Announcing 2016 Valedictorians, Salutatorian and Seniors’ College Choices

Mount Madonna School (MMS) is pleased to announce Julia Gratton and Sophia Saavedra as the 2016 senior class Co-Valedictorians, and Holden Smith 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 2016 high school graduation ceremony will commence at 9:00am on Thursday, June 16 at the school’s upper campus.
Gratton, who lives in Santa Cruz, will attend Whitman College this fall. She has not yet declared a major, and says she looks forward to Whitman’s 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.
“I chose Whitman because of the close relationships students can develop with outstanding professors, the unified community and its beautiful northwest location,” said Gratton. “I do not know yet what I intend to major in, but I am excited to hopefully take classes in the realms of astrophysics, linguistics, creative writing and environmental studies.”
Saavedra, a resident of Gilroy, will attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as a biology major with the intention of attending medical school after graduation.
“UCLA is my father’s alma mater and I have wanted to be a Bruin my whole life,” Saavedra commented. “I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to challenge myself in an academically competitive environment and to explore my passions to their full extent.
“One of the teachers that inspired me during my time at Mount Madonna School is Asha Pandya,” shared Saavedra. “She taught me Algebra II when I was in eighth grade and encouraged me to pursue math and science. Asha left her teaching job at MMS to pursue a law degree. She has been a mentor to me and helped me to gain a lot of self-confidence in my intellectual abilities. Asha also showed me the importance of supporting other women and the value of being an encouraging and empowering person.”
Smith lives in Corralitos, and plans to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he will major in mathematics in the College of Creative Studies (CCS).
“I chose UCSB in large part because I was admitted to CCS, a program that affords students the opportunity to do research, take graduate classes, and work more closely with professors,” Smith said. “Growing up in Santa Cruz, I love the ocean and the outdoors so UCSB seems like a natural fit.
“I continue to be inspired by my fifth grade teacher [the late] Sri Gyan James McCaughan; he made learning fun and helped teach me not to take life too seriously. I am honored to be selected as salutatorian and very grateful for all the teachers who have helped me to succeed.”
In addition to Gratton, Saavedra and Smith, Mount Madonna School’s Class of 2016 includes fifteen other students. The class is listed below with their college choices:
Alexander Marshall, Corralitos, Cabrillo College; Cameron Bess, Watsonville, DigiPen Institute of Technology; CeCe Moreno, Morgan Hill; University of California, Santa Cruz; Clio Herbert, Santa Cruz, California College of the Arts; Elise Slater, Aptos, University of San Francisco; Ethan Harrington, Watsonville, University of Colorado, Boulder; Lily Petersen, Morgan Hill, Belmont University; Louis Marshall, Corralitos, Cabrillo College; Maxim Medvedev, Morgan Hill, California State University, Long Beach; Miles Wayne, Watsonville, gap year; Nathan Burgess, Santa Cruz, Evergreen State College; Saniya Lakka, Gilroy, Willamette University; Sophie Ortiz, Aptos, California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo; Teresa Slater, Aptos, Saint Mary’s College of California; Tyler Sullens, Soquel, Southern Oregon University.
Some of the about-to-be graduates took time recently to reflect on their college choice and planned studies:
“I only applied to Cabrillo College and was accepted into its honors program. I am unsure of what I want to pursue in college, though it may have to do with music and music technology. Attending Cabrillo will give me an opportunity to explore my options and experience different things. A Mount Madonna faculty member who inspires me is Haley Campbell. Her love for music, writing and nature are all things I see in myself.” – Alexander Marshall
“I chose the college I did because it is one that I have dreamed of going to for years. It is one of the best in its field and some of the graduates are role models that I’ve looked up to for some time.”
– Cameron Bess
“I chose UC Santa Cruz because I love the area and the college’s vibe. I didn’t expect to find something I loved so close to home, but maybe that’s why I love it. It is also right by the ocean and has its own research institute, which is perfect for my marine biology major. MMS faculty members Shannon Kelly, Nicole Culbertson and Haley Campbell all inspire me because they are very passionate about the subjects they teacher and share that passion with us. They’ve taught me to love learning and to enjoy being a student.” – CeCe Moreno
“I chose California College of the Arts because it was the only school that I visited that I really liked. I liked the campus and it has a jewelry program which is rare. I love the Bay Area and San Francisco and cannot wait to be back up there. I declared my major as jewelry, but that could change.”  – Clio Herbert
“I am very excited to be a part of the nursing program at the University of San Francisco and can’t wait to live in the city. MMS faculty member Sidd McDonald inspires me and keeps me laughing.”
 – Elise Slater
“I decided on the University of Colorado, Boulder, because it has the right mix of an overall, well-rounded liberal arts education and specific, industry-sponsored technical programs. With the honors program and the residence academic program dorms you can have very small classes within large classes. I felt at home with the students, and the Lego study room was a bonus! Teacher PK McDonald has really inspired me to study what I love: physics. He has been a great role model and helped me to learn how to balance all the demands I am faced with.”  – Ethan Harrington
“I chose Belmont over other schools for a few reasons. I love Nashville; it’s a fun little town with kind people everywhere and I’ve wanted to be a part of it ever since I visited in March 2015. I’d like to be in the music industry and they have a specific major there that other schools don’t offer and also special resources. I am very excited to be majoring in entertainment industry studies and look forward to the opportunities that I find in Nashville. If I had to choose, I would say teachers Haley Campbell and Shannon Kelly inspire me. Both are determined, passionate and kind women who I look up to and who I feel comfortable talking to about anything. They inspire me to work hard and as I go off to college, I plan on keeping all their advice in my mind so that I can stay focused.” – Lily Petersen
“I want to go to Cabrillo College to explore and find new areas of interest.” – Louis Marshall
“I’ve decided to take a gap semester after high school. I’m not sure yet if I will apply to schools for the spring, or attend and transfer from Cabrillo College. However I would like to stay in Santa Cruz for a bit longer, save some money working, and try to decide what I’m interested in majoring in. I have no idea what I would be interested in studying, but business, history, and visual arts are all considerations of mine. A lot of teachers at MMS inspire me in very different ways; and Sampad [Kachuck] has really sparked an interest in various arts through the experiences I’ve been able to have in performing arts this year. I’ve had a new level of respect for performing arts since eleventh grade that has influenced me across a lot of different art forms.” – Miles Wayne
“I chose Willamette University because of its small class sizes and the ability to easily engage with my teachers. Willamette has the exact computer design program that I want to pursue: graphics and animations. As far as teachers, Sampad [Kachuck] inspires me to work hard and to always do a good job with any project I am given. His drive and passion to put on such an incredible production is very inspiring.” – Saniya Lakka
“I chose Cal Poly because it has a great agricultural program. I loved the campus and felt really comfortable; it seemed creative and accessible.” – Sophie Ortiz
“Saint Mary’s College has similar values to what I appreciate about MMS. My life has been changed by love, understanding and compassionate teaching. Saint Mary’s College’s traditions include ‘Come to learn, and leave to serve.’ All students are a part of the whole of the campus community. On my three visits to Saint Mary’s, I felt as though I would be continuing on the same path I’ve been on at MMS. I plan to study biology and zoology. Of my high school teachers, Lisa Catterall has inspired me by always encouraging me to seek my dreams and tell myself ‘yes, it’s possible’.”
– Teresa Slater