The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
TASIS Announces Class of 2020 Graduation Awards

TASIS The American School in Switzerland’s 2020 Graduation Awards were announced at the School’s 64th Commencement Ceremony on the morning of May 30. Each award listing below includes the full citation that was read as part of the virtual ceremony.

Excellence in Art


Art is a language through which every artist hopes to find a voice, and for over 60 years art at TASIS has been the means by which countless students have been able to give expression to this idea. 

I have taught this year's recipient for many years and have had the privilege of watching her grow and flourish as a young artist. In the art studio she has been a consistently gentle and graceful presence, displaying an extraordinary capacity for patience unequalled by her peers. Calm, unassuming, and sincere, her artwork quietly resists the character stereotype of the young art student—the artist who is impetuous or provocative. What you do find is an accomplished student whose artwork is typified by a curiosity for the world around her. She engages with it honestly, yet quietly, and ideas are developed with unwavering perseverance and great care.

It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that she has obtained a place to study fashion next September where her traits will undoubtedly mark her out and ensure success in the highly competitive world of art and design she has decided to enter. It gives me great pleasure to present this year’s award for Excellence in Art to Sude Ademogullari.

The Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Samantha Forrest 

The Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music is presented annually to a student who consistently demonstrates a love for and dedication to the practice and performance of music. The award recognizes commitment to the student’s own artistic development and also service to the school’s community events.

This year’s recipient of the Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music is a student who has demonstrated excellent and versatile musical skills, dedication, commitment, and drive.

This student arrived at the school as a brand new boarding student in eighth grade having already studied music for several years. For the past fours years he has been a consistent and devoted member of the High School Instrumental Ensemble class, performing both as a class member during the academic year and also as an orchestral musician—rising to the challenge of playing with a visiting professional orchestra for both the Christmas Service and Spring Arts Festival events every year.

Over the past two years this student has persisted in continuing to develop his talent studying challenging solo repertoire, and he aspired to be featured as a soloist with the Spring Arts Festival orchestra this year.

This student is a compassionate, generous, and joyful young man who whilst contributing tirelessly to many school community events has always remained kind, thoughtful, good-humored, and helpful to those around him.

For his talent, dedication, generosity of spirit, and passion for music, it is our pleasure to give the 2020 Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music to David Weng.

The Kay Hamblin Award for Excellence in Theater

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Samantha Forrest

The Kay Hamblin Excellence in Theater Award is presented annually to a student who consistently demonstrates a love for and dedication to the art of theater. This student knows that individual success is possible only through teamwork; and that respect, collaboration, diligence, and joy in the art and craft of theater are the cornerstones of successful productions.

This thespian came in as an enthusiastic freshman and in her time took three years of drama and theater classes—a record for a non-IB student—and participated as an actor in all eight mainstage productions. As her theatrical skills grew, so did the complexity and sophistication of the roles she earned…and while one might say that she exceeded expectations for excellence time and time again, it is more accurate to say that she met them, as her director knew that she held within her the potential to move audiences both to laughter and tears, whether as a comic Shakespearean heroine, a tragic Sophoclean one, or the embodiment of the Christmas spirit! But as well as taking on leading roles with dedication, she was always genuinely happy to play secondary parts, joyfully celebrating and supporting her fellow castmates. She also was an important part of TASIS Theater backstage, frequently and enthusiastically volunteering as crew for dance concerts and other drama class’s performances. The light board will miss her, as will the TASIS Theater community.

For her infectious love of the stage, her commitment to the theater and its community, and her self-motivated growth in all areas of the dramatic arts, this year's Theater Award goes to Laura Kockara.

Excellence in English as an Additional Language

Presented by EAL Department Chair Carolyn Heard

The English as an Additional Language award is given this year in recognition of an IB English B student who has shown an unwavering determination not only to succeed but to excel. The maturity of her approach to her studies, combined with the thoughtful way in which she presents her ideas, has contributed to her many accomplishments over the course of these past two years of English studies. 

For her outstanding qualities as a scholar, her eagerness to cultivate a solid command of the English language, and her diligence and dedication to excellence, we are pleased to present the Graduation Award in English as an Additional Language to Xingling Liu.

Excellence in Modern Languages

Presented by Modern Languages Department Chair Nilda Lucchini

The award for Excellence in Modern Languages recognizes the achievement of a student who has undertaken study in at least two of the five languages offered at TASIS. This year’s recipient of the Modern Language award goes to a student who has excelled in both the IB Italian and Spanish B Higher Level programs. 

Among many other things, learning a new language requires curiosity. At the higher level, language isn’t just about learning grammar or small talk. It requires thoughtfulness and consideration as the student begins to grasp the nuances of communicating well. 

This student’s Italian teacher said, “Over the years, this student proved to be a keen and curious person who always participated in class. The student was prepared, was enthusiastic with opinions, and has grown into a mature young adult.”

The student’s Spanish teacher wrote: “This student’s friendliness and constant activity is infectious. In class, the student is a joy to teach, and the student’s resilience is a particularly strong trait. From the most ‘boring’ grammar exercises to revisions to reading, this student handles classwork with determination, finding the time to always finish homework and come to class each day with a positive attitude. Together with a cheerful, humble character and commitment to studies, this student has proven to be an exceptional language student.

I am honored to present the 2020 award for Excellence in Modern Languages to Giulia De Cristofaro.

The Cynthia Whisenant Award for Excellence in English Literature

Presented by English Department Chair Dr. Christopher Love

This student’s quiet exterior hides an impressive mind. Unassuming and humble, this student’s intellect pierces like a beam of light right to the heart of the text, illuminating truths hidden beneath the surface and coaxing them into the light with sensitivity and insight. This student’s IB Written Assignment, tracing the recurrence and significance of the word “hallelujah” in Mikael Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, gave her teacher actual chills of pleasure because it was clearly the work of an original, perceptive, and highly attuned mind. Similarly, this student’s interactive oral on the poetry of Emily Dickinson was presented like a university professor’s lecture on the poet’s legacy and themes. Time and again, this student has demonstrated a literary understanding far beyond her age and experience. Her teacher has remarked that this student’s presence in the classroom was often like having another teacher there delivering unique, nuanced, and engaging interpretations of the text. 

Sensitive, perceptive, intuitive, mature: these are only some of the words that come to mind when describing this student. For her exceptional understanding and joyful celebration of the literary arts, the TASIS English Department is proud to honor Nensi Hasanbelli with the 2020 Cynthia Whisenant Award for Excellence in English.

Excellence in History 

Presented by History Department Chair Daniel Kirsch

This year’s recipient of the Excellence in History Award is a talented and conscientious student of history. She has shown this repeatedly in her two years of IB History. In particular, her Historical Investigation for internal assessment, a thoughtful and reflective study of Italian immigration to the U.S. in the years around 1900, displayed her ability to see more than one side to large historical questions. What caused the immigration? Who benefited, how, and why? How many returned to Italy and why? She proved able to analyze and answer such questions with well-chosen evidence and to a high standard. Her teacher was especially impressed by how she used personal knowledge about her ancestral region of Italy, which sent many immigrants to America, both impartially and sensitively. 

Few professional historians are consistently both talented and conscientious; most are one more than the other. However, the recipient’s performance in class and on written assignments throughout her IB History course has shown that she is both, and she has well earned this recognition. The History Department is proud to give this year's Award for Excellence in History to Maria Mastronardi.

The Shah Akbar Khan Award for Excellence in Mathematics

Presented by Math Department Chair James Shields

The Department of Mathematics takes great pleasure in recognizing work that is characterized by curiosity, industriousness, and professionalism applied to the study, and practice, of mathematics. When that work is graced with uncommon cleverness and creativity, the usual reward of excellent grades is insufficient and recognition such as this is required.

This year’s recipient, rather exceptionally, vaulted over Honors Precalculus to land in IB Higher Level, and from the beginning of that course demonstrated the energy and muscular problem solving ability with which very few students are gifted.

This year, our recipient creatively applied the study of calculus at TASIS to a new field by learning, independently, elements of the Fourier Analysis of periodic functions and applying that subject to the study of the sound waves emanating from his alarm clock, proving again that even the most arcane mathematical knowledge can find application in our daily lives.

The Department of Mathematics is pleased to announce that the winner of the Shah Akbar Khan Award for Excellence in Mathematics is Omar Rahal.

Excellence in Science

Presented by Science Department Chair Alec Ogilvie

There have been many changes this year, but one thing that hasn’t changed was the difficulty in choosing who would receive the Science Award. Again we couldn’t choose one and had to choose two. Both have excelled in their enthusiasm and dedication to their studies. They have the ability to make connections between topics and indeed between subjects, and this gave them the edge in being able to analyze and solve difficult problems. They have chosen different exam systems, but both at the highest level; one has taken all three AP science courses—Physics, Chemistry, and Biology—and the other has taken two Higher Level IB courses: Chemistry and Biology. The workload and ability needed to do this is enormous. 

They both were always eager to talk about experiments and the latest developments in science; indeed their enthusiasm rubbed off on others, and they also helped to explain difficult concepts to other students. Their pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and the ability to work independently and collaboratively, will set them up for their future studies in Business and Medicine. I am sure that they will be an asset to their universities and will succeed at the highest level.

It is with great pleasure that I present the Science Award for 2020 to Airi Barnes and Omar Rahal

The Salutatorian Scholarship Award

Presented by Academic Dean Dr. Mark Abisi

In order to prepare the citation for this year’s Salutatorian Award, I reached out to this student’s teachers and advisor, and the first comment I received is from one of her teachers who feels, “She is absolutely the best.”

Her advisor shares, “As a full IB Diploma student, she never lost her focus and drive, and even with all that determination she was so very pleasant to be around and understood that a balance in her life needed to be maintained in order for her to do her best on her academics. That really is what sets her apart in my mind from a lot of our other students and is probably a factor in why she was able to reach the salutatorian level.”

It was also shared that this student was so impressive in that she always maintained the highest level of interest and enthusiasm for her studies and always pushed herself to engage in the most difficult topics she could find.

Another teacher feels that there is no ceiling for this student. “It took one written test in my IB class to read in her words a passion for learning, to see the clarity in her thought processes, and to feel the intensity of her disciplined desire to master the foundations of economic thinking,” he said. “Every day, literally every day, she came to class, smile on her face, device-free, ready to work. She asked the best questions, and on a few occasions that she asked stumpers, I invited her to research an answer to those questions so we both could learn. On each occasion, she would email me about an hour after class with an answer to her own question, bringing closure to an excellent query. However, not only was she a confident individual participant in discussions, demonstrating through her subtle contributions an in-depth understanding, but on the occasions when we worked in groups, she was the kind, cool, collected, and collegial anchor that would help make sure that the information her group delivered was spot-on. Humble, brilliant, and hard-working, she is deserving of this honor and for those that await her at the next level." 

The recipient of this year’s Salutatorian Award is Nensi Hasabelli.

The Valedictorian Scholarship Award 

Presented by Academic Dean Dr. Mark Abisi

This year’s recipient has been a force here at TASIS since she first began focusing her efforts on becoming the Class of 2020 Valedictorian. This mission was launched back in 2012, when she entered TASIS as a Grade 5 student.

Her advisor and teachers were united in their praise of what she has been able to accomplish during her time at TASIS.

One teacher reports, “She always surprised me by the connections she would draw between various aspects of a government she was not extremely familiar with. While she often needed jokes to be explained to her, she demonstrated that the ability to grasp the mechanics behind the US government was attainable and helped to motivate others in the class.”

Other comments include, “She has a powerful presence,” “she is confident and enjoys learning new things,” “she is clearly an outstanding student and is caring,” “she is eloquent when speaking and can debate a point with anyone without flinching,” “she keeps her humor at the front and looks for details,” and “she also has a vulnerable side and shows concern for her peers.”

Her commitment to academic excellence is quite unparalleled. I remain, as always, impressed with her ability to manage challenging, advanced courses in math, science, business, and economics. She is smart and studious and works hard for all that she has accomplished. It is clear that her steadfast determination is the driving force behind her stellar academic achievements. 

And finally, she has perhaps the fiercest competitive drive that I've seen of any student in my 15 years of teaching. She shouldn't lose this drive in the increasingly challenging global climate in which we find ourselves. Her crystal clear, goal-oriented focus, her desire to be the best, and her willingness to outwork anyone to earn what she achieves helps ensure that she will be a success at the next stage—and an excellent representative of the kind of rock star academic talent that TASIS is able to produce. Her example should shine as a lesson to her peers that if you want to be the best at something, work as hard as she does and you just might get there.

The Valedictorian for the TASIS Class of 2020 is Giulia Meregalli.

The Headmaster’s Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

The Headmaster’s Award is given to the senior who, through exceptional scholarship and character, sets an inspiring example for the entire TASIS community.

This student’s advisor writes, “She is a dream to have as an advisee. She never hesitates to stop and chat or say hello, and even when I know she is tired, I see her smile. As a member of our group, she is quiet, but when conversations are on topics she feels strongly about, her voice is heard and respected by her peers.”

The residential life team shares that she has been “a wonderful, kind, and supportive proctor. Her calm nature has helped countless students. Her bright, friendly disposition helps create and nourish a welcoming environment, and the girls feel comfortable approaching her with any issues that they have. They feel strongly that she is an exemplary role model for other girls in the dorm. She inspires with her commitment to the community, her dedication to academics, her passion for athletics, and all that she does.”

She sets exceedingly high expectations for herself. She has to be one of the busiest students on campus, and she does it all with exceptional determination and grace. In the classroom she is a leader who has taken eight AP courses in addition to IB English Language and Composition and has earned a near perfect four-year GPA. She is a wonderful dancer who is an integral part of the Sweet November Dance Company, an outstanding proctor who has been a four-year boarding student, and an exceptional multi-sport athlete who recently earned the TASIS Female Athlete of the Year Award.

I could not imagine anyone more deserving of this Headmaster's Award than Airi Barnes.

The ECIS Award for International Understanding

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

This prestigious annual award is sponsored by the European Council of International Schools (ECIS), which specifies that the recipient must be “a good representative of his or her own country, with a positive attitude towards the life and culture of others, able to converse in at least two languages, a contributing force in the life of the school, with the ability to bring differing people together into a sense of community, thus furthering the cause of international understanding."

This student is an ideal recipient of this award because while he is aware of the other cultures around campus, he also is refreshingly blind to them. He can seamlessly interact with anyone. His sensitivity and love for others is easily recognizable, which allows him to be approachable without fear of judgment or ridicule.

He is a gregarious student who is incredibly friendly towards his fellow students and all members of the faculty and staff. There is a sincere curiosity and care about him. Without provocation, he routinely seeks out others to either simply say hello or to inquire about how they are doing. He strengthens the cohesiveness of the student body through his outgoing actions and ceaseless optimism.

He was a stalwart member of Model UN—the only four-year participant. At the conference at the Hague, his exuberance and enthusiasm were infectious for not only the other TASIS students but for the entire conference at large, and he was the recipient of a number of superlatives given out by his congregation. 

As a repeat traveler to Mongolia for our Global Service Program, he was a student whom teachers dream about having on a service trip. He was the type of student who was first to volunteer and first to initiate conversations with the people of Mongolia. He was also an excellent teacher and shined in that realm. The authenticity of his character was routinely revealed through his interactions with the kids and genuine interest in their culture.

It is my great pleasure to announce that the recipient of the ECIS Award for International Understanding is Moritz Mohr.

The Jan Opsahl Service Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

This award recognizes students for whom the school community comes before self. In the past, this award has acknowledged students who contributed to the school community and to school life beyond the call of duty. Faculty members are asked to be especially mindful of students who may be giving of themselves in quiet, unobtrusive ways.

This student quite simply epitomizes the ideal of servant leadership. On a daily basis, week by week, month by month, and year by year at TASIS, he has quietly, respectfully, and positively inspired the whole school community to live our best lives. He is genuine, open, and empathetic. 

He builds community through his interest in and respect for the lives and interests of those around him. He strives for, encourages, and celebrates success for his companions as much as for himself. His respect for others is such a fundamental part of his being that it appears effortless, but he uses this quality to great effect. 

He is a role model to us all. By extending an open palm of engagement to the world, he inspires and empowers us all to be better versions of ourselves. His servant leadership has been evident as a proctor, during his service trip to Moldova, in the classroom, on the sports field, and as he gallantly holds gates and doors open for anyone he meets in passing. There can be no better ambassador for the school, or indeed for the youth of today, than this young man.

I am pleased to announce that the recipient of the Jan Opsahl Service Award is Giovanni Volpi.

The Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

This award recognizes a student who has shown initiative, creativity, and disinterested involvement in making our school a better place to study and to live in. Student council, committee, or student activity work may qualify a student. The award generally has been given to a student recognized as a leader (in the furthering of TASIS goals and ideals) by both the students and the Faculty.

Hard-working, optimistic, and often smiling, this is a student who stands out as a positive member of our community. There are certainly many facets to her. Academically, she works very hard and deals with the daily challenges of the rigorous IB program. As a polyglot and with a fascination for languages, she epitomizes and helps promote the international values we hold at TASIS. Socially, she has a range of close friends who speak of a very kind, attentive, and caring person. In the classroom and in the dorm, although modest, she always expresses herself sincerely and from a position that clearly considers and values decency and honesty as paramount. This is also translated into the sports arena, where she is recognized by her peers as not only a highly competitive team player and captain but as someone who strives for fair play in all situations. 

Outside the classroom, in the dorm, and beyond the school gates, she gives freely of her time in the service of others. This modest but dynamic student is also a head proctor and typifies and models the very best of TASIS. Collectively, these traits will both mark her progress and serve her well as she moves on into college and as a citizen of the world.

It is with great pleasure that I announce that the recipient of this year’s Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award is Giulia de Cristofaro.

The H. Miller Crist Award 

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

The highest recognition accorded by the TASIS Faculty, this award is given to the senior who, by his or her actions (academic and otherwise), best embodies or pursues the ideals, aspirations, and goals of the School. In many ways, the award combines the stipulations of the Service and Leadership Awards with an expectation of academic excellence.

This student is a gentleman in all senses of the word and contradicts the perception that a leader needs to be overly confident and selfish. As a tremendously self-motivated student, he represents so many qualities beyond academics, in which he already excels and clearly loves. As a proctor and as an IB student, he is an example of modesty, and in the dorm he always spends more time listening than talking while consistently acting unselfishly. In his advisor group, he is quick to give other people credit, while with his teachers he seeks advice and goes to great lengths to compliment and praise those around him.

This student is the definition of humility, showing modesty and acting in an unpretentious way. Some might say this is old-fashioned virtue, but it is an important virtue that is sorely needed in an increasingly inwardly focused world. This student’s aim is to follow medicine and to help people by becoming a physician. His humility and integrity, along with his tendency to put others before himself, make this a fit calling for him, as do the many ways he embodies both the ideals and hopes of TASIS. 

It is my great pleasure to announce that this year’s recipient of The H. Miller Crist Award is Omar Rahal.

Recent Posts

FIRST Robotics Championship in Houston

Coach Amy Bloodworth and the inspiring all-female team of Mariaurora Rosso ’24, Maddy Costa Felix ’26, Serafina Ballerini ’26, Olivia Canga ’26, and Diana Xiao ’26 were one of just 108 teams in the world to compete at the 2022 FIRST Championship World Festival in Houston, Texas, over the course of April 20–23. Watch them discuss this journey of a lifetime.

Read More about TASIS Robotics Team Proudly Represents Switzerland at World Festival