Anna Rachwalski is a senior and this is her third year writing for the Southerner. Outside of the newspaper, she is president of the Quiz Bowl team, is...
First class of Midtown High School graduates
May 23, 2022
The Class of 2022 started its freshman year at Grady High School but will be the first graduating class of Midtown High School. Through four years, the Class of 2022 has been through a lot of changes with the school. While virtual learning and a new building are experiences that shaped the 2022 seniors’ high school experience, it is the name change that will be reflected in their diploma.
“It’s weird,” senior Evelyn Lowry said. “It’s like we started at Grady, and now we are leaving Midtown. I think it’s really cool that we have been able to witness the start of progress at the school.”
Seniors Daniela Restrepo and Harper Halloran are editors of the yearbook, the Orator, and were excited to make the first edition of the yearbook under the name Midtown.
“It’s so cool to have a new type of community surrounding the school,” Restrepo said. “We got to make the first ever Midtown yearbook this year.”
Some people feel that though the name has changed, being a student at the school has largely stayed the same.
“It doesn’t feel different at all than Grady, honestly,” senior Alaya Foote said. “There are a lot of things that haven’t changed. We’re still the same. It still feels like I’m graduating from Grady. I still have a senior ring that says Grady on it.”
Annie Laster, Valedictorian
Senior Annie Laster learned she was the class of 2022’s valedictorian while at her job coaching a club volleyball team.
“The girls were getting water; so, I sat down, and I was looking at my email, and I saw [the notification that said] “your transcript has been updated,” Laster said. “So I opened it… and I jumped up and screamed.”
Along with having the highest grade point average in her graduating class, Laster participated in a host of activities during her high school career, including varsity tennis and volleyball and piano. She will be attending Georgia Tech in the fall to study industrial engineering.
“College kept me motivated for grades,” Laster said. “But everything else, I just did it because I loved it. If I didn’t have any interest in it, I dropped it. I’m under the impression that I should only go to college doing the things that make me happy, and not doing the things that I think will get me into college.”
Laster attributes her valedictorian status to her efforts to be her best academic self.
“I didn’t actually try to become valedictorian,” Laster said. “That was never the goal. My goal was just to get the best grades I could. I made sure I had no missings, and I made sure I was doing the assignments and studying for the tests to the best of my ability.”
Despite Laster’s position as valedictorian, she believes that future graduates shouldn’t strive for the honor.
“It’s not worth it,” Laster said. “It’s just a number by your name, and it changes pretty much nothing about your life or your [college] application process. I would tell anyone who’s interested to not set their heart on it, and instead, set their mind on doing the best they possibly can, and that’s what will get you places.”
Duncan Tanner, Salutatorian
Consistency is key. That’s the motto senior Duncan Tanner stood by throughout his four years of high school, and will take with him to the University of Virginia in the fall.
“I made sure I always had my work done on time, that was really one of, if not the most important thing,” Tanner said.
Tanner found out he was the class of 2022’s salutatorian during his AP Environmental Science class.
“I was actually a bit disappointed because I was ranked first going into the year,” Tanner said. “But now I recognize it as one of my biggest achievements in high school.”
Tanner was a member of the varsity lacrosse and basketball teams as well as Latin Club and The Southerner during his high school career. He also was a member of the speech and debate team. Tanner said his favorite memories at Midtown were made during his freshman and senior years.
“Making the playoffs for basketball this year was really fun to be exposed to,” Tanner said. “Academically, Latin Con [during] freshman year was great.”
Tanner’s advice to underclassmen is to start aiming for high grades early on in high school.
“In my opinion, I think the most important year is your first year, being a freshman,” Tanner said. “That’s when you kind of get a leg up, and other people don’t think that freshman year is important. It’s hard to have the foresight to see that. So, for underclassmen, I’ll just say, like you, I don’t really know if you could [become salutatorian] if you didn’t try your hardest freshman year, but for me, that was like the biggest thing, just trying as soon as I got to high school.
Nathan Rachwalski, Star Student
The Star Student is the senior with the highest SAT score on a single date in their graduating class, who is also in the top 10 students or the top 10% of their class. Senior Nathan Rachwalski has earned that award for the Class of 2022, with a 1590 on the SAT.
“I already knew most of the content on the test; I could do all the math; I had pretty good reading comprehension,” Rachwalski said. “So, instead of studying content, I mainly studied strategies.”
Rachwalski credits much of his success on the SAT math section to his time on the Quiz Bowl team.
“Quiz Bowl math is almost more [about] processing speed than math knowledge,” Rachwalski said. “It’s being able to solve those simple problems really fast to beat the other team. So, I noticed the practice I had in Quiz Bowl paying off, especially in the no calculator section of the math SAT, because you don’t have a calculator in Quiz Bowl and a lot of the work I could just do in my head.”
As a Quiz Bowl captain, Rachwalski has worked to make the program competitive.
“The team was founded the year before I started high school,” Rachwalski said. “We hadn’t won any tournaments on the state level or competed nationally. But now the team is one of the 30 best in the nation; we’ve won multiple statewide tournaments.”
Rachwalski said his time at Midtown contributed to his growth both academically and outside of school. He will be attending Northwestern University in the fall.
“At Midtown, I think I definitely matured a lot as a person,” Rachwalski said. “I don’t think I would have had that opportunity elsewhere, or at least to the same extent that I did at Midtown. Midtown was a great place for me, personally; I think it set me up very well to have success both in high school, and hopefully, at Northwestern.”
Aaliyah Rapping, SGA President
Senior Aaliyah Rapping was the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Executive Class President. Her dedication to student government began during her freshman year.
“When I first joined, there were a lot of black women in the organization,” Rapping said. “It definitely felt like a very welcoming environment for me as a black woman, to come in and learn leadership skills.”
Aside from SGA, Rapping participated in a variety of activities throughout her high school career, from mock trial to track and Black Student Union.
“I would tell my freshman self to enjoy every moment,” Rapping said. “Because even the times of stress … take that time to reach out to the people around you who are going through the same thing. Connect with them, and realize that [at] the end of the day… you’re doing everything you do because it’s what you love to do.”
Rapping will be attending Howard University. She was attracted to Howard for the community it has and for the community she hopes to foster there.
“Choosing to go to an HBCU, Howard University, was extremely important to me, because what better place for me to learn about my people, than a place that was historically for my people,” Rapping said. “Being able to go to an HBCU to study psychology [will help me to] be able to learn what is hurting our community, and what I can do to help my community.”
Rapping has learned a lot from her experiences with Midtown’s diverse community.
“Our school is filled with people that are from different races, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds; so, being in a space where we’re all in a community together has truly opened my eyes to the diverse types of people there are,” Rapping said. “There’s diversity within diversity.”
Zephy Schroeder, Senior Class President
Senior Zephy Schroeder has served as the Student Government Association (SGA) Class President for the Class of 2022, and will be attending the University of Georgia as a finance major.
“I definitely really enjoyed my time in high school,” Schroeder said. “I think Covid definitely made it a different time than other people had, but I also think Covid made me appreciate coming back senior year even more.”
Schroeder has enjoyed her role in ensuring that school traditions weren’t lost, due to Covid-19.
“Coming back our senior year, a lot of the [freshmen and sophomores] had never set foot in the school; so, a lot of the crowns [and other] senior traditions have been lost,” Schroeder said. “I think our senior class was really cool in being able to do all of those things and making Midtown what it used to be. We were trying to make up for lost time.”
As president of SGA, Schroeder is proud of organizing events such as Fall Festival and homecoming week, despite not having a traditional varsity football team to rally around. She said her advice to her freshman self would be to take advantage of spending time with friends in classes.
“Those school friends that you don’t really see outside of school – you’re only going to see them for four years; so, talk to them,” Schroeder said. “Make the most out of it.”
Schroeder said the time she spends with her friends in the morning is her favorite memory from high school.
“Hanging out with my friends in the parking lot… is such a good time to chit chat and catch up,” Schroeder said. “It’s just those little times.”
Jonathan Fuller, Music School
The hum of the cello fills senior Jonathan Fuller’s practice room. Fuller will continue his cello career at the New England Conservatory of Music this fall.
“I chose the New England Conservatory, specifically because it’s in Boston and half of the faculty there are in the Boston Symphony Orchestra,” Fuller said. “I think that’s an insanely helpful resource for me since I want to be an orchestral musician one day, and having access to members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is really helpful.”
Orchestra teacher Krissi Davis and Midtown orchestra played a crucial role in shaping his high school experience and his future career path, Fuller said.
“My time in orchestra with [orchestra teacher Krissi Davis] Ms. Davis was extremely helpful,” Fuller said. “She knew exactly what to do to help me prepare for college auditions. She gave me practice time during class time, which is really helpful. She just supported me and every decision that I made.”
In addition, Fuller joined orchestra programs outside of school, which helped him develop as a musician.
“Summer programs are pretty popular for high school musicians, and last summer, I did the National Youth Orchestra, which is an organization with musicians all around the country,” Fuller said. “I think I improved the most with that program out of like any other program I’ve done.”
Fuller cited motivation as a key factor for students trying to follow in his footsteps.
“If you want to go to music school, definitely reach out to the teachers you are interested in early because the biggest factor in choosing a school for music is the teachers, and that’s how you’ll study for years,” Fuller said. “Getting to know them early on is very helpful.”
Perla Rodrigues, Enlisting in Marines
If you had asked senior Perla Rodrigues what her post-grad plans were two years ago, joining the armed forces would have never crossed her mind. Flash forward to the end of her senior year, and Rodrigues will be enlisting to the U.S. Marines in the fall.
“??During quarantine, a lot of things changed,” Rodrigues said. “I kind of told myself to get out of my comfort zone, do something new. I talked to a Marine recruiter, and I went and I trained for them. It was not more of a physical thing, but it’s more of a mental thing … When a lot of people think of the military, they think ‘Oh, you’re training hard stuff,’ but it’s more hands on, meeting new people, new faces, getting along with people — it’s teaching them, but you’re also learning.”
Rodrigues started in the Junior Leadership Corps at Inman Middle School. This pathway led her to Midtown’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program. Rodrigues credits JROTC with many of the leadership and skills she has gained.
“My biggest achievement is when I first started ROTC, and I didn’t really know anything, and I felt like I was an outsider,” Rodrigues said. “I thought that I wasn’t gonna have a big part in the program, but looking at senior year, I know how far I’ve come.”
Rodrigues’ plan to join the military was not a clear-cut path. She credited the role of trying new opportunities in her decision-making process, pre and post Midtown.
“I know definitely the first two years of high school, I was planning everything out, and then I just felt like that wasn’t really working in my favor,” Rodrigues said. “So, I was like, ‘Oh, let me try something different,’ and I feel like that’s so much better. I don’t know what to expect, but I’m learning as I go through it.”
Autrey Barnes, Basketball Recruit
Senior Autrey Barnes has committed to Richard Bland College of William & Mary in Petersburg, VA. to play basketball for the next four years. Barnes achieved this despite having a season-ending injury his sophomore year.
“It was actually the last game of tryouts,” Barnes said. “We had about 10 minutes left. I was going for a lob, and somebody came under me, and I fell on my arm and broke it. That was devastating.”
Combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, Barnes’ injury stunted his performance.
“For sophomores, that’s like a big year of development,” Barnes said. “For me to miss that year, it took a toll on me, and then, also, Covid hit. So, with already being behind… I had to put in way more work to get noticed by coaches.”
Barnes attributes his success in his college recruitment process to his efforts during his senior year.
“The topping on the cake [for my recruitment process was], basically just knowing what type of player I am and just continuing to work,” Barnes said. “I knew at some point it was gonna pay off … some instances, it feels like you’re being overlooked and are underrated. But if you put in the work, you’re going to eventually be noticed by somebody.”
After participating in athletic recruitment, Barnes believes that self-confidence is key to a favorable outcome.
“Don’t compare yourself to other players,” Barnes said. “I know everybody wants to be that ranked guy, but everybody has their own path. Just be yourself. Just keep working — don’t try to win the race, but run your own race.”