Chantilly graduates share college successes

Lexie Buswell, Copy Editor

Institutions such as high school and college take great pride in the accomplishments and achievements of their students. Student success is seen as a validation of the school’s curriculum and standards. The Purple Tide recently caught up with a handful of Chantilly alums who have thrived after graduation. Here is what they are up to.   

Tara Uncles:

Tara Uncles graduated from Chantilly in 2014 and is now in her third year at Elon University, majoring in music production and recording arts. Uncles has had a love for music since she was born, starting to write and compose music at the age of 12. Recently, Uncles released her indie rock debut album, “Never Ending World,” on iTunes, and the music video for her song “Avalanche” is on Youtube.

“All of the songs on the album are ones that I have been writing since I started seriously songwriting,” Uncles said. “One of the tracks is actually the first real song I ever wrote in seventh grade on the school bus.”

Uncles was able to produce the album with the help of some talented classmate musicians at Elon, and she is excited to share her music with the public.

“Each song has something unique about it, but in the end, they all create a cohesive sound for the album,” Uncles said.

Uncles plans to continue performing her music, but is focusing her future career in the songwriting business.

“Because of my major, I am able to become more versatile with my technical skills, such as working in a recording studio and live sound setting, as well as my skills as a musician and songwriter,” Uncles said.


Mia Rickenbach:

Fashion has always been Mia Rickenbach’s life. Rickenbach graduated from Chantilly in 2015 and is in her second year at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, majoring in Theatre Design and Production.

I got really interested in developing my own personal style in middle school,” Rickenbach said. “I was always compelled by the extreme fashions- the ones that pushed barriers.”

This year Rickenbach had the life-changing experience to be one of four students to assist the creative designs for MTV’s Video Music Awards pre-party sponsored by Taco Bell.

Fill the mixing bowl with four cups excitement, two cups nervousness, a dash of tears of joy; mix well with a whisk of overwhelming,” Rickenbach said of the experience.

Rickenbach credits her success to her parents as well as to retired drama teacher Ed Monk and performing arts department chair Shannon Khatcheressian, all of whom helped her pursue her passion.  

“[My parents] have always encouraged me to pursue art, business and entrepreneurship,” Rickenbach said. “[Monk and Khatcheressian] let me do incredible things in our theatre department, and the foundation they gave me in theatre arts has been monumental to my journey.”

In the future, Rickenbach plans to keep pushing the limits for her artistic goals, setting the bar higher once one is achieved.

“I am trying to leave my life goals open-ended,” Rickenbach said. “I care more about the person that I’m becoming than the things I’m doing or the places I’m going.”

Christian Gunn:

Previously homeschooled from second grade on, Christian Gunn attended Chantilly last year and graduated in June at the age of 16. He now attends George Mason University and is studying bioengineering, then transferring to Brigham Young University in January 2017.

I graduated early by working through a couple of grades in the elementary years in mathematics,” Gunn said. “Then [I] changed the difficulty level of my other courses to match the level of mathematics.”

Math and science have been Gunn’s main focus at both Chantilly and college.

“I had always had an interest in engineering, and AP Biology gave me a deeply set interest in the field of biology,” Gunn said.

Because of the unique nature of Gunn’s education, his support system has been critical to his success.

“I’ve had a very supportive upbringing, as my family has worked hard to accommodate my education and supplemental activities logistically and financially,” Gunn said.

In addition to his family, Gunn is inspired by philosophers.

“The mindset it would have taken to work to their conclusions and the personal philosophy of each individual should be noteworthy to anyone interested in their field,” Gunn said.

After college, Gunn plans to continue in the field of biology by applying to medical school.

“I plan to apply to medical school after graduation, and as of right now, I am interested in psychiatry, neurology or anesthesiology,” Gunn said.