• Mary Catherine Thomson
  • Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, senior
Mary Catherine Thomson

For Mary Catherine Thomson, learning extends far beyond the walls of the school she has attended since sixth grade.

As a sophomore, she spent 10 days in Briey, France, as part of a foreign exchange program.

“I really enjoyed getting to know my exchange student’s family. She had a single mother and a sister, and we just spent a lot of time sitting around their kitchen table talking about our different cultures,” said Mary Catherine.

From eating home-cooked escargot to enjoying daily fresh breads, Mary Catherine had the chance to experience the language which she has studied since kindergarten. This year, she received a 2013 Outstanding Senior in French award from the American Association of Teachers of French, which honors students for their commitment to the language, and for having high academic achievement. Mary Catherine was one of only nine students in Georgia to receive the 2013 honor.

“I have definitely developed a passion and love for French, so it was nice to be recognized for that,” said Mary Catherine.

Her passion is apparent to those around her.

“From the beginning, I saw her eagerness and her incredible intelligence. She is a very discerning lady and can read between the lines in literature,” said her current Advanced Placement French teacher Gerard Gatoux. “She is extremely professional and is a perfectionist in the classroom.”

In addition to French, Mary Catherine is also passionate about English and literature, and attended the four-week Governor’s Honors Program in Valdosta, Ga., this past summer as a communication arts major and theater minor. At the program, she enjoyed taking part in discussion-oriented classes and exploring interesting topics, from stand-up comedy to modern feminism.

Before her junior year, she was selected to play for the highly competitive Georgia national lacrosse team at the national tournament in Long Island, New York.

“I have definitely gained lessons in commitment, hard work and dedication from lacrosse,” said Mary Catherine, who has played lacrosse at Holy Innocents’ since eighth grade. “I am really close with my lacrosse team, and the support they give me both on and off the field has been very valuable in my time in high school.”

During the school year and summer, Mary Catherine is involved in helping other, younger students to achieve success through Horizons Atlanta. The organization hosts free, six-week summer programs and monthly Saturday school days to help underprivileged children maintain and advance academic progress. Mary Catherine is currently one of two youth board members for the organization, and acts as a link between the group, Holy Innocents’ and the community to help organize student volunteers for the program.

“These kids are so precocious and energetic, and really enjoy being there. I usually find myself laughing almost the entire time just because of how much energy they have, and how ready they are to learn and to be there,” said Mary Catherine. “Being able to provide support to them academically and as a role model is something I have really come to enjoy.”

As a sophomore, Mary Catherine also helped in her community as part of the inaugural Youth Leadership Sandy Springs class. The year-long program takes a group of 30 sophomores and juniors for one school day each month to travel around the community and talk to different professionals, from city planners to policemen.

At the end of the program, the participants work on a cumulative project. In Mary Catherine’s year, this project involved making voice recordings of childrens’ book reading, and donating the recordings and books to Lake Forest Elementary School, where many students do not speak English at home.

What’s Next:

Mary Catherine has been accepted to the University of Georgia, but has not yet decided on a college. She hopes to possibly minor in French and continue with lacrosse. She is also interested in continuing her interest in science by studying biology. “I think she will be one of those students that will always amaze you and will become whatever she wants to be — whether that is an engineer or doctor or lawyer or diplomat,” Gatoux said.

This article was prepared by Mollie Simon, a student at Chamblee Charter High School.