In Focus @ GWA

A news bulletin for the families of George Walton Academy

February 14, 2019

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Key Deadlines & Dates

  • Winter Break: Feb. 15 -18
  • K4/ K5 Student Holiday: Feb. 19
  • ACT Testing: Feb. 20
  • Counselor Chats: Feb. 21
  • Middle School Dance: Feb. 22
  • Lucky Dawg Gala and Benefit Auction: Feb. 23
  • First/Second Grade Family Folk Dancing Night: 2/28
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Celebrating Founders Day

Nearly 50 years ago, the seeds for a young school were sown. From an initial community meeting, twelve people agreed to serve as the board of trustees and began the task of creating a school from scratch. In addition to seeking prospective students, they needed to hire a head of school, find teachers and staff, locate a suitable plant, purchase buses, books, desks and supplies, AND figure out how to pay for it all. They managed to pull off a herculean effort in just over five months.

George Walton Academy will celebrate our first Founders Day on March 29, 2019. We will recognize and thank the founding board of trustee members as well as first year families who invested so much time in the creation of the school. While the board of trustees provided the leadership, it took the support and sweat equity of parents to help with the many fundraisers, cleaning of the school, setting up classrooms, and above all, persistent effort and dedication during that difficult first year.

Founders Day will honor those first families, but it also provides an opportunity to celebrate with all our families who over the years have helped advance George Walton Academy. Their gifts of time, talent and resources made a tremendous impact on the Academy.

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STAR Student: Cole Aukes

George Walton Academy is pleased to announce Cole Aukes as the school’s STAR student. To obtain STAR recognition, Cole achieved the highest score on the SAT and is in the top ten percent of his class. He selected Mr. Jeff Lalaian, his AP Statistics teacher, as his STAR teacher. “He’s always been there for me and can explain things in a way that I understand. He is so good at connecting with students, especially me,” Cole said. Mr. Lalaian remarked, “As a teacher, the students that challenge you the most make for the most rewarding experiences. There is no doubt Cole challenges me to be a better teacher. He is a young man of extraordinary ability, but more than that, he is a young man of extraordinary character. He deserves every accolade he receives. I am honored that he chose me to be his STAR Teacher.”

Cole and Mr. Lalaian were recognized at the STAR Student and STAR Teacher banquet hosted by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce. In the fall, Cole will be attending the Honors College at the University of Georgia. He hopes to join the Redcoat Marching Band and possibly study applied mathematics. Congratulations and best wishes to Cole and Mr. Lalaian!

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February Rotary Student of the Month

Alex Aull has been selected as Rotary Student of the Month for February. He chose Mr. Jeff Lalaian as Rotary Teacher of the Month. Alex is a member of National Honor Society, Beta Club, president of the GWA Marching Band and FCA. He also serves as a Student Ambassador, participates in the Model UN, plays soccer and is part of the Literary Men’s Quartet. Alex has been awarded Headmaster’s List and Best of the Best. He is involved with the Monroe First United Methodist Church youth group and plays with the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony as well as the Covington-Conyers Community Orchestra. Alex plans to study music education at the University of Georgia and pursue a career as a performing musician and educator. Congratulations to Alex and Mr. Lalaian!

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High School Summer Classes

Looking to get ahead academically? Exciting opportunities are in the works for upper school students this summer! GWA will offer summer classes at no cost to our enrolled students for full academic credit. A course catalog will be available the first week of March to currently enrolled students.

These courses provide an opportunity for students to customize their learning experience at GWA. "The George Walton experience should be tailored to the individual student needs and interest." Dr.Dolan commented. " For some, summer may be the perfect time to get ahead." Additional details to follow. Please contact Peggy Jordan, Registrar at

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Hands on Science

As part of their study of systems of the human body- fourth graders made “blood.” This hands-on activity gave students a great way to visualize the four main components of blood as if they were viewing it under a microscope. Using clear plastic bottles, they combined Karo syrup, Red Hots, small lima beans and lentils to represent the plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, respectively. Students learned about the functions and importance of each component.


Ready to take a trip to France? First you need a budget, of course! Students in Mrs. Gervais middle school French class are working on a special project to understand budgeting a trip to France, and will present it in front of the class upon completion.

Mi Casa Es Su Casa!

Middle school students in Mrs. McElveen's class are creating posterboards of "la casa," or "house" in English. They were tasked with drawing six rooms of their house that included furniture and other elements and labeled each detail in Spanish. Mrs. McElveen further inspired students during the project by playing traditional Spanish music while they worked.

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Anxiety Versus Stress: How Do You Tell the Difference?

By Lynn Robinson, Director of Counseling Services

In the January/February, 2019 issue of School Counselor, the American School Counselors Association’s magazine, Anna Duvall and Crissy Roddy, two school counselors from South Carolina, wrote an excellent article entitled, “Coping with Student Anxiety.” In this article, they focus on stress and anxiety. They stated that one of the hardest parts of working with or raising a child is understanding the difference between stress and anxiety and the effects that both have on a student’s social, emotional and academic well-being.

Ms. Duvall and Dr. Roddy wrote: “Everyone experiences stress. Stress is caused by external factors happening in our lives each day. These stressors are temporary. Anxiety, however, is different than stress. Anxiety doesn’t always have an obvious cause and is internalized. Students may not be able to verbalize the specific cause of their anxiety; they just know they are experiencing excessive and ongoing worry and/or fear about something.” Later in the article they listed symptoms of anxiety, which include attendance problems, panic attacks, academic problems, difficulty concentrating, staying focused, sweating, feeling weak or tired, and/or thinking of “what ifs.” Many of these same symptoms are present when a student is experiencing stress, which is what makes it difficult to tell the difference.

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During this month’s Counselor Chat next Thursday, Feb. 21, the counselors will be hosting a program on stress and anxiety and the effect these have on students. Our guest speaker will be Lisa Boylan, the Community Liaison for Ridgeview Institute. Mrs. Boylan will help us better understand the differences between stress and anxiety and she will offer suggestions for helping our students cope.

We hope you will be able to attend next Thursday’s Counselor Chat. The chat will be held in The Commons (formerly the Upper School Library) and will begin at 8:15 a.m.

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GWA Hosts Monroe Rotary's Daddy Daughter Dance

George Walton Academy was proud to host and sponsor the 2019 Monroe Rotary Daddy Daughter Dance. The dance was a huge success and raised over $5,000 for the Monroe community. The daddies and daughters had a blast dancing the night away!

Delivering Valentine's Day Cheer

Members of GWA's National Honor Society and Beta Club made and delivered Valentines to residents of Great Oaks, a local retirement home, to help spread Valentine cheer!
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Model UN

The GWA MUN (Model United Nations) attended their second conference of the school year last weekend at the University of Georgia. Twenty member students were assigned countries and placed on committees where they debated issues from the point of view held by the country they represented. GWA members were assigned to the DPRK (North Korea) and Ireland. Club advisor Michael Clancy said, “They certainly achieved their goal of making an impression, especially the ones representing the DPRK. They carried a portrait of the premier, Kim Jong Un, with them and would correct anyone who referred to their country as North Korea. They stayed in character throughout the conference and when it concluded, students from others school were taking selfies with them!”

MUN conferences allow members to cultivate their skills in the areas of leadership, negotiation, public speaking and writing while learning about international affairs. During the conference at UGA, sophomore Makena Helms was awarded Best Position Paper representing Michael Corner on a crisis committee called the Battle of Hogwarts.

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Next Friday, Feb. 22, from 7-10 p.m., we will hold the annual Middle School Dance. The theme this year is a luau. Students are welcome to dress in Hawaiian shirts, shorts (of appropriate length), and sandals, but students are not required to dress for the theme. This dance is a relaxed, hang out with friends event – it is not a “date night.” The goal is for everyone to come and have a good time!

Tickets will be on sale during break and lunch for $5 each beginning on Tuesday. We hope to see everyone there!

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Valentine Love is in the Air...

Ah, how Valentine’s Day brings out the love in our classrooms.

Valentine’s Day celebrations reinforced our February Kindness Initiative: "show kindness to others." Valentine’s Day provides a forum where we can tell our friends and teachers how much we appreciate them. For our students, it doesn’t take Valentine’s Day to remind us of the need to communicate kindness. We can recognize and acknowledge the inherent goodness in each other on a daily basis. One needs only to chat with students, witness the supportive acts of staff, marvel at our daily volunteers, attend a GWA event, or participate in one of our many community activities to recognize that huge hearts are alive and well in our learning community.

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Dawgs 360 House

Dawgs 360 is movin' on up! The newly-renovated space will play an integral part in providing an atmosphere for community engagement. Dawgs 360 supports all aspects – or the full circle – of Bulldog student life. The organization was created to engage the entire school community and to benefit the student experience at all grade levels.

We encourage parents to stop by for a cup of coffee and become involved in our GWA community. The space will serve as a home base for our volunteers serving on various projects throughout the year. Attending events and volunteering are great ways to meet other parents, interact with students and collaborate with GWA faculty. There’s no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together.

Email Elizabeth McDonel, Director of Dawgs 360, at if you’re interested in volunteering as part of Dawgs 360 or if you have any questions.

We need YOU!

Looking for fun in the sun? Varsity Baseball is looking for volunteers to assist with gate and concession duties. For available dates, contact Elizabeth McDonel at

Additional Opportunities for Involvement:

Host/Hostess Founders Day:

Morning of Fri. March 29

Relay for Life Volunteers:

Set- Up: Fri. May 3 from 9-1 p.m. & 4-6 p.m.

Host/Hostess’ for Survivor Dinner Clean- Up: 11p.m.-12:30 a.m.

Golf Carts and Drivers: Fri. May 3

Teacher Appreciation Week:

Week of May 6-10

We need Breakfast Bakers , Mailbox Treats, Desserts for Appreciation Lunch and small tokens of appreciation!

Please email Elizabeth McDonel at to get involved!

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Students Can Expand Their Horizons In Croatia

There will be an interest meeting for parents of students interested in traveling to Croatia with GWA in June 2020 on Thursday, February 28th at 6:30pm in the Upper School Commons. This trip is open to all upper school students in the 2019-2020 school year, and we are excited to partner with Our Human Family to tailor and create this experience. Questions? Contact Femke Côté at

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Barcelona Exchange

There will be a meeting for any families interested in participating in our Barcelona partner school exchange on Thursday, Feb. 21st at 6:30pm in the cafeteria (note location change). This exchange will be the experience of a lifetime and is open to students who will be freshman in the 2019-2020 school year. If accepted into the program, students will host a Spanish student for one month in the Fall, and then travel to Barcelona during Winter Term (January) to stay with the same student they hosted. Questions? Contact Femke Côté at

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Found Sculpture Monsters

Chelsea Carver’s first grade art class has begun "Found Sculpture Monsters", which uses paper towel rolls, construction paper, pipe cleaner, googly eyes, and various other materials to make a monster sculpture. Students studied the art of story boards and learned how for movies, like Monsters Inc., artist sketch out frames and then sculpt characters during production.
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Building a Portfolio

Brian Cole's AP Photography class ventured out of the classroom to build their portfolios with pictures at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. They stopped at Vines Botanical Gardens on the way. We can't wait to see their amazing photos!

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Lady Dawgs Basketball takes on Savannah Christian

Good luck to our girls varsity basketball team at the first round of state playoffs! Go Lady Dawgs!

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Six Wrestlers Qualify for State

After a tough weekend of wrestling at Darlington, George Walton Academy qualifies six for the GHSA Wrestling State Championship in Macon this weekend. Congrats to Perry Jake Stone (first), Chris Sperin, Patrick Morris (second), Beau Mitchell (third), Darius Barnum (fourth), and Bryson Williams (fifth). Good luck at State!
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Stout Places at State Swimming Championship

Congratulations to Charlie Stout for placing in both events at the GHSA Swimming Championship State Meet! He took second place in the 500 freestyle and third in the 200 freestyle.
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Diamond Dawg Days

George Walton will be hosting Diamond Dawg Days, a three game series, held on Saturday the 16th starting at 11 a.m.

  • 11 a.m. GWA vs Monroe Area
  • 1 p.m. Monroe Area vs Oconee
  • 4 p.m. GWA vs. Oconee
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Upcoming Home Track Meet

GWA will host a track meet on Thurs., Feb. 21. There will be three middle school teams: GWA, Athens Christian and Clark Middle School. High School teams will be GWA, Holy Spirit, Lanier, Loganville High School, Providence Christian and Walnut Grove High School.
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There will be a parent meeting for rising sixth-12th graders who are interested in becoming a part of the GWA cheerleading program on Thurs. Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium. We will be discussing tryouts, summer camp, competition, and all things related to GWA cheerleading for 2019-2020. If your student is considering trying out for cheerleading or you just want more information on the program, please come to the parent meeting.
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The Silent Auction Items are Rolling In!

We are still accepting items. Please contact Jessica Otts at if you have something you would like to donate to the gala. Items such as overnight stays in vacation homes, artwork, jewelry, business services, tickets to sporting events, and autographed items are just a few examples of items that sell well at the gala.

Today's In Focus is Proudly Sponsored by T.L. Williams Turn Key Masonry

Click HERE to learn more about T.L. Williams Turn Key Masonry. Interested in advertising through our Corporate Partnership program? Contact Jeanie Beach at or call 678-635-3812.