask<br />

ourselves is ‟Will my child be able<br />

to fly once they leave the<br />

proverbial nest?ˮ<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 5

By Dr. Caryn Long, Director of Educational Technology and Innovation,<br />

and Mrs. Nichole Smith, Communications Coordinator<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 6

In September of <strong>2023</strong>, Montverde<br />

Academy unveiled its newly renovated<br />

Innovation Center. Since then, each<br />

department has been abuzz with activity<br />

and has provided students with valuable<br />

resources that give them the practical<br />

experience that is vital in today’s<br />

competitive market.<br />

When you step into the Innovation<br />

Center, you will notice the open<br />

space, the shiny new floors, and<br />

plenty of tables and comfy chairs<br />

where students can meet and<br />

collaborate. To the right is the<br />

photography studio and up ahead,<br />

on the other side of the colorful<br />

donor wall and glass doors, is the<br />

technology classroom.<br />


Middle School students have been<br />

using the computer technology space<br />

to design their Innovation Projects.<br />

For these projects, students solve<br />

a challenge that’s proposed by the<br />

FIRST ® LEGO ® League each year.<br />

This year’s challenge is to take<br />

a hobby and elevate it to make it<br />

accessible to anyone and to create<br />

a prototype. With prototypes being a<br />

large component of their competition<br />

points, students wanted to use the<br />

3D technology space to print their<br />

prototypes. “As word is getting out<br />

that we have this kind of technology,<br />

I see more and more students come<br />

to ask if they can use the space to<br />

create something to enhance their<br />

assignment,” said Dr. Caryn Long,<br />

Director of Educational Technology<br />

and Innovation. “Mr. Parets deserves<br />

a lot of credit for that as he gives of<br />

his time outside of class. He’s very<br />

gifted and uses that time effectively.”<br />

Students in computer programming<br />

classes are also learning a wide<br />

variety of programming languages.<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 7

EA SPORTS Gaming at MVA<br />

Sofia Chocho<br />


Next to the computer technology<br />

class is the gaming lab that houses<br />

MVA’s brand-new gaming team.<br />

Our team of nine students plays in<br />

a league called Play VS and has<br />

just been ranked in the top eight in<br />

the fall league. This team has also<br />

instituted three days of working out to<br />

develop their core strength; improve<br />

their social, emotional, and physical<br />

health; keep their body posture;<br />

and deal with stress as they learn to<br />

work better as a team, a key 21stcentury<br />

skill. We have a student in the<br />

program this year who is not a part of<br />

the competitive team but is focusing<br />

on drawing art within a game. His<br />

program is tailored toward his artistic<br />

interest in the gaming industry. He’s<br />

currently working on an animation<br />

for the logo of EA SPORTS<br />

Gaming at MVA.<br />


Down the hall from the gaming<br />

lab, the space opens up to a large<br />

bright room lined with computers<br />

and bookshelves full of previous<br />

yearbooks. <strong>The</strong> yearbook teacher,<br />

Mrs. Savannah Miller, usually has<br />

music playing while her yearbook<br />

students work hard laying out pages<br />

for the <strong>2023</strong>-<strong>24</strong> yearbook. Last year’s<br />

yearbook went into the Gallery of<br />

Excellence and received a first-class<br />

rating with two Marks of Distinction<br />

8 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong><br />

from the National Scholastic Press<br />

Association. <strong>The</strong> journalism students<br />

are learning how to construct a<br />

journalistic piece, learning what a<br />

proper journalistic article should look<br />

like, and learning about journalism<br />

ethics where they are given various<br />

scenarios and have to decide whether<br />

something is ethical. <strong>The</strong>y’ve learned<br />

how to investigate for their journalistic<br />

pieces, write a proper title, and<br />

use the appropriate format. <strong>The</strong>ir<br />

summative assessment is to write<br />

an article to provide them with<br />

practical experience.<br />



In the TV and Film Production<br />

classes, students have begun<br />

producing MVA Highlights that are<br />

broadcast on the digital boards<br />

located around campus. Some of the<br />

latest reels have included a feature<br />

about Diversity Fest, a student<br />

interview of a kindergartener, and<br />

National Signing Day. Film classes<br />

are currently working on a remake<br />

of the movie “Jumanji.” <strong>The</strong>y’ve built<br />

sets and written scripts, and now<br />

they’re filming and editing. Mr. Torres<br />

has received numerous valuable<br />

donations from the MVA community,<br />

including props, paint, set flats, etc.,<br />

to elevate what his students do. <strong>The</strong><br />

Digital Photography students are<br />

learning foundational skills in levelone<br />

classes, such as composing<br />

proper framing and lighting to<br />

create great photos and applying<br />

those skills to different photography<br />

styles: photojournalism, product<br />

photography, macro photography, and<br />

portrait photography. <strong>The</strong>ir pictures<br />

are published in the school yearbook,<br />

so by the time they leave MVA, they<br />

are published photographers who<br />

receive practical experience and<br />

credit for their photos.<br />



Both robotics teams are deep<br />

into the competition season. <strong>The</strong><br />

Middle School team participated in<br />

their first scrimmage for the year<br />

on November 4 and ranked in the<br />

top scorers in both robot runs and<br />

judging presentations. <strong>The</strong>y traveled<br />

to Orlando for their first prequalifier<br />

on December 2. (For more details<br />

about their scrimmage, see page<br />

10.) Upper School students brought<br />

back two recognitions from their first<br />

competition for robot design and<br />

sportsmanship. <strong>The</strong>y will take their

top two teams to Auburn University in<br />

January for a VEX ® Signature event.<br />

“Robotics is student led,” said Dr.<br />

Long. “Instructors provide support,<br />

but students build the programming<br />

and deliver the presentations. We<br />

provide resources and answer<br />

questions, but credit for their success<br />

is squarely on their shoulders. That’s<br />

one of the things that makes our<br />

program the strongest.”<br />



Lower School classes schedule time<br />

in the Lower School Makerspace<br />

to build projects that enrich their<br />

curriculum with materials appropriate<br />

for their age groups. Middle and<br />

Upper School students have access<br />

to tools and materials that are more<br />

sophisticated, such as power tools<br />

and sewing machines, and they have<br />

access to other materials that allow<br />

them to express their learning in more<br />

complex ways.<br />

Middle and Upper School engineering<br />

adopted a curriculum called Project<br />

Lead the Way, a nationally renowned<br />

program that builds engineering<br />

and design skills through specially<br />

designed, hands-on activities.<br />

Students have been working with<br />

breadboards in their electrical<br />

engineering class, and they have<br />

been building miniature houses in<br />

their civil engineering class and<br />

trebuchets in their engineering design<br />

class. We are excited about the<br />

aeronautical engineering class that<br />

will be offered to students this spring.<br />

“As word gets out about the<br />

Innovation Center’s programs, it’s<br />

exciting to me to see it populated<br />

with students of all ages and their<br />

educators,” said Dr. Long. “<strong>The</strong><br />

creative use of the materials and<br />

technology that we have within<br />

the classrooms makes Montverde<br />

Academy’s Innovation Center<br />

a premier part of our students’<br />

academic development.”<br />

Dr. Caryn Long and Robotics Student, Ronald Bushner<br />

TV and Film Production<br />

“<br />

As word is getting out that we have this kind of technology,<br />

I see more and more students come to ask if they can use the<br />

space to create something to enhance their assignment.<br />

”<br />

- Dr. Caryn Long<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 9

Ella Drawdy, Jon Pagano, Andrew Kim, and Je'siah Howard<br />


By Mrs. Nichole Smith, Communications Coordinator<br />

On Saturday, November 4, MVA hosted the Eagle Lego Robotics Scrimmage for 17 middle school<br />

robotics teams across Central Florida, including three MVA middle school teams—#Grandma,<br />

#Grandpa, and #Uncle. <strong>The</strong> competition consisted of two parts: 1) the robot run where the students<br />

must accomplish missions with their self-built robots, and 2) a conversation with judges about their<br />

core values, innovation project, and how they built and programmed their robots.<br />

10 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

This year’s theme for the competition<br />

is called Master Piece. Competitors<br />

had a practice run and three chances<br />

to get a high score, the highest of<br />

those three being taken during the<br />

robot run challenge. <strong>The</strong> other 75<br />

percent of their score came from<br />

judging interviews where they were<br />

asked about how they built and<br />

programmed their robot and how<br />

they incorporated the FIRST ® LEGO ®<br />

core values of discovery, innovation,<br />

impact, inclusion, teamwork, and fun.<br />

For their innovation project this<br />

year, they had to select a hobby<br />

and elevate that hobby with a piece<br />

of technology and art. One of our<br />

teams is trying to make basketball<br />

accessible to the blind. <strong>The</strong> teams<br />

were inspired by a young lady with<br />

visual impairment whose coach would<br />

stand behind the goal and hit the<br />

backboard so she could hear where<br />

it was located, and she won the game<br />

for her team. Inspired by this story,<br />

Team #Grandma created different<br />

ways for those with limited vision to<br />

play the game.<br />

“We’re trying to incorporate our<br />

design into a real model,” said Eisha<br />

Cheema, an eighth-grade student on<br />

Team #Grandma. “I did robotics last<br />

year, and it was interesting to give<br />

new robotics students a visual of<br />

robotics as a whole. When we were in<br />

competition, we tried to include them<br />

in running missions, and we tried to<br />

show them all the different facets of<br />

robotics. It was really exciting having<br />

an event at Montverde Academy for<br />

robotics. It was very competitive,<br />

which added more pressure to the<br />

overall experience.”<br />

Our three teams represented the<br />

school very well on Saturday. Team<br />

#Uncle had the second-highest<br />

score in the robot runs. “At first,<br />

we struggled with the robot coding<br />

because our code was defective,<br />

and we had to figure out a way<br />

to gain more points,” said Jesiah<br />

Howard, an eighth-grade student<br />

on Team #Uncle. “During the robot<br />

runs, we taught our teammates<br />

how to complete missions, which<br />

demonstrated our core value of<br />

gracious professionalism. Doing so<br />

helped us succeed in the end and<br />

gain friendships not only with our<br />

teammates but also with teams from<br />

other schools, enabling both our<br />

teams to succeed.”<br />

Team #Grandma had the highest<br />

score in the judging rooms, and Team<br />

#Grandpa also had a high score<br />

in the judging rooms. “<strong>The</strong> judging<br />

rooms were where we presented<br />

our innovation projects to judges,”<br />

said Dash Green, an eighth-grade<br />

student on Team #Grandpa. “It was<br />

interactive and fun getting to talk to<br />

the judges because some of them<br />

had work experience in the field that<br />

our innovation was related to. <strong>The</strong><br />

racing industry doesn’t have access<br />

for those who don’t have limbs to<br />

drive a racecar. Most of my team was<br />

brand new, but over time we came<br />

together, and now we are pretty good<br />

friends.”<br />

Dr. Long, MVA’s Director of<br />

Educational Technology and<br />

Innovation who organized the event,<br />

said, “With MVA being the only school<br />

in Lake County that hosts this<br />

event, it’s an amazing opportunity<br />

to showcase our school and the<br />

students that work so hard to achieve<br />

top honors.”<br />

Alexis Eastham and Ella Drawdy<br />

THE TOWER | SUMMER <strong>2023</strong> 11

Seniors Miguel Barbosa (pictured above) and Payut Asawasriworanant (lower right)<br />


<strong>The</strong> class of 20<strong>24</strong> kicked off senior year with a two-day Senior Retreat in<br />

September. <strong>The</strong> event was a combination of helpful seminars to prepare<br />

seniors for the future and fun events, including senior T-shirt design, prom<br />

theme voting, a scavenger hunt around campus, and a trip to a local water<br />

park at the end of the first day. <strong>The</strong> highlight of the event every year is the<br />

build-a-bike project that closes out the retreat on Friday.<br />

<strong>The</strong> seniors separate into groups where they are given children's bicycles<br />

that are in pieces that need to be assembled. <strong>The</strong> teams must work<br />

together to get their bikes built in a short time and then prepare for the race.<br />

Each team chooses one member to ride the much-too-small children's bike<br />

in the race. At the end of the event, each bike is donated to the Shop with a<br />

Cop program of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.<br />


For the Middle School Leadership and Service project this<br />

past quarter, eighth-grade students Meera Patel and Sanvhi<br />

Gandhi held a fundraiser, Penny Wars, from October 23–27,<br />

and raised $797 for the local nonprofit Give Kids the World.<br />

Thade Judy and Maria Neves<br />

12 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>


Sahana Penmetsa<br />

Congratulations to fifth grader Sahana Penmetsa on winning<br />

this year’s Lower School Yearbook Cover Art Contest!<br />

Students in Ms. Lori Pollock’s art class were commissioned<br />

to paint a picture in alignment with the <strong>2023</strong>-<strong>24</strong> yearbook<br />

theme: “Growing into Greatness.ˮ Sahana's beautiful artwork<br />

will be featured on the front cover for all to enjoy!<br />


Lower School students gathered together with their families<br />

the week before Thanksgiving to enjoy a feast. Everyone had<br />

a great time sharing smiles and conversation over a delicious<br />

meal, prepared by the MVA Dining Hall staff, and reflecting<br />

on the many things we have to be thankful for.<br />

Aditi Rathore and her mom, Urjita Rathore<br />

BOARDERSʼ NIGHT IN: Country Western Style<br />

By Mrs. Kirstin Coffman, Director of Residential Life<br />

Our boarding students strapped on<br />

their boots and put on their best hat to<br />

head over to our watering hole<br />

(aka the Dining Hall) to enjoy<br />

a cowboy-sized meal together.<br />

Afterwards, we all gathered in<br />

Lindor Hall to enjoy some games,<br />

such as donuts on a string, a horse<br />

races, corn hole, bottle flipping,<br />

balloon popping, and water pouring<br />

challenges. Some students braved<br />

the karaoke machine and sang to<br />

the crowd. We ended the night with<br />

our <strong>The</strong>atre Conservatory students<br />

teaching us how to line dance.<br />

“Planning our ‘country western’<br />

themed night for the boarders was<br />

a lot of fun!” said Mrs. Natasja<br />

Eksteen, Administrative<br />

Assistant to the Dean of<br />

Students for Residential<br />

Life. “Having dinner together<br />

as a boarding family and<br />

then playing various games<br />

in order to bond and get<br />

to know each other better<br />

was the main goal. To see<br />

the boarders relax, laugh,<br />

and dance was really<br />

heartwarming. Some even<br />

learned a new skill. Great<br />

fun was had by all!”<br />

Boarders' Night In<br />

THE TOWER | SUMMER <strong>2023</strong> 13<br />

Mr. Walter Eksteen, Mrs. Kirstin Coffman, Mrs. Natasja Eksteen, and Mrs. Margaret Price

<strong>The</strong> annual Lower School Costume Parade is a favorite event<br />

across campus. Parents, teachers, Upper and Middle school<br />

students, faculty, and staff line the loop at the center of campus<br />

in anticipation. When the parade starts, each Lower School class,<br />

Pre-K3 through fifth grade, makes their way around the loop led<br />

by their teachers. Everyone has a great time, and even the deans<br />

join in on the costume fun!<br />

1<br />

1. Maheeba Minhas, Mrs. Bartley, Henrik Paulsen, and Ziliana Hinds<br />

2. Victoria Jean-Marius, Olivia Coughenour, and Isabell Wojnowski<br />

3. Mrs. Schield’s 4th Grade Class<br />

4. Mrs. Cummings, Meadow Rubio, and Cole McCoy<br />

5. Ms. Shackelford, Mrs. Varnado, and Dr. Robinson<br />

6. Anika Pitolwala<br />

7. Audrey Hogan, Dan Engel, Ava Taylor, and Payson Bedard<br />

8. Mrs. Beckford, Alex de Boer, Dax Minervini, and Sebastian Boccio<br />

9. Gabriel Ozols-Szoke<br />

10. Tess Zegan<br />

2<br />

3<br />

14 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

5<br />

6<br />

4<br />

7<br />

8 9 10<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 15

<strong>The</strong> Dragon Dance<br />

By Mrs. Margaret Price<br />

Assistant Dean of Students for Multiculturalism, Leadership, and Student Programs<br />

Anticipation, excitement, pride, respect, curiosity,<br />

family, community, belonging, peace – those things<br />

that we hope for, but cannot see – never fail to fill the<br />

Bell <strong>Tower</strong> Loop during Diversity Fest.<br />

How blessed I am to have the opportunity to work with a great<br />

planning committee, parents, students, and staff during this time of<br />

year. However, as much as we plan, the magic happens only when the<br />

families arrive on our beautiful campus. Families bring the laughter, the<br />

applause, and the joy. <strong>The</strong>re were many times during the event that a<br />

smile came to my face. I recall the screams from the crowd when the<br />

Phoebe Samba Dancers surprised us with their version of "Y.M.C.A."<br />

and the "Macarena." I thought about how music has the ability to<br />

transcend culture and time. It is amazing how people from diverse<br />

backgrounds can connect through flags, food, music, and dancing.<br />

My hope is that seeds are planted for new friendships, opportunities<br />

for growth, and principles for how we should treat each other.<br />

Shivani Joshi Patel and daughter Ariana Patel<br />

MVA, we are home here.<br />

Jemah Coffman and Edith Smith<br />

16 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

Students Elena Areinamo, Camilla Areinamo, Maelee Johnson, Mia Penton, and Jesus Montenegro representing Venezuela<br />

Booth representing the Country of Haiti Orlando Parai team Flamenco dancers<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 17

18 THE TOWER | SUMMER <strong>2023</strong>

By Mrs. Nichole Smith, Communications Coordinator<br />

Shafic and Ramona El Bacha joined the Montverde<br />

Academy community in 2016 when they enrolled<br />

their first child, Jason, in Pre-K3. Now both their<br />

son and daughter, Kyra, attend MVA as they wanted their<br />

children to be a part of a close-knit school community that<br />

would be on the same campus all the way from preschool<br />

until high school graduation.<br />

One of the things that Mr. El Bacha has been impressed<br />

by is the Academy’s adherence to its mission statement.<br />

“Every word of the mission statement is put into action,”<br />

said Mr. El Bacha, “from the Diversity Fest to building<br />

character.” What drew the El Bachas initially to the<br />

Academy was its commitment to diversity and fostering a<br />

strong sense of community.<br />

“We cannot deny that we like the parents here,” said Mrs.<br />

El Bacha. “We send our kids here not just for the school,<br />

but also for the kids they go to school with. We also share<br />

similar values with the other parents here in how we want<br />

our kids to be raised. Despite our diversity, we all share<br />

certain values.”<br />

After becoming a part of that community, they became<br />

further impressed by Montverde Academy’s emphasis on<br />

innovation, creativity, and character-building; and they<br />

praised Ms. Shackelford, the Dean of the Lower School,<br />

for defining the qualities of good character in every<br />

Assembly. She and the teachers at the Academy have<br />

played a pivotal role in the development of their children’s<br />

character and academic success.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Academy’s diverse and enriching extracurricular<br />

activities have allowed their children to flourish creatively.<br />

Not only have they had the opportunity to explore a<br />

variety of sports, such as swimming, soccer, softball, and<br />

basketball, but they have both been able to nourish their<br />

budding interest in music. When the El Bachas first came<br />

to Montverde Academy, they were introduced to the Arts<br />

Alliance and witnessed its support of art, theatre,<br />

and music.<br />

Throughout his life, Jason has played various instruments,<br />

such as the cello, piano, vocals, saxophone, and guitar,<br />

while Kyra has immersed herself in learning the drums,<br />

guitar, piano, and flute. Mr. Hand, who was Jason’s fourthgrade<br />

teacher and mentor, even asked Jason to play the<br />

saxophone during recess. And Mrs. Cunningham, the<br />

Lower School Technology & <strong>The</strong>atre Arts teacher, has<br />

been a great source of encouragement for both Jason and<br />

Kyra. “She encourages them,” said Mrs. El Bacha. “If they<br />

have an idea, she listens to them and helps them. She’s<br />

the teacher that you feel brings out the best in your kids.”<br />

“<strong>The</strong>y’re building themselves at Montverde Academy, I<br />

think,” continued Mrs. El Bacha. “If you want a balance<br />

between academics and extracurricular, if you want a<br />

good CV for your kids for college, if you want them to<br />

be happy in the community, have diversity from Pre-K3<br />

through senior year, all in one place, you’ll find all of this at<br />

Montverde Academy.”<br />

“ We send our kids here not just<br />

for the school, but for the kids<br />

they go to school with.”<br />

– Ramona El Bacha<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 19

An Enrollment Management<br />

Department Spotlight<br />

By Dr. David Rath, Associate Head of School and Dean of Admissions<br />

As many of you know, our Montverde Academy mascot is Monty the Eagle. This academic year, the<br />

Enrollment Management Office has decided to take Monty along with us during our travels, and he<br />

has been visible in our social media working hard with us at many of our destinations around the<br />

globe. In short, Monty’s wings are tired, and he is looking forward to the semester break to unwind<br />

and recharge.<br />

Late summer of <strong>2023</strong>, Monty<br />

commenced his travel with a trip to<br />

Panama to meet with current parents<br />

and a host of prospective families.<br />

Monty learned that all of his trips<br />

would be very different in an effort<br />

to help us find mission appropriate<br />

students to ensure we are true to<br />

an important part of our mission<br />

statement: “...developing character in<br />

a nurturing and diverse community.”<br />

How do our trips differ from one to<br />

the next? Here are a few examples<br />

of the types of events that Monty<br />

has attended: <strong>The</strong> aforementioned<br />

Panama trip is one type where we<br />

as an Enrollment Management team<br />

create on our own agenda, utilizing<br />

current parents to help us find<br />

prospective families for the following<br />

academic year. Current parents are<br />

perhaps our number one source for<br />

marketing effectively. A second trip<br />

might be to a boarding school fair in a<br />

particular destination (or in a multi-city<br />

roadshow) in which one of our trusted<br />

agents (over 150 active agents<br />

worldwide) puts together meetings<br />

with interested families. <strong>The</strong>se fairs or<br />

roadshows could be large in number<br />

of attendees, and multiple schools<br />

could also be joining us on the trip,<br />

which means we are competing for<br />

<strong>The</strong> Enrollment Management Team<br />

Mrs. Alba Santiago, Ms. Callie Byron, Dr. Dave Rath,<br />

Mrs. Jill Clapper, and Mrs. Yanitza Irizarry-Rivera.<br />

20 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

UNITED<br />




CHINA<br />

UNITED<br />

STATES<br />



JAPAN<br />




INDIA<br />

SOUTH<br />

KOREA<br />




PANAMA<br />

BRAZIL<br />

the same students in attendance.<br />

Conversely, a limited number of<br />

schools may be invited to participate,<br />

which creates a more boutique<br />

experience and allows us more time<br />

with individual family appointments<br />

to share information in greater detail<br />

about Montverde Academy.<br />

Two examples highlighting the<br />

differences between the two fairs<br />

would be a recent trip to Saudi<br />

Arabia at the ARAMCO schools’ fair<br />

in which 83 boarding schools were<br />

in attendance along with hundreds<br />

of ARAMCO school families versus<br />

a weekend fair in China in which<br />

three schools and a small number<br />

of families attended. Each type<br />

of fair requires a different type of<br />

presentation, from a quick elevator<br />

speech to pique a family’s interest to<br />

a 30-minute detailed presentation to<br />

hit the major unique factors available<br />

at Montverde Academy. <strong>The</strong> key is to<br />

quickly ascertain a student’s interests<br />

and then focus the presentation<br />

towards those interests. Monty is<br />

nimble, however, and can quickly<br />

adjust. In addition to prospective<br />

student fairs, we also have agentonly<br />

fairs in which Monty and the<br />

Enrollment Management team will<br />

attend a two-day event on a weekend<br />

and meet with current agents who<br />

want to learn more about Montverde<br />

Academy and then in turn sell a<br />

family as to the value of our program<br />

to try to convince them to apply to our<br />

school. <strong>The</strong>se agents are paramount<br />

in helping us hit our annual target of<br />

approximately 260 boarding students<br />

each year.<br />

So why are Monty’s wings worn out?<br />

Thus far in the first semester, he has<br />

visited Panama, Brazil, Vietnam,<br />

China (twice), Thailand, Prague,<br />

Bratislava, Bermuda, London,<br />

Morocco, India, Saudi Arabia,<br />

Portugal, Germany, Grand Cayman,<br />

South Korea, Japan, and Finland. As<br />

a team, we have traveled many miles<br />

to enhance the Montverde Academy<br />

brand and mission, and Monty has<br />

been with us every step of the way!<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 21

Student Spotlights were written by Mrs. Nichole Smith, Communications Coordinator<br />


Gabriel Ozols-Szoke, a fifth-grade<br />

student at Montverde Academy,<br />

has been attending MVA since his<br />

kindergarten<br />

year.<br />

22 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Gabriel has played soccer and a little<br />

football, but currently, he loves to<br />

play basketball and plans to follow<br />

in his older brother’s footsteps and<br />

join CBD when he enters the Middle<br />

School next year.<br />

In addition to basketball, Gabriel<br />

has a keen interest in computer<br />

technology. Fifth-grade students have<br />

the opportunity to take a computer<br />

technology course where they learn<br />

computer coding and other valuable<br />

computer-based skills. He’s currently<br />

working on designing a website and<br />

is excited about learning how to<br />

use Canva very soon. He had much<br />

success creating stories for the<br />

games he designed, and he looks<br />

forward to utilizing MVA’s newly<br />

renovated Innovation Center where<br />

he hopes to explore his interest in<br />

computers even further.<br />

“When it comes to computers,<br />

Gabriel has the ability to see<br />

how the logical progression of<br />

a process can lead to multiple<br />

outcomes,” said Ms. Cyndi<br />

Cunningham, the Lower School<br />

Technology & <strong>The</strong>atre teacher.<br />

“That’s a huge advantage in<br />

technology. He can also write very<br />

creative narratives and storylines<br />

for his games and projects,<br />

making them not only thoughtful<br />

but fun for everyone.” Gabriel<br />

is grateful to Mr. Steve Hand for<br />

sparking his interest in social<br />

studies and to<br />

Mrs. Saliesha Meder for cultivating<br />

in him a love for reading. In Mr.<br />

Hand’s class, students completed<br />

a document-based question (DBQ)<br />

on St. Augustine. “We also went to<br />

St. Augustine, which I enjoyed, and<br />

that enhanced my interest in social<br />

studies,” said Gabriel. In Mrs. Meder’s<br />

class, he felt he was able to take his<br />

interest in reading to the next level<br />

in the Accelerated Reader program<br />

where students read AR books of<br />

their choice, take quizzes on them,<br />

and accumulate points. “Someone<br />

said they had 1.5 points higher<br />

than I did,” said Gabriel, “so I started<br />

reading like crazy so I could<br />

beat them.”<br />

He hopes one day to shoot for the<br />

NBA or go the business route and<br />

be a CFO of a company. His parents<br />

have been his greatest source of<br />

inspiration. “My dad was an engineer<br />

who went into business and started<br />

his own company, and my mom is<br />

very hardworking,” Gabriel said. No<br />

matter where he goes in life, Gabriel’s<br />

competitive nature, his knack for<br />

storytelling, and his interest in<br />

computers will certainly serve<br />

him well.<br />

He can write very creative<br />

narratives and storylines for<br />

his games and projects, making<br />

them not only thoughtful but fun<br />

for everyone.<br />

- Ms. Cyndi Cunningham,<br />

Lower School Technology Teacher



Sanvhi Gandhi, an eighth-grade student at Montverde Academy, moved here from New Jersey with her<br />

family at the beginning of her sixth-grade year. “My dad chose this school for me and my brother,” said<br />

Sanvhi. “As soon as I stepped on the campus, I loved the openness of it all. My former school in New<br />

Jersey was a lot smaller, so seeing the huge campus was a really big surprise. And my older brother liked<br />

that it was a college preparatory school.”<br />

Her first year at MVA, she focused<br />

primarily on her academics as she<br />

transitioned to her new home and<br />

school. During that time, she was<br />

surprised to discover a newfound<br />

interest in making study guides for<br />

her classmates. Leadership qualities<br />

were certainly burgeoning within her,<br />

but as a self-described introvert, she<br />

was terrified of putting herself out<br />

there. In her fine arts class, however,<br />

she developed a love for performing in<br />

theatre, which would set the foundation<br />

for her leadership and public speaking<br />

roles in the coming years. She also<br />

discovered her love for photojournalism,<br />

and her photos were featured in that<br />

year’s MVA 2021-22 poster.<br />

In seventh grade, she was elected SGA<br />

Historian and was inducted into the<br />

National Junior Honor Society (NJHS).<br />

She was also accepted to the Honor<br />

Council. Her love for theatre grew<br />

that year when she performed in “<strong>The</strong><br />

Nephew/Son’s Revenge,” an original<br />

stage play written and directed by Mr.<br />

Adrian Wright-Ahern, the Middle School<br />

<strong>The</strong>atre Director. Later that year, she<br />

acted in the musical “Willy Wonka.”<br />

“Being able to take part in theatre was<br />

a wonderful opportunity that I will never<br />

forget,ˮ said Sanvhi. “<strong>The</strong> experience of<br />

going out on stage and performing was<br />

amazing, and I can’t wait to do it again<br />

this year!” It’s no wonder she received<br />

the All-Around Seventh Grader Award at<br />

the end of the school year.<br />

This year, Sanvhi is an SGA<br />

Representative. In that role, she<br />

represents her advisory in the weekly<br />

Friday meetings and serves as a voice<br />

for other students Alexander and Mounsey their troubles.<br />

She was also elected Honor Council<br />

President. “This is only the second<br />

year that the Middle School has had<br />

an Honor Council. As President this<br />

year, I want to make the Honor Council<br />

even more involved with the school<br />

and help students.” Sanvhi was elected<br />

Vice President of NJHS and Secretary<br />

of the Builders Club this year, and she<br />

helps plan events for the Middle School.<br />

She is also a part of the Yearbook Club<br />

where she gets to explore her creative<br />

side by taking photos and writing.<br />

She even reliably provides stories<br />

and photos for MVA’s marketing and<br />

communications department<br />

on occasion.<br />

One of her favorite classes this year<br />

is Elements of Engineering Design. “I<br />

love learning about different buildings<br />

and the engineering process,” said<br />

Sanvhi. As an avid builder and<br />

crafter, she hopes to follow in her<br />

mother’s engineering footsteps and<br />

become an architectural engineer.<br />

“Architecture would be a good<br />

way to show my creative side and<br />

also to apply my math skills.” As<br />

an architect, she wants to create<br />

designs that use environmentally<br />

friendly materials.<br />

She’s grateful for the teachers in<br />

the Middle School who have helped<br />

her to see the bigger picture. “Mr.<br />

Narducci teaches us not only about<br />

history but also about life lessons<br />

that we need to learn. Ms. Williams<br />

and Mrs. Parets are very helpful with<br />

a lot of things. I think the teachers<br />

here are a big part of helping us<br />

become the people we want to be.<br />

And I really appreciate the way<br />

Mr. Urquhart and Mrs. Fracker guide<br />

me toward doing something and then<br />

give me feedback on it. <strong>The</strong>y trust<br />

us with a lot, which shows that they<br />

respect us.”<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 23



Brianna Monahan enrolled at Montverde Academy in 2009 for Pre-K3. Her parents wanted their daughter<br />

to have an early start on the best academic opportunities available. Now a senior at MVA, she has<br />

developed into a talented violinist, an accomplished swimmer, and a person who has a heart for<br />

community service.<br />

While in the Lower School, Brianna<br />

joined K-Kids, an organization that<br />

helps elementary-aged students<br />

discover their passion for service and<br />

leadership, a decision that would ignite<br />

a lifelong passion for serving. When<br />

Brianna was in the fourth grade, she<br />

began swimming competitively at the<br />

National Training Center where she<br />

would continue her training for the next<br />

three years. And at the end of that same<br />

year, she won the Dean’s Award.<br />

When Brianna transitioned to the Middle<br />

School and her classes became more<br />

rigorous, she knew the road ahead<br />

of her would be a challenging one.<br />

But that did not stop her from pouring<br />

herself into her volunteering efforts,<br />

nor did it stop her from pushing herself<br />

to be a great musician and studentathlete.<br />

In the sixth grade, she joined<br />

the Builders Club and began playing the<br />

violin for MVA’s Advanced Orchestra,<br />

which she would continue through<br />

her junior year. In the seventh grade,<br />

she joined the school swim team and<br />

is still a part of that team today. She<br />

also joined the National Junior Honor<br />

Society during that year and became<br />

the NJHS President the following year.<br />

She even won the Dean’s Award<br />

once again at the end of her<br />

eighth-grade year.<br />

During her sophomore year, Brianna<br />

began volunteering for Eight Waves,<br />

a local nonprofit that provides<br />

resources for those in under-resourced<br />

communities. Her friend Tatiana Pinto,<br />

a current senior, founded a hygiene<br />

branch for Eight Waves and asked<br />

Brianna to join her as co-director.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y have held two hygiene drives on<br />

campus and plan to hold the next one<br />

in the spring.<br />

Brianna continued playing the<br />

violin for the Advanced<br />

Orchestra until her<br />

junior year. “Playing<br />

the violin is similar<br />

to swimming when<br />

it comes to how<br />

much work you put<br />

into it,” said Brianna.<br />

“When you practice<br />

your violin, you see the<br />

results.” That mindset<br />

helped her to win a<br />

sportsmanship award<br />

and the most improved<br />

award for swimming. She<br />

attributes her success to<br />

her own dedication and<br />

to the help of her<br />

swimming coach,<br />

Coach Gui.<br />

“Even when<br />

I feel like I’m<br />

maxed out or I don’t have anything left,”<br />

Brianna said, “he always says, ‘Come<br />

on. You can do more.’” She has also<br />

been grateful for the cultural diversity of<br />

the swim team. Most of her teammates<br />

have been from Brazil, which has<br />

exposed her to Brazilian culture and to<br />

different perspectives. She has even<br />

learned a little Portuguese! In addition<br />

to her extracurricular successes,<br />

Brianna has also achieved a number<br />

of academic successes. She is a<br />

member of the STEM Student Area<br />

Concentration program for biomedicine<br />

at MVA. She is also a Distinguished<br />

Scholar and an AP Scholar with<br />

Distinction.<br />

She is inspired by her mother’s<br />

remarkable work ethic and by her dad<br />

who enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and<br />

used his G.I. bill to pay for college. “It’s<br />

really difficult sometimes to balance<br />

the number of things that I do,” said<br />

Brianna, “and my parents have always<br />

been there to tell me that if I put in<br />

the work and learn how to manage<br />

my time, I will be successful.” She is<br />

also inspired by her classmate Emily<br />

Santos for her passion and dedication<br />

to swimming; by Mrs. Dana Cook, her<br />

Pre-K3 teacher who still checks in on<br />

her to this day; and by Mrs. Emilie<br />

Fracker, her second-grade teacher<br />

who has always provided her with<br />

support. During her childhood, Brianna<br />

spent much time at her abuela’s house<br />

where she would help take care of her<br />

younger siblings. “It made me into a<br />

very nurturing person, which made me<br />

want to pursue medicine,” said Brianna.<br />

“I enjoy being with kids and helping kids<br />

in any way that I can.” Wherever life<br />

takes her, Brianna will certainly carry<br />

with her a determination to succeed and<br />

a passion for helping others in need.



Jayvian Greene, a senior at Montverde Academy, discovered his passion for track and field at<br />

the age of seven, inspired by his sister’s footsteps. “I was always the little brother to follow<br />

behind her,” said Jayvian. “When I finally got to my first meet, I felt a spark inside me.”<br />

He went on to run in the Junior<br />

Olympics when he was in middle<br />

school, which helped to solidify his love<br />

for track. When he entered high school,<br />

he began looking for schools that had<br />

a strong track program. What attracted<br />

Jayvian to Montverde Academy was not<br />

only its renowned track team but also its<br />

high academic standards, a place that<br />

would provide him with a well-rounded<br />

education.<br />

Jayvian knew about Coach Gerald<br />

Phiri, MVA’s track and field coach, and<br />

his reputation for developing strong<br />

athletes. And after enrolling in MVA in<br />

the fall of 2022 and joining the track<br />

and field team, Jayvian soon saw that<br />

Coach Phiri would help him to develop<br />

as an athlete, as well. “When I got<br />

here, I was running fast, but I feel like<br />

I wasn’t running at my full potential,”<br />

said Jayvian. “Coach Phiri got to know<br />

who I was as a person. I feel like that<br />

affects how you run. Before I came to<br />

this school, I was running 49 or 50,<br />

but Coach Phiri got me down to a 46,<br />

which is honestly amazing because I<br />

didn’t think I was going to run it.” He<br />

also praises his teammates. “You need<br />

to have the team in order to be the best<br />

person that you can be,” said Jayvian.<br />

He recalls a time when his teammates<br />

formed a circle around him and cheered<br />

him on to celebrate a victory, and he is<br />

especially grateful that they are there to<br />

lift him up when he doesn’t do his best.<br />

Jayvian enjoys acting in theatre<br />

productions, and he is also a longtime<br />

musician. Both theatre and music have<br />

helped him deal with the anxieties<br />

associated with being a dedicated<br />

athlete. “<strong>The</strong>atre helps bring a certain<br />

presence to the person,” said Jayvian.<br />

“It helped a lot with my anxiety and<br />

nervousness because if you’re running<br />

in front of people, you’re acting in front<br />

of people.” Jayvian grew up playing<br />

the French horn, the trumpet, and the<br />

saxophone. “Music is a part of who<br />

I am and who I think I want to be in<br />

the future,” said Jayvian. “Track and<br />

field can be stressful. Music gives me<br />

something that I can lean back on to<br />

help me focus or calm down. When my<br />

nerves are going, a song can help me<br />

get out of that and get ready to run.”<br />

Jayvian is also a leader of Fellowship<br />

of Christian Athletes.<br />

“I like helping people get closer<br />

to God, and I think God is a<br />

big part of who I am as<br />

a person.”<br />

After he graduates,<br />

Jayvian plans to<br />

run collegiately and<br />

major in physical<br />

therapy or nursing.<br />

He feels that<br />

Montverde Academy<br />

has provided a<br />

strong foundation<br />

for that path, not<br />

only with track but<br />

also with the wide<br />

array of science<br />

classes available.<br />

Jayvian has made<br />

a strong connection<br />

with his teachers at<br />

MVA and praises<br />

Dr. Michelle<br />

Sherwin, his<br />

English teacher,<br />

for her patience<br />

and kindness,<br />

and Ms. Courtney<br />

Richardson, his<br />

AP psychology<br />

teacher, for<br />

effectively<br />

teaching him<br />

about human behavior and the way<br />

people think. After college, he hopes<br />

to run in the Olympics. “I plan to keep<br />

running as long as I can,” said Jayvian,<br />

“as long as my body allows me to.”<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 25

By Mr. Michael Damon, Sports Information Manager<br />

Montverde Academy athletics dominated the sports scene this fall with five out<br />

of its seven varsity sports winning the Citrus League Championship while the<br />

boys and girls swim teams captured championships at the FHSAA District<br />

and Regional levels.<br />


• Ten wins of the season<br />

• Fourth-place finish in FHSAA Class 3A District 4 standings<br />

• Advanced into the silver bracket of the Bishop Moore<br />

Swing for the Cure tournament.<br />


• Citrus League Champions<br />

• Lake County Cup Champions<br />

• 6-2-2 overall record<br />


• 2-1 overall record in dual meets<br />

• Knights Invitational Champions<br />

• Lake County Cup Champions<br />

• FHSAA Regional Qualifiers<br />

• Team member Victoria Renzi qualified for<br />

State Championship Meet as an individual.<br />

Otto Barroso<br />


• Citrus League Champions<br />

• Eagle Invitational Champions<br />

• FHSAA Regional and State qualifiers<br />


• Citrus League Champions<br />

• FHSAA Regional and State qualifiers<br />


• 5-0 record in dual meets<br />

• Citrus League Champions<br />

• FHSAA District Champions<br />

• FHSAA Regional Champions<br />

• Sixth Place at FHSAA State Championship meet<br />


• 5-0 record in dual meets<br />

• Citrus League Champions<br />

• FHSAA District Champions<br />

• FHSAA Regional Champions<br />

• Fifth Place at FHSAA State Championship meet<br />

• Team member Emily Santos won state champion in 100-yard breaststroke (1:01.44).<br />

• Second Place at FSPA Invitational<br />

26 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Girls Cross Country

Regina Torres<br />

Victoria Renzi<br />

Lyla McMillen<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 27<br />

Isabella Johnson Leo Kim Salvatore Scelfo


MVA Swim Champion<br />

By Mr. Michael Damon, Sports Information Manager<br />

Montverde Academy girls swim team<br />

member Emily Santos closed out<br />

a memorable swimming career at<br />

Montverde Academy, capped by her<br />

win at the Florida High School Athletic<br />

Association (FHSAA) Class 1A state<br />

championship in Ocala on Saturday,<br />

November 4.<br />

She captured gold in the 100-yard<br />

breaststroke at the state’s top meet in<br />

a personal best time of 1:01.44, .04<br />

faster than her previous personal<br />

best that she established when<br />

winning the FHSAA Class<br />

1A District 4 championship<br />

in Avon Park just a few<br />

weeks earlier.<br />

“Winning the state<br />

championship was<br />

amazing,” Santos<br />

said. “I was racing<br />

with some people<br />

I knew, and I really<br />

respect them, so it<br />

was a fun experience<br />

and a happy moment. I<br />

was shooting to win that<br />

race this year, and I am<br />

happy that I got it.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> win was fitting for Santos<br />

who has exemplified excellence<br />

since enrolling at Montverde Academy<br />

in the spring of 2020. As a member of<br />

the girls swim team, she has played a<br />

pivotal role in helping the Eagles to an<br />

abundance of wins as a team, including<br />

the Citrus League championship, the<br />

FHSAA District championship, and<br />

FHSAA Regional championship the<br />

past two years.<br />

This past season alone, Santos helped<br />

the Eagles to an undefeated 5-0 record<br />

in dual meets, while the Eagles finished<br />

in the top five in each of its multi-team<br />

meets in <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Her victory in the state championship<br />

was fitting for a student-athlete who has<br />

been a model of excellence<br />

at Montverde Academy. In the pool,<br />

Santos has already garnered the<br />

experience of a veteran, having<br />

represented her native country of<br />

Panama on the world stage at events<br />

such as <strong>The</strong> Pan American Games,<br />

World Aquatics Games, Central<br />

American Games, and the Summer<br />

Olympics in Tokyo, Japan in 2021.<br />

She also became the first studentathlete<br />

in recent memory at Montverde<br />

Academy to win the Montverde<br />

Academy Student-Athlete of the Week<br />

award multiple times in one season.<br />

She garnered Montverde Academy’s<br />

top weekly award on October 3 and<br />

November 7 of this year.<br />

Outside the pool, Santos is serving as<br />

Head Prefect this year. She is also<br />

a part of the Model UN team, the<br />

Art’s Club, and an AP art studio<br />

class, taking full advantage<br />

of the abundance of<br />

available opportunities<br />

at Montverde Academy.<br />

“<strong>The</strong> combination of<br />

competitive sport and<br />

strong academics is what<br />

made me want to come<br />

to Montverde Academy,”<br />

Santos said. “Most of the<br />

stuff I do is something that<br />

I really love to do, and I love<br />

working with the people I get to<br />

work with here.”<br />

After she graduates this spring, Santos<br />

will continue her student-athlete career<br />

at Virginia Tech University where she<br />

will be a member of their women’s swim<br />

team. She aspires to work in business<br />

or marketing someday.


Montverde, FL<br />


Wolfeboro, NH<br />


Ft. Lauderdale, FL<br />


Pittsburgh, PA<br />


Orlando, FL<br />


Napa, CA<br />


Miami, FL<br />


Gainesville, FL<br />

EIGHT<br />

TEAMS,<br />

ONE<br />


MAIT 20<strong>24</strong><br />


17235 SEVENTH STREET,<br />

MONTVERDE, FL 34756<br />

mvasports.com<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 29

X<br />

Congratulations to our student-athletes who announced their<br />

college decisions during the first signing day on November 8, <strong>2023</strong>!<br />

Lola Ressler<br />

Wake Forest University<br />

Soccer<br />

Amy Zona<br />

Davidson College<br />

Soccer<br />

Sara Zona<br />

Davidson College<br />

Soccer<br />

Emily Santos<br />

Virginia Tech<br />

Swim<br />

Regina Torres<br />

University of Houston<br />

Swim<br />

Lexi Perez<br />

Quinnipiac University<br />

Softball<br />

Marisol Gonzalez<br />

Emory University<br />

Softball<br />

Jenna Meder<br />

Florida Southern College<br />

Softball<br />

Ting-Wei (Tim) Chang<br />

University of Oregon<br />

Golf<br />

Gerardo Gomez<br />

University of Arkansas<br />

Golf<br />

Jerry Miao<br />

Macalester College<br />

Golf<br />

Cooper Flagg<br />

Duke University<br />

Basketball<br />

Asa Newell<br />

University of Georgia<br />

Basketball<br />

Curtis Givens<br />

Louisiana State University<br />

Basketball<br />

Robert Wright III<br />

Baylor University<br />

Basketball<br />

Liam McNeeley<br />

Indiana University<br />

Basketball<br />

Wesley Siegel<br />

Furman University<br />

Soccer<br />

Girik Walling<br />

Walsh University<br />

Soccer<br />

Go Eagles!<br />

30 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>


Scan QR Code to join<br />

or for more information<br />

contact Jeff Osterman at<br />

jeff.osterman@montverde.org<br />

Don't miss our spring performances!<br />

“Oliver”<br />

“Tempest”<br />

“Music of the Night” (Arts Alliance exclusive)<br />

“Aspects of Love”<br />

“Unexpected Song Music Cabaret”<br />

“Clue Onstage”<br />

and more!<br />

Scan the QR Code<br />

or contact Mary-Kay Rath at<br />

mary-kay.rath@montverde.org<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 31

Javier Collazo Lopez and Lily Downs in<br />

“Sunday in the Park with George”<br />

Behind the Scenes<br />

By Mr. Dean Bell, Director of Arts<br />

In the last year or so, it has become impossible to read a professional journal, attend a conference,<br />

or even speak with many colleagues without the topic of AI creeping into the discussion. To say that<br />

the topic has become pervasive almost across our culture is an understatement. Now, let me state up<br />

front I am not an AI hater, nor is this an AI-hating article, but I do hold some very strong sentiments<br />

about the topic and how it impacts our Arts and our Artists.<br />

32 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

To be clear, I think there are great uses for AI. <strong>The</strong> fact that I can<br />

potentially “fix” a once-in-a-lifetime photo where my camera’s focus<br />

was off makes me very glad for these technological advances.<br />

Nevertheless, I have to question if all of my photos need to be<br />

tweaked, corrected, and retouched. As I look through my photo album,<br />

I am reminded of the “reality” of the photo where my grandson’s mouth<br />

is open, his tongue out, his gaze not focused on the camera, or his tie<br />

hanging slightly askew. I guess because, in the end, I am reminded by<br />

the picture that life (at least mine) has seldom been perfect. Frankly, I<br />

have played with AI generators and am quite thrilled with how flattering<br />

they can make a picture of me, but I would be hard-pressed to want<br />

my family to remember me that way – I stand proud of the gray (and<br />

mostly absent) hair and wrinkles I have earned along my journeys.<br />

Sophia Liu in “Strings of the Macabre” Concert<br />

Beyond that, however, in my role as a director and protector of the<br />

Arts, I am left uncertain of what that precedent means for either our<br />

Artists or our consumers of Art. <strong>The</strong> artist and author David Bayles,<br />

in his book “Art and Fear,” states, “To require perfection is to invite<br />

paralysis. <strong>The</strong> pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you<br />

have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do<br />

perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can<br />

do – away from risk and exploration.” As I watch our young students<br />

who work with software of this ilk, I see they become increasingly<br />

unwilling to put out a product that does meet their AI-trained standards.<br />

Our singers constantly compare their vocal skills to the tracks they<br />

listen to. Our dancers and actors judge themselves against clips which<br />

have been thoroughly retouched to present the artist at their very best.<br />

Likewise, as consumers, I see individuals less accepting of flaws in Art.<br />

This is across the board: photography, music, visual art, film/tv, and<br />

even live theatre. I am concerned, though, what message this need for<br />

“perfection” sends to our students.<br />

Daphne Gunasekera in “Masquerade” Vocal Salon<br />

Make no mistake, I believe the attempt to strive for our highest quality<br />

is incredibly important, and as you know and will see later in this article<br />

MVA certainly accomplishes that in our Arts programs; nevertheless,<br />

I feel this search for false perfection undermines at least four of the<br />

five central pillars of our Arts Mission (Creativity, Humanity, Integrity,<br />

Passion, and Success). It certainly takes away our Creativity as at its<br />

core AI is certainly someone else’s creativity. I may produce beautiful<br />

and worthwhile music using AI software, but it can never be fully<br />

mine. It was created from algorithms programmed by someone else.<br />

Integrity, I believe, always speaks to truth and honesty – and I am not<br />

calling AI Art dishonest, but am questioning if performances altered via<br />

computer enhancement (or even a simple auto tune) are true to the<br />

Artist I wish to be – and wish our students to be. Similarly, we want the<br />

Art that comes out of the Sandra O. Stephens buildings to be filled with<br />

the Passion of the individual who created it – not sterilized down so<br />

there are no flaws or rough edges. Warhol was not dispassionate. Van<br />

Gogh was not flawless. It is the Humanity piece, however, where I feel<br />

AI does us the greatest disservice. That we teach our student Artists<br />

to create despite our imperfections, despite our fear of failure, despite<br />

the potential judgement of others is what gives our Art humanity – and<br />

makes it the microcosm of life that also gives it beauty, longevity, and<br />

the ability to touch others.<br />

Montverde Academy Cross Country Invitational<br />

THE TOWER | | SUMMER WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 2022 33<br />

Middle School students in “Lucky Stiff”

Megan Busby in “Lucky Stiff”<br />

Gia Parker in “Masquerade”<br />

What may have spurred this article was<br />

our recent Middle School production<br />

of “Lucky Stiff.” At the risk of giving<br />

away some trade secret, I will tell you<br />

a couple of the scenes in that show<br />

did not come off the way they were<br />

planned or intended. Another secret –<br />

in live theatre they oftentimes do not!<br />

What they were, though, was genuine,<br />

memorable, enjoyable, at times utterly<br />

hilarious, and completely the students’<br />

work. Mr. Wright-Ahern had done<br />

a tremendous job of coaching the<br />

students, and the show went on with<br />

many people none the wiser. For my<br />

money, I will put that on a par with any<br />

dispassionate “perfect” show any day.<br />

When I have opportunities to judge<br />

competitions, I am always far more<br />

likely to recognize a slightly less perfect<br />

performance that made me “feel”<br />

something than a more perfect but less<br />

passionate one.<br />

So, to return to my title, creating<br />

Art in an AI world certainly creates<br />

possibilities for us never before<br />

available – and where appropriate we<br />

should embrace those technologies to<br />

create new and beautiful works. Along<br />

the way, however, we need to continue<br />

to educate our students and audiences<br />

in the importance of imperfection in<br />

the Arts, lest along the way we stop<br />

recognizing our individual creativity<br />

in favor of a conceived perfection of<br />

commonality.<br />

I am happy to share in the remainder<br />

of this article some of the Successes<br />

of our “imperfect” Artists. Our first<br />

Mainstage show of the season, “Sunday<br />

in the Park with George,” received 25<br />

Applause Award nominations, including<br />

Outstanding Musical (see inset for<br />

complete list). Three of our Music<br />

Conservatory students, Hanan Geda,<br />

Jason Tejada-Chancay, and Sophia Liu,<br />

all successfully auditioned and were<br />

selected to All-State Ensembles by the<br />

Florida Music Education Association.<br />

Lower School musicians Cece Hymel,<br />

Anika Pitolwala, Jason El-Bacha, Isabell<br />

Wojnowski, and Maheeba Minhas were<br />

selected to perform at the Southern<br />

Regional Honors Choir.<br />

Lower School artist Ava Taylor won<br />

“Best of Show” at Montverde Day.<br />

Our Middle and Upper School music<br />

students successfully presented three<br />

sold-out nights of their Vocal Salon,<br />

“Masquerade.” Our strings students<br />

presented a standing-room-only concert<br />

entitled “Strings of the Macabre.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> Middle School theatre students,<br />

as mentioned,<br />

produced a<br />

very enjoyable<br />

presentation of<br />

“Lucky Stiff.”<br />

By the time this goes<br />

to press, the <strong>The</strong>atre<br />

Conservatory<br />

34 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

Cast of “Sunday in the Park with George”<br />

will have presented their Black Box<br />

production of “<strong>The</strong> Thanksgiving Play,”<br />

as well as their competition production<br />

of “<strong>The</strong> Last Supper" and will have<br />

taken over 30 “<strong>The</strong>spys” to District<br />

competition.<br />

In December, the joint forces of all three<br />

Conservatories will combine with a<br />

number of organizations across campus<br />

to create the Montverde Academy<br />

Holiday Fest, which brings our annual<br />

tradition of “Lessons and Carols” back<br />

to MVA for the first time in a decade and<br />

rebrands it into a full afternoon/evening<br />

of enjoyable experiences designed for<br />

the entire family.<br />

We are incredibly proud of our Art<br />

and Artists and the way each of you<br />

supports them – and that is a truth that<br />

does not need touched up by AI!<br />



Outstanding Musical<br />

Outstanding Ensemble<br />

Outstanding Leads: Lily Downs and Javier Collazo Lopez<br />

Outstanding Supporting Performers: Amelie Jaime,<br />

Arianna Parrilla, Eros Sanchez, and Mellany Wernek<br />

Outstanding Singers: Lily Downs, Javier Collazo Lopez, and<br />

Amelie Jaime<br />

Outstanding Actors: Elizabeth Crosley, Eros Sanchez,<br />

and Tyler Price<br />

Outstanding Dancers: Jade Harvey and Ariana Delgado<br />

Outstanding Director: Mr. David Ian Lee<br />

Outstanding Music Director: Mr. Dean Bell<br />

Outstanding Choreographer: Mrs. Jessica Birt Paz<br />

Outstanding Set Design: Mr. Michael Citrinite<br />

Outstanding Lighting Design: Mr. Michael Citrinite<br />

Outstanding Costume Design: Ms. Kat Henwood<br />

Outstanding Hair & Make-up Design: Ms. Kat Henwood<br />

Outstanding Sound Design: Elana Young and Zach Lane<br />

Outstanding Stage Manager: Phoenix Connick<br />

Cast of “<strong>The</strong> Thanksgiving Play”<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 35

DANCE<br />


By Mrs. Nichole Smith, Communications Coordinator<br />

Pictured from left to right are Dance Conservatory students Elise Block,<br />

Estela Carattini-Cintron, and Evelyn Schorr<br />

At<br />

the beginning of the <strong>2023</strong>-<strong>24</strong> academic year, Montverde Academy<br />

introduced the Dance Conservatory as a third track in the Fine Arts<br />

Conservatories. Mrs. Jessica Birt Paz came on board last year as an adjunct to<br />

teach six musical theatre-level classes per week and work with the choir. Once<br />

MVA decided to branch into a Conservatory program, she came on board as a<br />

full-time dance instructor. “I have been in dance conservatory programs since<br />

the sixth grade and thrive in that environment,” said Mrs. Paz.<br />

36 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong><br />

Mrs. Jessica Birt Paz

‟<br />

I’m not looking for the best technique in the room. It’s when<br />

I can’t take my eyes off you that the true artist is pulling me in.<br />

”<br />

“From the beginning when we<br />

implemented the Conservatory models<br />

here at Montverde Academy, dance<br />

and movement have always been an<br />

integral portion of our offerings,” said<br />

Mr. Dean Bell, the Director of Arts<br />

at MVA. “It became evident early on<br />

that elevating the quality of our dance<br />

instruction would have the added<br />

benefit of raising the quality of our<br />

overall programs and our productions.<br />

Over time we continued to grow the<br />

dance offerings to the point where it<br />

was a natural next step to employ a fulltime<br />

dance teacher. Finding someone<br />

with the technical background and love<br />

for the Art, as well as being a perfect<br />

fit with the students, was the key to<br />

making that jump; Mrs. Jessica Birt Paz<br />

was that person. It was always the plan<br />

at that point to admit full-time dance<br />

majors, thereby creating a third track<br />

in our Conservatories. <strong>The</strong> presence of<br />

the additional instruction, as well as the<br />

presence of our new dance majors, has<br />

already significantly impacted the types<br />

and quality of offerings we are able to<br />

undertake. We couldn’t be prouder to<br />

have the Dance Conservatory as one<br />

of the new hallmarks of our incredibly<br />

successful Arts program.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> Dance curriculum focuses on four<br />

major movement components: jazz,<br />

ballet, tap, and modern. Jazz classes<br />

in particular focus a great deal on<br />

developing musculature as well as<br />

the technique of jazz dancing. Most<br />

students pick up on this very quickly –<br />

especially those who have been musical<br />

theatre students. Ballet, however,<br />

takes many years of practice, so those<br />

classes are geared more towards<br />

technical and muscular development.<br />

“If you get stronger in ballet,” said Mrs.<br />

Paz, “it’ll make everything else better.”<br />

Tap is a very structured and repetitive<br />

step-based class in which, again, MVA<br />

students seem to excel. Modern is very<br />

much geared to fluidity, expressivity,<br />

and creativity. “<strong>The</strong>re really are no<br />

holds barred in this class as long as the<br />

student finds the way for the music to<br />

speak through dance.” Although placing<br />

great emphasis on technique, Mrs. Paz<br />

ultimately wants to see the artist. “I’m<br />

not looking for the best technique in the<br />

room. It’s when I can’t take my eyes off<br />

you that the true artist is pulling me in.”<br />

To say her dancers have already shown<br />

amazing success is underscored by the<br />

fact that last year, Mrs. Paz received<br />

the Outstanding Choreographer Award<br />

from the Applause Awards for her<br />

choreography in “December Songs.”<br />

“It was definitely a validating moment,”<br />

said Mrs. Paz.<br />

Mrs. Paz also values her students<br />

having the strength to be “confidently<br />

wrong,” as she puts it. “That’s why I<br />

love live theatre so much, because<br />

I love when things go wrong and to<br />

see how that artist critically thinks and<br />

solves the problem. I want to see how<br />

they handle it when things happen,”<br />

said Mrs. Paz. “We had a student who,<br />

unfortunately, had a costume issue. She<br />

came on stage and delivered that scene<br />

perfectly while holding her skirt up<br />

around her waist. Everything changes<br />

when you go on that stage and the<br />

lights are up. That’s the true challenge,<br />

and that’s where you truly find out<br />

what you have to give and<br />

who you are.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> Dance Conservatory<br />

also has an academicbased<br />

learning component<br />

that teaches the fundamentals<br />

of vocabulary, history, anatomy, and<br />

everything students need to know to<br />

further their career as a professional<br />

dancer or teacher. “When you know<br />

what the words mean, you know how<br />

to approach the dynamics of that<br />

movement better,” said Mrs. Paz.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Dance Conservatory aims to<br />

prepare students for what they<br />

will encounter at the college level.<br />

“My focus is on strengthening their<br />

bodies, strengthening their minds,<br />

strengthening their self-awareness,<br />

giving them a handle on injury<br />

prevention, and preparing them<br />

academically for a successful collegiate<br />

dance program,” said Mrs. Paz<br />

Estela Carattini-Cintron<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 37

<strong>The</strong> 2020 basketball team with Coach Kevin Boyle receiving their class rings<br />

Dr. and Mrs. Walter Stephens Family<br />

Ms. Meristell Shackelford and family<br />

Marisa and David Price<br />

Lagrane Jefferson, Tricia Robbins, Tricia Hollis,<br />

Brittini Carter, Maya Paris, Christina Gazzia, and Damu Mitchell<br />

DeShonda Mayo, Kalena Meyers, and Larnette Ramsey 2020 basketball team with coaches Ernie Morris Enterprises, LLC<br />

<strong>The</strong> 19th Annual Celebrating<br />

Education Legacy Ball was a<br />

huge success. It was a special night<br />

celebrating Mrs. Sandra Stephens,<br />

Trustee Legacy Award recipient for<br />

over 50 years of service to Montverde<br />

Academy, and Ms. Meristell<br />

Shackelford, Educator Legacy Award<br />

recipient, as she celebrated 20 years<br />

of dedicated service to the Academy.<br />

Congratulations to our 2020 boys<br />

basketball team, referred to as “the<br />

greatest high school basketball team<br />

ever,” on finally getting to celebrate<br />

their National Championship together.<br />

Cade Cunningham was presented<br />

with the 2020 Naismith Trophy for<br />

Prep Player of the Year.<br />

<strong>The</strong> evening was filled with live<br />

entertainment and an exciting live and<br />

silent auction. Thank you to all our<br />

amazing sponsors and guests that<br />

made this a night to remember.<br />

38 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

By Mrs. Zehra Naqvi, Donor Relations Coordinator<br />

We’ve had another exciting year<br />

here in the Alumni Relations Office at<br />

Montverde Academy! In October, I joined<br />

the Academy as a Donor Relations<br />

Coordinator and the new alumni<br />

liaison. I have 10 years of experience<br />

in development and donor relations,<br />

working mainly with local, national, and<br />

international nonprofit organizations.<br />

I earned my master’s degree in leadership<br />

and organizations from the University<br />

of Denver and have also worked as<br />

a freelance digital content creator for<br />

various online publications. I enjoy<br />

writing, traveling, and connecting with<br />

people. When I’m not taking my children<br />

to playdates and birthday parties, I like to<br />

spend my time reading, catching up on<br />

shows, or visiting my favorite<br />

Disney parks.<br />

Would you like to be featured<br />

as a Notable Alum or know<br />

someone that should?<br />

Contact Mrs. Zehra Naqvi<br />

Donor Relations Coordinator<br />

alumni@montverde.org<br />

As the alumni relations point person,<br />

I’m excited to see how we can elevate<br />

our freshly established program to new<br />

heights. Our goal here in the alumni<br />

office is to serve as the link between<br />

the Academy and our remarkable MVA<br />

Alumni Association. We want our alums<br />

to come back and revisit the memories<br />

and moments they created during their<br />

time at MVA. As you leave your mark on<br />

the world, share your tales with us! We<br />

always welcome stories of our cherished<br />

alums, and our students love to hear<br />

alumni success stories and are eager<br />

to learn from you as mentors. Please<br />

reach out if you are interested in being<br />

a part of our mentorship program. <strong>The</strong><br />

Academy takes pride in celebrating your<br />

accomplishments. Remember, once an<br />

Eagle, always an Eagle!<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 39

Luc Mbah a Moute and Joe Katuka<br />

Luc Mbah a Moute with Mindy Hopman<br />

By Mrs. Zehra Naqvi, Donor Relations Coordinator<br />

Luc Mbah a Moute ‘05<br />

When we talk about the fulfillment of dreams, one Montverde Academy alum who comes to<br />

mind is Luc Mbah a Moute. CNN once referred to him as the “African Prince” who went on<br />

to become the “king of NBA.” At 6 feet 8 inches tall, Mbah a Moute played the last game of<br />

his professional career in 2020, a career that spanned over 12 years.<br />

Mbah a Moute was raised in<br />

Yaoundé, Cameroon, a metropolitan<br />

city with more than a million<br />

residents. In 2001, he arrived at MVA.<br />

He fondly recalls his time on campus<br />

and seeing the gym for the first time,<br />

which, to someone who grew up in<br />

Africa with no infrastructure to work<br />

on his craft, was “amazing.” He<br />

remembers being amazed by the<br />

resources available to him and how<br />

the community at MVA helped him<br />

feel welcome. In his second year,<br />

after establishing himself in the MVA<br />

basketball world, Mbah a Moute<br />

made time to become more involved<br />

in various campus activities – student<br />

council, soccer, music – he enjoyed<br />

it all.<br />

In 2005, Mbah a Moute went on to<br />

play college basketball at UCLA.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re, by virtue of his dynamic game,<br />

he gained a faithful fan following.<br />

It was there that he piqued the<br />

interest of one of the NBA’s top<br />

teams. In 2008, he was a second<br />

draft pick for the Milwaukee Bucks,<br />

where he quickly established his<br />

footing. During his tenure as the<br />

small forward for the Bucks, Mbah a<br />

Moute was widely regarded as one of<br />

the league’s best defensive players.<br />

He has played for the Sacramento<br />

Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves,<br />

Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles<br />

Clippers, and Houston Rockets. He<br />

has also played for the Cameroonian<br />

national team. Currently, he is a<br />

player agent and continues his<br />

support of young, talented basketball<br />

players looking for their big break.<br />

Mbah a Moute spent 12 years in<br />

the NBA as a player, and while his<br />

formidable performances on the<br />

courts are praiseworthy, it is the<br />

impact he has had off the courts<br />

that deserves a special mention.<br />

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid,<br />

who attended MVA in 2011, was<br />

one of the players who attended a<br />

camp organized by Mbah a Moute<br />

in Yaoundé, Cameroon. It was Mbah<br />

a Moute who saw Embiid’s potential<br />

and helped him come to MVA, the<br />

alma mater that initiated his own<br />

successful career. He has continued<br />

to help the young center during<br />

his NBA journey, even playing as<br />

teammates for one season on the<br />

Philadelphia 76ers.<br />

Despite the success he has<br />

experienced on and off the courts<br />

in America, Mbah a Moute hasn’t<br />

forgotten his roots. He continues to<br />

give back to his country, fulfilling his<br />

(and their) dreams of helping African<br />

youth realize their true potential. In<br />

the past, he has traveled to South<br />

Africa to take part in Basketball<br />

40 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

Luc visiting the NEST when he returned to campus this past summer<br />

Without Borders, an NBA program that<br />

gives capable youth the chance to play<br />

the game with basketball greats and<br />

believe that their dreams, too,<br />

can become a reality.<br />

For Mbah a Moute, the biggest<br />

takeaway from his years at MVA is<br />

the “strong brotherhood” bonds that<br />

were made. He recognizes his arrival<br />

at MVA as “one of the best things that<br />

happened to [his] life,” not just for how it<br />

catapulted a successful sports career for<br />

him, but for the inimitable “friendships,<br />

brotherhoods, and sisterhoods” that<br />

are created “for the rest of your life.” He<br />

encourages future generations to “take<br />

advantage” of this prestigious,<br />

once-in-a-lifetime opportunity provided<br />

to them so like him, they, too, can<br />

cherish the relationships and<br />

memories for years to come.<br />

Photos provided by fellow alum, Christina Gazzia.<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 41

1<br />

2 3 4<br />

5<br />

6 7 8 9<br />

10<br />

1968<br />

GARY STAMM (1)<br />

visited Montverde Academy<br />

from Lakeland, FL, on<br />

July 18, <strong>2023</strong>. Gary attended<br />

MVA from 1966-68.<br />

1986<br />


Professional firefighter and<br />

paramedic, City of Columbus,<br />

OH (retired).<br />

Favorite staff member:<br />

Mr. Carlo<br />

Best Academic<br />

Accomplishment: Consumer<br />

Math Award, 1986.<br />

Best Athletic<br />

Accomplishment: 6th in<br />

District, Polevault, 1986.<br />

Outlook: Life is wonderful!<br />

1988<br />


ran in the New York Marathon<br />

this year. She ran track at<br />

Montverde Academy. “It was<br />

always a passion!” After<br />

fighting a tough battle with<br />

cancer, Cassandra won the<br />

lottery to run in the New York<br />

Marathon, and despite having<br />

macular degeneration and<br />

remnants of the cancer in her<br />

kidney, she finished strong.<br />

“It was the most incredible<br />

experience of my lifetime.”<br />

2007<br />


married Craig Desnoyers<br />

on October 7, <strong>2023</strong> in<br />

Lake Placid, NY.<br />

JOE KATUKA (4)<br />

and Stephanie Ratliff<br />

welcomed a baby boy on<br />

November 17, <strong>2023</strong>. His<br />

name is Jayson Don Katuka.<br />

2010<br />


(maiden name Kim) resides<br />

in the NY/NJ area, currently<br />

working for a Korean<br />

Conglomerate. Soomin and<br />

her husband are expecting<br />

their first baby in December.<br />

2012<br />


attended the MVA Alumni<br />

reunion in Bermuda.<br />

KAYLA MASON (7)<br />

is marrying Russell Mitts<br />

on December 15, <strong>2023</strong>, in<br />

Orange Park, FL. <strong>The</strong>y reside<br />

in Casselberry, FL.<br />

2013<br />

THY VUONG (8)<br />

and her husband welcomed<br />

their baby, Zachery An Ky<br />

(Ký Gia An), on<br />

November 28, <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

2014<br />

Congratulations to<br />

I-TING CHENG (9)<br />

and her husband who are<br />

expecting their first baby.<br />

2015<br />

MANUEL LOPEZ (10)<br />

married Haley Limper<br />

on October 7, <strong>2023</strong>, in<br />

Springfield, IL.<br />

2016<br />


will be getting married in<br />

December <strong>2023</strong>. Isabella and<br />

Mario, who first met through<br />

mutual friends in <strong>The</strong>ta<br />

Chi and Phi Mu fraternities<br />

at Florida International<br />

University, are delighted<br />

to share the news of their<br />

upcoming wedding in the<br />

beautiful Xcaret, Mexico.<br />

2019<br />


married James Nussbaumer<br />

on November 21, <strong>2023</strong>, in<br />

Howey-in-the-Hills, FL.<br />

2020<br />


recently won Gold at the<br />

Curitiba Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu<br />

Pro <strong>2023</strong> Championship.<br />

He has competed in and<br />

won several Jiu-Jitsu<br />

championships in the past.<br />

42 THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong>

11 10<br />

12 13<br />

3 14<br />

15 16 17<br />

SEND US YOUR CLASS NOTES! Send Class Notes submissions and high-resolution (at least 300 dpi) photos to<br />

alumni@montverde.org or mail to Class Notes at MVA, 17235 Seventh Street, Montverde, FL 34756.<br />


is preparing to graduate<br />

from Clemson University<br />

(SC) in August 20<strong>24</strong> with a<br />

double major in business<br />

management and PGA golf<br />

management. Following<br />

graduation, he has accepted<br />

a position as an Assistant<br />

Golf Professional at <strong>The</strong><br />

Country Club (Brookline)<br />

outside of Boston, MA. This<br />

course has hosted 17 USGA<br />

championships in its 141-<br />

year history. He was an IJGA<br />

student here at MVA.<br />

2022<br />


won bronze in women's<br />

basketball at the <strong>2023</strong> Pan<br />

American Games held in<br />

Chile, representing Chile.<br />

ARUBA<br />


Several graduates from the<br />

1980s gathered together for<br />

a small reunion in Aruba.<br />

Another reunion is planned<br />

for September 20<strong>24</strong>.<br />

Pictured from left to right<br />

are RICKY BEAUJON,<br />



MARIO CROES, and<br />

JANINE CROES (16).<br />

GENE<br />



PETEEV ’09 (17), Roy<br />

Labrador, and Darrell Moody<br />

attended the celebration of<br />

life of former coach Gene<br />

Strickland.<br />

THE TOWER | WINTER <strong>2023</strong> 43

Montverde Academy<br />

17235 Seventh Street<br />

Montverde, FL 34756<br />

Save the Date<br />

APRIL 26, 20<strong>24</strong><br />

Mission Inn Resort & Club

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