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  • Fine Arts News
Mike Connors

Students, classes, and parents are invited to visit Norfolk Academy's newest Perrel Art Gallery exhibit, Kitchen Table Talk.

A compilation of printmaking and drawings from award-winning artist Steve Prince, who is currently Director of Engagement for the Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary, the exhibit explores topics Prince's family discussed around the kitchen table in New Orleans when he was growing up.

Prince attended Xavier University of Louisiana, then earned a master's degree from Michigan State University. A mixed media artist, master printmaker, lecturer, and educator, he has taught at the middle school, high school, and college levels, and has conducted workshops internationally. He has received several honors for his art and scholarship including the 2010 Teacher of the Year award from Hampton Public Schools. He has shown his art internationally and participated in several residencies.

Upper School English classes will be studying the exhibit in depth over the course of February, including through a dance and discussion by Dance Master Elbert Watson. Mr. Watson will be leading several of these events throughout the month.

Curator Betsy DiJulio, an Upper School Art Teacher, said Mr. Prince's work would be engaging to many other classes, including literature, history, constitutional law, dance, film, music, and psychology. 

“The show features monumental, eye-popping woodblock prints and graphite drawings like I have never experienced, save in this master printmaker's work," Ms. DiJulio said. “Whatever you might want to teach, I suspect you can find within this densely pictorial and highly symbolic, yet accessible, body of work." 

Parents are invited to visit the exhibit after school when the doors are open. It will remain up until late March.

  • Art
  • Diversity
  • Perrel Art Gallery
Mike Connors

Foster '29, a sixth grader, became a nationwide sensation this winter as she appeared on the popular Food Network television program Kids Baking Championship.

A dozen young contestants participate in the show, selected from throughout the nation to create desserts and other sweets. They get to test their baking and business skills. Valerie Bertinelli and Duff Goldman are the judges, selecting a champion after 10 weeks. This season's program began in late December.

Foster has been fascinated by baking since before she can remember. Her family has photos of her eating cookie dough as an infant. She started using an easy bake oven at just a few years old, advancing to using real ovens with help from her parents. 

Kids Baking Championship debuted in early 2015. Not surprisingly, Foster was hooked once she started watching. She applied three times to qualify and the third time was the charm. After a few interviews, a Zoom call, answering questions and baking for producers, she heard the good news: She was in.

“That show was what got me really into baking," Foster said. “It inspired me. I wanted to be that inspiration for younger kids."

Though it airs once a week over the course of the winter, the show is filmed during the summer in Knoxville, Tennessee. Foster advanced to the third round before being eliminated. Despite that disappointment, she thoroughly enjoyed her time competing. She made friends with a group of young students with similar loves, doing fun activities such as attending a culinary camp. She remains friends with other contestants; there are plans to reunite at a water park in Texas this summer. 

Watching the show, and hearing about it from friends, has admittedly been a bit odd, since she already lived it and knew what happened. Still, she is enjoying watching because it has brought back found memories from last summer.

The show also showed her what it might be like to be a professional in the food business, and she liked the taste. She dreams of running her own store down the road. She's already on the right path; she runs a small business named Dessert Before Dinner.

Her most popular item: A 6-inch, three-layer chocolate cake with vanilla American buttercream.

What is the key to being a good baker? Have fun try, try, trying again. 

“You just need persistence," she said.  


  • Alumni News
Mike Connors

Steve Lawson, a 1983 Norfolk Academy graduate, received a Community Leaders Award from the Urban League of Hampton Roads at their annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast. 

Mr. Lawson is Chairman of the Board of The Lawson Companies, a real estate firm specializing in development, construction, and management of affordable multifamily housing communities in Virginia. He earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Duke University, and has been with the company that his father Bob Lawson started for 30 years.

The Urban League gave Mr. Lawson a housing award for his continued advocating for equitable and affordable housing. He serves on the board of the nonprofit HousingForward Virginia and on the rental advisory council of a statewide housing finance agency. He has promoted affordable housing for more than 20 years, the league said. In 2019, his work earned him a Human Rights Award from Virginia Beach's Human Rights Commission. 

During the breakfast, which was a virtual ceremony, Mr. Lawson thanked his entire Lawson Companies team. His father instilled in him the importance of affordable housing, he said. 

“We are an honest, hard working group who share a strong set of core values and believe in our purpose - to positively impact people," Mr. Lawson said.

While Dr. King's civil rights work is well known, he also championed fair housing, Mr. Lawson said. 

“On this day honoring the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., may we all be inspired to continue the fight for housing equality and racial justice," he said. 

Watch the entire awards ceremony on the Urban League website

  • Alumni
  • Diversity
Mike Connors

Rohith '28 puts in a lot of hard work to strengthen his spelling skills.

That hard work is paying off. For the second straight year, Rohith edged out tough competition to win Norfolk Academy's school Spelling Bee on January 6, 2023. The win qualified him for a regional WHRO Bee that is scheduled for mid-February. 

Rohith has had already enjoyed success in the WHRO event, earning third place in 2022. The champion of that competition advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held in the spring.

Each day, Rohith gets his school homework done in study hall. That frees up his evenings for spelling. He stays up until about 9 or 10 p.m., going over potential words. He usually goes through 50 to 75 words a day. He has two lists; the most challenging words his parents test him on, while easier words he takes on by himself.

This practice has been going on for the few weeks since after he won the school bee. His interest in spelling started much earlier, though. When he was in first grade, he entered a bee that served as a charity fundraiser. He did well and liked the competition.

“This is fun, let's keep on doing it," he thought to himself.

Rohith topped an outstanding group of 26 students who signed up to compete on January 6. His winning word? Barrister. (That's a lawyer entitled to practice as an advocate, particularly in the higher courts. The term is not used in the United States, but it is common in the United Kingdom and other countries.)

Brogan '28 earned second place. Adam '29 and Sahish '29 shared third. All of the competing sixth, seventh, and eighth graders handled the pressure well and showed great sportsmanship. They combined to spell more than 100 words correctly, under the watchful eyes of their peers in the Price Auditorium audience, Director of Admissions Sarah Smythe, who sponsors the bee at NA, and Headmaster Dennis Manning, who read the words and provided definitions. Mr. Manning competed when he was in elementary school and it kindled his love of words. 

Among the words they spelled correctly during the nine rounds: thurible (a container for burning incense); lustrum (a rarely used word describing a five-year period); and eurhythmics (a system of rhythmical physical movements to music used to teach musical understanding or for therapeutic purposes).

Rohith was zoned in, completely focused when he was spelling, in front of the microphone. But he admits to being on edge when he was seated, watching other students and awaiting his next turn.

“You have a limited number of opportunities," he said.

Rohith has a few techniques he uses on stage that help him. He likes to get a better feel for a word by asking the language of origin, the definition, and its use in a sentence. 

He's eager for the WHRO competition to arrive, hopeful he'll fare even better this year. What excites him about these events, and spelling in general?

“It's not a thing that a lot of people have inherent talent at," he said. “Everyone starts on equal footing."

  • Spelling Bee
MLK chapel
Mike Connors

Norfolk Academy celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during two chapels on January 13, the final day of classes before the national holiday that honors the civil rights leader.

Middle School Director Jeff Boyd led Chapel for seventh, eighth, and ninth graders, teaching students not just about Dr. King's life and achievements, but also of the influence his words have on the Academy community and the responsibility that students and teachers have to carry on his messages. “As a nation, a society, and even as a school community, we have a rather significant and sometimes daunting responsibility to carry his work forward," Mr. Boyd said.

Dr. King's vision is on display in our Diversity, Equity, and Justice Statement, Mr. Boyd said. Four pillars in that statement are diversity, belonging, equity, and justice. After reading the statement, Mr. Boyd unpacked it, noting that students can play an important role in bringing about a community emblematic of Dr. King's vision. “Justice, and our hope that you will contribute to the creation of a just society, is the idea that if something is wrong, you’ll work to make it right," he said. “If something is broken, you’ll work to fix it." 

Dr. King dedicated his life - sadly he was assassinated in 1968 when he was just 39 years old - to fighting for justice, Mr. Boyd said, reminding students that there is always more to be done. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, and he was assassinated on April 4, 1968," Mr. Boyd said. “He dedicated his life fighting for justice for all Americans. And while our institution predates Dr. King, his legacy lives on in us. We ask that you strive to be worthy of that legacy."

Students in Norfolk Academy's UNITiD Multicultural Club led the Upper School Chapel, teaching about women and men who, in addition to Dr. King, have been involved in our nation's civil rights movement. These included Angela Davis, a college professor, author, and activist, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, a distinguished World War II veteran who went on to serve as the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi.

The club members also led a trivia competition in which students learned about civil rights figures and events including Ruby Bridges, the first Black student to attend William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana, and Freedom Summer, a 1964 voter registration drive in Mississippi.

Club members challenged students to take time, even just a few minutes, to sit and learn more about Dr. King and the civil rights movement. As Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 16 is also a Day of Service, they urged students to find out how they can serve the broader community. They noted a famous quote from Dr. King, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Areen '24 let everyone know that the club will be offering more lessons during the upcoming Season for Nonviolence, a worldwide movement that takes place annually between January 30 (the day in 1948 when Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated) and April 4 (the day in 1968 when Dr. King was assassinated). The aim is to cultivate peace, love, and nonviolence.

  • Diversity