Photo by Mary Nobles Hancock.
0512 MBHS Graduation Speakers
Matthew Bolus, Brooke Harwell and Thomas Johnston will speak at MBS graduation this year.
On Thursday, May 24, more than 300 seniors at Mountain Brook High School will walk across the stage to receive their high school diplomas, but for three seniors, this night will be even bigger.
Out of the top five percent of the graduating class, seniors Matthew Bolus, Brooke Harwell and Thomas Johnston were selected by their peers to give the valedictorian speeches at this year’s commencement.
Starting off the valedictorian addresses will be Matthew Bolus, whose self-description of being “hardworking, charitable, and humorless” hardly begins to cover his role at Mountain Brook High School.
During high school, Matthew has been involved in his church youth group at St. Elias Maronite Church and working with Interact Club on Relay for Life. Matthew has also served as president for Mountain Brook High School’s chapter of the National Honors Society.
Outside of school, Matthew enjoys watching sports, especially college football and baseball. His favorite teams to cheer for are the Auburn Tigers and the Atlanta Braves.
Matthew’s favorite class in high school has been his physics class.
“I love my class because we have really bonded as a group,” he said. “Although they are usually laughing at me more than with me, I have fun in that class and learn a lot of complicated material that makes me feel smarter than I probably should feel.”
Matthew also said that his calculus teacher, Ms. Wanda Burns, has had a significant impact on his life.
“She always gives us so much and asks for so little in return,” said Matthew.
One of the things Matthew said he has learned in his time at Mountain Brook is that everyone has something special about them.
“Whether singing or acting or competing or thinking or writing or talking or even smiling, everyone in this world has value and unique abilities. Sometimes, we all forget that, but it is truly something I have learned and aspire to live by.”
Next year, Matthew will attend Auburn University to study electrical engineering.
“I plan on being involved with the business side of engineering because I love math and science, but I also love managing projects,” explains Matthew.
When asked who inspires him, Matthew said he looks up to his father the most.
“He can handle any situation, no matter how difficult or complicated it may be. He also is a huge role model because he is very successful and uses that success to ensure the people that mean the most to him have meaningful lives and is charitable in many ways. His value for his family and his church is something I aspire to achieve.”
One thing Matthew said people
probably don’t know about him is his stinginess.
“I use coupons on dates and only buy clothes if I absolutely have to,” he said with a laugh.
Matthew said he is incredibly excited about his speech at graduation, and to the class of 2012: “Even if I do not know you very well or I am not your best friend, I can remember something small about each of you that has affected me in some way, and I truly treasure the years we have spent as a group. I hope each of you are successful and happy in your lives and make an impact on the world.”
Albert Einstein once gave three rules for work: “Out of clutter find simplicity, from discord find harmony, and in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” These are words senior Brooke Harwell strives to live by, and from singing to surgery, she has her mind set for achievement.
Brooke serves as the president of the Red Mountain Theatre Performing Ensemble and performs with them year round. She is also a member of the MBHS Chamber Choir, sings with her youth group band at the Metro Church of God, and studies classical voice and piano.
Brooke says her biggest influence has been the director of Red Mountain Theatre, Keith Cromwell.
“He has taught me so much about striving for excellence and about crafting your art, whatever that art may be,” she said.
As a senior, Brooke’s favorite class has been calculus with Ms. Burns.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen math really fit into the real world, and my teacher is able to explain those connections in really creative ways.”
AP United States History teacher Dr. George Prewett also had influence on Brooke.
“I usually don’t enjoy history that much, but I always felt engaged in his class.
Hefindssomuchsignificanceinlife’slittle blessings,” she said.
Brooke will be attending Vanderbilt University next year, with plans to become a surgeon.
“I am fascinated both by human biology and by people in general,” Brooke said. “A surgeon has the opportunity to meet incredible people while also studying their physical inner workings.”
In ten years Brooke said she wants to live in the mountains with a ‘Beauty and the Beast’-sized library. “But I guess I’ll have to find a quasi-isolated area also located next to a hospital so that I can go to a good medical school and perform surgery,” she said.
As for something you might not know, Brook said: “I’m really short, so I wear heels just about every day of my life, but I promise I’m not that big of a diva. I just pretend to be. Also, I have an alternate dream of touring the world with the Swingle Singers, singing and sipping tea with them all day, every day.”
Track, student government, volunteering and a schedule full of AP classes would overwhelm most students, but for Thomas Johnston, it is just another day.
Thomas was born in Villette, Switzerland, a small town outside of Lausanne in the French speaking part of the country, and he moved to the United States when he was one and a half.
“I don’t have dual citizenship or anything, but while I was there, my mom went to school, and my dad had to take the train to work everyday,” said Thomas.
Since then Thomas has become incredibly busy at the high school, running cross country for seven years, participating in Key Club and serving as the boy’s vice president in SGA.
Self-described as patient, optimistic and tall, Thomas enjoys hanging out with friends, participating in church youth
group events at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, playing frisbee and running outside of school.
This year Thomas said his favorite teacher has been his AP English teacher, Ms. Jane Major.
“I love Ms. Major, her room always has a nice atmosphere and a relaxing classroom that is a good way to end the day if we’re not writing essays or taking tests.”
Thomas said that while at Mountain Brook he has been inspired by many people, but most importantly by his teachers.
“I’ve been especially impacted by Dr. Prewett and Ms. Lowe because they drastically improved my writing over my junior year, and I could tell the improvement when writing my college essays,” Thomas said. “Ms. Denson and Ms. Burns furthered my learning and interest in math at the junior high and high school and really pushed me to work hard and keep working hard all throughout the year.”
Thomas plans to continue studying math in the future with a major in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) at either the University of Georgia or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also hopes to attend medical school or pursue some other science, math or research-oriented career.
Two events this year have stuck out for Thomas as his favorite memories in high school. “The Hoover game back in October was amazing,” said Thomas. “It was so fun being a part of the student section. Homecoming week in general was also terrific, partially because I was in charge of it and got to see it unfold as planned. This year has had tons of school spirit that have made it a wonderful senior year.”
Thomas is looking forward to what is to come: “These past four years have been awesome, but the next four will be even better. I feel fortunate to graduate with some of the friendliest, most interesting and spirited people, and I look forward to seeing everyone again and hearing about their future successes.”