Meet Paloma Robles '22! Paloma has been a student at Rabun Gap since fifth grade. She is a key member of our technical theatre team, and has earned a Shuler Award nomination for her work! Paloma has grown to love the tight-knit Rabun Gap community and found her passion in the Rearden Theater.
Why did you choose to attend Rabun Gap?
I came to Rabun Gap when I was in 5th grade. Before that, I had two very close family friends that had attended Rabun since they were in 6th grade when the Middle School was still on the Upper School Campus. I grew up with them, and they were in high school by the time I started attending in 5th grade. Through them, I was familiar with the unique culture, community, and expectations that are found at RG. My parents wanted me to have the experiences that came with being immersed in a tight-knit community that also had this level of diversity. Rabun Gap also has a level of academic prowess that’s special for our rural mountain community.
What makes Rabun Gap special to you?
It’s been my home for 8 years now. My friends and those who I consider family are here. RG has helped me foster deep and meaningful relationships with people from all around the world, even if they no longer attend Rabun Gap. The relationship with teachers goes beyond mere instructors; they care about our education and our well-being. I have teachers that haven’t taught me since freshman or sophomore year, and yet they check up on me and offer any support they can give. I don’t know every person on campus, but when they say Rabun Gap is one big family, I cannot disagree, because there are so many people willing to offer simple kindness to strangers, and I know that isn’t something you can find everywhere.
What is your favorite memory from Rabun Gap?
The science program here has always impressed me, and in middle school, Mr. Bysura was always coming up with interactive ways to get his students as many hands-on experiences as possible. In 6th grade, one of those hands-on activities was an all-day trek up Betty’s Creek in search of a Hellbender, a rare and endangered salamander. We started under the bridge on 441 and went almost all the way back to the Middle School. We had spent the entire day searching for a Hellbender with members from the Department of Natural Resources and the Orianne Society, learning about local species and the importance of a clean, healthy watershed to support indicator species like Hellbenders. By the end of the day, we had no luck and went in search of a swimming hole instead, and that's when we found one. Our class named the hellbender Rutledge Underrock. Finding the hellbender sparked a sense of pride in knowing that our community was keeping our surrounding area clean and safe enough for a rare salamander to inhabit a creek that ran right through our campus. It was a special day for us.
Tell us about the tech theater program. What are you looking forward to most about the musical?
Over my high school career, technical theatre has become my passion, and I plan to pursue it in college. Those who are drawn to the tech program and who end up committing most of their time and energy into it, tend to be some of the most hardworking, reliant people I’ve had the privilege of working with. Our tech program is bigger than some local programs but smaller than schools we compete against in our Georgia musical competition. Despite that, the quality of productions we put on for our school and local community is impressive and something that we are very proud of. This year we’re doing Legally Blonde, and it is the largest, and most demanding show I have been a part of so far. I am a co-scenic designer and am very excited to see our set realized on stage for our cast and audience. It’s been challenging this year not being back to a pre-COVID environment, but we’re working hard every day with some really dedicated students. Overall, Legally Blonde will test us, but I wholeheartedly believe that we’re up for the challenge, and I can’t wait to put on a wonderful show.
What do you like most about your extracurriculars?
Aside from tech being my afternoon activity, I am a member of several clubs and am taking classes that aren’t strictly academic. I am in the STEAM program and taking my first Computer Science class as well. I love the opportunity to expand my knowledge of so many things that aren’t the traditional curriculum. My CompSci class is learning how to program apps in hopes that we can engineer an app that will benefit the community. In STEAM, I’m currently partnering with Genevieve in the psychology department and working on Think-Tank learning games for the Lower School. I’m very grateful that all these extracurriculars lend me the opportunity to work with many different intelligent people to create things for the community.
What is your favorite class and why?
This year I’m mostly taking classes I have deep interests in. My favorite though is my Advanced Technical Theater. There are only five people in our class, so that lets us delve deep into topics we’re interested in. We get to learn about the wider theatre industry and prepare to operate and advocate for ourselves in the large and expanding entertainment industry. We get to learn things like budgeting, AutoCAD and vector programs, welding, and the intricacies that go into putting on large-scale productions, all while working on our own productions.
Which Rabun Gap teachers and/or coaches have had the biggest impact on you during your time here?
I’ve had many impactful relationships with teachers, both those who were my teachers and those that were not. My teachers in the arts department, Mr. Lakey, Ms. Naomie, Ms. Heidi especially, are like my other parents. They have guided me and have helped me foster my passion for theatre and prepare to pursue it further. They are my favorite teachers here for many reasons, but they are always working for their students and it’s reassuring knowing that they are there to fall back on when we need them.
What advice would you give another student who is interested in attending Rabun Gap?
Invest in your community, if you're here for one year or eight, immerse yourself in the people around you. There's a temptation to only associate with those you interact with on a daily basis or only those you share common interests and activities. The reality is that if you stay in your bubble within this already existing bubble that is Rabun Gap, you're going to limit yourself. There are so many people at Rabun Gap that sincerely care about you and your success, so take advantage of that. And make sure you put that same energy back into our community because it doesn’t work to its fullest extent unless we can all be kind to one another and look out for each other.
Which interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
I ride horses, and have since I was almost five. We used to ride competitively, but it’s mostly for leisure. My dad, brother, and I also like to hike a lot in the surrounding mountains. I read a lot of novels and I’m a very crafty person and I paint and sculpt in my free time. All of these things are for my enjoyment and I do them to relax and decompress when life gets really busy.