Achieving Excellence

As the senior class at GCAA gears up for graduation, one student stands out for his exceptional achievements and contributions. Jacob Stern, a senior in the Music Pathway program, recently sat down with us to share his experiences and reflections on his time at GCAA. Not only is Jacob the first student from Confluence Academies to be recognized as an AP Scholar by the College Board, but he is also only the second student from GCAA to be recognized as a commended student by the National Merit Scholarship Program. According to his guidance counselor Rusty Smith, “Jacob is one of the top 5 students I have ever worked with in my 39 years of education. He is an outstanding young man - academically gifted, charismatic, musically talented, and altruistic.” 


What are some of your interests and hobbies? 

Besides music, I love math, board games, building legos, tutoring my friends, marvel, star wars, soccer, and learning about new tech products. I have been fascinated by math for a long time because of the joy I find in solving difficult, tedious problems. 


What drew you to GCAA? 

I began going to GCAA in 6th grade, following my 4 older sisters who all began going to GCAA in 6th grade before me. I was drawn to the possibilities of playing in a band like my sister Myriam, singing in a choir like my sister Hannah, and exploring other opportunities in visual art. I also was excited to learn more about what there was to learn about music. I have gained a breadth of knowledge in music through theory, history, and piano classes at school too. I was also drawn to GCAA because of the many AP and 1818 classes that were offered, especially in math, which I now want to major in in college. 


What made you decide to pursue the music pathway? 

Ever since I was old enough to form words to sing in church, I have sung. I’ve experienced pure joy in singing in a choir. Music is generally an endless pursuit because there is so much to learn, and I love continuing to learn. 


Can you talk about a specific accomplishment or project that you're particularly proud of? 

I am super proud of all the work I put into my college applications over the last semester. All November last year was a chalk full of writing essays, answering questions, filling out CSS and FAFSA, and balancing these things on top of school. I matched with Bowdoin College through QuestBridge’s National College Match. I worked really hard to get this done and could not have done it without encouragement from my family, friends, and counselor Mr. Smith. I am super grateful for the support I have. 


What are your plans for after graduation? 

This fall, I will begin attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. I plan to major in math with additional studies in music and possibly Spanish. My goal is to become a high school math teacher in the public school system. 


Can you tell us about a challenge you've faced and how you overcame it? 

The summer after my junior year, I traveled abroad as a cultural exchange student to Argentina. I lived with a host family for 8 weeks and attended school with my host brother. Before I traveled to Argentina, I had very little knowledge of Spanish. When I arrived, it was very difficult to communicate, because I lived in a small town and none of my host family spoke significant English. This was an incredible experience for me. Even though not being able to understand or talk was frustrating, challenging myself in this way taught me a lot of perseverance, endurance, and the massive importance of language. Through much grace of the people around me, at the end of the 8 week program I am now conversational in Spanish.  


How do you think your experiences in high school have prepared you for the future? 

In high school, I worked really hard to take the most difficult courses offered and maintain the best grades I was able to. In some classes, I was forced to self-study and learn material on my own to prepare myself for exams. I succeeded in taking dual-enrollment classes at STLCC. In all of these things, communicating with professors, teachers, and counselors was a massive learning opportunity for me. I learned how to seek education for myself and how to ask for help. I think this is the most important skill I learned in high school, because it prepares me to grab at and hold onto what I want to achieve. 


Can you tell us about a current school event, project or club you are involved in? 

This last semester of high school, I am a part of the cast for Fame, the Musical under the direction of Mr. Keith Williams. I am super excited to play a part in this musical. This is all totally new to me though, because I have never taken part in a theater production or taken theater classes at GCAA. I am looking forward to everything I will learn about theater this semester through rehearsals and long days, and to learn more about the theater pathway at school. 


What advice would you give to underclassmen or incoming students at GCAA? 

  1. Get organized! 
  1. Find friends and teachers who want you to succeed. 
  1. Build relationships with your teachers who understand you and can advocate on your behalf. 
About Jacob:

#1 in his graduating class  

ACT superscore: 35 

National Merit Scholar 

AP Scholar 

QuestBridge College and Scholarship Match Finalist 

Talented and Gifted student, Missouri Scholars Academy  

All-State Choir