Families gathered at Gerstell Academy to see the 35 students who make up the school’s Class of 2021 one last time. .
Gerstell’s graduation ceremony took place Friday morning in the quad behind the main building. Not only were students celebrated as a whole but individuals, like Graham Vaeth, received special recognition.
He was given the Norm Smith Leadership Award, which is given to the 12th grade student who best represents and exemplifies the school’s leadership model. Eligible students must consistently demonstrate Gerstell Academy leadership qualities in and out of the classroom, on and off the playing field, and on and off campus over the course of their Upper School careers.
Vaeth was also given the Christopher A. Poklemba Award. It’s a scholarship presented by the Gerstell’s Board of Trustees to the senior who has demonstrated leadership on and off the athletic field, has been a positive influence on the student body, exhibited a passion for school spirit and displayed a sincere interest in humanity. A few days prior, Vaeth was given the Athletic Excellence Award.
The Times caught up with Vaeth to learn about his high school experience and his plans for the future.
Q: How would you describe your high school experience?
A: Academic-Athletic-Social. The Gerstell Academy leadership-enriched high school experience provided me opportunities, in the classroom and beyond, to learn from experts and to learn from my mistakes: I grew as a person and a leader. With gratitude, I have made countless lifetime memories with my peers, the faculty/staff and members of the Carroll County community.
Q: How would you describe your experience when schools were virtual/hybrid?
A: Like many unexpected circumstances that (begrudgingly) require adjustments, I soon realized the benefits of socialization that we take for granted – a necessary part of the human experience – whether an extrovert or an introvert. I was quite impressed with how quickly Gerstell was able to adjust — and challenge us to refocus to this new way of learning. I have many teachers and administrators to thank for this unexpected, but valuable, memory. I believe that I am ready for any virtual experience that college throws at me. In upcoming years, virtual/hybrid learning may become the rule and not the exception.
Q: What are your academic and/or career plans?
A: With the help of the college guidance department and Gerstell’s generous concurrent enrollment allowances, I was fortunate to complete several college courses clarifying my future career directions. I will be attending the UMD Robert H. Smith School of Business and the University Honors College where I plan to study Finance. My interests include financial management services with a focus on the Baltimore/Washington corridor. Born, raised and educated in Maryland – I want to play a role in the future investments in this state. T. Rowe Price and Delloitte global investment, consulting and management firms intrigue me.
Q: How has high school prepared you for those plans?
A: Over the past four years, I have had several great mentors who have fanned the flames of my financial fascinations. We formed an investment club which expanded our global knowledge and interests beyond Wall Street. The generous Gerstell Academy dual enrollment program has positioned me to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in three years. I see this not only as a financially prudent move, but also a good strategy for early career entry or graduate school matriculation. Socially, high school has developed my interpersonal, public speaking and conflict resolution skills as these are heavily valued and emphasized in the Gerstell community.
Q: What is your favorite high school memory?
A: As a sophomore in 2019, the seniors surprised our entire high school with a water fight. During lunch, we all rushed outside to throw water balloons and spray each other with any water source we could find. For the rest of that day, the entire student body found themselves soaked while reviewing for exams. This water fight was a way of calming our nerves in the midst of some serious exam study. Now two years later, as seniors, our class re-initiated this water fight with a new set of students in high school. We gathered the freshmen, sophomores and juniors outside before we all came together to enjoy the last few days of school before exams. Sometimes harmless levity relaxes or distracts your mind when it is most needed and least expected. A new Gerstell tradition?
Q: What is something you learned in high school that you will carry with you in the next chapter of your life?
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A: Gerstell-ly, I have thought long and hard about the Gerstell leadership principles of perseverance in the face of adversity and the importance of striving to reach your full potential. Sentimentally, I have learned that we should optimally manage and fully appreciate the time that we have in high school: it goes all too fast as you unknowingly make the many lifetime memories that will be cherished forever. Though the COVID years were novel, take that unique opportunity to find a new way to succeed – academically and socially. I -- like every freshman, sophomore, and junior – just wanted to be a senior. Now that I am graduating, I find myself wanting to go to one more class, play one more inning, and have one more conversation with my teachers, coaches, and classmates. I suppose that’s life!