Rabun Gap Stories

Featured Profile: Alex Haiss '22

Featured Profile: Meet Alex Haiss '22! Alex is a day student at the Upper School from Franklin, NC. This is his fifth year at Rabun Gap. Alex is a great student and active in our STEAM program. This year he created wind turbines out of PVC pipes! When he's not in STEAM or the classroom, Alex enjoys the outdoors, volunteering, and gaming.

Why did you choose to attend Rabun Gap?

At Rabun Gap, I knew I would meet people from all different backgrounds, but we would be united by our interests and curiosity. 

What makes Rabun Gap special to you?

Rabun Gap’s stunning diversity creates an atmosphere of self-expression and freedom. As a result, people are emboldened to pursue their passions to their fullest potential. For some, they are passionate about improving our community through student government. Others want to entertain us from the stage or field. No matter what your thing is, our community will cheer you on.

What is your favorite memory from Rabun Gap?

All the freshman, sophomores, and juniors were gathered outside the student center, waiting on the free Chick-fil-A sandwiches we had all been promised. As time went on, the doors stayed shut, and people grew impatient. Where were our sandwiches? All of the sudden, a truck loaded with seniors and water balloons drives up. Betrayal. 

Icy cold water balloons reigned down on us as everyone darted for safety. I took a balloon to the leg, and my khakis were soaked. Seniors, armed with water guns, chased after underclassmen as we scampered back up the hill.

While I was really hoping for some free sandwiches, I still think it was the best senior prank ever.

What do you like most about your extracurriculars?

Extracurriculars give me a chance to build friendships with people I would never meet in-class or off-campus. No matter what activity you choose, you'll find a great group of people who share your interests. 

Tell us about the STEAM program.

The STEAM program provides students the skills and tools to create anything. Really. From welding to 3D printing, from woodworking to robotics, from engine repair to video game design, the sky's the limit. 
Mr. Phillips teaches students new skills and encourages them to create projects which help our community. Dr. Renken is focusses on pushing our program to new heights, looking to make STEAM more accessible to new members, and ensuring our space caters to a variety of purposes. During the last season of STEAM, we took time to clean up and redesign our space, while continuing to look for new tools to expand our capabilities. 

What has been your favorite thing about the STEAM program?

I love seeing all the awesome, creative projects people undertake. Everyone has their own specialty, and you can always count on them to teach you. Last season, Niklas became the expert on 3D printing. Ashton Jones learned to operate the mill with extreme precision, and create his own bolts on the metal-lathe. There expertise has been a huge help for many projects.

Which Rabun Gap teachers and/or coaches have had the biggest impact on you during your time here?

I have seen a lot of change over the years, but Mrs. Jenkins' tireless enthusiasm has never once wavered. She has the patience of a saint, and an unparalleled passion for teaching. She inspires me not only to educate others in science, but to be a kinder and more genuine person.

His corny jokes elicit groans from whole classrooms. His practical knowledge knows no equal. He is Mr. Phillips. Every skill I have picked up in STEAM has been taught to me by YouTube or Mr. Phillips, and the latter is much more reliable. He is the definition of a great tutor, helping newbies and old-timers with the same steady thoughtfulness. Now that I have a chance to pass on my skills to newer generations of STEAM enthusiasts, I hope to model Mr. Phillips.

What advice would you give another student who is interested in boarding and attending Rabun Gap?

Make the friends you would never expect. That is how you will build a supportive network. That is how you will make the most of Rabun Gap’s one-of-a-kind diversity. That is how you will grow as a person. 

Which interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

On top of the regular gaming and outdoorsiness, I have become a fairly avid environmentalist. Over the summer, I interned with Mainspring Conservation Trust, where I helped monitor populations of fish, aquatic insects, and mussels. I even helped lead an aquatic education program for local kids. We snorkeled and explored some of the Appalachia’s prettiest streams. 

During the school year, I volunteer and help out on surveys whenever my busy schedule lets me. Before I graduate, I hope to bring some of what I have learned to RGNS.
Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School is a private, coeducational day and boarding school for grades Pre-K through 12. Centrally located between Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC, and Asheville, NC, we prepare young people for college, career, and a lifetime of leadership and service.