Skip to content

Alice Zhang In The Running For U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

In the fall, she was named a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist.

And now this winter, she has been named a candidate in the 2024 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

Alice Zhang is having herself quite the senior year.

We’re so proud to relay to you the latest academic achievement for Alice, who received the good news about the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program last week.

Students have the opportunity to become U.S. Presidential Scholars based on three paths of accomplishment: broad academic achievement, academic and artistic scholarship, or ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

Alice will now complete an application and in early spring approximately 600 semifinalists will be chosen from across the country. In April, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars will review the semifinalists and select up to 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars.

Alice is certainly in good company, as fewer than 100 Iowa students were chosen as candidates for this prestigious award.

Alice’s academic achievement includes a 1,500 on the PSAT test as a junior and a perfect 36 on the ACT. She’s also a 4.0 student who has taken numerous advanced classes, including AP calculus (college level) as a junior.

The National Merit Scholar Finalists will be announced in February.

Congratulations once again to Alice on her tremendous academic achievements, as well as to all of her teachers who helped her to reach these milestones along the way.

Chef Clarke The New Food Service Director For Gilbert CSD

The Gilbert Community School District is thrilled to welcome Tace Clarke to our team as the new Director of Food Service.

Chef Clarke got right to work at each of the four buildings last week. She replaces Deb Purcell, who served in the role for more than five years before her retirement last week.

Previously the Food Service Director at Baxter Schools, Chef Clarke comes to Gilbert with more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant and food service industry. She says she has a friend to thank for pointing her in Gilbert’s direction.

“I actually had a close friend who worked here as a long-term (substitute teacher) and I asked her what she thought of Gilbert. She said the processes and routines and families were incredible, and she really sold it for me,” Chef Clarke said. “The opportunity to have multiple buildings and be able to grow a program in a growing community at a school like Gilbert that has a reputation for excellence, it’s just fantastic.”

Chef Clarke grew up just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and began her culinary career in Little Italy, Baltimore where she learned under well-respected chefs on the east coast.

She moved to Iowa a decade ago to serve as the Regional Operational Lead at Life Time Athletic in Des Moines. She eventually took over as the Associate Director of Food Service at Grinnell College and then moved into a leading role at Baxter Schools, where she was in her third year before accepting the position at Gilbert.

Chef Clarke says the move to Iowa has been all she and her family had hoped for when they made the decision.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “My parents moved out from Maryland about two yeas ago … we love it here.”

Chef Clarke is excited to get to work with her new Gilbert CSD staff and put her plan in place.

“I love being able to teach the cooking to my team,” she said. “I love homemade cooking from scratch and I’d like to move in that direction instead of processed ingredients. That’s not a tomorrow thing, but the goal is to start that one day a week and go from there.”

Dr. Christine Trujillo, the Superintendent of Gilbert Schools, sees the passion and enthusiasm Chef Clarke brings to her department, and is excited to see her become a leader in the district.

“Chef Clarke brings a new and exciting energy to the nutrition department,” Dr. Trujillo said. “I look forward to watching her creativity come alive in the kitchen for our children.”

Chef Clarke and her husband, William, have two young children: Liam, 8, and McKenna, 5. William is also a former chef and currently serves as an EMT and firefighter. Liam, a second grader, and McKenna, who is in kindergarten, attend school in the West Marshall Community School District.

An avid equestrian, Chef Clarke and her family live on a farm where they all spend quality time riding.

“Before getting into the culinary world, I actually rode for many years,” Chef Clarke said. “Now I just do it for fun. We all ride and just have fun with it.”

Dr. Trujillo also wanted to thank Ms. Purcell for her commitment to Gilbert CSD during her years as the Food Service Director.

“I’m so grateful to Deb for her hard work and dedication in the area of nutrition for Gilbert students,” Dr. Trujillo said. “We wish her nothing but the best in retirement.”

Thomas Named Iowa Coach Of The Year By National Organization

U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association honor Gilbert XC leader for second time

Gilbert head boys’ cross country coach Aaron Thomas earned another prestigious award on Thursday when he was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association 2023 boys’ high school cross country coach of the year for the state of Iowa.

It is the second time Thomas has received the award from the national association. He was also named the Iowa coach of the year in 2018.

“This one is definitely a reflection of the program,” Thomas said. “It’s a reflection of what the guys did this fall … when you think of all the great coaches and programs year in and year out, being recognized is definitely an honor.”

Thomas guided the Tigers to their fourth Class 3A state championship over the past 10 seasons back in late October. Gilbert placed four runners in the top 15 individually en route to the team crown.

Thomas also led the Tigers to state titles in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

All-Time Hoops Great Ava Hawthorne To Be Honored Monday Night

Program’s leading scorer to be presented with Tigers’ jersey

For four seasons, Ava Hawthorne was a walking, talking highlight reel on the court for the Gilbert girls’ basketball team. On Monday, everyone who watched her shine will get the chance to applaud her career one more time inside the Gilbert High School gymnasium.

Hawthorne, a 2022 GHS graduate and current sophomore at Drake University in Des Moines, will be honored at halftime of the boys’ game against Nevada Monday evening. She’ll be presented with the white No. 10 jersey she wore while setting so many records over her four-year varsity career.

“I am so proud of her accomplishments and proud of her ability to play Division I basketball at Drake,” Gilbert head girls’ basketball coach Mike Frisk said of Hawthorne. “I am lucky to have had the opportunity to coach her … Ava will be successful in anything she chooses in life because of her competitive nature and her ability to work as a team.”

The 5-foot-9 guard holds 13 career, single-season, and single-game 5-player school records, including the most prestigious of them all — career points. She poured in 1,409 points in 86 career games, an average of 16.4 per outing. She surpassed the previous record of 1,379 points, set by Tina Zitterich in 1997, with a 30-point effort in a 78-27 rout of Storm Lake on Feb. 6, 2022.

Hawthorne’s other program records include:

•Career steals (278).
•Career assists (333).
•Career 3-point field goals (168).
•Single-season steals (93 in 2021-22).
•Single-season free throw percentage (84.5 in 2020-21).
•Single-season 3-point field goals (60 in 2018-19).
•Single-season free throw attempts (158 in 2021-22).
•Single-season free throws made (131 in 2021-22).
•Single-game steals (9 in 2021-22).
•Single-game assists (10 in 2021-22).
•Single-game field goal percentage (94.7 — 16 of 17 from the field — 2021-22).
•Single-game free throws made (16 in 2021-22).

And, oh by the way, she also ranks fifth on the program’s all-time rebounds leaderboard (485). Not bad for a guard.

As a sophomore during the 2019-20 season, Hawthorne led the Tigers to the Class 4A state tournament and put on a show-stopping performance in an 89-75 Class 4A quarterfinal-round loss to Glenwood. She erupted for a game-high and still 4A single-game state tournament record 31 points to go along with six rebounds, six steals, and five assists. Hawthorne’s one-game performance landed her a spot on the all-tournament team.

Gilbert won better than 71 percent of its games and averaged 16 wins per season with Hawthorne in uniform.

Now a guard with the Drake women’s basketball team, Hawthorne has seen action in all 16 of the Bulldogs’ games so far this season.


Drake University photo by Luke Lu
Gilbert photos by Debbie Gray and Troy Banning

1 2 3 4 16
Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

103 Mathews Drive, Gilbert, Iowa 50105  |  (515) 232-3740