Looking Back: Did CCHS Get Them Ready?

By Colleen Lentile

The Observer’s summer journalism intern Colleen Lentile wanted to know how her peers summed up the college preparation they received at Clarke County High School, so she talked with four CCHS grads who, coincidentally, graduated over the previous four years.

Katie Lese

As a spirited graduate of CCHS Class of 2010, Katie Lese has made her mark. After high school, Lese went to James Madison University “dead set on being a teacher.” But it only took a year for her to realize that teaching wasn’t what she wanted to do. She changed her major to Communications Studies with a minor in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication. When choosing her major, she looked back to her CCHS experience for guidance.

“Communications Studies had all of the analytical and critical analysis factors I enjoyed when writing in English classes, but in a more real world application,” said Lese.

Lese was inspired by many of her teachers, but specifically by Mr. Clark Hansbarger, Mrs. Kim Wilt, and Mrs. Christine Brewer. Hansbarger helped her believe that she could do well in college, Wilt gave her confidence in her writing, and Brewer gave her theatre experience. All of which led her to be on the JMU Speech team, one of the top 30 teams in the country.

Lese also is grateful to CCHS for the preparation she received from JMU Bridge and IB classes. And though she feels that her experience on yearbook staff and in the mentoring program at CCHS helped her get her current internship, she has some advice for CCHS regarding academically-minded activities like speech, debate, theatre, and music. “These programs are small or almost non-existent at CCHS, and I think a shift to focusing on more of these activities will not only equip graduates with skills that can be implemented in the real world, but opportunities that could make college a more possible reality,” said Lese.

Lese will graduate in May 2014, and continues to get excellent grades. “I hope I can inspire others as much as some teachers at CCHS helped inspire me,” said Lese.

Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson, CCHS Class of 2009 graduate, finished her undergraduate college career at the University of Akron’s Honor College in May 2013. As an incoming freshman, Wilson planned to pursue a Communications degree because she had enjoyed her Journalism and English classes at CCHS. But later, in her sophomore year, she changed her major to Human Resources in the College of Business Administration.

“Once I decided upon business, I looked into accounting and marketing, but decided upon human resources because it gave me the chance to work with many different levels in the organization. Also, there was good job growth in the field,” said Wilson.

She believed that she was more prepared for the college work load thanks to IB classes. But, she wished that she had taken advantage of DECA in high school. And though Emily was inspired by most of her teachers, she was specifically grateful to Ms. Catherine White, Mr. James Deignan, and Mrs. Laurie Barbagallo.

“I’m really happy to say that I am right where I belong. I would like to thank CCHS for giving me the tools to succeed, and my family, friends, and my fiancée for believing in me,” said Wilson.

Wilson is currently working as a Human Resources Generalist in Ohio, and has plans to get married this autumn.

Peter Levi

A recent 2012 graduate, Peter Levi is finding his way through the world with the lessons he learned at CCHS at hand. Following graduation, Levi started attending Virginia Tech majoring in Environmental Resource Management. But, after taking the entry level classes, he decided to change his major to Geography. Presently, Levi is exploring his options for a third major change as he begins his sophomore year.

Even though Levi is still searching for his niche, he continues to be a successful student with gratitude towards the JMU Bridge classes during his senior year and the International Baccalaureate classes throughout his high school career.

“The Bridge classes and IB classes helped me get into college to begin with,” said Levi.

Levi would have liked to have more preparation from CCHS in classroom discussions and studying. However, he felt ready to complete papers and projects due to the Bridge and IB classes.

Levi will continue his education at Virginia Tech in the fall with plans to graduate in 2016. He is spending the summer working the fields at Blandy Farm.

He is happy with his progress in college, but is still searching for his field of study.

Rebecca York

As a member of the CCHS Class of 2011, Rebecca York led her classmates and her community as the editor-in-chief of the yearbook and as an avid participant in local mission trips. Through the mission trips, York discovered what she wanted to do with her life: help other people.

So, after graduating high school, York went to study at Christopher Newport University, where she originally majored in Education—but later decided on Social Work as her path. She wants to work in orphanages after she graduates from CNU in 2015.

“I want to help give the kids at orphanages a second chance. I want to be that person who can do that for them,” said York.

On her way to giving orphans second chances, York relies on her organized personality to create good time management in juggling all her classes. She credits some of her success to taking the JMU Bridge classes during her senior year at CCHS and being a part of DECA throughout high school. Though she had little instruction in studying, she was prepared for college projects and papers thanks to the Bridge classes. Also, York is involved in the Presidential Leadership Program at CNU, which she attributes to her experiences in DECA.

York remains busy this summer working at Franklin Park in Purcellville as a summer camp counselor. She will return to CNU in the fall for her junior year. “I would rather be happy with my major than be unhappy with my major and make a lot of money,” said York.

York is happy with where she is today, and where she is going with her life.