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Beyond the diploma, South fosters tomorrow’s leaders

Grace Campbell ’25

As graduation looms, seniors are forced to reconcile with the fact that they are leaving South behind and are beginning the next stage of their lives. They must hope that the skills they have learned while at South will leave a lasting impact on them throughout their professional lives. Fortunately, as past graduates can confirm, one’s education at South is sure to instill values that stand the test of time. This legacy that follows each student will remain profound in its own way, for better or for worse.

With the myriad of opportunities that South offers students, it’s hard to fathom an outcome in which a student is not deeply affected by their experiences at South. Whether it be through athletics, clubs, friendships or connections with teachers and faculty members, South allows all its students a chance to create lasting memories. As a senior at the University of Michigan and graduate of South’s class of 2020, Alexander Bower recalled that the most impactful memories from South come from within the curiosity-ridden walls of the Cotton Innovation Center.

“(Taking classes in the Innovation Center) made me develop the mindset of ‘Okay, how can I make the world a better place,’” Bower said. “It’s really empowering as a student, even as a high schooler, to know you’re so capable of changing the world.”

Bower is graduating from the Ross School of Business this year and will be working at a startup company in Palo Alto as soon as he finishes school. He claimed that his work at the Innovation Center sparked his interest in entrepreneurship and gave kudos to science teacher James Adams for nurturing his budding entrepreneurial curiosity.

“Adams was really good at teaching me to be a go-getter and to have a bias towards execution,” Bower said. “I think that really served me well at a big school like the University of Michigan where there are so many different things that you can do. The world is at your fingertips; it’s just about you taking that action and making it happen.”

Apart from academics, Bower said he prides South for giving him a community-driven experience that is rivaled by none of his peers whom he has met at college.

“When I walk into South—and so many people I’ve met at (Michigan), their high school is massive—the sense of community, and the way South really embeds itself in the broader area, I think is really special,” Bower said. “When you walk the halls itself, there’s just this history that you feel and when I tell people in college, they’re just blown away.”

There are many ways that South’s legacy manages to have an impact on its students. Social studies teacher, coach and alumni Chad Hepner ’93, explained how South’s legacy touched him in the form of athletics. From being a waterboy in elementary school and a ball boy in middle school before officially joining the football team at South, it’s safe to say that Hepner knows the football program inside and out. After graduating from college, Hepner said he found it very easy to say “yes” when he was offered a job to teach.

“I knew that the community had a lot of support for both the school’s academics and athletics,” Hepner said. “There are high expectations for the students and it is just a great community and a great environment to teach in.”

Not only a teacher and a coach, Hepner is also a father of current and past South students. He said he can only hope that they have as good of an experience, and learn as many life lessons through their academics and athletics as he did in his time at South.

“The success was great (as a student at South), but I just had a fantastic experience as an athlete here as well,” Hepner said. “I had great relationships with my coaches, and some of the things that I learned when I was an athlete here are some things that I still carry with me. I hope my kids get the same type of experience and learn those same things that I did.”

The understanding of the value of tradition is not a sentiment unique to the school, but is something the school excels at. Take, for example, South’s historic baseball team, widely considered to be one of the most successful baseball programs in the state for a public institution. With the slogan of “tradition never graduates,” Coach Dan Griesbaum said he knows the importance of South’s storied legacy.

“It doesn’t matter how many players we have returning, whether that’s a lot or a little, the expectation is the same,” Griesbaum said. “We never say that we’re rebuilding; we never say wait till next year; it’s always about how we want to be successful now. This is what the tradition (at South) is like: we want kids, when they come in, to believe that they are coming to one of the best programs in the state.”

Griesbaum said he makes it a priority to instill life skills into his players that they can take with them beyond their time at the school. He said he believes that these are the true skills upon which South’s baseball team’s legacy is built.

“We teach dealing with failure and adversity, doing the right thing, always treating people with respect, treating people the way you want to be treated, hard work and being a team player,” Griesbaum said. “All of that is important, not just in baseball, but in life because you’re going to need to be a team player. Most people, during your entire life—whether it’s a corporation, teaching staff or whatever else it happens to be—are going to be a part of your team.”

Robert Reynolds, who graduated from South in 1991, emphasized that high school sports, as well as academics, has an impact in the future. Reynolds went on to study law at the University of Miami after graduating from South and is now an attorney at his firm, using many of the values instilled in him at South in his career. He stated that running track, playing football and being an officer in South’s Varsity Club during his time at South taught him how to properly manage his time and work well with others. In addition to what he learned through athletics, Reynolds has a plethora of good things to say about the caliber of education at South.

“The education at South really prepared me for college,” Reynolds said. “I remember talking to kids from other schools that did not have as many AP and high-level classes as we did. We were very fortunate to attend a school that is consistently ranked as one of the top high schools in the country. The education was top-notch, and was a great foundation to help us all be successful in life.”

Reynolds also highlighted how the level of care the staff at South has for the student body goes a long way in making their high school experiences more enjoyable. He specifically recalled a Spanish teacher who taught in Grosse Pointe for decades; a person who was not only a great educator but also someone students could talk to about almost everything. Reynolds also looked back similarly on his class advisor Susan Reames.

“(Reames) was another (teacher) you could talk to about anything,” Reynolds said. “She cared tremendously for her students and even played matchmaker to ensure that all of the seniors would have a date to prom.”

Reynolds, though having permanently moved to Florida after attending graduate school there, remains close friends with many of his classmates from the South, which has been made easier since the creation of social media. While many alumni find success away from Grosse Pointe, such as Reyolds has, a large percentage of the group decides to stay in Grosse Pointe and raise their families here. Matthew Agnone ’25, for example, said he feels fortunate to have attended his father’s alma mater.

“Growing up in Grosse Pointe as the son of an alumni gives me an immense sense of pride,” Agnone said. “Ever since I was young, I’ve been taught to be proud of the school I go to. I also feel as if I would not have, when I first came to South, felt as comfortable and made friends as quickly if it wasn’t for having a parent that attended South.”

Attending South makes Agnone more comfortable when thinking about his future, as he has seen in person how its legacy has impacted its alumni. He said he is confident that graduating South will equip him with the proper skills to lead him to success.

“I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else,” Agnone said. “From what I’ve seen from my parents and other people that I know that I’ve graduated from (South), the impact that this school has is immeasurable.”

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About the Contributors
Grace Campbell ’25
Grace Campbell ’25, Web Editor
Cat lover, track runner, journalistic mastermind: Grace Campbell ’25 can do it all. In her second year on staff, the web editor is excited to bring her fierce opinions and her admiration of cats to the Tower classroom. Campbell is most looking forward to writing opinion pieces for the paper to speak out for the issues she is passionate about. “Tower lets me share my voice on popular issues,” Campbell said. “Also, I’m able to give a voice to my peers about issues that they’re concerned about.” Look out for a lot of thought-provoking opinion pieces by her this year. Her love for writing is shared with her love for cats. Campbell has a black cat named Harriet who she loves dearly. She also accessorizes herself with cat-themed socks. “My biggest goal this year is to help new staffers transition to the seemingly hectic Tower environment,” Campbell said. “I want to make them feel at home and part of the Tower family.”
Omar Siddiqui '25
Omar Siddiqui '25, Associate Web Editor
Omar Siddiqui ’25 is a second-year staffer with an immense passion for journalism who has taken on the role of associate web editor this year. Siddiqui believes that The Tower is making a difference in Grosse Pointe by writing bold and impactful stories. “I feel as if I’m doing my due diligence as a member of the community by writing for The Tower,” Siddiqui said. Outside of school, Siddiqui plays varsity soccer and participates in Science Olympiad. He also volunteers as a therapy aid at a mental health clinic in his free time. When asked to state something about him that no one knows, Siddiqui said he would like the world to know he can do a backflip. “It’s really impressive in person,” Siddiqui said. “It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication that I put into all my goals in life.”

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