SchoolPower Student Story – Elijah Meisse
Elijah Meisse is, like many LBHS seniors, finishing up his college applications. While he’s not sure yet where he will be studying, he is very sure of what he will be studying: musical production and musical technology. This love of music started simply enough, when he was handed a recorder in his 3rd grade class at El Morro Elementary. From that modest beginning, a spark was ignited. For Elijah it has been all music all the time ever since.
The recorder led to the saxophone in 4th grade which then led to Concert Band and Jazz Band at Thurston. Looking back, Elijah says, “My favorite was Jazz Band. Mr. Shew was the best, the best I could ever ask for. It was the most inspiring thing. It has always been special.” Past and present students continue to mourn legendary Jazz Band teacher Roger Shew who passed away this Fall. His inspiration lives on in students, like Elijah.
Once Elijah got to LBHS, the world of music continued to open up for him. “In 9th grade, I took strings, drumline, marching band, jazz band and the musical pit. I knew music was my thing. I loved it. It has seriously changed my life,” he says.
Every year SchoolPower gives money to help fund important school programs like music in grades K-8. Additionally, SchoolPower Endowment funded a three year initiative to expand LBUSD’s strings program. “I was given a lot,” explains Elijah about his experience. “To have what we have…when we go to other schools, a lot of them don’t have three tubas or four basses. When they come to us…they can’t believe it.”
Talking to Elijah it is clear that his passion for music has not wavered since his first day with the recorder. SchoolPower is proud to help kids like Elijah find their passion and reach their potential.
Last year, SchoolPower gave $972,086 to LBUSD, including over $75,000 to music. In the past three years, a $150,000 commitment from SchoolPower Endowment expanded the strings offerings at all four schools.
SchoolPower Student Story – Alden Stoneman
Alden Stoneman performed in Carnegie Hall with Laguna Beach High School’s wind ensemble, but his resonating memory of that extraordinary April day isn’t the standing ovation and sought-after superior competition score. What he most fondly recalls is the beautiful, enduring sound.
“It was unlike anything I had heard before,” says the 17-year-old. “You play any note in that hall and you hear it for five seconds. It is an amazing place.”
Alden plays the clarinet, which he picked up as a Top of the World fourth grader, and the bass clarinet with the wind ensemble. He plays percussion instruments – including the marimba, xylophone and bass drum – in the school’s award-winning drum line. He is also the drum major in the marching band and a musician in the orchestra pit.
Understanding the mechanics of many instruments will help Alden become an instrumental conductor, a field he plans to major in during college. It is a profession he says will allow him to interpret the emotion of music and to put his feelings into a composition. He also believes that conducting will give him both the chance to teach and the opportunity to be an effective leader.
Last year, SchoolPower gave $972,086 to LBUSD, including over $75,000 to music. In the past three years, a $150,000 commitment from SchoolPower Endowment expanded the strings offerings at all four schools. For kids like Alden, it means that every day of their lives can be filled with music.
SchoolPower Student Story – Victoria Blakemore
Victoria Blakemore landed a spot at Parsons School of Design’s summer intensive program and discovered that she has what it takes to make it at the top-ranked art school. “I was told by my teachers that I was one of the most highly-trained students there,” says Victoria.
Now in her senior year, she has expanded her design skills in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and photography. And she has built on her talent with equipment such as a 3D printer that makes prosthetic hands and arms, and a Direct to Garment printer and a laser cutter that allow designs to be transferred. Every one of these things has been available to Victoria thanks to Laguna Beach High School’s prodigious art department. “Creativity is one thing,” she says, “but you need the materials to produce it.”
Victoria says her abilities have grown because of high school teachers who want to see her succeed. “I wouldn’t be trying to get into the number one design school without the support of the staff who believe in me and who push me to be better,” she says. “This is definitely a good place to go to school.”
Last year, SchoolPower gave $972,086 to LBUSD, including $47,000 to its arts programs. SchoolPower also has elevated the LBHS art department through its grants program. For kids like Victoria, that means they will graduate feeling ready to design whatever and wherever they choose.
SchoolPower Student Story – Alexandra Lewis
Alexandra Lewis loves to play basketball. She also loves to dance. Luckily, at LBHS she can do both.
As a four-year varsity basketball player, Alexandra says of the game she is so committed to, “It’s a part of me. I wouldn’t be myself without it. I’ve made really good friends. I love competing.”
Before she laces up her sneakers, however, Alexandra puts in two and a half hours with her fellow dancers at the LBHS dance studio. “I’ve been dancing since I was three. I feel like dance is the best way for me to express myself. It helps me get away from my crazy schedule,” she explains. And her schedule is a little crazy, with Alexandra putting in twelve-hour days at school during basketball season. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Our school is small, but we have so many amazing opportunities,” she says. Alexandra has definitely taken advantage of them. This year, for example, the dance program has an instructor from the American Ballet Theater (ABT) who is teaching the dancers the ABT curriculum. At the end of the term, people from the ABT fly out, judge the dancers on their mastery of the curriculum and certify them as ABT dancers. “We get a college experience with all these different people coming in. It’s amazing that we get to do that,” says Alexandra.
With her actual college experience looming, however, Alexandra finally has to make a choice: will it be basketball or dance for her next four years? “I want to continue dance,” she says. “It was such a difficult decision for me to make.” And she is very grateful she didn’t have to make it while at LBHS.
Last year, SchoolPower gave $972,086 to LBUSD, including significant funding for high school athletics and performing arts. For kids like Alexandra, this means there are high level programs to fulfill their interests, no matter how different they may be. With your support, SchoolPower can help all Laguna Beach students find their passion and reach their potential.
SchoolPower Student Story – Bobby Briggs
Bobby Briggs did not come to California willingly. No boy elected president of his 8th grade class buys into the idea of moving midyear to a new state in a different time zone.
But Bobby realized that this place had something to offer in his first Thurston science lab, when asked to burn metals and compare flame emissions. “I was getting to light things on fire instead of watching someone else do it, and that was pretty cool,” he says.
In high school, his honors chemistry “alien blood lab” meant finding an acid corrosive enough to instantly eat through aluminum foil. And in advanced chemical research, Bobby was instructed to extract pure caffeine from Diet Coke. “The comparison of the two school districts and the amount of money that goes into science specifically is incredible,” says Bobby. “You can tell the difference in the day-to-day, high-quality, high-performing experiments we do.”
Beyond the lab, Bobby has capitalized on his high school years. He plays center-mid fielder and defense on the varsity soccer team. He shows leadership in the ASB, the Catalyst Club and the Link Crew. And last summer he travelled to Sacramento with the highly selective Boys State program.
Bobby’s dream is to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and become a pilot. Now filling out college applications, Bobby says that he sees his family’s move west four years ago as fortuitous. “I am a competitive candidate due to Laguna Beach High School,” he says. “It has given me the opportunity to become a stronger student with the chance for a much better future.”
Last year, SchoolPower gave $972,086 to LBUSD. That includes significant investment in science lab equipment that allows kids like Bobby to experiment with success.
SchoolPower Student Story – Michael Wogulis
Signing up for the newly-offered elective “Playwriting and Directing” meant that senior Michael Wogulis could not take both statistics and advanced chemical research. He dropped stats.
“It was more important for me to take classes my senior year that I’d like rather than take classes that’d look good to colleges,” says Michael, whose love of theater has driven him to try out for every high school production since arriving at Laguna Beach High School as a freshman.
Michael’s choice to follow his passion caused his parents a bit of anxiety, but for him the decision was simple. “Drama is something I look forward to every single day,” he says.
According to high school counselor, Angela Pilon, choosing what he loves will serve Michael well. “Immersing yourself in programs and studies that honor your passions makes you an incredibly appealing applicant to colleges,” she says. And after all, Michael now has an impressive addition to his list of accomplishments: assistant director of the upcoming production of “Stage Door.”
Last year, SchoolPower gave $972,086 to LBUSD, including over $47,000 for Performing and Visual Arts. For Michael, that means he was able to grow his interest into a passion.