Senior Spotlight: Brandon Lillaney

  • Student Life
Emily Dolan
Brandon Lillaney

Brandon was a new student at Sage Ridge twice, and he quickly felt a sense of belonging both times. He joined Sage Ridge in fifth grade along with several of his current classmates. Stand-out memories of his early years at Sage Ridge include playing Jeopardy to review material in Mrs. Ward’s fifth grade class and playing football with his teachers on the 6th grade Outdoor Education trip. After middle school, Brandon tried ninth grade at Manogue, but he chose to return to Sage Ridge after one year. “It was easy to return,” he says, remembering the back-to-school barbecue and being welcomed back by teachers and friends. With now less than two months to graduation, he can say that he’s maintained close friendships with the peers he has known for so long. 

For Brandon, extracurricular activities have been significantly valuable to his growth and his experience at Sage Ridge. He played basketball throughout all of his time at the school and is proud of his improvement. The pre- and post-game pep talks by coaches Hanshew and Macdonald made an impact on Brandon, and contributing to a team that made it to playoffs in 2019 was a pivotal experience. He also played soccer throughout high school and golf in 11th and 12th grades. Outside of athletics, Brandon has been a student council representation for two years, and he has enjoyed planning events for his peers. It’s clear that his participation in activities outside of the classroom has been just as important to who he has become as his time at a desk. 

His progress as a scholar is notable as well. Brandon has developed an interest in math and engineering, and he thinks he might study civil engineering in college. As a junior, Brandon was scheduled in a two-person college-prep calculus class with Mr. Johnston. “Mr. Johnston is a really good teacher,” Brandon tells me, explaining how he and the other student were able to progress to the AP curriculum within the first semester.  “My teachers at Sage Ridge just kept pushing me,” he says, and he credits Dr. McGann for supporting him throughout his three years in the Upper School. Dr. McGann, on the other hand, credits Brandon for his commitment to scholarship:  “Sage Ridge gave Brandon the opportunity to grow because of the connection to his teachers and the feedback and encouragement they have given him, but he is responsible for his own growth.” 

For his senior thesis, Brandon argues that the letter grade system should be combined with a pass/fail system of grading in schools. His thesis grew out of the academic challenges he faced in tenth grade, when he felt frustrated with grades that were lower than what he wanted. He asserts that a combination of the two grading systems could support stronger self-confidence in students who are working hard. It’s fitting that Brandon’s advice to younger Scorpions is to “Just keep working hard because it will pay off in the end.” Brandon is looking forward to college, and he sees his return to Sage Ridge in 10th grade and his steady academic improvement each year as the path that led him there. “Mr. Lamb helped, too,” he says. Brandon’s achievements, however, are all his own. 

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