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Alumni Features: Where Are They Now?

March 26, 2019
CSS alumnus Carl Churchill
Carl Churchill ‘15 is on track to earn his master’s degree at 21 years old because of his path at The Colorado Springs School.

He took 11 Advanced Placement (AP) exams during his junior and senior years at CSS and used those credits to fast-track through the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Within three years, he earned a bachelor of arts in history, as well as a certificate in GIS, a subfield of geography that focuses on technological application.

“Each credit you get is real money in terms of classes that you don’t have to take in college,” Churchill said. “My parents and I sat down and decided I would take all the AP exams I thought I could pass from the money point of view. And why not do it? It’s an achievement.”

Other high school students have also recognized the achievement. In 2018, the majority of juniors and seniors at CSS took AP exams: 58 students took a total of 91 exams, with 94% of them receiving a score of 3 or better. The highest score is 5.

“Advanced Placement has been an excellent preparatory way for a high school student to get a jump-start on their collegiate coursework,” said UCCS Director of Admissions Chris Beiswanger. “The key for students wanting to maximize this opportunity is to understand how the courses they are taking will apply to their future degree.”

Students should be diligent in checking a university’s policy to determine which AP exams would receive credit and if the credits would apply to their degree.

“Carl did the preparation and the research,” said Rusty Haynes, Director of College Counseling at CSS. “He followed through all the way. He was ready.”

Churchill scored a 5 in the history AP exams: European History, World History, and United States History. He credits David Benson, CSS Upper School History teacher, as being the most influential person in his life for instilling a deep appreciation for history.

“He was the main reason I did so well in my history APs because you can have facts, but history is so much more than blurbs of information,” Churchill said. “I got such a passion for learning because of the teachers at CSS. They’re unique and interesting. They bring a certain color to the material that makes it alive, a level of passion.”

At CSS, Churchill was involved with Model UN, Matchwits, and Academic World Quest, which competed in the national championship.

“He would come during whatever little free time he had to talk about some obscure piece of history,” Benson said. “Carl was a truly remarkable student. Not only did he take every AP he could get his hands on, but he also challenged APs. We don’t offer AP World History, but he studied and took the exam. I remember him coming in and asking questions. I think one of the secrets to his success was he was so engaged in what he was doing.”

When Churchill graduated summa cum laude from UCCS in May 2018, the university recognized him as an Outstanding Undergraduate Student.

“Heading into UCCS, Carl knew that he wanted to be a history major, but he did not restrict himself to only studying history. Over his undergraduate career, he has tried to blend history, geography, anthropology, and any other relevant fields to create an in-depth understanding of the human experience,” according to the recognition. “The History Department faculty has been soundly impressed with Carl’s historical work and his dedication to help other history majors through tutoring.”

Churchill is currently in an accelerated master’s program at Arizona State University, where he is scheduled to graduate in July, a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in GIS.

“I’m very lucky in that I’ve always been able to find something I enjoy in almost all of the academics I do,” he said. “So when you genuinely enjoy something and you approach it like a puzzle and a challenge, rather than just checking something off a list, you put just that extra special level of effort in it and it pays off well in the end. I’m just a huge nerd.”

CSS alumna Caroline Friend
Congratulations to Caroline Friend ‘12 for receiving the 5th Annual Horizon Award for emerging female directors for her short film Under Darkness. She received an all-expenses paid trip to the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where she was honored for the award, which includes grants and mentorship.

While attending the University of Southern California, Caroline was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant to write and direct Under Darkness. The film is based on the true story of Faye Schulman, a Polish woman whose family was killed by the Nazis during WWII. She was spared because of her photography skills and later escaped to become a resistance fighter. Caroline met with Faye, who is 99 years old, before making the film.

Caroline, whose film was one of more than 400 submissions worldwide, was one of two female directors to receive the Horizon Award this year.

She first began making historical films at The Colorado Springs School for National History Day; she won at the state level and competed nationally in Washington, D.C. Caroline attended CSS from 4th to 11th grade before her family moved to Texas in 2011.

As a student at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Caroline won a Shoah Foundation award for Helen Lewis: A Survivor’s Story. She graduated from USC in 2016 with degrees in film and TV production, as well as history.

CSS alumnus Levi Abramson
Levi Abramson ‘09 summited Mount Kilimanjaro with classmates from Harvard Business School, where he is scheduled to receive an MBA in May.

He credits an Experience Centered Seminar at CSS his junior year on finance and investing for being influential in his career path. “That definitely helped me foster an already-growing interest in finance and investment and business,” he said.

After CSS, Levi earned a bachelor of science in economics in 2013 from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated cum laude and as a Joseph Wharton Scholar and a Benjamin Franklin Scholar for academic achievement and learning across multiple disciplines. He spent four years at Amazon in Seattle as a product manager, where he helped build new product delivery systems, including Prime Now and Amazon Flex. After earning his MBA, he plans to return to Amazon as a senior product manager of technical products, possibly based in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Levi’s other interests include running, playing squash, real estate investment, and political theory. “Another thing that I’m passionate about is giving back to the LGBTQ community,” he said, “and I volunteer as a suicide chat hotline counselor for an organization committed to reducing the suicide rate among LGBTQ youth.”

CSS alumna Dr. Sara Ferguson
Dr. Sara Ferguson ‘08, pictured on the right, is part of a collaborative effort between the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the Uganda Wildlife Authority as a National Geographic Explorer to help conserve Nubian giraffe in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. This study will focus on the treatment of giraffe trapped in wire snares set by poachers within the national park.

At CSS, Sara immersed herself in Experience Centered Seminars dealing with animals, including an ECS to South Africa where students stayed for two weeks at a wildlife reserve; an animal behavior ECS that involved working closely with the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo; and an evolutionary biology ECS in Galapagos Islands. Her passion for wildlife conservation grew!

Sara attended the Colorado College before going to veterinary school at the University of Florida. She has worked as a veterinarian at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

CSS alumnus Carl Churchill
CSS alumna Caroline Friend
CSS alumnus Levi Abramson
CSS alumna Dr. Sara Ferguson