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Whiz Kids: Mary Merritt

With a kind heart and a giving spirit, this Clarke Middle School student lives an athletic and artistic life.

Each week, Athens Patch will seek suggestions from readers for individual kids, youth groups, teens, and sports teams that wow us with their accomplishments.

Name: Mary Merritt

Age: 13

Grade: 7th

School: Clarke Middle School

Accomplishments: Mary Merritt has been part of the team for a little over a year. She has already seen the benefits of this unconventional physical activity. “It takes a lot of endurance and a different type of strength than other sports have required of me,” said Mary during a recent spring evening. Training at the gym involves classes two days a week and team days are an additional two days. However, you can often find Mary at Active Climbing seven days a week, as the she enjoys the “whole vibe and great environment” at the former poultry freezer facility. (Owner Adrian Prelipceanu won a 2010 Preservation Award for Outstanding Rehabilitation from the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation for his renovations to the building on Barber Street.)

One accomplishment Mary is happy to share is her performance on the Presidential Fitness Awards. While she hit the requirements for the award last year, this year she did even better, breaking the record for a (female) mile in 6.38 minutes. “Active Climbing has helped me so much. As an athlete, I’m not a very flexible person by nature.” Not only a climber, Mary likes to run. She enjoyed the camaraderie as a member of the Clarke Middle School cross country team this year. While it was “physically draining” to go from a long run straight to the climbing gym, Mary felt her performance as a cross country runner was a “great personal achievement.”

Not only an athlete, Mary is a musician and avid reader. The daughter of local musician Megan Baer, Mary plays cello and is taking guitar lessons. Mary loves studying cello with Dr. Eunice Kang at CMS. Mary admitted to reading "a lot" and recommended the "Uglies," Sarah Dessen's books, as well as a classic, "The Outsiders."

An articulate and thoughtful communicator, Mary had many wonderful things to say about her two years at Clarke Middle School. CMS has reinstituted a Student Council this year and this has done a lot to "get the students more involved," she said.

Describing herself as a "very artsy person," Mary has benefitted from being on the yearbook staff. She knows it has been a great experience and she has especially enjoyed learning the business side of putting together a yearbook. Mary is very proud of the way the 2010-2011 CMS yearbook was hand-crafted by students, who designed each page from scratch (a change from recent years when templates were used).

Mary raved about Laura Lee Johnson, the art teacher at CMS. "Ms. Johnson collaborates on so many things: the yearbook, the annual Evening at the Arts event, and she's also the director of the After School Program at CMS. She really connects with the students so well!"

Mary went into great detail explaining a program at CMS that she feels is a great asset: Clarke Scholars. This school-wide program requires participating students to complete nine different activities per school year in three areas (academic, personal and community service). Clarke Scholars is designed to prepare CMS students for a life-long commitment to becoming well-rounded individuals.

To fulfill requirements for Clarke Scholars, Mary has participated in a club at school that raises money for charities called Peace Jam. She loves taking part in the annual in downtown Athens as well as Hands On Northeast Georgia's annual MLK Day of Service. This past year, Mary's MLK day was spent cleaning up an overgrown garden area on the CMS school property with hundreds of volunteers.

One of the major things Mary likes about Athens is the arts scene. She really likes going to craft fairs and art sales. Because she wasn't content simply to attend these events, last fall Mary made felt ornaments, hair clips with buttons and ribbons and clever holiday trees from magazines to sell at a holiday craft fair at .

When asked about career aspirations, Mary was quick to reply, "At CMS, they really encourage us to start thinking about this early." Through the program GAcollege411, Mary has identified a solid area of interest that will likely determine a career path: helping others. She loves social science and social studies and would love to travel and live abroad, perhaps with the Peace Corps.

What are Mary's summer plans? You'll find her at Active Climbing working as a staff member for their summer camps.

Key to Awesomeness: Mary Merritt is a fascinating and delightful young adult inside and out. Her awesomeness is apparent. I only hope many Athenians cross paths with Mary as she continues to participate in her athletic and artistic life in the Classic City.

We want to hear about these amazing children and teens and select one each week as the Whiz Kid. Submit your nomination in our comment box below or email the information to rebecca.mccarthy@patch.com. Be sure to include all of the following information:

  • Nominator's Name
  • Nominator's E-Mail
  • Whiz Kid's Name
  • Whiz Kid's Age
  • Whiz Kid's School
  • Whiz Kid's Accomplishment
  • Whiz Kid's Key to Awesomeness (what made him/her successful? Please include a 150-word description)

This is a fun way to highlight young people in Athens especially those who inspire. Athens Patch will feature as many students as possible.

HuBB May 18, 2011 at 05:42 PM
I am proud to know Miss Merritt. What a GREAT kid!
audrey May 18, 2011 at 05:49 PM
"whiz kid" lol! good job, mary!! :))

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