Student and Faculty Accomplishments Summer 2020

Susan Ellis Selected for N.C. Soccer’s National Champions Hall of Honor

Durham Academy varsity girls soccer coach Susan Ellis will be honored in January 2021 when the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame recognizes Raleigh Wings players and coaches as the newest members of its National Champions Hall of Honor. Ellis was an assistant coach of the Raleigh Wings in 1998 and 1999 when the team won back-to-back national championships.

The N.C. Soccer Hall of Fame established the National Champions Hall of Honor in 2012 to recognize North Carolina teams and programs that have won national championships. The Raleigh Wings won the United Soccer League (USL) W-league W-1 Division National Championship in the team’s first two years of existence.

Ellis was inducted into the N.C. Soccer Hall of Fame in 2019 for her accomplishments and contributions to North Carolina soccer. She was a member of four national championship teams at UNC-Chapel Hill; she coached in the initial women’s professional league, the Women’s Soccer Association, with the Carolina Courage; she has won numerous conference titles as a coach at DA; and she played on five championship teams in the over-30 National Veterans Cup.


Photo by Yueh Lee

Middle School Robotics Teams Compete in State Tournament

Durham Academy’s three Middle School robotics teams — the Robonators, the Neo Dragons and the DA Cav Squad — had lots to be proud of in their competition in the 2019–2020 First Lego League season.

The Robonators and Cav Squad qualified for the state tournament held in January in Greensboro, where the Robonators won first place for the Presentation Award in recognition of team members' effectiveness in presenting their project. In addition, the Cav Squad placed second for the Inspiration Award, in recognition of team members' enthusiasm and spirit.


Photo by Anne McNamara

Volunteers Package 30,000 Meals to Combat Global Hunger

More than 170 volunteers from every division of Durham Academy helped pack 30,000 meals to help end global hunger at the school’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service meal-packaging event. The event marked the school’s 11th year partnering with Rise Against Hunger for DA's MLK Day of Service.

The Jan. 22 event was organized by the Upper School’s Rise Against Hunger club, which is led by Claire Ridley ’20, Katie Hunter ’20, Anna Catherine Wilson ’21, Lucy Steiner ’21, Stacey Kang ’22 and faculty advisor Liliana Simón.

Online donations made through Rise Against Hunger's website raised $1,400; donations at In The Pocket’s Rise Against Hunger benefit concert totaled $2,100; and the Rise Against Hunger Club raised almost $1,800 through events like waffle sales and car washes.


Fifth-Grader Garrett Zhou Wins DA Geo Bee

It's not easy sitting on a stage in front of the entire Middle School to compete in what's essentially the most wide-ranging geography pop quiz. But that's exactly what students did for the final round of the Middle School's National Geographic Bee.

Congratulations are in order to all of the finalist competitors, who first had to best their classmates to reach the school-wide round, and especially to fifth-grader Garrett Zhou, the Durham Academy school champion. This marked the first time since 2009 that a fifth-grader has won the DA Geo Bee.

Thousands of students in fourth through eighth grades compete in the National Geographic Bee from all across the United States. Over more than three decades, 120 million students have participated in the Geo Bee.


Photo by Andrea Caruso

Impressive Showings for Science Olympiad Teams

Kudos to Durham Academy’s three Science Olympiad teams for their impressive showings at the regional tournament held Feb. 1 in Raleigh. The Upper School varsity team placed first, the junior varsity team placed second and the Middle School team placed 11th.

The Upper School varsity team placed first in a pool of 22 teams, and qualified for the state tournament, which was to have been held April 24–25 but was canceled due to COVID-19. The junior varsity team placed second in a field of eight teams, and the Middle School team placed 11th of 24 teams.


Photo by Michael Branscom 

Karen Richardson Completes World View Global Music Fellows Program

Congratulations to Middle School chorus teacher Karen Richardson, who was selected for the 2019–2020 World View Global Music Fellows program at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Richardson completed her immersive work as a Global Music Fellow in the spring and created these teaching materials that are now part of a resource for teachers: “Using ‘Water is Wide/Wusuli Boat Song’ to Explore Lullabies” and “Triple Meter & Quadruple Meter: Comparing and Combining them in Musical Compositions.”

World View programs are intended to equip K-12 and community college educators with global knowledge, best practices and resources to prepare students to engage in an interconnected and diverse world.

Richardson, who has taught chorus at the Middle School since 2015, was destined to have a career in music. “My mother told me that when she was pregnant with me, she actually played the piano every day, hoping that she would have a child who would love music, and I guess it turned out,” she said.

Four DA Upper Schoolers Selected for Governor’s School this Summer

While Governor's School of North Carolina had to be canceled for this summer, congratulations to the four DA Upper Schoolers who were selected for the prestigious program: Caroline Aldridge ’21, French; Asia Crowley ’22, Dance; Elle Gross ’21, French; and Mira Pickus ’21, English.


Artwork by Sophie Williamson-McLeod

Sophie Williamson-McLeod’s 3D Design Rises to the Top

Fifth-grader Sophie Williamson-McLeod was named runner-up in an international design thinking/3D design skills competition. Australia-based software company Makers Empire runs a monthly in-app competition that gives students an opportunity to test their skills against their peers from all over the world. The March competition asked students to design a mascot that stands up to bullies.

“Sophie's design in the Bully Busters competition was very creative and innovative,” Mandi Dimitriadis of Makers Empire said in an email congratulating Sophie. “We loved her cheerful mascots with their strong anti-bullying and girl power message.”


Photo by Catherine Angst

Fabiola Salas Villalobos Contributes to Book on African Diaspora

This spring marked two major milestones for Middle School Spanish teacher Fabiola Salas Villalobos. On April 30 she successfully defended her dissertation for her Ph.D. degree and she was awarded a doctorate in cultural studies and literacies from UNC-Chapel Hill.

In addition, Salas Villalobos wrote a chapter in Engaging the African Diaspora in K-12 Education, a book published in April, that provides teachers with information and resources related to African diaspora communities in the United States, Europe and Latin America.

Salas Villalobos’ chapter, “The Importance of Recognizing Afrodescendientes as Fundamental Members of Latin Countries: Using Costa Rica as an Example of How to Enrich Students’ Perspectives on the African Diaspora,” is based on her experience teaching on the topic at Durham Academy.

The chapter is an outgrowth of Salas Villalobos’ participation in the African Diaspora Fellows Program at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2015 and 2016. She also has served as a presenter and program evaluator for the African Diaspora Fellows Program.

Engaging the African Diaspora in K-12 Education combines the writings of scholars of the African diaspora with practical, hands-on tips and resources from middle and high school teachers and administrators.


DA Wins AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award

Durham Academy has earned the College Board’s AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award in recognition of at least half of all AP Computer Science students in the 2018–2019 school year identifying as female. Out of the 20,000 schools that offer AP courses, DA is among a mere 143 to be recognized for AP Computer Science.

For computer science teacher Julian Cochran, it’s been meaningful to see more of a gender balance in his classroom.

“To have those avenues open up for all students, it’s great. There's always been a focus on getting those underserved populations to take classes,” he said, noting that he also strives to increase ethnic and racial diversity in DA’s computer science program.

Read the full story



Sarah Ridley ’22

Sarah Ridley '22 has been selected to serve on the 2019–2020 TechGirlz Teen Advisory Board. TechGirlz is a nonprofit offering free, open source technology courses for middle school girls to help foster a love for technology. The courses are designed to inspire curiosity, impart confidence and build community, and are taught by volunteer instructors in 10 states and four countries to tens of thousands of girls.

The advisory board is made up of high school-aged girls who serve as advisors and mentors for the program at-large. Ridley is one of 19 members of the advisory board. For the first time, the board was divided into two regions because of the high number of competitive applicants.

The board provides hands-on experiences, helping both younger TechGirlz participants and staff. They help design new workshops and raise awareness for the need to increase the number of tech programs serving young girls. TechGirlz has served 20,000 students through its programs.


Photo by Carla Cerami

Sophia Hand ’23 Helps with Public Health Campaign for The Gambia

As the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the globe, ninth-grader Sophia Hand was working hard to help make a public health campaign for The Gambia. About 18,000 copies of leaflets and posters for which she designed artwork were distributed throughout the West African country — to villages, health centers, hospitals, mosques, youth groups and more.

Hand and her family lived in The Gambia last year. Her mother, Dr. Carla Cerami, a professor with UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health, has worked in the country since 2016.

View a PDF version of the leaflet Hand designed



Photo by Mary Moore McLean

Benny Klein ’20

Benny Klein ’20 has been awarded a Morehead-Cain Scholarship to attend UNC-Chapel Hill. The scholarship covers all expenses for four years of undergraduate study, as well as summer enrichment experiences.

Klein is one of 70 Morehead-Cain scholars chosen this spring from across North Carolina, the United States and around the world. Leadership, moral force of character, academic achievement and physical vigor are criteria for the award, which was founded in 1954 as the nation’s first merit scholarship program.

In addition to serving as president of the Upper School student body, Klein is the founder of R.A.I.S.E., a club that promotes inclusivity and social equity through affinity groups for marginalized students, fundraises to support a diversity scholarship, events and other initiatives. He is also the founder of Bundle Up Durham, a nonprofit that organizes community coat drives for students in need, and he was a member of the varsity basketball and baseball teams.

Impressive Results on National French Test

Senior French students at Durham Academy were among 3,969 students nationwide who participated in the Level 5 National French Contest (the Grand Concours) in March, and their results were impressive.

Madeleine Genova ranked No. 1 in the North Carolina American Association of Teachers of French chapter, as well as No. 4 nationally and received a Gold Award. Hayden Goss ranked No. 2 in the state chapter, as well as No. 8 nationally and received a Silver Award. Annie Brooks ranked No. 5 in the chapter and No. 12 nationally, receiving a Bronze Award.

In addition, former French and francophone literature students fared very well in their division (for advanced level students not currently enrolled in those classes). Annie Ma ranked No. 1 in the state chapter and No. 1 nationally, earning the highest score of her division and a Platinum Award. She is one of only 10 students of the 3,969 competing nationwide to receive a perfect score. Esme Longley ranked No. 2 in the state chapter and No. 2 nationally, earning a Gold Award.