Talented and Intelligent

4 mins read

Yay! School’s (almost) out! And some Pasadena Unified students are already beginning their epic journeys into their careers.

Three high school seniors from PUSD have been named National Merit Scholarship finalists, selected from 1.6 million entrants. All three are in the running for prestigious $2,500 National Merit awards, paired with college-sponsored and corporate-sponsored grants.

Congrats to these three National Merit Scholarship finalists

Teresa Carbone (Pasadena High School): Dance, from ballet to tap to hip-hop, is Carbone’s passion as she sets her sights on a four-year university. She expresses gratitude to PHS Dance Director Hillary Temple and many other teachers, saying, “A good teacher can make any subject your best class.”

Elias Gee (Pasadena High School): Gee is enrolled in the Math Academy at PHS and is researching cluster algebras with the goal of publishing his findings. He’s also President of the Math Club, Treasurer of the PHS Robotics Club, and a member/peer tutor in the National Honor Society. Matching brains with brawn, he’s also a varsity tennis player and plans to study math at UC Santa Barbara.

Ian Timberg (Marshall Fundamental Secondary School) has diverse interests in anthropology, history, environmental science, and theater. He’s been a Marshall Eagle since sixth grade and has participated in many school theater productions, including “Into the Woods,” an All-Star 2023 PUSD production presented in collaboration with the Pasadena Playhouse. He’s an active member of the National Honor Society, is an AP Capstone Scholar Researcher, and plans to attend Pomona College in Claremont.

Opening the GATE’ to Promising Futures

Sisters Grace and Emma Terzyan both participate in PUSD’s GATE program, the acronym for Gifted and Talented Education. The GATE program is a robust initiative aimed at providing academically gifted students with the resources, challenges and support they need to excel. For an up-close glimpse of what makes GATE tick on a personal level, we interviewed this highly creative yet disciplined sister act.

Both sisters are musically gifted and excel in acting, singing, dance and choreography. Emma writes and performs original music, and Grace has a passion for fashion. And, of course, both are Swifties.

Entrepreneur Grace Terzyan. Photo: Victoria Thomas

Grace is the younger of the pair, but even at the tender age of ten she’s displaying a head for business. Grace recently launched “xoxo jewelry,” a unique line of sweet handmade, pastel bead-and-pearl stretch bracelets named for various Taylor Swift songs and albums. “I’m a big fan of Taylor Swift,” Grace says, “so I used colors from Swift’s ‘1989,’ ‘Afterglow,’ and ‘Lover’ albums.”  

colorful bracelet
One of Grace’s Taylor Swift-inspired bracelets. Photo: Victoria Thomas

The young entrepreneur’s first big bracelet order recently came from an Altadena-based Swiftie, who purchased a batch to bring and distribute in Dublin, Ireland, when Swift’s ERAS tour lands there on June 28.  Part of the learning process for this future fashion mogul has included discovering that inexpensive elastic can break easily.  

“I insist on creating with quality,” she says. Learning to make a secure knot and discreetly hiding it in the beaded strand for a long-wearing, professional finish also took some trial and error.

Laying the foundation for professional success she’s accomplished in math, Grace’s math team won two silver medals in PUSD’s recent Math Field Day competition. But she’s already grasped the importance of a healthy work-life balance: Grace loves the beach and plans to fill the summer with biking, roller skating and camping with her family and many friends. 

A woman sitting at a park
Singer-songwriter-actress-choreographer Emma Terzyan. Photo: Victoria Thomas

Her older sister Emma was elected school president in 2022 when she was in 5th grade. Today, at age 13, Emma’s a serious songwriter with a natural stage presence as a performer. In 2023, Emma won First Place honors in the Grand Concours Music Competition hosted by the International Association of Professional Music Teachers, where she played the evocative “Moonlight Toccata” by the innovative Chinese-Canadian composer Alexina Louie. 

Emma scored wins in PUSD’s African American History Bees in 2023 and 2024, and won two regional honors, the Award of Excellence and Honorable Mention, both in Music Composition in the National Parent, Teacher and Student Association (PTSA) “Reflections” contest for 2024. She won third place in the District’s Science Exposition in the Science Fiction category. She’s a Student Council representative and enjoys the challenge of her Advanced Placement history classes. 

Emily Clark, Emma’s teacher, has this to say:  “Emma has been my student since Fall 2023, and I’ve worked with her on three full productions so far: a musical revue in her 6th-grade year, a showcase with the Pasadena Musical Theatre Program last summer, and most recently she played the role of Miss Hannigan in our school production of ‘Annie Jr.’. Emma’s performing arts skills are absolutely above average for someone her age. Not only is she a great singer, but she has a strong musical ear and is very confident in maintaining harmony. She has a knack for comedic timing and has a gravitas beyond her years (playing Miss Hannigan was a wonderful display of her talents as a musical theatre performer). Emma also has a love for dance and choreography and often takes part in choreographing breaks for her fellow classmates. She also is displaying a knack for songwriting and her original song, self-accompanied on the guitar, was selected for our school’s annual variety show later in May.”

Emma plays piano and borrowed her first nylon-string acoustic guitar in the fall of 2023.  She now uses it, along with an electric axe, to compose songs. Her vocal range is about four octaves, and she says, “Of course, I love Taylor Swift, but I’m also discovering Beatles songs, the Platters, the Cranberries, and Green Day.”  A surprising favorite: “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes, circa 1954. Her wishes: “to be hard-working over the summer, to have a good rest of 7th grade, to be committed to my songs, and to continue to have good grades.”

Muir Seniors on Their Way

Seven John Muir High School Early College Magnet seniors have earned associate degrees simultaneously while earning their high school diplomas through the Dual Enrollment Program, a partnership between PUSD and Pasadena City College (PCC). Through the Dual Enrollment program, high school students earn college credit during the school day at PCC’s Northwest Campus, located at John Muir High School. 

The Dual Enrollment program offers opportunities for students to earn up to two years of transferable college credit while in high school. Students may begin taking college-credit courses in ninth grade. 

The John Muir students earning high school diplomas and a combined total of 13 associate degrees in various areas of study are:

  • Asha Bailey – Administration of Justice
  • Lauren Gray – Humanities; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Social Justice Studies; Gender Ethnic Multicultural Studies
  • Mphatso Johnson – Administration of Justice
  • Zackery Parkins – Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Jae’da Reed – Business; Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Jae’la Reed – Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Londyn Sewell – Social and Behavioral Sciences; Speech Communications; Humanities

These students have been accepted to numerous colleges and universities, including Howard University, USC, Columbia University, UCLA, and Berkeley. Along with crushing those college-level courses, they balanced out their academic achievements with athletics, music, school clubs, and community organizations.

Well done, everyone!

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/5ijv

Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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