Student Achievements: Three to Celebrate

1. Hockaday Close Up

Ava Thigpen (Class of 2025) participated in a PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs workshop aimed at inspiring students to develop the knowledge and skills needed to become informed, active, and engaged citizens and helping them develop video production and storytelling skills. The students, selected in partnership with nonprofit Close Up’s civic engagement program, worked in pairs to produce videos highlighting youth perspectives on issues in the United States. Thigpen was one of 10 participants from across the country.

2. TCA Scholars

Trinity Christian Academy (TCA) seniors Sarah Gerrard and Connor Graham qualified for National Merit Recognition as National Indigenous Scholar and National Hispanic Scholar. They were judged on a personal essay, letters of recommendation, participation in school activities, leadership abilities, their academic record, and their PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test scores.

3. Blackland Benevolence

Spencer Burke Musk Thistle

St. Mark’s School of Texas junior Spencer Burke, a Boy Scout with Troop 577 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Preston Hollow, teamed up with Texas Master Naturalist Marcia Haley to establish a pocket Blackland Prairie plot at Twelve Hills Nature Center in the North Oak Cliff area of Dallas, not far from the Bishop Arts District. Visit

“The habitat is discernably improving,” center director Haley said. “Throughout 2021, we will see many more native plants there with the resulting benefits-more native insects and birds and a prairie area for visitors to enjoy and learn from.”

In November 2019, Burke led a team of Scouts and other volunteers to remove invasive grasses and plant Texas native grasses and wildflowers. His team returned in October 2020 and removed 20-plus contractor bags of Johnson Grass, Bermuda Grass, Chinese Privet, and other aggressive plants. He plans to spend the next few months gathering native grass and wildflower seeds from an existing Blackland Prairie in North Central Texas and plant those at Twelve Hills.

“It’s a slow process to restore the Blackland Prairie, but definitely worth it,” Burke said.

Click here to read our 2021 STEAM Special Section

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