Student Accomplishments Winter 2021

Speech and Debate Program Named School of Outstanding Distinction

Durham Academy’s 2019–2020 speech and debate program is among just 10 programs nationwide to be named a School of Outstanding Distinction at the 2020 National Speech & Debate Association National Tournament.

It marked the first year that DA has been named a School of Outstanding Distinction; this honor acknowledges the 10 schools that earned the most points in speech and debate events at the tournament. 2020 was the eighth consecutive year that DA won a team award (having been named a School of Excellence in Debate each year from 2013–2019).

“Every year, we tell our students that we want to prove that we are one of the best. There have been two years where we thought we would be close to reaching the ultimate level of recognition only to come up short,” said Crawford Leavoy, director of DA’s speech and debate program. “This year, these kids delivered. However, I celebrate tonight's award while thinking of the years of Cavaliers that paved the way for tonight. They are a part of this award. Their hard work before has built the legacy that made this possible.”

14 Seniors are National Merit Semifinalists

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has recognized 14 Durham Academy seniors as semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

The following DA seniors — representing about 13% of the senior class — are semifinalists:

  • Chris Burkhard
  • Matthew Chang
  • Lukas Dannull
  • Griffin Edwards
  • Graham Hairston 
  • Kabir Khwaja
  • Felix Liu
  • Daniel Park
  • Declan Ross
  • Matt Schwartz
  • Dev Shah
  • Joey Shaheen
  • Jackson Tupper
  • Xander Wilcox

Semifinalists were chosen by virtue of their performance on the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Of the 1.5 million juniors in more than 21,000 high schools who took the qualifying test, approximately 16,000 students were recognized as semifinalists. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than 1% of all U.S. high school seniors, and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.  

About 90% of students from the semifinalist pool are expected to advance to the finalist level and will be notified of that designation in February. About half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, with notifications beginning in April and concluding in July. An estimated 7,600 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $30 million, will be offered in spring 2021.

Three types of scholarships will be offered: National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, which are awarded on a state-representational basis; about 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards of varying amounts; and about 4,100 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards of varying amounts.

Student-Created Podcast Focuses on Gratitude

In November, the Upper School Podcast Club, in collaboration with student literary and art magazine Exurbia, released “Tiny Gra-DA-Tude Stories,” a nine-minute podcast in which students and faculty talk about what they’re grateful for (with the challenge of doing so in 100 words or less). The submissions — some of which were shared anonymously — focus on everything from soup dumplings, art and music, to good health and a mother’s love demonstrated through food.

The podcast was produced and hosted by Podcast Club editor Mira Pickus ’21 and edited by English teacher Dr. Lauren Garrett. Stories for the podcast were collected by Exurbia editors Alex Hogue '21, Caroline Sun '22 and Cammie Zehner '21. Submissions are by Dr. Rebecca Shores, Cal Baker '22, Chaz Strickland '22, Emma Larson '21, Alex Hogue '21 and seven anonymous authors. Readers of anonymous submissions include Izzie Pierson '21, James Knowles '21, MK Bryant '21 and Shan Wang '20.

Cole Sinclair ’21 Sets Boys Hoops Scoring Record

With a layup off an offensive rebound, DA senior Cole Sinclair made history in Kirby Gym on Dec. 8, becoming the all-time scoring leader for the varsity boys basketball program. The previous record was 1,444 points, set by Jordan Lawson ’10.

As of Jan. 12, Sinclair — who joined the team as an eighth-grader — had scored 1,534 points. He also holds the DA boys basketball school records for games played (130) and three-pointers made (272). 

Watch Sinclair’s history-making moment in this clip from the Cavs’ Dec. 8 game vs. the South Wake Sabres, with commentary by Sam Datin ’21.

Three Seniors are National African American Scholars

Three Durham Academy seniors have been named National African American Scholars by the College Board.

To be selected for the National African American Recognition Program, a student must excel on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, have a minimum grade-point average of 3.5 by the middle of their junior year and identify as African American. DA’s National African American Scholars include the following:

  • Teresa Ibeanu
  • Lee Jeffries
  • Graham Hairston

Three Upper Schoolers Help Paint Black Lives Matter Mural in Carrboro

Photo by Pat James

After city workers and local artists in Washington painted the words Black Lives Matter in large yellow letters on a street leading to the White House in June, many cities and towns across the U.S. followed suit. That included Carrboro, which turned to three Durham Academy students to get the job done.

Selected from a pool of 17 applicants by the Carrboro Town Council, senior Carina Rockart and sophomores Ash Granda-Bondurant and Theo Preston started painting a mural on the side of the CommunityWorx building on Nov. 30. Working with artist Tyrone Small and Cyani Jacobs, a student at A.L. Stanback Middle School, the team braved many chilly December days. Still, it finished on Dec. 18, two days ahead of schedule.

Among the mural’s most distinctive features are the words Black Lives Matter in large black letters as well as a Black woman holding a sign that reads “hands up, don’t shoot.” The final design merged the rendering of the three DA students with the one that Jacobs submitted to the council.

“I’ve always wanted to do something big, so when I saw the opportunity I sent the details to my friends and we took it knowing there was a chance we wouldn’t be chosen,” Granda-Bondurant said. “Black Lives Matter, to be able to help send this message was unreal, but it was exactly what was needed after the craziness of 2020. I still go by the mural site just to stop and take it in so I can remind myself that this experience was real. As an artist, I was able to get myself out into the world, and as a mentor I’m proud to be an example of what’s possible when you put yourself out there.”

YoungArts Foundation Honors Zebee Jewell-Alibhai ’23

The National YoungArts Foundation has recognized DA sophomore Zebee Jewell-Alibhai ’23 as a 2021 YoungArts honoree in the jazz music category. He was honored at the merit level for his skill on the tenor saxophone. The YoungArts competition honors 15- to 18-year-old visual, literary and performing artists, who are selected via a blind adjudication of auditions and portfolios.

Jewell-Alibhai is a member of the Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble, which is a five-time finalist in the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition in New York City. He received an outstanding soloist award at the Essentially Ellington competition. He was also named one of two winners in the Gerry Mulligan National Competition.

"YoungArts is an amazing educational program for any aspiring jazz musician and to be part of a group of winners is a really amazing honor,” he said. “Many big names in the jazz world come together to be part of an education team at YoungArts, so I'm excited to be learning from them all this coming spring. It's an opportunity I am very grateful for and motivation for me to keep doing what I love!"

Jewell-Alibhai is a multi-instrumentalist, having played soprano saxophone since he was 6, trumpet since he was 9, and tenor saxophone since he was 12.