Future has begun in earnest for Brookwood School top grads

Thomasville Times-Enterprise, Staff Report
THOMASVILLE — The future is already here for the top two graduates of Brookwood School’s class of 2022.

Valedictorian Elise McPherson is busy getting ready for South Georgia Ballet’s “Cinderella” show next month. Salutatorian Kate Ashton Redrupp, passports and visas in hand, is exploring Europe for the next two weeks.
“I’m very excited,” Redrupp said earlier this week about her trip to London and Paris. “I’ve been to Paris before. I haven’t been to London.”

For Redrupp, travel, especially of the intercontinental variety, is nothing new. Her father is from Sweden, and the family lived in Dubai for a year. They also used to visit her grandmother in Austria.

“So as a family, we’re used to traveling,” she said. “We’ve been a very multi-cultural, traveling family my entire life.”

Redrupp noted she had grown up getting exposed to different cultures.

“Traveling is such an eye-opening experience and it has genuinely helped make me into who I am,” she said. “I believe it is so important in life to get out of your comfort zone and experience something different.”

McPherson has travel plans this summer, too. She is headed to Europe as well. 

“I went to London,” she said, “but now I get to go to other places.”

McPherson is fascinated by the history of the places she’ll visit.

“I really want to see it,” she said, “see where things happened that we learned about and actually able to go to the museums and see the art we learned about.” 

McPherson chose Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, as her college destination. Her final two were Washington and Lee and Williams College in northwestern Massachusetts.

“I came right down to the wire,” she said. “I did not know what I wanted to do. It came down to the community at Washington and Lee. I knew I could feel at home. Washington and Lee is going to be a good home.”

McPherson plans to study biology, with an emphasis in neuroscience. 

Redrupp will be studying molecular biology at Vanderbilt University. She toured every school in the area, she said, before choosing Vanderbilt.

“I wanted an urban campus with a lot of students,” Redrupp said. “I wanted a complete change of pace. But I wanted teachers who were invested in your personal success, and that’s what I found at Vandy. It was large enough that I could make a name for myself but I would have to try, and the teachers were invested in your personal success and leading you on to better things in your career and life.”

Given the fields of study they have mapped out for college, AP Biology was a natural choice for both McPherson and Redrupp as one of their favorite courses at Brookwood. 

McPherson also loved her AP Literature course — and credited David Grooms, her instructor for AP history classes, for instilling a love of history.

“I hated history with such a burning passion before I took his class,” McPherson acknowledged, “and now I might want to study it. I don’t know how he did that, but he did. He took something that I hate so much and he was such a good teacher, and he made it interesting for me. I still don’t know how he did it.” 

Redrupp also enjoyed her AP Lit and AP Biology classes and added AP Human Geography to that list.

“I like to learn why things are the way they are,” she said, “and that class explains how language is being transmitted, why agriculture developed in certain places. That’s super fascinating to me, and Mrs. (Susan) Vann is just a great teacher and one of the more interesting persons that I’d ever met.” 

For Redrupp and McPherson, Brookwood has been their home for more than a decade. McPherson was a Brookwood student for 14 years, Redrupp for 13 years. 

The two were grateful to have had the consistency of the same school and familiar faces.

“For me, it’s been more of a safety net to develop your morals and standards and who you are,” Redrupp said, “because it has provided a stable backing, people who are going to be there as you change and grow and have a safe place to decide, this is who I want to be, this is what I want to do. It’s given us a platform and a foundation to take the next step and become a little uncomfortable in our lives and allow for some growth and change.” 

As their summer has started — Brookwood’s graduation ceremony was May 14 — the seismic changes ahead are already being felt. Their next classroom won’t be nestled among the tall pines of Thomas County.

“I still haven’t really comprehended that I have graduated,” McPherson said. “I woke up this morning and was, woah, I’m done. I don’t have to go back. It was such a strange thing to know that the place you’ve gone to almost every day for the last 14 years of your life is not the place you’re going to go to every day.”

As the two wrote their speeches, McPherson found there was much she wanted to say to her classmates she didn’t get a chance to over the years. For Redrupp, she turned to music.

“At every function, we’re always playing some kind of music,” she said. “We play everything and anything. I thought music would describe our class in the perfect way because we’re such a blend of everything.” 
As for the finality of their elementary and secondary educations coming to a close, there was fun and some anxiety mixed in, along with an embrace of what the future may hold.

“I’m excited to go on to a new place,” McPherson said, “but it is going to be an adjustment. But I’m excited for the adjustment and how people have chosen to be at the same place I’ve chosen to go.”

“It was bittersweet and sentimental,” Redrupp said. “This was our childhood. This is all we’ve ever known. But there was the feeling we’re all ready to go. 

“It is time and we know we have been sitting in our comfort zones for way too long and it’s time to branch out and it’s time to become who we were meant to become and see the things and do the things we need to do in life.”
Located in Thomasville, GA, Brookwood School is a private school for grades JK-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.