Highlights from the 2020 Mercersburg Intensive

During the Mercersburg Intensive, a new four-week academic period that took place for the first time this year between the school’s fall and winter terms, Mercersburg students focused on more than 50 different topics. We proudly share some of the best final projects from those courses. Learn more about all 50 courses here.

Katie Doyle

Writing to Make a Difference

Katie Doyle ’21 finished the course with a short story highlighting an environmental issue (water conservation), and her story is outstanding. It really accomplished the assignment’s goal of impacting the reader and making them think about an issue without directly or obviously bringing the issue to the front. I found myself thinking of Katie’s story when I had let the faucet run in the kitchen longer than I really needed, and I quickly shut it off. I guess that’s how you really know the writing has made a difference!”
Kristin Ahlgren, English faculty

Quin Caretti

Find Your Playscript or Screenplay

Quin Caretti ’24 was determined to finish her Nyxia pilot episode before the end of the intensive. Thirty-eight pages later? She knocked it out of the park. Quin gave this intensive her all. I’d hoped students would choose something that inspired them. Quin did just that. Also, kudos to her for sticking to professional screenplay format standards. That involves a tremendous amount of attention to detail. She even created concept art to better bring her characters to life. Quin also made numerous helpful contributions to class discussions and positively supported her classmates in their work throughout the intensive.”
Matt Maurer, English and theatre faculty

Brandon Ryu

Art and Activism in the Digital Era

Brandon Ryu ’21, who participated in Kristen Pixler’s course, researched South Korean veterans and the lack of support received by the government and community as they return to civilian life. He created digital art of an abstraction of the South Korean flag made up of a repeating graphic of a Korean soldier and subsequently used the original graphic of the Korean soldier to generate a glitching animation of the figure.

Gabe Bachtell

Recognizing Conspiracy Theories and Stopping the Spread of Misinformation

Gabe Bachtell ’23 was enrolled in Suzanne Taylor’s course. His final project, a video which was well organized and well researched, detailed how conspiracy theories have been used as justification to harm Jewish people throughout history.

Anna Deavers

Race and Sexuality in the Ancient World

Anna Deavers ’21 consistently made insightful contributions, and her final project was a remarkable ‘choose your own story’ designed for younger students to understand what it was like to be a woman in the ancient world.”
Tom Thorne, language faculty

Jolie Viener

Medical Conditions in Underserved Populations

Jolie Viener ’21 ended up focusing on homeless youth in the D.C. area. She wrote a wonderful letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser. She conducted an interview with an expert on homelessness, and she created a PSA highlighting the issue—all of which was done very well.”
​​​​​​​—Nikki Walker, science faculty

Tommy Quick

Using Entrepreneurship to Address Community Needs

Tommy Quick ’22 did a great job getting to the fine details of a business providing musical instruments to kids for free. It was a true marriage of his passion and this project!”
​​​​​​​—Todd McGuire, English faculty

Lauren Barnes

The Story Project

Lauren Barnes ’23 was inspired by Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton, which we researched during the first week of the class as we explored the power of story. For her project the ‘humans’ she focused on were the girls of Fowle Hall. She became more and more committed and enthused by this project as she delved into it. I really like the journalistic style Lauren chose to tell the stories and the additional features on her website, including a photo gallery, links to the the official Mercersburg Academy website, and a call to join the project, which she hopes to continue. Lauren brought creativity and a strong work ethic to her project, which I hope can serve the community.”
Laurie Mufson, arts faculty and director of the Burgin Center for the Arts

Krysten Nguyen

Medical Issues in Underserved Communities

Krysten Nguyen ’21 was enrolled in Nikki Walker’s course. Krysten became very interested in child beggars within her community in Vietnam. She contacted Blue Dragon, a group that supports these children, and they had a great interview and then created a PSA about these children and how the public can support them. She plans to send the PSA to Blue Dragon and post it to her already-established Instagram page (@VietsForChange).

Chelsea Seaby-Bruno

The Subversive Imagination: Creative Writing for Social Justice

“Anyone who has ever worked with Chelsea Seaby Bruno ’21 knows the joy of it. She churned out story after brilliant story, bringing one, ‘Level Three,’ to its polished, 3,000-word completion. ‘Level Three’ centers around the symbol of a staircase, representing upward mobility. The story explores to whom mobility is available and to whom it’s not. The writing has verve and voice. I’d describe it as George-Orwell-meets-Roald-Dahl-meets-Chelsea-Seaby-Bruno.”
Michele Poacelli, English faculty

Foday Bangura

Mercersburg StoryCorps—Making a Difference

“Throughout the course, Foday Bangura ’22 gave extraordinary effort to make connections with peers, family, and alumni from around the globe. We challenged our students to be vulnerable in discussing themselves and the personal lives of others; Foday performed these duties above and beyond. He remained an active listener during the entirety of the course and, in the end, made a lifelong connection with Will Scott ’04, his interviewee. He wrote thoughtful and professional thank-you notes to all of our speakers and, most importantly, showed gratitude to those who volunteered their time and stories.”
Dan Walker, history faculty

Saketh Amudala

Broadcasting with Podcasting

Saketh Amudala ’24’s last podcast is a brilliantly edited, thoughtful, even emotional PSA for video gamers who lose their tempers (aka, they ‘tilt’), which throws them off their game.”
JD Bennett, dean of curricular innovation and English faculty

Finn Sipes

Art and Activism in the Digital Era

Finn Sipes ’22 participated in Kristen Pixler’s course. She did significant research on religious trauma, conversion camps, and their effect on the LGBTQIA+ community. Finn created a 30-second animation depicting the emotional impact of a victim of religious trauma.

Ellie Miller

Stand Up

Ellie Miller ’23 participated in Ben McNeil’s course. McNeil says, “She was clever, enthralling, and very funny. She told stories and jokes that were funny no matter how many times we heard them. Her final project did not disappoint. I cannot wait for the rest of the school to discover her talents.”

Trey Eckstine

Recognizing Conspiracy Theories and Stopping the Spread of Misinformation

Trey Eckstine ’21 was in Suzanne Taylor’s course. He created a video on Project Blue Book (it’s about aliens!) and debunking the misconception that the government actually found aliens.

Business and Its Role in the Cultural Foundations of Peace

The two businesses presented in the video are products of an intense business pitch competition. Each student (12 total) did a rocket pitch that lasted 30 seconds, pitching a business they would like to start. The 12 businesses were cut down to four, which became groups of three students each. Those four businesses gave a more robust business pitch, and the two businesses in this video emerged as winners. The students from the two businesses that didn’t make it through the previous round have joined forces with the final two. These final concepts were presented as a culminating project, with each member of the class owning a piece of their respective group’s presentation. Tribe Clothing (Tomiwa Salako ’22, Adam Deavers ’23, Camille Smith ’22, Annie Shuford ’24, Layi Olusanya ’22, and Mason Reed ’21) and Eco Mask (Sara Sokolski ’24, Bella Jones ’24Guil Ware ’21, Jason Park ’21, Zeke Wadlington ’23, and Alison Huang ’22) are the final two in the video.