Who Graduates You: Influencers at Their Best

Jenya Halliday, a senior at the School for Entrepreneurship and Technology, looks at the camera as she sits in a red cap and gown.

Who Graduates You: Influencers at Their Best

We get it. This is the Age of the Influencer and we admit that they can lead us to some great finds (best sleep mask!) and to some duds (that fuzzy neon beret looks waaaay better on them).

But who is influencing your path to graduation? At the School for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET High), a tuition-free 9th-12th grade high school in San Diego, we celebrate those who help. At graduation, our seniors have a SET teacher or staff “graduate” them and we asked a few who they chose this year and why. We also asked for other “influencers” (in the best sense of the word!) and here are their responses.

Jenya Halliday: Ms. Farias, Spanish Teacher

“I chose Ms. Farias, she teaches Spanish. I chose her because I had the best connection with her out of all the staff. I really like how every time I came into her room there was a positive vibe and she makes things very fun. My connection with her was a kind of relationship I could trust and lean on for support if I needed it. She makes us feel like there is no judgment and she treats everyone the same and makes it very equal– there is no favoritism in her class and I really like that. She is very understanding and really patient when it comes to working with students. I just love her as a person– she is just a sweetheart!

I think another person who is really good as a SET influencer is Ms. Geis (assistant principal and San Diego County Outstanding Teacher of the Year) because she tends to interact more with the students when it comes to activities and she really tries to make a connection –all the staff do– but I feel she actually gets into the activities and builds a connection with each one of the students. Each connection she has is different though and she doesn’t make it seem like they’re all the same. 

Outside of SET, I think my biggest influence in my family is probably my aunt. She is very athletic and she has a lot of  perseverance. Even when she isn’t feeling good healthwise she keeps going and keeps pushing through the hard days. I also love how caring she is– she always makes sure that everyone is cared for and noticed.”

Austin Strahm: Dr. McCurdy, Principal and Computer Science Teacher

Dr. Neil McCurdy will be graduating me because, as principal, he has seen the most breadth of my activity throughout high school out of any staff member at SET.

As my Computer Science 1 and 2 teacher, Dr. McCurdy has witnessed my academic growth, as I progressed from putting effort simply to achieve high marks to learning and teaching because I find joy in the process. In his Computer Science 2 class, I began exploring cryptography, and I have now spent two years teaching and further investigating this field out of passion. 

Dr. McCurdy has also played a major role in my development as a leader. Dr. McCurdy spurred the creations of the SAT Prep Club (now the College Planning Club) and the SET Senate, which I founded and have led to leave SET a better place. Dr. McCurdy has certainly seen me expand from a witness of the world around me to an idealist working intensely to make a lasting positive impact on this world through the organization and inspiration of those around me.

Taken as a whole, Dr. McCurdy has seen the majority of my growth throughout my high school career, and he not only understands but helped me realize where I am headed and who I want to be in life. Oh yeah, he also got me into ping pong starting as a 9th grader!

Mr. Montello (Systems Administration and Robotics teacher) has helped me balance the scientific theory I have been learning with the practicality of engineering. While I have explored all of calculus and all of general physics, I have been applying my knowledge through engineering projects with Mr. Montello. In particular, I have already built a Farnsworth Fusor (a basic nuclear fusor) and am in the process of constructing a Scintillation Detector, which is a fancy radiation detector. These projects, which have been guided by Mr. Montello’s support, have allowed me to gain hands-on experience with nuclear engineering at this early point in my education.”

Congratulations seniors! Looking for a high school that engages you creatively and academically while encouraging you to design your own learning journey? Learn leadership, kindness, and judiciousness while fueling passion and purpose? Our California Distinguished School school is enrolling now.

About SET High 

SET High offers each student individual attention from multi-talented, highly qualified  teachers. Students build a healthy camaraderie with classmates inside an intellectually rigorous environment that brings out their talents and personality, helping them develop their individual character and direction in life. With a wide variety of electives, flexible scheduling, dual enrollment college classes and more — our students regularly exceed their academic and personal expectations. Enroll now