By Sabe Fink and Kelly Weller
Photos by Kristy Snell
In this first ever effort in Portico Eastern Shore at celebrating the best and brightest High School Seniors our community has to offer, we have the unique privilege of bringing you a feature called Super Seniors. In this 9-page double feature, we set about asking questions to this creative intelligent group who gave thoughtful, funny, intelligent, and clever answers to questions that went from “the best advice my parents gave me”, to predicting the future!
Where did we find these super seniors? Great question! We asked the schools to nominate several of their top students and we combed through as a committee and made some extremely difficult choices to cull them down to 12. Luckily we don’t have to tell you what we found. They will tell you in their own words to our questions and if anyone is looking for a bottom line, here it is: the future is bright for our community and our country with people about to enter the world like this group of artists, dreamers, creators, athletes, and so much more who desire to share their talents and make their world – and ours – a better place. We are heartened and encouraged by their words, their works, and their example. We welcome and honor our Super Seniors!
SUPER SENIOR ANDRES CHRISTENSEN
ST. MICHAEL CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
Andres Christensen brought a cosmopolitan background to St. Michael. A dual citizen of the United States and Chile, he maintains relationships at his old school in Chile, returning their repeatedly to help build houses for earthquake victims. “Last summer, we were unable to go because of the pandemic,” he says. Andres finds plenty to keep him engaged and involved here on the Eastern Shore, with sports and schoolwork and service organizations. In his opinion, the many opportunities for sports and outdoor activities are what’s best about living here. He plays soccer and runs cross country, and loves boating, sailing, and the beaches.
The most important thing Andres has learned in high school is that it is satisfying to dedicate time to helping others. He also says that, “To have fun at school requires that you get involved at school.” From his parents, Isabel and Andres Christensen, he has learned three things: be happy with what you are doing, persevere when you want something, and be brave enough to take risks or change course when necessary. Andres believes that the biggest problem facing his generation is the connecting and interacting with people in person. “We have lived our lives online recently, and we need to reverse course.” He predicts that the pandemic will make us more attuned to health issues, and that attention must focus on mental health issues in the wake of the pandemic.
Andres, who plans to study medicine, says his special gift is perseverance. “I am always working hard on things I believe in, even when there are obstacles or when my goals seem unattainable,” he says. Travel is a passion, and he loves to meet people from different cultures. If he could travel anywhere, it would be South Africa, partly because of its terrain, with mountains on the east, the ocean on the west, and plenty of opportunities for water sports. “I also want to visit Robinson Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.”
SUPER SENIOR ISABELLA McCORMICK
Isabella McCormick has been an actor, a dancer, a political activist, a volunteer, a leader, and an outstanding student during her high school career at Bayside. In addition, she finds time for fun and for indulging her sense of curiosity and wonder about all sorts of topics. She is grateful that her parents, Ashley and Jason McCormick, have instilled in her the knowledge that her mind is her own. “It is up to me how I handle any given situation,” she says. “No one can elicit a strong reaction from me unless I let them.”
Isabella has always been fascinated by etymology – the origin and meaning of words. “I’ve always wondered how things got their names, and why we call things what we do.” She thinks the most important lesson she takes away from high school is time management, which she acquired to juggle her demanding schedule. She imagines in the future that “Roombas will talk to us, just like Siri does!” She’s pretty laid back about most things, but erratic drivers make her crazy.
Isabella’s perfect day includes a long hike or bike ride and a picnic with friends. This may be followed by a glorious sunset, which she says is the best thing about living on the Eastern Shore. If she could travel anywhere, it would be Rome. “Just because it’s Rome!”
Isabella performed with the Eastern Shore Repertory Theatre from fourth grade through junior year, and was selected for their elite travel team each summer from sixth grade until last year. The travel team won group awards of excellence in acting, dance, and music. She also performed in the New Works Showcase, twice in Atlanta and once in California. She was a member of the Fairhope Junior City Council in her junior year, and was involved in a youth outreach program during the mayoral campaign of 2020.
Isabella describes herself a thoughtful, driven, and fun. She loves to write poems and short stories – and she can do a mean cartwheel!
SUPER SENIOR JACOB MOORE
BAYSHORE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
Jacob Moore is a strong, steady leader who’s somewhat reluctant to talk about himself. If this weren’t the case, he would have a lot to say.
A truly well-rounded young man, he has been extremely active over the past few years in school and out. He was Bayshore Christian School’s student body president and also was a National Honor Society member and the school’s representative to Alabama’s Boys State. On the soccer field, Jacob was the star goalie and team captain and was named the team’s best defensive player.
But this is just part of his story.
Jacob, who is the son of David and Sally Moore, is the kind of student that many others look up to. In addition to his impressive leadership qualities, he has a reputation for having a kind heart, and this is also a quality he looks for in others. “My favorite thing about where I live is the beauty of the place, and even more, the general kindness that the community holds,” he says. “Getting a wave and a smile from a complete stranger never fails to help me through the day. There’s nothing like Southern hospitality.”
Jacob served as House Captain of House Terrae, overseeing the students in seventh through 12th grades and leading them in weekly house meetings as well as coordinating service projects and special events. Music is a big part of his life, too – he takes an active role in weekly student worship services as a guitarist in the Chapel Band.
Showing an entrepreneurial spirit, Jacob started his own business during the past year, despite restrictions from the pandemic. His company, Piano Prodigy, offers a full range of services to piano owners such as moving, tuning, and repairs.
He also volunteers at Prodisee Pantry. He likes to spend his free time enjoying all that the Eastern Shore has to offer. This includes hanging out with good friends, playing his guitar, and eating great food.
SUPER SENIOR J.C. BRYARS
Just like his mom and dad before him, J.C. Bryars loves calling the Eastern Shore home, but he does want to experience other places.
“If I could go anywhere, I would choose Japan,” he says. “I want to see how the other parts of the world are compared to my hometown.”
His parents, Coleman and Aurelia Bryars, have taught him to stay true to his roots and never to forget where he comes from. It’s unlikely that he ever would because he has made a significant impact at Bayside Academy – not only as one of its top students and athletes, but also as a good friend to so many classmates. His experiences outside of school, such as farm work and volunteering at Prodisee Pantry, have helped to shape him, as well.
He’s incredibly active but bemoans the fact that there isn’t more time in the day to do more, especially when it comes to helping others. “If I could change one thing, it would be that each person would take a few minutes out of each day to help another person,” he says. “I am hopeful and optimistic that eventually people will come to an understanding and learn to work towards a common goal. I guess my passion, my drive, is to improve others’ lives in some small way.”
At Bayside, J.C. is president of the Student Ambassadors, co-president of Key Club, treasurer of the Student Government Association, and a member of the Honor Association. Additionally, he has excelled in football, club lacrosse, and wrestling.
When he does have some down time, he likes to spend it at the beach with some good friends and some good music. “We are so lucky to have this beautiful place to live,” he says.
Wherever he goes in life, he believes the best lesson he’ll take with him from his time at Bayside is the ability to convey his ideas to others in order to achieve a common goal. He describes himself this way: “I’m an 18-year-old kid who is just trying to make the world a little better every day.”
SUPER SENIOR MILLIE OLLINGER
ST. MICHAEL CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
Millie Ollinger is the daughter of Trin and Ellis Ollinger. She is a Fairhope native and loves its beautiful sunsets. Millie’s perfect day includes a boat ride on the bay with her family, including two chocolate labs, listening to country music, and getting a tan. The most important advice from her parents is that hard work is the most important thing for success and self-respect. She loves to travel, and enjoys skiing, sailing, and visiting big cities and exotic places. If she could travel anywhere, it would be Greece, Santorini in particular, because she loves the ancient classic architecture that has stood for centuries and she could visit the beautiful Mediterranean beaches.
The most important thing Millie has learned in high school is how to balance her schoolwork in AP and Honors classes, her leadership roles on the cheer team and student government, her part-time job, and her passion for theater, voice, and dance. Her love of musical theater has taken her from the local stage to conferences in Atlanta and California and workshops in New York. She is curious about the inner workings of Broadway – the behind-the-scenes work and technical expertise that go into a big production.
According to Millie, the pressure of social media and how it can distort reality creates unrealistic expectations for young people. “It’s bogging us down,” she says. In the future, she hopes we will learn to be grateful for what we have. “The pandemic has shown us how much we need human contact – and we also need kindness.” It drives her crazy when people don’t listen to each other, because then they don’t learn from each other. If she could change one thing in today’s world, it would be to instill more tolerance, more respect for other peoples’ beliefs and passions.
Millie would describe herself as outgoing, accepting of others, and curious about the world we live in.
SUPER SENIOR OLIVIA RAINER
BAYSHORE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
Olivia Rainer is a lover of beauty, whether that beauty is found in God’s creation, in her beloved home town of Fairhope, or in her own artistic creations. Creativity is her passion. “From the time I was first introduced to crayons and coloring books, I have been inspired to draw, paint, and make all kinds of crafts that reflect the beauty and goodness found in the world,” she says. This inspiration, along with different forms of creativity she has learned from her parents, Dr. Clay and Mendolyn Rainer, are what have made Olivia the artist she is today. “I have found both solace and strength in making artwork that mirrors my feelings, thoughts, and worldview. I hope I can be a source of inspiration for others with what I create.”
Olivia believes that the best things about living on the Eastern Shore are found in the physical beauty of the surroundings. “Whether it’s Mobile Bay at sunset, the camellias and azaleas in springtime, or the plethora of quaint buildings downtown, this place I am blessed to call home is an inspiration to me as I pursue an art career,” she says. “There is beauty in resilience; even after hurricanes, it bounces back in the most extraordinary ways, bringing people together and making those first sightings of returning greenery even sweeter.”
Olivia has been deeply ingrained in campus life at Bayshore Christian School, and has taken leadership positions in art, academics, athletics, music, and volunteerism. Her volleyball skills helped lead the Bayshore varsity to a state championship this year. She shares her gift of music by singing at Chapel every week, and is first to volunteer for anything that needs to get done. Her advisors at Bayside say that her gentle spirit shines through while she serves others willingly without being asked and without expecting anything in return.
SUPER SENIOR REECE MILES
DAPHNE HIGH SCHOOL
Reece Miles believes that leadership, whether in the family, in school or in the workplace is all about leading by example and serving others. As class president at Daphne High School and as a standout on the baseball team, he is known to be mature, responsible, and honest. In the classroom, he is punctual, prepared, and engaged.
Reece, the son of Jennifer Orr and Rusty Miles, says the most pressing problem facing his generation today centers around technology. “We spend way too much time engaged with our cell phones,” he says. “Because of that, we are missing out on so much of the real world around us.” He also thinks we could all benefit from listening more. He notes that “ignorance talks too much, and wisdom does not,” and says listening is the way to effect change in our world.
Reece says our beaches and our weather are part of what make the Eastern Shore such a great place to live. He says that one thing that really bugs him is the way people drive, particularly on the Bayway and in the tunnel.
Aviation – anything about flying, or space – is a passion that has always piqued Reece’s curiosity, and that may provide a career path he explores in the future. Of all the places he has learned or read about, he would like to travel to Praslin, an island in the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. He would like to experience its beautiful beaches and sunsets, its dense and rugged jungle-covered interior, and absorb some of its culture.
Reece’s idea of a perfect day starts with spending time in the sunshine on the beach with family and friends, then going home to eat a delicious homemade meal. He has been told that he is a good communicator and a leader, and he says he can make friends with just about anyone.
SUPER SENIOR SIYONA MISTRY
SPANISH FORT HIGH SCHOOL
Siyona Mistry is the daughter of Paresh and Purvi Mistry, and has always been conscious of her Indian heritage. As a child, she worried about fitting in, but her parents taught her to take pride in her identity. “Now I embrace my heritage, and am proud of who I am. Growing up here has shown me the diversity of our ecosystem and inspired my interest in environmental activism. She is part of the Alabama Environmental Youth Council, which educates our generation about conservation.”
The most important lesson Siyona learned in high school is that life is not a filtered Instagram post, but full of challenges. “The ability to overcome failure is the determinant of success,” she believes. The biggest problem facing her generation is fossil fuel consumption, and the need for clean and economical renewable energy sources. One thing that drives her crazy is littering. “It’s easy to clean up after yourself; I can’t understand why people willingly hurt the environment.”
Siyona is curious about cultural differences and hopes to study abroad to experience diversity. If she could travel anywhere, she would choose Iceland, to fulfill her dream to observe the aurora borealis. For now, her perfect day is eating her mom’s delicious food, being with friends, feeding the ducks, and watching the sunset.
Art is Siyona’s passion. For her, art is a universal language, a way to express emotions, an outlet for social commentary. During quarantine, Siyona turned to art as an antidote for boredom, and created an art account on Instagram. “It was great because I discovered a warm, welcoming community of artists, and we share constructive criticism and provide support to one another.”
Siyona describes herself as a quiet person with a wild imagination, passion, and a strong work ethic. “I think before I speak because I want my words to carry meaningful weight. When I care about an issue, I work my hardest to resolve it.”
SUPER SENIOR SYDNEY WRYE
DAPHNE HIGH SCHOOL
Sydney Wrye loves the community spirit that exudes all along the Eastern Shore. She enjoys attending the many arts and crafts festivals that happen in the spring, watching and sometimes marching in the Mardi Gras parades, seeing people come together for Friday night high school football in the fall, and exploring all the many parks and trails that abound throughout the area.
Sydney’s consuming passion is music. “I love music,” she says. “I love playing instruments. I play the French horn and the trumpet, and I love every second I spend playing music. My musical experiences have presented opportunities that have connected me with so many amazing people in the community.” Sydney is an active member of the Baldwin Pops and the Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra, and she formerly played with the Baldwin County Youth Orchestra. She is also the brass captain and mellophone section leader for the Sound of the Eastern Shore Marching Band.
In addition to excelling in music at Daphne High School, Sydney stands out for her academic achievements. She is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program and is ranked first in her class. Her teachers and counselors say that her perseverance is an inspiration, especially considering the fact that she has dealt with cerebral palsy all her life. She has an unfailing positive attitude and determination to succeed, and she sees medical school in her future. She also stays involved in volunteer activities in and out of school, including Key Club and the Student Government Association at school and several local charitable organizations.
Sydney is the daughter of John and Johanna Wrye. Her idea of a perfect day would include walking around downtown Fairhope with a group of friends, getting ice cream, maybe, and having fun down at the pier. And probably playing some music!
SUPER SENIOR TATE HARTMAN
FAIRHOPE HIGH SCHOOL
Tate Hartman is a big believer in preparation, and he works hard well in advance to face the many challenges that come his way.
We’re not just talking about leaving Fairhope High School for college. He has applied this approach to many different pursuits, including his determination to make a difference on the soccer team as well as learning to sail to honor his late grandfather.
Those lessons in the importance of planning came from his parents, Ingrid and Dan Hartman, who told him: “Start studying two days in advance, not just one, and if you are having trouble pray to God and he will help.”
Being on the Mobile Bay, where he can keep improving his sailing skills, is what Tate loves most about living on the Eastern Shore. He laments, however, that because of COVID-19 he has not been able to visit his relatives in Denmark.
Tate hopes that people of his generation will learn to treat others with more respect, regardless of who they are. He believes that, in the future, we will overcome our prejudices toward people who are different from us, and will be better as a community and a society. “If I could change one thing in the world it would be that people are treated more fairly,” he says. “I hope that the lessons we have learned during the pandemic will help us achieve this tolerance and equality.”
Tate describes himself as hard-working, caring, dedicated, and funny. He has many interests, including sports and other outdoor activities. “My passion is soccer,” says Tate. “I love going out on the field with my brothers from Fairhope. I may not be the best, but I love being part of a team.”
Tate has been active with Interact, a service club affiliated with Rotary, as well as holding down part-time jobs and doing mission work through his church. He describes himself as “hard-working, caring, funny, and dedicated.” Others might add descriptions like “upbeat, personable, and highly intelligent.”
SUPER SENIOR TITAN THOMPSON
SPANISH FORT HIGH SCHOOL
Titan Thompson has a passion for politics, and for hard work. He has volunteered on a number of state and local political campaigns, and is active in the Teenage Republicans. This experience has given him an understanding of the political process far beyond what textbooks provide.
The son of Daniel and Nicole Thompson, Titan has grown up with a strong work ethic, and has always held a job in addition to attending Spanish Fort High School. He has worked as an office assistant, site photographer for a swimming pool installation company, and recreation attendant at the Grand Hotel. “I really had to learn to manage my time,” he notes.
In addition to school and work, Titan has honed his computer skills and earned a number of certifications including Microsoft Office Specialist. He excels in public speaking, and he is interested in graphic design and social media applications. He is a member of the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council, and has volunteered in disaster preparedness and recovery operations.
Titan says the best thing about growing up on the Eastern Shore is being by the water. “The weather is amazing, the views are incredible, and life just seems simpler,” he says. The most important lesson he has learned in high school is not to overthink things. “Sometimes, the mind can make things seem a lot more difficult than they actually are,” he says. “You just have to trust your instincts.” The biggest problem facing today’s young people is a question of identity. Titan believes that successful people are the ones who make a name for themselves and stand out among the rest.
Titan, who is looking forward to attending Auburn University in the fall on an All Auburn Merit Scholarship, describes himself as resourceful above all else. “I like to figure things out,” he says, “even if that means finding the right person to help me figure it out.”
SUPER SENIOR VICTORIA BOISROND CANAL
FAIRHOPE HIGH SCHOOL
Victoria Boisrond Canal has seen more than most high school seniors, and learned lessons that will be with her forever. Victoria was born in Haiti – a country torn by war and violence and plagued by poverty, and by a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 – yet she was determined to stay in school and become a lawyer. Even as her home and her school were destroyed, her determination to survive endured. Slowly, life regained some stability and she could focus on the future.
When Victoria was in early high school, she and her sister left Haiti and their mother to continue their education here. She is an active member of the Key Club, the largest service organization on campus. Victoria serves as a volunteer at the public library. She has worked with a nonprofit focusing on children with disabilities, helping them to feel valued and experience kindness.
Victoria’s family taught her that failure is not an option. When she was leaving to come here, her mother, Evelyne Boisrond Canal, told her she was not only fighting for herself but for others without the same opportunity. “The most valuable things I’ve learned in high school are self-discipline, self-esteem, and flexibility,” she says. The biggest problem she sees facing her generation is fear of failure. “The majority give up after one try for fear of being judged. We are not living for ourselves, but for the internet.”
Victoria is passionate about social sciences and human rights, and hopes to study international relations and law in college. She loves classical music, theater, and debate. Her dream is to travel to Greece to see the Acropolis and the temples of the Greek gods and goddesses at Mount Olympus.
Victoria’s advice to her peers is to work hard, keep trying new things, and live without regrets. “Cherish good friendships and don’t feel obligated to stay friends with people who make you unhappy.” Her own happy day would include watching the sun rise, playing with her dogs, eating new foods, and enjoying some ice cream.