By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published April 30, 2015
Following an annual tradition, The Georgia Bulletin has taken the opportunity to shine the spotlight on some of the extraordinary high school seniors who grace our Catholic schools in the area.
Leaders at the seven Catholic high schools in the Atlanta Archdiocese were asked to nominate a graduating student they believe represents a role model for their students—a student who symbolizes the drive and faith and compassion of the student body—someone that the faculty watched grow from a wide-eyed freshman to a confident leader.
Among these profiles are a senior who teaches a special needs student to ice skate, a teen who started a charity for children struggling with cancer, and a French-speaking immigrant who began her school career answering all questions with a yes or a no without understanding the question. These profiles and all of the others illuminate an attribute of perseverance.
As these young people and all their classmates step toward the future in the next weeks, we wish them well. We are proud to share their stories.
ATLANTA—In a few weeks, Andrea Burkle, a senior at Holy Spirit Prep School in Atlanta, will be able to ascend the spiral staircase in the Upper School’s library.
In keeping with Holy Spirit tradition, students climb the stairs upon induction into the house system of the Upper School in seventh grade. They are not allowed to use the staircase again until after graduation.
Burkle will head up the staircase and move upward in other ways upon her May 26 graduation.
She is mulling which college to attend, having narrowed her choices to the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State and Georgia College in Milledgeville.
After tearing her ACL while playing dodgeball, Burkle started thinking of a career in physical rehabilitation.
“I had to have surgery. I actually saw what a physical therapist does,” she said.
Burkle has been a student at Holy Spirit since the third grade. “It’s definitely like a family. I’ve seen everyone come together,” she said.
Carrying a sizeable British literature textbook and a laptop, Burkle noted it’s the student-teacher relationships that make the prep school a special place.
“You are not just another number,” she said.
Holy Spirit is a place where the teachers care about you spiritually, noted Burkle.
“Most families here are Catholic,” she said. “The school just strengthens our faith.”
Mentoring between Upper, Lower Schools
Burkle works two days a week in the after-school program known as ESP. She is the first president of the new Bridge Apostolate, a mentoring program between the Upper and Lower Schools to foster good character.
Heading up the program and working with advisor Thomas Clements has helped her find her “inner leadership,” she said.
The monthly programs have a theme such as being positive or making a commitment. “We base our activities off of that,” said Burkle.
The younger students often play board games or participate in activities where they have to learn to cooperate.
Clements said Burkle has accomplished much in the inaugural year of the program, even organizing bake sales prior to each month’s program to pay for snacks for the younger students.
The advisor said his favorite memory is watching Burkle plan a whole event by herself when other members were unable to attend a planning session.
“I have only seen Andrea treat fellow students with respect and great love,” said Clements. “She is a great role model for others in holiness.”
Last summer, she traveled to Jamaica, serving people with disabilities living in the Mustard Seed Communities. She brought supplies, built a wheelchair ramp, assembled lap tables for wheelchairs, and played games with those served by the program.
“I met countless people who have very little besides their faith, and they are some of the happiest people I have ever met,” said Burkle.
The daughter of Dr. Jamie Burkle and Maria Burkle, she said another of her passions is photographing people and nature from autumn leaves to budding roses.
“I signed up for yearbook because it goes hand in hand with photography,” she said.
Burkle has taken senior pictures for some of her classmates and has had photos displayed at the Dogwood Festival and in school publications.
Burkle is enjoying the perks of her final year at Holy Spirit as seniors get to eat lunch in the Cougar Café and at other times hear speakers give the real scoop about their careers in business, medicine and other fields, and how to journey toward specific careers. “It really helps,” she said.
During a flex period, Burkle has also drawn a lot of valuable information from a financial program offered to older students.
“They help us see what a bill looks like,” she explained. “We won’t be as lost.”
Burkle said the academic rigor of her school community, its family feeling, and learning time management there will all pay off.
She encourages other Upper School students to participate in the Bridge Apostolate as volunteers to give the younger students a good example.
“They watch your every move,” said Burkle. “You become their best friend.”