In February, Director of Admissions Jeanette Woo Chitjian called Isabella ’13 into her office, grabbed her by the shoulders and whispered, “You have to be calm…you won.”
Isabella immediately burst into tears. She had won the 2012 Guerin Prize.
“That was honestly the best moment of my life,” Isabella recounts with palpable excitement. “This is what I’ve wanted more than anything.”
In her submission to the Guerin Prize, an annual contest that offers girls from the junior class the opportunity to meet the living American whom they most admire, Isabella wrote an essay about Rebecca Eaton, the executive producer of PBS Masterpiece Theatre.
“She seems so much like the person I want to be when I’m older,” Isabella said.
Isabella said the Guerin Prize was one of the elements of the School that first intrigued her, and writing the essay had always been in the back of her mind—long before the rules and deadlines were announced to the Class of 2013 in late 2011.
Eaton introduced American audiences to British period pieces, which have significantly spiked in popularity in recent years. Her credits include the Complete Jane Austen, the remake of Upstairs, Downstairs and the popular Downton Abbey.
Woo Chitjian said that one benefit of being a reader on the Guerin Prize Committee is hearing about the individuals students admire and choose to write their essays on, exposing her to a bigger world.
“I had never heard of Downton Abbey before,” Woo Chitjian said. “After I read Isabella’s essay, Rebecca Eaton and Downton Abbey are now on my radar, and I pay more attention.”
Woo Chitjian also holds practice interviews with the six semi-finalists before they each have a final interview with former Trustee Rick Guerin.
Isabella, an avid fan of these British series, said she is fascinated by 19th century costume design and often incorporates vintage and Victorian styles into her clothing.
Isabella will travel to Boston later this year to meet Eaton with her chosen chaperone, English instructor and fellow Downton Abbey fan, Reid Cottingham.
“When she applied for this I really hoped she’d get it,” Cottingham said. “She feels very deeply about the characters on the show.”