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Alumni testimonials

Leave it to those who attended the Academy to best describe it. . . 

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Academy alums visiting the school on Feb. 15 are with teacher and fellow alum Sasha Murphy.

The 2017 Open House and Art Show at The Grosse Pointe Academy is tonight!

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, many of The Grosse Pointe Academy’s young alumni visited their former school to catch up with fellow graduates. They hope to follow in the footsteps of some of the older alumni from the Academy who are making a real difference in the world today. . . alumni who have attended or are attending some of the finest universities in the world. Alumni who work in diverse industries and fields, including finance, music, acting, manufacturing, marketing, engineering, human resources, government, law, public service and many, many more.

Below you’ll find just a few of those alums as well as what they’ve been saying lately about the education they received at The Grosse Pointe Academy.

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“I loved the small class sizes at GPA, and since Mercy High School also had small classes, it was a great transition. I felt completely prepared for high school, especially in science. As a matter of fact, I attribute my high grades in college science also to my GPA teachers. The Academy created my love of science, and I still remember many of it today. I’m even still great at classifying trees!” — Catherine (Worth) Chittick (’88) professional actress in Los Angeles

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“Some of the most lasting lessons that GPA teaches young people include manners and respect for others. I recall losing a baseball game at the Academy in second or third grade and being rather upset. But the coach took the time to talk to me about sportsmanship, the importance of leaving the competitiveness on the field, and looking forward to a rematch tomorrow. Those are heavy concepts for a six year old to take in, but I did, and it has stayed with me today and will be with me probably forever.” — James Cargas, (’80), energy attorney based in Houston

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“All of the teachers at GPA were very encouraging and supportive of my passion for music. Mrs. Chrisner, our music teacher, always found ways to utilize every student’s talent in all of the various programs and plays. One great memory for me involved one of my English teachers at GPA, who played drums in a local rock band and was actually playing at one of the school dances. He invited me up to play ‘La Bamba,’ which I had just learned. I think the movie had just come out. Ironically, I recently met David Hidalgo from Los Lobos at a festival we were both playing, and I told him that story.” — R.J. Ronquillo (’90) musician and composer who’s played with Stevie Wonder, Ricky Martin and Thompson Square

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Christopher, left, and Christian Love said that their educational experiences at the Academy definitely prepared them for high school and beyond.

“Our transition from GPA to high school was rewarding, first of all, because we were introduced to diversity at such a young age. Growing up in Detroit, we did not have much exposure to diverse populations and resources. But the Academy certainly prepared us physically, mentally, and emotionally to have those conversations about race and identity as well as how to interact and engage with diverse individuals through the lens of race, ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status.” — Christian Love (’04) “Leadership in Higher Education” M.Ed. program coordinator and second-year doctoral student in higher education at the University of Washington College of Education in Seattle. He graduated from GPA with his twin brother Christopher.

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Grace Andreasen, a 2014 graduate of The Grosse Pointe Academy, plays character Nettie in the University Liggett School’s production of “Orphan Train,” which was performed Nov. 3-6. (“Orphan Train” photo by Holland McClinton, ULS)

“I felt so prepared coming from GPA to Liggett in terms of my ability to manage my workload and also my ability to thoughtfully contribute to class discussions. I remember during freshmen year at Liggett that a lot of students [non-GPA grads] were complaining about the amount of homework, and that all of the GPA grads could easily handle it. Also, all of the Academy students seemed in a way more thoughtful and even more mature, and could easily hold meaningful discussions in class.” — Grace Andreasen (’14) junior at University Liggett School

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Alum Patrick Ball, left, is with then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

“GPA provided me an excellent learning structure to build upon at Grosse Pointe South High School and then at Tulane University and Wayne State university law school. I really appreciated all the teachers and staff that were so important in my schooling at the Academy. I began at GPA in pre-school in about 1982, as I recall, and I still have fond memories of many teachers and administrators—especially my kindergarten teacher, Ann Carson, my 4th- and 5th-Grade teacher, Bob Lapadot, and those summer trips with our science teacher, Mike Fultz.” — Patrick Ball, a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

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“I feel grateful that at the Academy we were all pushed to do a bit of everything — academics, sports, chorus, art, drama, etc. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but now as an adult, I still meet people and notice how integral those small things are that contribute to making a person so well-rounded.” — Paige Russell (’04), graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design who operates an art studio and business in Austin, Texas.

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“The Academy certainly prepared me for high school and beyond. Academically, of course, across all subjects, GPA is phenomenal. Beyond that, though, the Academy always encouraged creativity and compassion. There’s something magical about the building and the grounds, and the curriculum actively nourished creative thinking.” — Chelsea Baumgarten (’03), writer and poet now living and working in New York City

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“Academically, I felt I was extremely prepared, especially in science, French, math and English. Coming into a private high school like Liggett, the academic expectations were high and I felt I was ready. I believe that GPA has influenced me in many ways in my life and career, but I think what has been most important is that at the Academy, you were always taught to treat everyone as you would like to be treated yourself. That has been huge for me.” — Meghan (Brady) Hishmeh (’85), post-op orthopaedic surgery nurse and boys high school hockey coach in Montville, New Jersey

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James, left, and Walter Mosley say their current career success would not have been possible if not for the Early School-to-eighth-grade education they received at the Academy.

“Besides the academics, character development was an important takeaway for me at GPA. From an academics perspective, especially with science and math, the foundation was super strong. But what I grew to appreciate later and something that is very important to me now was the focus on character development at the Academy, and definitely the school’s emphasis on being very family-oriented, and on becoming not only a good person, but a good person with integrity.” — Walter Mosely (’92), lawyer in Los Angeles

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“I received many benefits from attending GPA. The well-rounded education at the Academy has given me the opportunity to be successful in various subjects. But besides its excellent academic program, I was well-prepared for the future because of the skills I learned in GPA classes such as art class, the music classes, creative movement, P.E., Christian Life, computer and library classes, all of which has allowed me to find my passion both inside and beyond academics.” — Léonie Leslie (’12), MSU undergrad and member of the Grosse Pointe South Academic Hall of Fame

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“GPA is still the amazing place I remember as a student, and it continues to instill life-changing experiences and relationships in its students and teachers each and every day. Truly something for every type of student. For me, this was how you teach children.” — Sasha (Ovshinsky) Murphy (’89), dean of students, physical ed teacher for grades 4-8, NJHS/Student Council advisor and community service coordinator at The Grosse Pointe Academy

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“My Grosse Pointe Academy experience gave me the well-rounded educational foundation so critical to high school and college success. I attended GPA from preschool to grade eight and what I now realize is that the tradition and rigor that characterize a GPA education is in fact what enabled me to engage in more unorthodox means of learning in my high school years. In other words, I was so comfortable and well-versed in my academics after graduating from the Academy, I was far more open to the idea of alternative-learning methods as I matured in the context of an art school.” — George Spica (’11), graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy currently pursuing his art education in London where he attends the Slade School of Fine Art at University College, the highest ranked art school in the UK.

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Former Academy student Jesse Paris Smith is with her mother, Patti Smith, after a recent concert.

“I loved attending GPA so much, and of all the memories of my life, the ones of being there are some of the most dear to me. While I was only a student at the school for four years total, what I learned and experienced there created such an important foundation for the years that followed, and so many things I learned have stayed with me, and have probably influenced me in ways I’m not even aware of. This includes what I learned in the classroom, interacting with the other students, and just being in those incredible buildings, and on the grounds of the school.” — Jesse Paris Smith, musician and activist who along with her mother, the famed singer/musician Patti Smith, is advocating for climate change solutions around the world.

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“GPA not only prepared me for the rigors of high school work but it definitely taught me the priceless skills of time management and perseverance, which one needs in abundance in this business.” — Carrie Gentry (’03), alum and business owner in Detroit

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“There is no doubt that The Grosse Pointe Academy provided me the academic foundation that later became a major part of my commitment to academic prowess, scholastic excellence, and care for the community. For a quick example, I remember knowing how to write a five-paragraph essay with ease in 9th grade and that other students were starting at a loss. But to be fair, GPA’s impact is vastly more than that. At GPA, I was exposed to the lifestyles of business owners and other pillars of the community. It was there that I was first challenged to become the global citizen that Wellesley College would later mold me to be. GPA was the birthplace of my commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equality as a life’s mission and daily practice. It also was at GPA where I first learned the science behind the birds and the bees, sang and danced on my first stage, and dragged my mother to the mall to purchase my first pair of Birkenstock slip-ins [which I still have!]. All I can say is thank you to all of the teachers, staff, stakeholders, parents, classmates, and mentors who I was too young to truly appreciate at that time. — Chanel Geter (’06), Wellesley grad pursuing a career in human-resources management and professional-development consulting

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“I always felt very well-prepared and rarely was I in over my head in high school. I definitely think that trickled on down the line to college as well. I honestly loved all my teachers there. The music instructor, Mrs. [Marion] Chrisner, my pre-school teacher, Mrs. Beth [Plotzke], my second grade teacher, Mrs. [Renee] Martin, my fourth and fifth grade teacher, Mrs. [Barbara] Markus, just to name a few. Everyone was always so nurturing and kind. I also made so many wonderful lifelong friends at that school. To this day, I live just a few blocks away in New York City from some of my best friends that I met in preschool at GPA. And we’re as close now as we were then.” — Victoria Reed, singer-songwriter who recently completed a nationwide tour

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“Just thinking about the Academy makes me want to cry — but in a good way. GPA was a game changer that led directly to me doing so well in high school, college and law school, and that it also gave her the drive she needed to become a successful attorney.I have to say it was that unique approach to education at the Academy, the very individualized approach that emboldened all of us. Every child. . . we all felt like the world was our oyster. It made learning fun and definitely helped to boost our self confidence, which was critical for us at that age. In the Academy at the time, and in my class especially, there were kids from every walk of life, with very diverse cultural backgrounds. We were diverse racially and diverse socioeconomically. There were rich kids. There were poor kids. A very, very diverse group of students, who while we were all quite different, never noticed any of those differences.”  — Megan Bonanni (’80), civil rights attorney practicing in Royal Oak; also was commencement speaker at 2016 graduation.

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“I definitely think the Academy helped prepare me academically for high school and even for college in that I developed good study habits and an academic discipline that continued to serve me throughout my years as a student after GPA.” — Natalie Relich (’01), manages non-profit coalition of technical, social and commercial innovators who have developed a low-cost system to purify water in impoverished countries

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“The Grosse Pointe Academy offered such a wide variety within every class, we were able to explore our interests in many ways. Then, when I got to Grosse Pointe South, I was able to choose the classes I wanted based more on my interests. With the help of the Academy, I was able to broaden my visions beyond the norm and find my own niche.” — Carmella Goree (’11), named a REBUILD Detroit Scholar, which brought from the University of Detroit Mercy a scholarship totaling more than $140,000

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Academy grad Joseph Cavataio, left is with varsity tennis teammates while at Cranbrook-Kingswood.

“The Academy definitely prepared me to be a leader. Because of the small class sizes at GPA, we had the opportunity to be in the limelight quite often and that gave me the confidence to pursue leadership opportunities in high school. My freshman year at Cranbrook was relatively easy for me since I was so far ahead academically. I’ve noticed that many other students from The Grosse Pointe Academy also end up in leadership positions at Cranbrook, ranging from class president to editor of the school newspaper.” — Joseph Cavataio (’11), graduate from Cranbrook-Kingswood, now at the University of Michigan studying physics and engineering

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“My time at GPA really helped me gain the confidence and self-awareness I needed to make the choice to go to the IA in the first place.” — James Raudabaugh (’12), graduate of the prestigious International Academy, an International Baccalaureate school. He currently is studying film in college.

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About The Grosse Pointe Academy
The Grosse Pointe Academy is an independent, coeducational day school serving children age 2-1/2 through Grade 8. We foster an inclusive environment that respects all cultures and religious beliefs. We seek to remain faithful to our heritage as a former Academy of the Sacred Heart and to those who through their Catholic faith and perseverance sought to preserve and enhance the legacy of this past for generations. Incorporated as a non-profit institution, The Grosse Pointe Academy is directed by a Board of Trustees working together to serve the Southeastern Michigan community.
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