Lake Norman Magazine

Making Their Marks

Toshona Torrence, 16, a senior at Mooresville High School.
Toshona Torrence, 16, a senior at Mooresville High School. MICZEK PHOTOGRAPHY

Nominated by administrators and teachers, these six Lake Norman high school students make us all proud. In addition to stellar grades, they’re active in the community, excel at their varied and many interests, and are destined to make the world that much better.

Madi CoffingAge: 16School: Pine Lake Preparatory Grade: Rising SeniorResidence: Cornelius

Madi Coffing has already taken the first step in designing a career that merges art with business. It started with the intricate patterns she drew with a Sharpie on a pair of Keds. Impressed, a friend asked for a pair as a gift, and suddenly the orders started rolling in. Coffing even donated some pairs to the Barium Springs Home for Children in Statesville. This is no small feat, considering it takes her up to 10 hours to jazz-up each pair.But Coffing isn’t one to shy away from challenges or hard work.At Pine Lake Preparatory, she has been captain of the girl’s basketball team for two seasons; served on the Student Council, Winter Formal and Prom committees; is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, and National Art Honor Society, all while carrying a 4.6 GPA.Equally impressive is her dedication to tutoring younger students. “She is as fine a young person as she is a student,” says Tim Rhodes, her 11th grade AP English teacher.Born in London, Coffing also has a taste for adventure, flying back to England and France to visit grandparents. She says that in the future she’d love to travel the world working for an art auction company or museum.

Toshona TorrenceAge: 16School: Mooresville High School Grade: Rising SeniorResidence: Mooresville

As coeditor of the yearbook, Toshona Torrence enjoys capturing daily life at Mooresville High School through her camera lens. Her keen observations of people and events, combined with AP psychology courses and the many hours she spends helping her mom at her daycare job has helped convince Torrence to pursue a career as a child psychologist.“Toshona is dedicated to her studies, well-spoken, and kind to her peers and teachers,” says Stephen Stith, her AP psychology teacher. “I think she would make a fantastic psychologist or therapist.” She also has a heart for helping. Torrence regularly donates her time to the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, Mooresville Christian Mission, and Genesis, a local nursing home. In addition to balancing her challenging coursework, she works 20-plus hours a week at QuikTrip convenience store and dedicates extra hours to various after-school projects. “Toshona is always smiling, willing to help, and has a great work ethic,” says Crista Witherspoon, journalism and yearbook instructor. “She is a very creative person, and her dedicated work helped to create a wonderful yearbook.”

Gaby HurtAge: 16School: Christ the King Catholic High SchoolGrade: Rising JuniorResidence: Davidson

Gaby Hurt spends most of her time on the tennis court. She started playing at 5, and about three years ago got really serious when tennis instructor and retired pro John Sadri of Charlotte encouraged Hurt to take her game to the next level. With Sadri as her coach, Hurt has played for the school’s co-ed tennis team, which competes against all-boys’ teams. She is team captain and has been recognized as Most Valuable Player. She practices two hours per day and works out twice a week at Crossfit-Huntersville to improve her strength, speed, and endurance.Hurt finished in the top eight of the North Carolina Clay Court Tournament, has won numerous U.S. Tennis Association tournaments, and recently won her first event for players up to 18 years old. This summer, she was one of 29 North Carolina female players accepted into the competitive regional Southern Boys and Girls 16 Closed Tournament in Georgia.Hurt says her biggest feat is juggling tennis with all-honors classes and maintaining a 4.41 GPA. She now has her sites set on playing college tennis and one day maybe even the Olympics. “Playing tennis for my country would be amazing; it is definitely a big dream.”

Alec BaileyAge: 16School: Davidson Day School Grade: Rising JuniorResidence: Mooresville

Although Alec Bailey started playing guitar and writing songs just two years ago, he’s already well on his way to making it a career. He began playing between sets for the North Carolina-based Southern Style Band and recently signed with Imagine Music Group in Charlotte. He’s since performed at several local venues, including the Race City Festival, River City Bar and Grill, and 202 North Main Wine Shop and Music Room. He plays everything from country to Southern rock, as well as some original songs. In addition to his musical pursuits, Bailey is active in sports. He’s played both football and lacrosse at Davidson Day, scoring the most goals on the varsity team his freshman year. He also excels in the classroom, earning a spot on the AB Honor Roll and National Honor Society. He also won this year’s Student of Character Award. But Bailey says of all his accomplishments, he’s most proud of recently playing between sets for Loretta Lynn’s niece, Tara Thompson, at Tootsies World-Famous Orchid Lounge in Nashville, Tenn., where Patsy Cline, Willy Nelson, and other superstars debuted. He also advanced in a national songwriting competition, the Texaco Country Showdown, which has a $100,000 prize. He made it through two rounds with his tune “Other Rivers,” and is scheduled to perform in Morganton in September for the next round. After college he plans to head to Nashville and make his living playing music. For now, you can upload his YouTube performances—which have more than 1,000 subscribers and 100,000 views.

Mark Parker Jr.Age: 18School: Visual & Performing Arts CenterGrade: Rising SeniorResidence: Statesville

The spotlight shines like a beacon for Mark Parker Jr., who loves the stage. In addition to dancing at school, he attends the Academy of Dance and Fine Arts (ADFA) in Mooresville three days a week, where he won a full scholarship. Through ADFA, Parker began dancing competitively. He teamed up with friend Angel Torrealba, and together they worked with award-winning, Los Angeles-based choreographer Melissa Jackson. Their duet swept overall awards at several competitions. At the New York City Dance Alliance competition in Atlanta, Ga., Parker beat out some 200 competitors to win the Triple Threat Award.“He has worked harder than any other student I have had,” says Cheryl Klaft, dance instructor at the Visual & Performing Arts Center. “He is innovative, collaborative, and artistic in his ability to create unique choreography.”Parker, who will graduate with a VPAC diploma and credits toward his associate’s from Mitchell Community College, also works at Applebee’s. After completing college, his goal is to become a professional dancer. “Not everyone wants to be a doctor or lawyer,” he says. “I’m happy that people like me, who want to pursue the arts, are being told that we can achieve our goals and dreams through hard work and dedication.”

Grant GossageAge: 17School: Cannon School Grade: Rising SeniorResidence: Davidson

When you’re at the top of your game and play three seasons of varsity sports—soccer, basketball, and baseball—there’s not much time left for anything else. But Grant Gossage makes time to tap into his creative talents. He contributes to Cannon’s online newspaper and writes for Cannon Magazine. As Connie Stavrakas, AP language and composition teacher, says: “Grant is a quiet genius. He writes eloquently, and his incredible control of language is evident.” He also won the coveted Sewanee Book Award, presented by the University of the South to the student who “demonstrated excellence in writing and the promise of continued outstanding writing in the future.” An avid reader, he is now tackling “War and Peace” between almost daily basketball workouts, sports camps, and hours at his internship promoting the Kannapolis Intimidators. A member of Rho Kappa National History Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society, Gossage received Honors-in-Course distinctions for AP language, advanced painting, and Spanish IV. He was also selected to serve on the school’s Honor Council. According to Deb Otey, head of Upper School, “He is unassuming and humble; however, within that modesty is an inner strength capable of great impact.” Looking into the future, this gifted writer and leader thinks about a career in history, English, or possibly law