Elena Gilbertson Hall was born in Palo Alto, California and lived in Oakland and Sacramento before moving to Athens when she was seven. She attended Athens Montessori, Clarke Middle School and will soon graduate as co-Valedictorian from Clarke Central High School. During high school, Elena was part of the CCHS Odyssey Media Group, serving as Editor-in-Chief her senior year. She was recently recognized as the Georgia Champion Journalist aka Georgia Journalist of the Year at the Georgia Scholastic Press Association Conference. Elena was a Legislative Fellow for State Representative Spencer Frye, was President of the CCHS Young Democrats Club, and founded the Equal Test Prep Initiative, an SAT/ACT tutoring program for young people from underserved communities. Elena also co-founded the Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission and served as a commissioner on it. She has participated in trapeze at Canopy Studios for nearly 10 years. After graduation, Elena will be attending the University of Chicago, possibly studying political science or international affairs. She lives in the Cobbham neighborhood in Athens with dad Matt Hall, mom Erica Gilbertson, sister Kaija and dogs Lyra and Waylon.
What was your favorite class in high school?
I definitely think AP Calculus because it solidified my interest in and love for math. I loved it sort of unexpectedly. I went into it doubting whether I could handle the challenge of an AP math class, which I think is something a lot of girls struggle with, particularly in STEM classes. But, it ended up being a really interesting class. I definitely was able to handle the challenge, and it made me really enjoy math in a way I hadn’t in the past. So, I am considering pursuing a math minor degree in college, and I think my experience in AP calculus was definitely a big reason for that. The class was mostly taught by Joy Sapp, and when she retired, it was taught by Eric McCullough.
When we are not sheltering-in-place, what do you love to do in Athens?
I really love long walks, hikes and bike rides. Whether it is at The Botanical Gardens, Lake Herrick, the Greenway or just around my neighborhood, I really like being outdoors in Athens. If I am not outside, I can usually be found in a local coffee shop.
What are you doing with all of this extra time you have now?
I am definitely reading a lot more than I ever did during the school year. Some authors that I am really liking right now are Virginia Woolf, Isabel Allende and Audre Lorde. I am also enjoying time to run, do yoga and cook. These are things I have always loved, but I didn’t necessarily have as much time to do during the school year.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I think I would go to Morocco. I was lucky enough to get to spend a day in Morocco last summer, but I definitely want to go back and spend a lot more time there. I think the culture is really fascinating, and it has beautiful architecture and amazing food. There is a lot of the country that I still want to explore.
If you could see any musician or band, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
I think, of past musicians, I would have loved to have seen Prince in concert. I think his concerts would have been a lot of fun with really good energy. I don’t really have a particular venue in mind; I would just love to see Prince in concert. In terms of current musicians, I’m listening to a lot of Kacey Musgraves, Janelle Monae and Maggie Rogers.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
I would really like to have lunch with Stacey Abrams. I did a lot of canvassing for her in the 2018 election, and I loved working for her campaign. I really admire her as a politician and just as a person. So, I would love to have lunch with her — maybe in Athens at one of our good restaurants like The Grit or Big City Bread.
If you could give advice to someone just entering high school, what would you tell them?
Advice that I probably could have benefitted from when entering high school would be finding a balance between taking high school seriously and not taking it too seriously. I think there are a lot of people on opposite ends of the spectrum that either allow high school to stress themselves out and overwork themselves, myself included, or they treat it as a joke and don’t put any effort in. I think, at either end of the spectrum, that is not really a great way to experience high school, so my advice would be finding a balance in the middle.
What is your favorite movie or series?
I think my favorite movie is Lady Bird and my favorite TV shows are Parks & Recreation and New Girl.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I think the best advice I have ever gotten is to not focus on accomplishments, careers or titles. Instead, think about what problems are most important to you and put your efforts towards solving those problems — regardless of what accomplishments or career titles come out of that.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Probably working in the field of politics, either helping progressive candidates get elected or working in the realm of international affairs, coordinating diplomacy between countries.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Wonderful family, playful dogs, and the city of Athens.