The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

Senior Spotlight: Kate Rickels


I suppose you don’t expect a devout Christian to be friends with a metalhead who writes songs about meeting the devil. You also don’t expect one of your best friends to come out of the woodwork after ten years of mutual existence without interaction. But a bond is more than matching your reductive labels and calculating the collective sum of your exchanges.

Maybe it was because of Creative Writing class? Maybe a love of political philosophy and getting to school way too early? Maybe experiencing things no teenager should have to deal with–I don’t know. 

But I do know I first got to know her very well over the France trip–in her element. We explored cities. We had kouign-amanns on an enormous wall over the ocean as boats trailed sails and flags in the harbor. We giggled at oil paintings of an extremely curvaceous 1760s man while dodging Mr. Spedding’s flash mob photography. She was the only other person who found the absurdist play The Bald Soprano hilarious. She helped me not tweak as much as I usually do when I (accidentally, Mr. Spedding!) drank French alcohol and needed someone not to make me twirl and dance on a train station platform.

Before I knew her well, I remember the most obvious Kate-trait being that she’s thoroughly and unapologetically French. However, that manifests in a tendency towards high cuisine and proper manners rather than smoking and love triangles. Quite the opposite, actually—Kate is very responsible, loathes speeding in her car, and is the only person my age with a functional sleep schedule. 

(Do not, for one second, think this quietness and politeness means she can’t have a wicked-sharp sense of humor.)

Kate is a spectacular writer. Stylistically, she prefers her stories to evoke strong emotions, narratives woven with themes of redemption, family, death, and faith. She has won numerous Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, notably a Gold Key for By Her Side, a piece about war and love with death woven tender and raw into the aching prose. She’s currently working on her post-apocalyptic novella Burning Sky. Her favorite book is Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary, a heartfelt sci-fi work full of friendly aliens, physics problems, and musical chords. 

She also loves the outdoors, especially hiking on rivers and mountains, and balances this with being an academic weapon in physics (having taken both its AP classes) and calculus. She is also the backbone of Literary Magazine (sorry, y’all), and has remained a head editor for three years now. She is generally the first person I talk to in the morning.

She wants to be a physicist. Armed with an incredible attention to detail and the patience of a saint, she may go into astrophysics as a researcher or possibly into academia. 

Her faith is a central piece of her identity. She devoutly attends church and Bible study and is a pianist at Sunday school and Presbyterian youth groups. With Sleep in Heavenly Peace, her volunteer organization, she has consistently built beds for kids without one to sleep on. She’s gotten into UVA and is a finalist for a full-ride scholarship at Furman. As Kate leaves Keystone, she will most miss its teachers.

She tells me she thinks she “want[s] her mark on the world to be one of love and academic curiosity. I guess that’s how I want to be remembered. Mostly being a good friend.”

And she will be, and that last wish stated stands as absolute truth shining in capital letters. Last May, the most difficult month of our lives, when the earth threatened to swallow us whole and the tears seemed to have no end, we confided in each other. I don’t know what I’d do without her. It takes some time to get to know her, but I promise you (and y’all at UVA or Furman) it’s more than worth it.

Through life and triumphs, through death and crises–through these last couple of years–she has been a great friend to me, and I know she’ll succeed wherever she goes.


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About the Contributor
Evan Hamaoka
Evan Hamaoka, Student Life Editor
Evan Hamaoka is a senior at Keystone. His hobbies include creative writing, playing guitar, eternally searching for the worst movie of all time, listening to music, performing harsh vocals, running, and over-analyzing media. He is a part of LitMag, theater, soccer, and track.

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