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TASIS Announces the Class of 2016 Graduation Awards
Posted 05/28/2016 02:00PM

The following Graduation Awards were presented to outstanding members of The American School in Switzerland’s Class of 2016 at the School’s 60th Commencement Ceremony on the morning of Saturday, May 28. Each award listing is accompanied by the citation that was read at the ceremony.

Excellence in Art

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

Art is a language through which every artist hopes to find a voice, and for 60 years the arts at TASIS have been the means by which countless students have been able to give expression to this idea.

I have taught this year's recipients for many years and had the privilege of watching her grow as an artist. She is one of a fortunate generation of artists and designers at TASIS who have been able to enjoy the benefits of the Ferit Şahenk Fine Arts Arts Center since it opened. And indeed, it has become her second home. She is a direct and honest student and, by her own admission, often a little stubborn. But as an accomplished artist and designer, these are priceless traits, and she consistently displays that tenacity and unwavering perseverance with all her artwork. This is reflected in her long-time engagement with the traditions of portrait painting in oils.

So please join with me as we congratulate Svetlana Esmukhanova on being the recipient of this year’s graduation award for Art.

The Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music 2016

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

This year’s recipient of the Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music is a highly committed young lady to the High School music program and her peers. She has continued to build her abilities as a musician and chorister through years of committed attendance to the School Choirs and has performed in every music-related event for the past seven years.

In support of her individual talent, she has completed three years of music elective courses amongst a very full academic and sporting program. She has greatly developed her ability to collaborate with and support her peers in both solo and choral capacities.

For her talent and her dedication, it is our pleasure to give the 2016 Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music to Antonella Piconi.

The Horst Dürrschmidt Award for Excellence in Photography

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

The TASIS Art Department award in Photography honors long-time Photography Instructor and Department Chair Horst Dürrschmidt, whose vision, leadership, and creative energy helped shape what the arts mean at TASIS.

This year’s recipient has been very involved in photography in all four years at TASIS. She is one of very few students who has completed both the IB Visual Arts Photography and the AP Photography courses. Her creativity has gone well past the basic art of observing and recording as she has created work combining images digitally. She has exhibited the kind of sensitivity and patience to make her work meaningful and the kind of tenacity and grit to overcome obstacles.

The recipient of the Horst Dürrschmidt Photography Award for 2016 is Amanda McAfee.

The Kay Hamblin Award for Excellence in Theater

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

The Kay Hamblin Excellence in Theater Award is presented annually to a student who consistently demonstrates a love for and dedication to the art of theater. This student is ever mindful that individual success is possible only through the collaboration of those onstage and behind the scenes to tell the playwright’s story, and particularly embodies these qualities in his or her theater work at TASIS.

From middle school through senior year, this thespian has participated in the dramatic arts—and somewhere along the way, that involvement developed into a passion. Credits include a Drama class and all but one of the past six mainstage plays and musicals—including both this year. His combination of quiet dedication, boisterous delight, and theatrical intelligence earned him leading or featured roles in all of them—from tragedy to comedy of manners, Shakespearean goofball to American general. You won’t be surprised to learn that he plans to continue his studies in theater at the university level.

For his love of the stage, his warmth in welcoming “newbies” to the TASIS drama troupe, and his tremendous growth as an actor, this year's Theater Award goes to Adam Osgood.

Excellence in Architecture and Design

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

This student successfully mounted his IB exhibition, and completed all of the necessary parts of that Exam, including his Comparative Study and Process Portfolio. All of his work is exemplary, and he set a very high standard for artistic achievement in architecture and design at school this year. He arrived at TASIS with considerable talent and vision, and he used the platform of the design studio to expand his horizons as a creative thinker. Mr. Aeschliman is especially pleased with his unorthodox but careful and effective “thinking outside of the box” about a number of design issues, including the manipulation of resistant materials. Bravo, Lucas Cimino!

Excellence in English as an Additional Language

Presented by English as an Additional Language Department Chair Carolyn Heard

The English as an Additional Language award is given this year in recognition of an IB English B student who is described by her teacher of two years as a student “who does everything right.” Her love of learning combines with a steadfast dedication to doing her best, whatever the task. A true scholar, this student delves into all topics with an inquisitive mind and seizes every opportunity to look at and respond to difficult questions in her own original way, coming up with new and unexpected insights.

For her outstanding qualities as a writer, her eagerness to cultivate a solid command of the English language, and for her self-discipline, diligence, and dedication to excellence, we are pleased to present the Graduation Award in English as an Additional Language to Begüm Emirsoy.

Excellence in Modern Languages

Presented by Modern Languages Department Chair Nilda Lucchini

The Award for Excellence in Modern Languages recognizes the achievement of a student who has undertaken studies in at least two of the five languages offered at TASIS. This year the Modern Language Department honors a student who has been part of the Italian, Spanish, and French language programs.

This student first enrolled at TASIS in grade six with no knowledge of English. She immediately took advantage of all TASIS programs. As soon as she reached high school, she started expanding her language classes: she started learning Spanish in grade nine and then French in grade ten. She spent several summers studying Spanish and thus was able to complete the highest level in the IB Spanish as a second language, making her one of the best students of her class.

Her teachers describe her as a dedicated student interested in learning not only the languages but also their cultures. She does not show off nor does she seek to be the center of the scene, but in her six years at TASIS, she has truly lived and assimilated the multiculturalism that TASIS represents.

The Modern Language Department is pleased to present its Excellence Award to Serena Pisa.

The Cynthia Whisenant Award for Excellence in English Literature

Presented by English Department Chair Todd Matthew

This candidate's praises have been sung before. The incisiveness of her thinking, the gem-like polish of her prose, the constant improvement in the face of success were all plaudits from past awards. To cap off her years as a student of World Literature and IB English Literature, we award this candidate the Cynthia Whisenant Award for reasons we value even more. We would like to recognize the definite humanity that inspired her intense curiosity and that served as her constant lodestone. This candidate has here at TASIS strived to make her words matter in the best sense of that verb.

We are proud to give Paulina Gazin the Cynthia Whisenant Award for excellence in English Literature

Excellence in History

Presented by History Department Chair Dr. Thomas Mauro

This year’s Excellence in History Award has been earned by a student who has shown a tremendous amount of promise from the very first day she arrived on the TASIS campus as a 10th grader. The genuine interest and care with which she has approached all of her assignments demonstrates that she has a true love of the social sciences. Whether it was her taking part in difficult ethical debates in TOK class, making mincemeat of complex historical concepts, or finding relevance and clarity in seemingly labyrinthine economic theory, she has never backed down from a challenge. Her innate intellectual drive does not end with a test or quiz grade but rather transcends even the class itself. She was regularly not only involved in interesting class discussions or debates, but was often the impetus for them. Most of her teachers were particularly struck by her unwavering focus, attention to detail, and maturity. One teacher even remarked that she knew the material so well, she could have taught the class herself. She has a high level of sophistication about the way in which she formulates analytical arguments and uses examples to support her hypotheses. In an essay written for her TOK class she was able to analyze a controversial historical event from two varying perspectives, doing so with great astuteness. Her stellar analytical skills extend to her understanding of classes with more purely theoretical roots. In IB Economics, she completed three Internal Assessments, which clearly demonstrated she had a strong ability to see the implications of economic theory in everyday events—an essential skill that not many students at this level are able to develop to the extent she has. And, as what might be her most impressive attribute, her ability to accept constructive criticism and use it to improve the quality of her work and the depth of her understanding is nearly unparalleled. What is even more impressive is her unassuming nature and the humility with which she accepts praise or accolades.

For her commitment and profound engagement with History and the Humanities here at TASIS, and for her high achievement in those areas, it is a distinct honor and pleasure that the History Department present the Excellence in History Award for 2016 to Carmen Alban.

Ambassador’s Cup for Excellence in US History

Presented by History Department Chair Dr. Thomas Mauro

The Ambassador’s Cup for Excellence in American History is awarded each year to a student of United States History who demonstrates exceptional achievement in the study of American History. This year’s recipient is not only an excellent writer, capable of producing polished prose with sound arguments and ample evidence; he is also an accomplished dramatist. His theatrical re-enactments of US foreign policy decisions dramatically captured the challenges that numerous US presidents faced in the past. He was always eager to learn, and always willing to help his classmates learn as well.

For his extraordinary academic performance throughout the year, the History Department is proud to present this year's Ambassador's Cup to Jonathan Xie.

The Shah Akbar Khan Award for Excellence in Mathematics

Presented by Math Department Chair James Shields

The intensity and the rigor of the material encountered by students in the second year of IB Math Higher Level cannot be overstated. Long hours of homework and concentrated study are insufficient for success in this course. These students are blessed with a natural ability to understand some of the most complex aspects of mathematics. Such students are rare.

This year’s award winner epitomizes all of these characteristics, and her teacher says that throughout the year she set a pace and a standard of excellence difficult for her classmates to match. She has inspired him to be a better teacher.

The Department of Mathematics is pleased to give this year’s Shah Akbar Khan Award for Excellence in Mathematics to Wendi Zhang.

Excellence in Science

Presented by Science Department Chair Alec Oglivie

This job of choosing the best candidate gets harder every year, and that’s great as it illustrates the increasing number of excellent science students we have at TASIS. Without long discussions to decide there would be something wrong. This year’s winners—again we couldn’t choose one—have both excelled in terms of the effort and ability that they have illustrated in their Science courses. Both have taken two higher level IB Sciences, one Chemistry and Physics and the other Chemistry and Biology. They have asked insightful questions that have indicated the ability to look at things in a different way and have shown total engagement into the concepts and ideas involved. Their fascination for the world around them and desire to get to the essence of every question with a complete understanding has always been apparent. In addition, their commitment outside of lessons has also been evident in the experimental work and analysis that they carried out for their internal assessment. Extremely interesting projects on the aging of wine, the effect of ripeness on the yield of mango juice, the extraction of silver, and how the type of bumper affects impulse after a collision. They know who they are now! Both will follow Science courses at university—one Biochemistry at Notre Dame and the other Material Science and Engineering at Imperial College London.

It is with great pleasure that we announce this year’s award for Excellence in Science goes to Antonella Piconi and Edoardo Italia.

The Salutatorian Scholarship Award 2016

Presented by Academic Dean Dr. Mark Abisi

The Salutatorian is the graduating senior considered to have the second-highest academic performance after no less than two years at TASIS.

This year we have two extraordinary students who have earned a stellar and identical Grade Point Average.  Their lowest grade in any class over the past two years is an A-, and for each of these remarkable students, that only occurred once. Furthermore, they have earned these top grades while pursuing the exceedingly rigorous full IB Diploma.

Of our first salutatorian award winner, her advisor writes, “Each semester she has been here, she has proven herself to be a highly motivated student and a credit to our school community. She takes on leadership roles, both formally and informally, and does so without seeking any credit or ‘glory’ for it. To say she is highly respected by faculty and admired by other students would be an understatement. My only regret is that she can't stick around here for a couple more years.”

It is my great pleasure to present our first salutatorian winner, Carmen Alban.

* * *

Of our second salutatorian winner, her advisor writes, “For all of her academic accomplishments, I can say that she has never come across as someone who thinks she has all the answers. She is a wonderful young woman who is modest, funny, kind, extremely intelligent, and good-natured.” Her math teacher adds, “She has performed at a level this year paralleled by few if any of my other students. Her work is simply impeccable.” Her English teacher says, “She has been an active participant in nearly all our class discussions. Curiosity and critical acumen inform comments that deepen our analysis and that inspire classmates.”

It is my great pleasure to present our second salutatorian winner, Maria Clara Oliani.

The Valedictorian Scholarship Award 2016

Presented by Academic Dean Dr. Mark Abisi

The honor of being the Valedictorian is based on superior academic performance over not less than two years of study at TASIS. The school considers academic achievement, the rigor of the academic program followed, and the number of courses completed.

This year’s valedictorian is deeply and sincerely committed to academic excellence and has distinguished herself over six years of study at TASIS in all academic areas. In fact, with the exception of one A- in Physical Education back in the 7th grade, this student has earned a perfect academic record of straight As. Moreover, she has undertaken the highest-level courses across the curriculum. Her English teacher writes, "There are those who benefit from superlative talents and there are those driven by a desire to leave a trail of virtuosity and accomplishment. I know of no area—theater, basketball, Service Learning, English—in which she does not meld these talents and this desire. Her commitment to do well and to do good have astonished us all here at TASIS."

It is with great pleasure that I present this year’s valedictorian award winner, Paulina Gazin.

Headmaster’s Award

Presented by Headmaster Lyle Rigg

This year's recipient of the Headmaster's Award announced his presence in 10th grade by throwing himself into nearly everything the school had to offer. His report card from 10th grade is filled with praise for his willingness to try, to speak up, and to learn. Outside the classroom, this year's award winner was doing the same. He pursued large roles in the theater, played for the volleyball team, and was selected to be a part of the TASIS Leadership Academy and our Proctor Program. Everywhere you look, this young man is present and participating, and doing so joyfully. In 11th and 12th grade, even as the number of his commitments and the demands on his time grew, he continued to thrive. There were Magnificent Seven Awards (plural!) to win and Senior Humanities Program Committees to join, all while excelling in the IB program. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, he strove to "live deep" and engage with all that a life at TASIS could offer. As a kind, caring, and vibrant member of our community, his presence next year will be sorely missed.

For all his contributions to the school, this year's recipient of the Headmaster's Award is Edoardo Italia.

The ECIS Award for International Understanding

Presented by Headmaster Lyle Rigg

This prestigious annual award is sponsored by the European Council of International Schools (ECIS), which specifies that the recipient must be “a good representative of his or her own country, with a positive attitude towards the life and culture of others, able to converse in at least two languages, a contributing force in the life of the school, with the ability to bring differing people together into a sense of community, thus furthering the cause of international understanding."

One of the core attributes of this award is the ability to bring differing people together into a sense of community. Few students that have passed through the gates of TASIS that have had the ability to do this better than Pablo Tello Zuluaga. Nothing makes a foreign place feel like home more than hearing spoken words in your mother tongue.  Pablo's uncanny ability to comprehend and speak the first languages of most of his fellow classmates has truly bridged the gap and brought this community together. Even the languages that he is not fluent in have not deterred him from learning at least a few words. Mostly self-taught, his willingness to engage with others' languages and cultures is something that not only brings out the spirit of this award, but the foundation on which this school was built.

Pablo leaves TASIS with one of the highest predicted IB scores. His intelligence and strong work ethic have not only impressed his teachers, but have molded him into a role model for his classmates to strive to be like.  Consequently, a number of students are drawn towards him to seek help and guidance.  With his selfless mentality, Pablo can help you in a variety of subjects in whatever language you need to be successful.

Pablo is a gifted young man and is someone that TASIS can be proud of.  Hopefully, once Pablo leaves TASIS, he will not lose his empathy for others and will continue to bring different cultures together wherever he goes.

The Jan Opsahl Service Award

Presented by Headmaster Lyle Rigg

This award recognizes students for whom the school community comes before self. In the past, this award acknowledged students who contributed to the school community and to school life beyond the call of duty. Faculty members are asked to be especially mindful of students who may be giving of themselves in quiet, unobtrusive ways.

As a member of the Women's Institute of Secondary Education and Research (WISER) Service Learning Group, this student came to embody all the qualities of what it means to truly serve. A quiet leader in the group, she eventually came to embrace her position as an unofficial role model for the younger students. Her intellectual curiosity and compassion for others led her to truly engage with the mission of the Service Program and to find every possible way in which she could contribute to it. Her high ethical standards and the humility with which she approaches everything she does make her someone truly worth emulating. Once, when many members of the group were unable to assist in a bake sale fundraiser, she took on sole responsibility from the baking to the selling. Despite this, she didn’t become frustrated with her classmates but rather saw it as yet another opportunity to personally contribute to the efforts of the group.

She realized that her efforts in something as simple as a lunchtime bake sale would have a profound impact. She understood that this action, along with the many others she engaged in, were about so much more than just herself. She sincerely understands that actual service means doing the small things that, if repeated by many, can truly make the world a better place.

For her outstanding character and commitment to the mission of service inherent in the fabric of TASIS, the Jan Opsahl Service Award 2016 is given to Carmen Alban.

* * *

There are many reasons why this next student is so deserving of the Jan Opsahl Service Award. Her commitment to service, while the obvious qualifier for the award, is yet one piece of the puzzle of what makes this student so great. Her strength of character is what endears her to everyone she comes to know. In fact, last year she won the 11th grade service award and chose to donate the proceeds of the award to the Nepal service group. She has an innate drive to always do the right thing—whether that is returning for a second year to be the leader of the physically demanding Nepal service trip or the seemingly less significant act of getting her college applications in on time. The genuine nature with which she approaches service has made her a leader in the service program. Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” There is no doubt that Isabella Picconi will spend her life, in one way or another, doing just that.

For her contributions to the mission of service at TASIS and for her leadership within the program, it is a privilege to present the Jan Opsahl Service Award 2016 to Isabella Piconi.

The Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award

Presented by Headmaster Lyle Rigg

This award recognizes the student or students who have shown initiative, creativity, and disinterested involvement in making our school a better place to study and to live in. Student council, committee, or student activity work may qualify a student. The award generally has been given to a student recognized as a leader (in the furthering of TASIS goals and ideals) by both the students and the Faculty.

While there are several students leading in different ways here at TASIS, this year’s recipient of the Leadership Award was an obvious choice. Since his arrival in 10th grade, he has been standing out in many positive ways. Most notably, this year’s award winner leads by example. His schoolwork is excellent, his effort on the basketball court is tenacious, and his calm, quiet demeanor means that when he speaks, others listen. It seems as though this year’s award winner has leadership in his DNA.

He has been selected to be a part of the the Leadership Academy, a captain of the basketball team, and even a leader among campus leaders as the Head Proctor this past year. When students were interviewed this year to be proctors next year they were asked to name a proctor they felt was a good example. Over and over again, this year’s award recipient’s name came up. Unfailingly polite, respectful, and responsible, he is a leader this community will sorely miss.

The 2016 recipient of the Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award is Rron Lluka.

H. Miller Crist Award

Presented by Headmaster Lyle Rigg

This award is given to the senior student who, in the opinion of the faculty, best represents the ideals and goals of the school. This is the highest recognition accorded by the TASIS Faculty to a senior who, by his or her actions (academic and otherwise), best embodies or pursues the ideals, aspirations, and goals of the School. In some ways, the award combines the stipulations of the Service and Leadership Awards with an expectation of academic excellence.

This year’s award recipient has been identified by the faculty as extremely mature, reflective, and wise beyond his years. In 10th grade, he quickly established himself as an upstanding student, winning our Magnificent 7 award for respect. The award he won that year turned out to be prescient. Respect—for himself, for others, and for our community—runs wide and deep in this year’s award winner. He shows respect in the expected ways, of course, through strong effort in the classroom and a sense of decorum with peers and adults, but there are little ways he shows his respect as well.

He possesses an infectious smile, a love of life, and an intellectual curiosity that is uncommon among students his age. More than anything, however, what stands out is his gratitude and appreciation for all that our school has to offer. For all of these qualities, this year’s award recipient has been recognized as a leader in a variety of roles. As a proctor, athlete, outstanding student, and actor, he has inspired others by his example and commitment.

Honoring the core values of our school as a place to learn truth, do good, and appreciate beauty, this year’s H. Miller Crist award goes to Jonathan Xie.

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