Students Make the Most of Their Summer Breaks

What do St. Stephen’s students Coby Carrozza, Sierra Coffey, Zach Geller, Lauren Gill, Mia Jackson and Ava McDonald all have in common? Each made the most of their summer breaks in unique and interesting ways — from winning a national athletic competition, to developing case studies for college courses, to caring for asylum seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border.
In May, junior Lauren Gill reached out to Ann Messer, M.D., founder of One Good Turn in Austin, to explore her interest in the medical field. Messer, who had just returned from a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, pitched the idea of an independent project she could take on that would provide basic medical necessities to immigrants seeking asylum at the border. Gill researched which supplies would be most helpful to the immigrants, collected those items and then made 200 basic medical supply bags, which included a toothbrush, toothpaste, bandages, ibuprofen and hand sanitizer, among other items. In late May, Gill visited a tent city in Matamoros, a city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where she distributed the bags and spoke with refugee families.

Inspired by her experience, Gill started a crowdfunding initiative to raise money that would allow her to continue providing medical necessity bags to asylum seekers at the border. This summer, she successfully raised more than $1,000, enabling her to make another 200 bags, which were delivered to the border in early August. Gill’s ongoing goal is to continue raising money and delivering bags to those in need. “I decided to continue this project after the first round of bags because nobody deserves to be marginalized or to live in reduced circumstances,” she said. “By providing medical supply bags to asylum seekers, I hope to create awareness and bring some valuable necessities to those who need them most.”

Senior Coby Carrozza won the 400-meter freestyle in the Men’s Under-18 Division at the Phillips 66 National Championships held at Stanford University in August. Carrozza finished in a time of 3:52.70, shaving two seconds off his personal best. He also placed second in the 200-meter butterfly and fourth in the 200-meter freestyle. He already has committed to take his considerable aquatic talents to The University of Texas at Austin. 
Senior Sierra Coffey, editor in chief of the school’s Deacon yearbook, and freshman yearbook staffer Mia Jackson travelled to Texas A&M University in College Station to attend a three-day communications workshop with students from across Texas. St. Stephen’s yearbook coordinator Elizabeth Zepeda attended as well. At the workshop, the students acquired valuable design skills, including how to use InDesign and Photoshop, and learned about leadership strategies and current design trends. During the workshop, Coffey and Jackson attended multiple meetings with their yearbook mentor, Stacy Mehrens, a graphic designer and Balfour publishing rep. During the workshop, the Spartans developed the theme for the 2019–20 yearbook — which shall remain a secret for now!
Middle School student Zach Geller used his summer to develop his mock trial skills by participating in the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP). For three weeks in July, Geller joined 160 other rising eighth-grade students from around the nation for the program at Trinity University in San Antonio. TIP introduced them to criminal and civil law, as well as detailed workings of our judicial system. Students also learned how legal trials are conducted, including how to craft opening and closing statements, direct- and cross-examine witnesses, present evidence, and make objections. “We also studied different interpretations of the U.S. Constitution by reading opinions written by U.S. Supreme Court justices and learned how to craft our own interpretations,” said Geller, who is interested in a career in law and/or politics.
Senior Ava McDonald spent her summer working to grow her start-up business, Zfluence. The online platform connects influential members of Generation Z with the brands they love and empowers them to become brand ambassadors. McDonald was asked by a professor at UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business to develop a case study about Zfluence for inclusion in the school’s fall 2019 MBA curriculum. In addition, she was accepted into the Whatever It Takes (WIT) social entrepreneur and leadership program, offered by The University of California–San Diego. She will attend the 34-week course at Capitol Factory in Austin and earn six hours of college credit.
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