Senior Profiles 2019 - Wheaton Academy

Congratulations, Class of 2019! 🎓

As we approach the end of the school year, it is worth celebrating the growth that the Class of 2019 experienced! The Class of 2019 is ready to change the world . . . and we are excited to cheer them on. We asked some seniors a few questions about their experience at Wheaton Academy, and this is what they had to say.

ANN HANCOCK

CLASS OF 2019

“An emphasis on college readiness here at Wheaton Academy enables students to self-advocate and enjoy freedoms that not all high schools can offer their students.”

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

Bible classes enabled me to not only defend my faith but to also share the Gospel. The combination of Living Curriculum Teachers, outside activities, and twice-a-week chapels set me on fire for the Lord!

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

I realized how important relationships are within the body of Christ. When life gets busy and hard, I want to have godly friends to lean on, and I want to be this godly support for others as well.

Look back at day one of your freshman year at Wheaton Academy, how are you different today?

After being poured into by mentors and upperclassmen here, I now strive to give back to this school that provided me opportunities to grow spiritually and as a person. Wheaton Academy is all about students genuinely caring for other students and going the extra mile to make others feel welcome.

ELIZABETH ECKERT

CLASS OF 2019

“Having a Christian education, and teachers that push me, impact me as I head into college.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

I’m so grateful to go to a high school that pushes me to find my joy in Christ and that reminds me that Jesus is all I need, in high school, and for the rest of my life.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

I’m continually learning what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and how to go and make disciples. I now have a strong desire in me to learn better how to share my faith with others and spread the gospel.

What pushed you to pursue excellence the most at Wheaton Academy?

Wheaton Academy does an amazing job at integrating faith with learning. Every teacher provides a biblical worldview to their lessons, no matter the subject. These teachers taught me Colossians 3:23, and this is what makes me what to pursue excellence in everything I do.

GERALD BLACKMON

CLASS OF 2019

“I face challenges and hardships a lot but the one thing that keeps me is God’s perfect peace.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

The greatest lesson I learned here at Wheaton Academy was that no matter what your circumstance or situation is, you can make the most of it. Success is taking the hand you were dealt and playing it like it was the hand you wanted.

Looking back at day one as a freshman at Wheaton Academy, how are you different today?

The greatest lesson I learned here at Wheaton Academy was that no matter what your circumstance or situation is, you can make the most of it. Success is taking the hand you were dealt and playing it like it was the hand you wanted.

How are you more prepared to face challenges today?

Stressed, overwhelmed, concerned, unsure . . . the one thing that keeps me is the joy I have inside me. I’m now in a position where I truly realize that Wheaton Academy has put people in my life who care about me and will be by my side through thick and thin. Having that revelation has kept me!

JASMINE VANDERBILT

CLASS OF 2019

“I became a person who is more confident and courageous with my faith.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

Your actions matter: whether they are positive, negative or neutral, they still affect the people around you.

What prepared you most for your next steps after Wheaton Academy?

The constant support from teachers as well as their continual display of grace and belief in me. Seeing adults constantly through the day who genuinely and passionately believe in God is inspiring as well as the wisdom they share both in the hallways and in chapel.

What pushed you to pursue excellence the most at Wheaton Academy?

The standard that Wheaton Academy sets for us is high but I love that they don’t put up the standard and expect you to reach it yourself. Teachers are gracious and are always willing to help, you can tell that each one of them has the heart of a pastor and actually wants to see you grow, which takes a lot of pressure off of yourself and allows you to believe in yourself so that you can reach excellence.

JIMMY PAGANIS

CLASS OF 2019

“I am more comfortable and confident in who I am as a person and as a Christian. I am more willing to step out of my comfort zone and try new things.”

What prepared you most for your next steps after Wheaton Academy?

The responsibility and freedom that is given to the students by the administration will help me with managing time and handling the different setting of a college campus.

What pushed you to pursue excellence the most at Wheaton Academy?

My teachers—they always pushed me and encouraged me to see what I had in me that I did not originally see.

How are you more prepared to face challenges today?

I understand that through adversity people grow, as long as I persevere through tough times I know things will get better. I do not fear challenges, I have learned to embrace them.

KENNEDY VAN

CLASS OF 2019

“Learning from overcoming hardships prepared me for the challenges to come.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

These four years molded me and shaped me into a person who understands the importance of individuality and respecting individuality. In addition to this, I learned how to be grateful for all that I have been blessed with.

What prepared you most for life after Wheaton Academy?

There are two things that are vital to life after Wheaton Academy: your passion and your people. This school prepared me by helping me find what I love and what I want to pursue in college. Through a variety of classes, I have found that the sciences and mathematics are what I love. The most important thing I’ve learned is the importance of loving people.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

Being at Wheaton Academy helped me spiritually in so many ways. It’s peculiar but I had to first learn that I am a broken soul. Wheaton Academy guided me in finding comfort in Jesus. I’m still growing, but this school jumpstarted my pursuit of Christ.

LYDIA ZILWA

CLASS OF 2019

“I understand who I am more, and I can stand firm in that and what I believe in.”

What prepared you most for your next steps after Wheaton Academy?

Being an international student and being independent so early has prepared me for after Wheaton Academy and being able to stand on my own two feet. I am more confident in who I am in Christ, more independent and not as concerned about what other people think of me.

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

The greatest lesson I’ve learned at Wheaton Academy is perseverance and consistency. Perseverance through the bad and being consistent in being myself and not compromising who I am.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

I am now able to defend my faith and I have also grown in understanding that I must stand in the gap for my own life and maintain a relationship with Christ.

MARIEL MARTIN

CLASS OF 2019

“I have more confidence, and my anxiety has not been able to control me as often as it had when I was a freshman.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

I learned that confidence is slow to build when you have self-doubt but it can be built with the support of friends, family and teachers, as well as a knowledge of God’s love for you no matter what the outcome may be.

If you could tell your freshman self one thing, what would that be?

You have the capability to accomplish many things, be confident in who you are and trust that God has a plan for you.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

I grew in my faith through the testimonies of friends, teachers, and chapel speakers. God allowed a verse or message to stand out and I learned more about Him and my identity in that way.

WILL LYON

CLASS OF 2019

“Wheaton Academy pushes students to find answers to big questions about Christianity, the meaning of life, and how to interact with the world.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

I have learned how to model servant leadership at Wheaton Academy. Teachers have invested in me through Project LEAD, orchestra, cross country, musicals, and many more activities. I have had experience leading my peers, and I am ready to begin serving my new classmates in college.

How are you more prepared to face challenges today?

I feel more confident to go into a new situation (college) and tackle whatever challenges come my way. I have learned how to deal with difficult classes, social situations, and adversities because of my time at Wheaton Academy.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

My orchestra director, Mr. Willemssen, mentored me throughout high school and modeled for me how to be a Christian in the modern world. I have grown closer to Christ through this relationship, and similar relationships with many other Wheaton Academy faculty.

BEN THORSON

CLASS OF 2019

“The teachers changed everything for me and helped me become the man of God I have always been striving to be.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

I learned that I always need to push myself to do new things that may seem intimidating. You grow the most when you’re uncomfortable, and in order to be uncomfortable you must put yourself into new things that stretch you in different ways.

What prepared you most for your next steps after Wheaton Academy?

I think the way Wheaton Academy pushed me to get involved in many different activities is what prepared me most for the future. It helped me become friends with people I wouldn’t have been friends with, and I now understand people who I had always seen as “different” from me.

Looking back at day one as a freshman at Wheaton Academy, how are you different today?

One of the main ways I am different today is in my confidence in myself, as well as my confidence in my relationship with the Lord!

DEREK JOHANIK

CLASS OF 2019

“Wheaton Academy placed a healthy amount of pressure on me, and that motivated me to respond with excellence.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

The people that you choose to be with determine who you are. There are many things that lead to decisions that influence someone’s identity, but no factor is more important than peers when determining one’s character.

Look back at day one as a freshman at Wheaton Academy, how are you different today?

Socially I’d say I’ve come a long way; I think anyone would be able to tell that. However, that really doesn’t matter when compared to my spiritual growth over the last four years. I have consistently grown closer to Jesus, and that is the only change that I would ever ask for.

How are you more prepared to face challenges today?

I am convinced that life is a natural cycle of failures and responses. Wheaton Academy has been a place that is safe to fail in. I have been challenged to the point of failure, but I have had opportunities to bounce back, to respond, and as a result I have learned how to react and I am unafraid to experience setbacks.

GWYNETH HADASA

CLASS OF 2019

“I am now able to balance my academic life with my social life; more well-rounded, people say.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

Wheaton Academy has taught me that once I see and treat others as human beings, differences don’t become a barrier, but a glue to connect and build relationships with others.

What pushed you to pursue excellence at Wheaton Academy?

The encouragements I received from my teachers and friends when I failed and the praises I received from them when I succeeded pushed me to pursue excellence.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

Chapels convicted me to know more of Jesus and pursue a close relationship with Him. The Bible classes opened my mind to see my lack of knowledge in defending my own faith in the real world. That implanted a desire to define my beliefs, to know what I believe in and why I believe in it and what are the consequences of my beliefs.

HLOMLA SIGWELA

CLASS OF 2019

“I am equipped to face the challenges of the real world while reflecting Christ and living out my faith.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

Failure is only a stepping stone toward success. I have learned the importance of learning from your past mistakes and not letting them define who you are but using them to surpass the standard you had set in the beginning.

Looking back at day one as a freshman at Wheaton Academy, how are you different today?

Looking back at day one I see a scared, timid and shy boy who isolated himself from everything and everyone. Now I am more willing to step outside of my comfort zone, invest in the community, and develop meaningful relationships.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

Going to a school where people are open and honest about their spiritual journey has had great impact on how I view mine and my willingness to share and relate with others. I have found that I am not alone and that there are people who are walking with me.

JASMINE GALVAN

CLASS OF 2019

“I have learned that I am enough, no matter what anyone else says.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

I learned the importance of inclusion. Over the last four years at Wheaton Academy, I have really tried to branch out and talk to everyone and make sure everyone feels included and accepted.

What pushed you to pursue excellence the most at Wheaton Academy?

I want to be a cardio-thoracic surgeon and establish my own health clinic in Africa. I have had this goal since the beginning of sophomore year. This has been my driving force and this goal that I have set for myself has pushed me to pursue excellence. I am going to do whatever I need to do to reach this goal and pursue my passion and purpose.

How are you more prepared to face challenges today?

Throughout my life, I have had a lot of struggles and tragedies, but I am grateful that I have experienced those hardships because it has made me the person I am today and I am able to persevere and stand up for what I believe in because of the hardships I have endured.

JACK RYKEN

CLASS OF 2019

“I was surrounded by great leadership from classmates and coaches that showed me how to be a competitor, teammate, and most importantly, a man of God.”

What prepared you most for your next steps after Wheaton Academy?

Learning to deal with freedom has prepared me for life. As a freshman I was treated like an adult, which was difficult to deal with at first. Communicating directly with my teachers helped me take full ownership of my grades and will be a valuable skill for college and beyond.

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

My most fulfilling achievements at Wheaton Academy came when I knew the work and preparation I had put in beforehand was done properly. The playing time or grades I received didn’t matter to me so long as I knew I had worked to the best of my ability.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

The Bible classes and weekly chapels were key components to my spiritual journey but far more impactful were the relationships that I formed. I was able to be transparent about my faith with my friends and we would help each other be spiritually accountable.

LELAH-SIMONE PITTS

CLASS OF 2019

“I am a crazy passionate follower of Christ who just wants to build His Kingdom . . .”

Look back at day one as a freshman at Wheaton Academy, how are you different today?

I have realized that my life has purpose: to live out my life building Christ’s Kingdom. I am more confident now because I feel comfortable in who I am, flaws, failures, and all.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

I have grown spiritually as I have been able to see how God uses people my age. This has made me a crazy passionate follower of Christ who just wants to build His Kingdom and be a representation of His nature on Earth!

What prepared you for your next steps after Wheaton Academy?

Classes, such as math and science, taught me perseverance under challenges and taught me critical thinking. Others, like my Bible classes, taught me to question my faith and truly make it my own so that I am prepared to defend it after Wheaton Academy.

LAUREN TEPE

CLASS OF 2019

“I am different today because I have so much more confidence in who I am as a follower of Christ.”

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

The greatest lesson I have learned at Wheaton Academy is that it is so important to treat others with love and respect, no matter what. Even when we disagree or have different opinions than others, we have to respect them and treat them with kindness.

How are you more prepared to face challenges today?

I am more prepared to face challenges because I have learned that there is always going to be someone who is cheering for me. The faculty and staff at Wheaton Academy really want students to succeed, and I know that is something that will help me in the future.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

I grew spiritually at Wheaton Academy by really making my faith my own. Throughout Bible classes, I was given the chance to really decide what I believe, and not just what my parents believe. I was also pushed to act on my faith through worship and service.

MATT NOVARIA

CLASS OF 2019

“The memories that I made at Wheaton Academy will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

What prepared you most for your next steps after Wheaton Academy?

Wheaton Academy gives you a lot of freedom which taught me how to manage my time and stay disciplined.

Looking back at day one as a freshman at Wheaton Academy, how are you different today?

I can say that I am more confident, mature, and more of a leader. Wheaton Academy helped me find who I am as a person. The underclassmen look up to you in the hallways and on the field and it’s important that we seniors set the right example for them.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

My spiritual growth at Wheaton Academy has been tremendous. I went from going through the motions to actually living out my faith and knowing what it means. Chapels helped me grow in my faith, and having the opportunity to sit down with teachers at lunch and have them invest in me helped me grow deeper in my relationship with God.

SOPHIE LINDQUIST

CLASS OF 2019

“I am four years older, wiser, and happier because of the exceptional experience I had at Wheaton Academy.”

How are you more prepared to face challenges today?

After four years at Wheaton Academy, I am more grounded in the Word of God, which equips me to face challenges with wisdom, knowledge, moral excellence, patient endurance, and a greater love for those around me.

What is the greatest lesson you learned while at Wheaton Academy?

The greatest lesson I learned at Wheaton Academy is that it is a privilege to be a part of the body of Christ and learn within a community that is for Christ and His Kingdom. To take that for granted would be a sad oversight.

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

I grew spiritually at Wheaton Academy through the teachers’ investment inside and outside of the classroom. They truly care about each of us individually and point us to Christ. In addition, the chapels that WA offers are unique opportunities to gather together for worship.

ZOE XU

CLASS OF 2019

“Wheaton Academy is the place that taught me about Christianity and how to be a Christian.”

How did you grow spiritually at Wheaton Academy?

Before I came to Wheaton Academy I had no idea what Christianity was. It is through my experience at Wheaton Academy, I became a believer. Now I can say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ.

What prepared you most for your next steps after Wheaton Academy?

I have learned that no matter what challenges are in front of me, I can leave them up to God, and I can experience peace from Him.

What pushed you to pursue excellence at Wheaton Academy?

My teachers, my host family and the academic environment at Wheaton Academy all had a huge impact on my academic life and pushed me to pursue excellence. I also discovered my potential through involvement in the community, interactions with teachers and friends, and learning through my daily studies.