Hidden Heroes of ’23

As the year draws to a close and WAHS waves goodbye to the class of ’23, we wanted to highlight a few seniors who go above and beyond. From researching to repairing cameras, from artistry to ASL, WAHS seniors have a wide range of passions.
Fresh tiles by the 23niors overlook the senior patio.
Fresh tiles by the “23niors” overlook the senior patio.
Credit: Gray Tracey
Veronica Seider
Veronica Seider

Veronica Seider takes pleasure in doing art in multiple forms. Through Western art classes, Seider has found her love for art both digitally and through clay. Seider is drawn to digital imaging because of how creative it allows you to be. She says that “as long as you find a video that’ll tell you what to do, it’s super easy to be able to make super cool things.” Seider does her art through Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and with the help of her teacher, Ms. Burnette. 

This year, Seider has been doing heat mapping. One Google search says that heat mapping “is a data visualization technique that shows magnitude of a phenomenon as color in two dimensions.” However, Seider explains that “It’s when you take an image and you over exposure it and put a gradient map over it. It will have each of the different shades be different colors. So for example a black and white image, if it’s layered it’ll show the layers as different colors.”

Seider enjoys expressing herself through digital imaging and ceramics. Mrs. Chatterson spoke very highly of Seider’s work, noting her most recent project, shoe house. “I think for ceramics I’m in my house era, I love making houses” Seider says.

Seider’s art process for ceramics is to simply “look up inspirations and recreate them. Then make alterations to it.” Although Seider doesn’t consider herself to have an art style,

She is a driven artist who is heading to VCU for a minor in art where she will continue to create artwork both digitally and on the wheel.

Lydia Brawley-Magee
Lydia Brawley-Magee

Lydia Brawley-Magee, a member of Early Bird leadership, has stayed involved with leadership throughout all of high school. In these years, she had made a list of significant events happen here at WAHS. One of which is arguably the most significant aspect of spirit week, “For a few years now I have helped plan the tailgate for Spirit Week, that’s been an important statement in Western Spirit Week”. That’s not the only tradition she has worked to preserve, Brawley-Magee is also responsible for the preparation and execution of Western iconic and unique hallway painting. Brawley-Magee also planned “WAHS with a Cause” specifically the garden beds in the front of the school, ”I think that’s been a really important and cool piece of leadership has just been my ability to make a difference that will last after I go.”

 Brawley-Magee has improved our school through her strong leadership skills. This year Brawley-Magee gained the opportunity to branch out her leadership skills to plan activities based outside of the school building, “I got to plan a leadership field trip to give students the opportunity to go out of the school and see different places”. This activity allowed leadership students the unique opportunity of talking to congresspeople, visiting the Capitol building and touring museums. Brawley-Magee strengthened and unified WAHS leadership through this field trip. 

Brawley-Magee uses her leadership skills both inside and outside of the classroom, “Outside of school I rock climb and it has definitely helped my leadership process just because it has taught me critical thinking skills and problem solving. I also play the cello in an orchestra.” She continues to grow these skills outside of school, through hobbies and volunteer work. For the past few years Brawley-Magee worked at Monticello where she volunteered for their summer camp. “I was one of the younger volunteers that they’ve had. I managed the family station, an outdoor station where I talked to kids and families and different guests about the historical items that Thomas Jefferson used in his time. That really helped me grow my leadership skills.” 

She has also worked with a local architecture firm, “to grow my skills within that career field but also build connections and grow my leadership skills through that”. After high school Brawley-Magee plans to study architecture at Cornell University, “through that curriculum I think there will be alot of leadership skills that I will need to use. Like how to properly organize myself, my peers, and my process. Time management is another skill based thing I learned through the leadership program here that I will get to bring with me. Even after I graduate college I’ll definitely get to use these skills as I enter the workplace”. 

Lauren Broussard
Lauren Broussard

Lauren Broussard is a very history-oriented person.

Broussard is currently doing a paid internship for the Jefferson School where she gives tours of different exhibitions there. As of right now, there are two different exhibitions at the Jefferson School, the permanent exhibition, which is about the history of the school, and the contemporary exhibition, which is about artwork and synthetic photography.  

“So I’m working on the third contemporary exhibition with them, […] about black Charlottesvillians in the 1900s. And my job was to kind of map out where they would live and their names. And now I’m going through business directories from the 1900s to the 1960s and looking at different businesses and where black people owned land.”

Broussard first thought about joining in her sophomore year, but could not apply until she was a junior. She chose the internship because she loves history.

 “[The Jefferson school] was like, if you’re very adamant if you like history, this is the place to be.”

As a part of her internship, Broussard is currently learning how to archive, which will be very helpful to her in the future since she plans to be a historian.  One of her favorite parts of the internship is getting to meet people in the community who she says she would have never met.  “I’ve also met people who the Jefferson School is like a pillar of their livelihood, and had family members that would go there.”

Ben Mazurek
Ben Mazurek

Senior Ben Mazurek has been with WAHS Robotics for the past three years. Throughout his time in the program, his role has evolved from a competitor to a captain.

Since his sophomore year, Mazurek has been thoroughly enjoying the robotics team.

“It’s just kind of cool to build robots. Something that moves around, picks stuff up, it’s a cool idea.” Senior Ben Mazurek has been with WAHS Robotics for the past three years. Throughout his time in the program, his role has evolved from a competitor to a captain.

Mazurek also encourages all younger classmen to join the club. “I know a lot of friends, and I’ve made a lot of friends in the club, it’s how I got to know a lot of people outside my own grade, it’s just fun to be there. There’s nobody on the team who feels like they’ve been excluded, and you definitely don’t need any experience at all.” Throughout his time at the club, Mazurek has been able to compete, and now he is mentoring the younger members as he prepares to depart for college. “I’m helping some people who are interested in learning to code. I was taught how to code, so Ryan and I have been teaching some of the freshmen who want to learn how to do it.

Mazurek also encourages all younger classmen to join the club. “I know a lot of friends, and I’ve made a lot of friends in the club, it’s how I got to know a lot of people outside my own grade, it’s just fun to be there. There’s nobody on the team who feels like they’ve been excluded, and you definitely don’t need any experience at all.”

Thea Spitzner
Thea Spitzner

“The biggest goal for me is expressing myself.” Thea Spitzner, Western senior, remarked on why she loves sign language. “When I was younger I had behavioral issues because I didn’t know how to communicate that well. It was only through sign language that brought me that light of expressing myself.” 

Thea has been involved in sign language since infancy, when her mom began teaching her. She perfected this skill through taking private lessons at the Charlottesville EEU Church, completing American Sign Language 1 and 2. Thea has been able to share her passion of the language with others through teaching elementary school kids, “The pandemic taught us how to go virtual, and luckily I was able teach these kids through Zoom.”

 As well as helping elementary students, Thea lends her time to her two cousins, Valerie and Quentin. To Thea, teaching sign language at a young age is vital because children retain it better than adults. She also found that children are more excited about learning, “It’s really fun and I enjoyed watching them learn. I could see the changes in their faces when they realized they were actually learning something.” 

Thea thinks that everyone should learn sign language as it is proven to raise IQ, “Language shouldn’t be through buttons and devices but through in person interactions. I believe it’s important for people to communicate with the language that they have.”

 To consolidate her teachings in one place, Thea created and published a website. As part of her final English project she developed a whole curriculum for kids to learn the language. 

Sign language has brought Thea many new opportunities and she loves sharing these with others, “I feel like I can make a change in this world with my passion as someone with a disability.”

(Credit: Sophie Mathew)
Sam Simmons
Sam Simmons

There are many seniors around WAHS that do some really cool things, but maybe don’t get as much attention for it as they should. One such senior is Samuel Simmons.

Simmons is very involved in Model UN at WAHS, being a senior leader and getting very involved. “High school Model UN is a little bit more serious,” Simmons said. He has been involved in Model UN since middle school and has been to many conferences throughout the years, including AmeriMUNC at American University.

Simmons also attended Governor’s School for German at Washington and Lee University his summer before senior year, and he enjoyed it thoroughly, saying, “It was a great way to learn more about the language, and I greatly improved.” This program was full immersion, meaning that from when he woke up to when he went to sleep he was speaking in full German. “I got the chance to meet a lot of new people, and do fun activities and learn about German culture,” Simmons later remarked. Simmons said that he has always been interested in German, even traveling to Germany to learn more about German culture, and, “This [Governor School] was a great way for me to improve my German speaking skills in a full immersion setting, which is really the best way to learn.”

Simmons will be attending the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan next year and will be majoring in Business Administration. This summer he will be lifeguarding at Mint Springs.

Mary Hernandez-Ponce
Mary Hernandez-Ponce

Mary Hernandez-Ponce is a bilingual student who speaks Spanish as her first language.

Hernandez-Ponce is currently working with Albemarle County Public Schools to translate Spanish. “Most of [my job] is about helping out with the community, translating and interpreting documents for school events.” 

Hernandez-Ponce feels that her skills are very useful for translating at school events since a lot of students have Spanish speaking parents. 

She chose the job because she felt her Spanish abilities were decreasing and she wanted to keep up with her first language. “I felt like my Spanish was lacking a lot and I was forgetting a lot of words.”

Hernandez-Ponce also chose to be a translator because she wanted to give back to the community and feel useful. “I know like in elementary school, I used to go to city schools in Charlottesville. I would always be called on like, ‘Hey, can you like help with this?’ And stuff like that, and I felt like it would be nice to try and kind of revisit that.” 

Ilse La Fleur
Ilse La Fleur

WAHS ceramics seek to inspire creative passion, both inside and outside of the classroom. Senior Ilse La Fleur embodies this idea with her incredible talent for jewelry making. After three years of ceramics, La Fleur was inspired to experiment with Ms. Chatterson’s support. “She has inspired me to explore my interests,” La Fleur praises. “I don’t think I would have gotten this far without her.”

At the end of her junior year, she created her first set of ceramic earrings, continuing to experiment with clay and glaze techniques. That summer, with no access to the ceramic room, she experimented with wire and beaded jewelry. She continues to combine both skills to create jewelry that is “unique and pretty personalized,” a customer commented, so impressed by La Fleur’s made-to-order process that she placed an additional order after receiving her first bracelet. La Fleur plans to continue her popular jewelry business, with the ultimate goal of selling at the Crozet Art Fair with her own booth.

Ralf Pettit

Ralf Petit is one of the world’s youngest apprentice camera repair techs, but not on purpose. 

“It’s not like I’ve always had this passion for doing it, You know. I was into photography and just happened to get the job. And that soon turned into my passion. But it’s also kind of weird being the youngest since the majority of people who repair cameras are around 70-80 years old. If not retired. So you know, there’s definitely a generational difference in channel pen now to how it was before,” Petit said.

“Most of my day, I get a camera or keep working on the camera. I fix and diagnose it. sometimes I have to speak with the customer over the phone or via email If there’s anything specific they want to be done to it. That’s usually if it’s a more expensive camera or a little more of a niche camera. And I think that there are days when I have to be upfront talking to people, you know, I’m being a salesman, but the majority of the time its chips in the back with my colleagues working on cameras.”

Ralf has enjoyed most the leniency of being a senior, he has also enjoyed going to Center 1 on A days. “So honestly, it would have to be going to Center 1. I know that that’s not like explicitly tied with being a senior but just the leniency I have and then the anticipation of going to college and I guess getting accepted places.” 

In the future, Ralf sees himself as a diplomat, or in a role where he can travel and interact with other people.

Sonia Bekiranov
Sonia Bekiranov

Sonia Bekiranov is an artist, club leader, and activist. She is the co-leader of The United Students Coalition (TUSC). She joined TUSC in her sophomore year, when it was originally the multicultural club. Now TUSC is a combination of the Multicultural club, Union of Color club, and the Young Asian American Pacific Islander club (YAAPIC). The focus of TUSC is to end certain social and cultural stigmas, “especially here at Western where there’s not a lot of diversity or any sort of influence culturally” Bekiranov says. 

Bekiranov’s independent study is focused on African History. She chose African history because she didn’t know a lot about it and it is not widely offered. Bekiranov stated “I just wanted a basic foundation going into college and to see if that was something I wanted to explore more.” 

In addition to all this, Bekiranov is also an artist. From sculptures, drawing, charcoal, and jewelry, Bekiranov says she creates “pretty much everything”.   

For her, art is a creative outlet. “I like putting emotion into things. It’s a way for me to filter emotions and conduct them, but also […] I want to create things that do the same for other people. So right now, like my portfolio for AP art is phobias. So Like, if I can, elicit fear from people via an art piece, that’s really cool to me.”

Her favorite piece that she’s made this year is a drawing that depicts the fear of blushing, which is currently on display in the cafeteria. 

Bekiranov is going to VCU in the fall for Fine Arts.

Donate to The Western Hemisphere
$25
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Western Albemarle High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Western Hemisphere
$25
$500
Contributed
Our Goal