2012 Co-Valedictorians, Salutatorian and Seniors’ College Choices













Mount Madonna School (MMS) is pleased to announce McKenzie Caborn and Kabir Ahluwalia as the 2012 senior class Co-Valedictorians, and Alex Hooven as Salutatorian. These three students earned this distinction through hard work and focused effort, edging out their peers at the small Central Coast school known for strong academics, environmental education, performing arts and a competitive volleyball program. The 2012 high school graduation ceremony will commence at 9:30am on Thursday, June 14 at the school’s upper campus.

Caborn, who lives in Soquel, will attend the University of Redlands this fall. She has not yet declared a major, and says she looks forward to Redlands’ small class sizes, supportive community environment, and the opportunity to get to know her professors and peers on a personal level – all things she has become accustomed to as a Mount Madonna School student.

“At the beginning of my 8th grade year my social studies teacher, Matt Meachen, said to me, ‘Strive for excellence, not perfection’,’ explains Caborn. ‘This is the piece of advice that continues to resonate with me. For too long I was nervous to take risks, fearing they would not produce perfect results. Matt’s advice and support helped me to let go of this fear and embrace the learning process rather than the result.’


Caborn also credits Ward ‘SN’ Mailliard and Shannon Kelly, co-teachers of MMS’ Values in World Thought program, as ‘extremely influential mentors’ throughout her high school years.

‘Through dialogue, interviews, and an outreach trip to South Africa, they both significantly broadened my perspective and inspired me to examine the ethics that motivate my actions,’ she says.

Ahluwalia, a resident of Morgan Hill, will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology as a biomedical engineering student. Georgia Tech, ranked number two in the country for biomedical engineering, offers students an opportunity to participate in quarter-long Project-based Learning (PBL) classes. Ahluwalia is looking forward to taking these classes (which undergraduate students can take several times), as they generally have no more than eight students working together to generate solutions to unresolved medical problems.

‘I chose this major due in large part to the influence of [MMS science teacher] Lisa Catterall. Lisa’s work in biomaterials interested me in the application of engineering to the biological sciences. After college I would like to work researching cancer and helping to develop biomaterials.’ He is also interested in language arts.

”Don’t ever stop writing,’ is something [MMS high school English teacher] Melissa Sanders-Self and [high school Spanish teacher] Colin Cole have both said to me,’ remarks Ahluwalia. ‘Writing is one of my passions, and with their influence I’ve created some beautiful pieces of writing this year. I want to build my skills and maybe open a path into the humanities for myself.’

Hooven currently lives in Watsonville, and plans to attend Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where he will major in biology.

‘My 9th grade biology class [with Lisa Catterall] was the beginning of my fascination with how the world works. I absolutely loved everything that I learned, from cells and their different functions in animals and plants, to human anatomy and how our bodies work. Biology has always been an interesting topic for me, and I want to continue to learn as much as I can. I plan on going to medical school. I don’t know exactly what I would like to do, but I know that I want to be of service through medicine and am leaning toward surgery.’

Hooven says he chose Rhodes College in part because of the small classes, many of which average just 20 students.

‘I have enjoyed the individual attention that I have received at Mount Madonna School and look forward to that same opportunity at Rhodes. It has a great pre-med program with close ties to Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I have visited Tennessee many times and I love it there. We have friends and family that live close by, so it already feels like home.’

Like Ahluwalia, Hooven credits English teacher Melissa Sanders-Self as a teacher who’s left a lasting impression on him: ‘I have always felt that one of Mount Madonna’s biggest strengths is how close the students can get with the teachers,’ he explains. ‘Having the opportunity to know my teachers at a personal level contributed to my education. I was never afraid to ask my teachers for clarification on something after class. Getting to know my teachers is a valuable lesson that I will take with me to college. Melissa Sanders-Self has been one of the best teachers I have had. She always understood me and I knew that I could approach her about anything. She never gave up on me and always encouraged me to push myself, even when I had convinced myself that I couldn’t do something. She gave me the confidence to pursue my interests and to stretch myself.’

In addition to Sanders-Self, Hooven said mathematics teacher Asha Pandya always encouraged him to ask ‘why’? ‘She told us never to take things for granted,’ he explains. “She wanted us to fully understand what she was teaching. When we were taught a new formula, she always proved it so that we could truly understand how to use it. I have used this advice in many ways; I keep working at something until I understand it. ‘

In addition to Caborn, Ahluwalia and Hooven, Mount Madonna School’s Class of 2012 includes thirteen other students. They are listed below with their college choices:

Aaron Storrs, Aptos, University of California, Santa Cruz; Alida Lettunich, Corralitos, Naropa University; Allison Ota, Watsonville, University of California, Santa Cruz; Arianna Morell-Haltom, Corralitos, University of Redlands; Blythe Collier, Gilroy, Santa Clara University; Courtney Bess, Watsonville, University of Miami; David Broz, Watsonville, Cornell University; JonJon Blunden, Gilroy, California Institute of the Arts; Kellyn Cardinal, Santa Cruz, University of California, Santa Cruz; Nicole Nascimento, San Juan Bautista, University of Redlands; Palak Bhatnagar, Watsonville, American University; Quincy Mitchell, Watsonville, Willamette University; and Ryan Alfaro, Aptos, University of California, Los Angeles.


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Marketing & Communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.