Highland School’s Merit Scholarships are Building Tomorrow’s Leaders Highland School offers students a demanding academic and co-curricular program that prepares them to thrive, lead, and serve in a diverse and dynamic world. Beyond a significant commitment to financial aid, Highland also offers a number of merit scholarships to attract and retain students. This year alone, Highland has committed over $3.5 million in financial and merit aid to students.
The Founders Scholarship is the most prestigious merit scholarship that Highland provides. The Founders Award recognizes students of significant academic ability and great leadership potential. While at Highland, these students have been Prefects, sports captains, play and musical leads, robotics captains, valedictorians, and salutatorians. They then matriculated to prestigious colleges including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and the Air Force Academy. Today, they are aerospace engineers, authors, CEOs, doctors, and surgeons. And, of course, some Founders Scholars are teachers, helping to shape the next generation of scholars and leaders.
Simon Schwartz of Delaplane, Highland Class of ‘13, graduated from Columbia University and founded his own software company. During his 14 years at Highland, Schwartz participated in several sports including soccer and baseball, performed in the annual musicals, and was particularly fond of History and the Classics.
“Highland uniquely prepared me to find success in an ecosystem like Columbia,” Schwartz said, where “your ability to stand out is determined by ’soft skills’ like problem solving, finding compromise, group dynamics, and your ability to communicate. Highland’s commitment to nurturing the skills one doesn’t necessarily learn in a classroom paid dividends towards helping me stand out and accomplish what I wanted to in my college experience.”
At Columbia, using the collaborative and critical thinking skills he learned as a Highland Founder’s Scholar, Schwartz dove into NYC’s startup ecosystem, building and directing Columbia’s tech accelerator programs for startups in the broader Columbia community. Hefounded and continues to run Locasaur, a software company building a mobile platform designed to help small, local businesses interact more with their current customers while continuing to build a digital footprint.
Tim Bartz of Paris, Virginia, embraced the opportunity the Founders Scholarship gave him to build a high school record that ultimately earned him acceptance into the prestigious McIntire School of Business at UVA. Bartz (‘14) was Class President for two years before his election to the Prefect Board for his junior and senior years. He played varsity soccer and tennis, helping to win two state titles. He completed seven Advanced Placement (AP) courses and was a member of the Robotics Business Team.
At UVA, Bartz concentrated in Finance and Marketing and interned as a brand analyst for Altria, a Fortune 200 company. He is now a financial planner for Abercrombie & Fitch.
When asked how Highland helped him, Bartz smiled. “When you walk down the halls of Highland School, there is something different about it – something authentically good. The faculty had an open door policy, and if I needed to confide in one of my teachers about a personal or academic challenge, I knew without a doubt that whomever I went to would do everything in their power to help me.” He went on, “ if you drove past Highland at 5pm on a Wednesday, you’d think classes were still going on. This is because most students make the choice to stick around. I chose to join the soccer team, just like many of my friends chose to join the school play. I chose to put in some extra time with my math books, just like my friends chose to put in some extra time with their guitars.” To me, “Highland was more than a school – it was a home away from home where we could explore our passions in a safe, judgment-free environment. The community encouraged me to not only set goals and lean in, but also lean on others to achieve those goals. It was during these early years that I gained the confidence to take risks and step out of my comfort zone.”
Jennifer Hoerner (‘13) of Delaplane was the third of five Hoerners to attend Highland. While there, she captained the field hockey and lacrosse teams and was Head of the Prefect Board. Hoerner was active with Relay for Life and excelled academically, particularly in the sciences. At Franklin and Marshall University, she majored in Biology, conducted independent research in behavioral biology with a school grant, and worked in the animal conditioning lab where she trained Capuchin monkeys. She also served as her sorority’s Vice President, in addition to working as an athletic trainer for varsity athletics.
After her first job in the Healthcare Management Consulting Market at Booz Allen Hamilton, Hoerner joined the Project Management Team at Mark G. Anderson Consultants in Washington D.C. last year. Reflecting on her time at Highland, Hoerner stated, “I am particularly thankful for the foundational writing skills I received at Highland. It allowed me to smoothly transition into a challenging liberal arts undergraduate education, where the bulk of our assignments were writing-based. Whether it was writing an undergraduate capstone for my independent research or a Report to Congress during my tenure at Booz Allen, I am incredibly thankful for the comfort I have clearly and concisely articulating my thoughts.”
The Killinger family of Middleburg has two current Founders Scholars in the house. Sophomore Ellie Rose plays volleyball and field hockey, while acting in the musicals, singing and playing guitar in the Music Department, and participating in Key Club and the Girl Up Club. When asked why she is so involved, Ellie says, “By taking advantage of all of these opportunities, I’ve been able to start to navigate myself as a person. Trying new things is so important to character building, and I get to try them in a really supportive environment.”
Her sister Chloe plays varsity soccer, plays drums in a band, and, as a Freshman, is taking an upper-level Science elective. “Not only does Highland offer me so many things to explore,” she said, “they also allow me to take a deep dive into the things that interest me. As a freshman, I can learn about commensalism in a class with seniors, but I can still find time to jam out with my classmates.”
Senior Luke Warfield of Delaplane is the boys tennis captain and manages the girls tennis team. He will also graduate this year having earned a Leadership Certificate, a Global Studies Certificate and a Social Entrepreneurship and Environmental Sustainability Certificate. Luke explained how he loves the certificate programs because “they give me the ability and time to explore fields that aren’t usually part of the high school curriculum. They also allow me to interact with professionals in these fields. For instance, I got to spend lunch doing an embassy crisis scenario with Brian Hall, who is the Global Entrepreneur Officer for the US State Department.”
Olivia Simmons’ primary love is soccer. The junior from Broad Run has already committed to play for Purdue. Besides playing for Highland and her travel team, Simmons actually started the Highland Summer Soccer Camp. Like many Founders Scholars, though, she is involved in much more. For instance, she leads the Baking Club, and her academic schedule is full, taking AP US History, AP Calculus, AP English Language, Honors Physics, and Honors Latin IV. When asked how she balances her high-level soccer schedule with her demanding course work Simmons said, “I love being busy because it means that I am being challenged at the edge of my abilities; it means that I am doing hard things well. I always feel like I can do more and do it better.”
Beyond Founders, Highland offers three other merit scholarships. Rust-Hamilton Scholars,Highland Scholars and Piedmont Scholars are equally impressive, and equally involved in the school’s life. After matriculating to schools including Georgetown, William & Mary, UVA, and Duke, these students are economic analysts, global health researchers, and computer scientists.
Savannah Birchall-Clayton (‘16) will graduate this year from the University of Virginia, having majored in English and Spanish. She plans on using these skills in her fields of passion: criminal justice and mental health. Birchall-Clayton credits Highland for helping her to develop these interests. “I helped lead Key Club, our service organization, and RASP, our literary magazine. They showed me how language and service can work together.”
Kathryn Whitehead (‘17) of Middleburg participated in Highland’s theater and music programs, and developed a true passion for Classical Studies. When asked about her time at Highland, she said, “It was such a good place to learn and grow, and I feel I truly discovered myself in those four years. I made some lifelong friends and I will always look back on my time there with fondness.” Whitehead now attends William & Mary where she studies Latin and Ancient History, and is an active member and soon-to-be officer of Eta Sigma Phi, the Honorary Society for Classical Studies.
Alex Iasso (‘18) of St. Louis, Virginia used his scholarship opportunity to invest himself in STEM learning, joining and eventually captaining the Highland Robotics Team and creating the Physics Club. In the process, he found his passion in his work with robots, both programming and controlling them. “One of the best things I ever did was to join the robotics team at Highland,” he said. “The process of watching older students learning and applying their experiences on projects helped get me interested. I progressed from knowing nothing at all about the field, toeventually teaching younger students. I hope I inspired some of them because robotics helped me discover who I am and what I can do.” Iasso is now studying computer science atRose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he works with Rose-Hulman Ventures to complete projects sponsored by outside companies. Over the summer, he will be working on projects for the U.S. Army with InCadence Strategic Solutions in Manassas, VA.
Maya Weck and Payton Vogan of Middleburg and Cynthia Peters of Willisford, while they are only Freshmen, have already embraced multiple Highland opportunities. Beyond the classroom, Maya is heavily involved in the arts program, in both 2-D and 3-D mediums. “I really enjoy the arts community at Highland. There is so much freedom, and so much that you are just able to do,” said Weck. “I can’t wait to pursue the Arts Certificate to both broaden and deepen my studies.”
Vogan is helping to produce the Yearbook, and has also taken a deep dive into leadership. She is a class officer, and her time on the volleyball and lacrosse teams allow her a real-life leadership classroom. “Highland provides so many opportunities to lead. I have been able to expand and build on my leadership skills, but, on my sports teams, I also get to watch upperclassmen who have more experience. They are pursuing the leadership certificate, like I want to, and I love learning from them.”
Peters has taken a wide view of her academic pursuits at Highland. While she acknowledges that her favorite subjects are English and art – “when I’m doing them, I feel like the work is coming through me, not just out of me” – she also spent the fall and winter on Highland’s robotics team. Of the connection between the two disciplines, Peters said, “Whether in English or art or robotics, you are building things. In English, I am building things with words. In robotics, I am putting robot parts together. The other connection is the teachers. I love them; they are incredible, and I can talk to any of them.”
Highland School is committed to providing a world-class education to a wide variety of students. These four merit scholarships enable the school to do just that. What is most gratifying, though, is seeing the ways in which these students ultimately give back to their communities, making them a better place to be.