Alumi Spotlight: John Henry Kurtz (’09)

By Norma Richman

“The wisest men follow their own direction.”—Euripides

My Brief Bio— 

I’ve been a life-long Southern Californian. After living in other parts of SoCal, I’m happy to say that I’m back in Pasadena for now and living just a few miles from High Point. I went to college at the University of Southern California and graduated in 2017 with a BFA in Film and Television Production. Since graduating, I’ve been working in independent film as a producer and editor, helping to bring entertaining and meaningful stories to the screen. In addition, I’ve recently added voice acting to my list of vocations. I’m a big fan of animation and video games, so getting to lend my voice to characters in those media is a lot of fun!

My High Point Experience—

I started kindergarten at High Point in 2000 and was there all the way through eighth grade. My classes and teachers all inspired in me a lifelong love of learning, challenging me academically and making every subject interesting and fun. Outside of the classroom, High Point was the origin of many of the passions that would become my career, from performing in the Three Piggy Opera in kindergarten to learning about filmmaking in Movie Makers Club. Beyond its stellar academics, High Point also fostered an unparalleled sense of community. When I tell my friends from high school or college that I’m still very close with several of my High Point classmates to this day, they’re all amazed—and envious. My friends from High Point are truly like family to me. I even roomed with one of them during college!

In 2013 I volunteered at High Point for about a week to fulfill a community service requirement for high school graduation. I helped third and fourth graders in computer class and assisted with recess and after-school supervision. I was very excited to have the opportunity to give back to the school that gave me so much. The students I worked with were unfailingly creative, kind, and hardworking. I was so happy to see that High Point was just as incredible as I remembered, if not more. The next year, 2014, was my class’s five-year reunion. It was great to see that my classmates were all shaping up to be successful young adults—going to excellent colleges all across the nation, having strong professional ambitions, and retaining the personal warmth that High Point engendered in us all.

Personal Observations and Reflections—

I have so many special memories from my years at High Point! I loved all of my teachers, from Mrs. Geer in kindergarten to the incredible junior high teachers. Some of my favorite memories involving teachers were when I got to learn more about them as people. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Carroll, was from Australia, and on the last day of class, she brought in assorted Australian delicacies for us to try, from fairy bread to Vegemite. Madame Peacher-Hall, who taught me fifth through eighth grade French, once told us about her tattoos and the moving meanings behind them. Mr. Valiulis, who ran Game Club in his classroom during lunch on Thursdays, gave my friends and me a space to be nerdy and helped us develop strategic thinking. Moments like these helped to humanize the learning experience and made my connections with my teachers—and my enthusiasm to learn from them—that much stronger. And of course, who could forget Mrs. Zeiss’s advice to never put ourselves down, which also helped us remember to write a comma before the name of a person we’re directly addressing: “Don’t self-deprecate, comma, John Henry!”

When I was in junior high, Mrs. Zeiss and the rest of High Point’s faculty made the daunting high school application process very manageable. I went to high school at Flintridge Preparatory School. High Point prepared me extremely well, both academically and socially, for high school; I couldn’t have asked for a smoother transition. I thrived in Prep’s rigorous academic environment (eventually graduating as my class’s valedictorian) and was able to make new friends very quickly.

High Point prepared me to be a lifelong learner, an analytical thinker, a caring friend, an imaginative creator, and a principled community member. I truly couldn’t be more grateful for the time I spent there!

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