A leader in representing Mount Vernon Presbyterian School this year was one of three Jewish students in the Class of 2018, Maqueline Weiss.
The 18-year-old is known for her school leadership and philanthropic efforts for Type 1 diabetes.
Weiss described herself as “the face of Mount Vernon” because of her position as ambassador prefect. She spoke to parents at school events, trained 60-plus students as tour guides, and planned open-houses and other school activities.
“I’ve always been very close with faculty and administrators,” Weiss said.
The prefect system is like a student council, with nine students as heads of departments. Weiss won the end-of-the-year Prefect Award.
Weiss is a Davis Academy alumna. When it was time to choose a high school, Mount Vernon Presbyterian stood out, she said, because “the people are genuinely sweet.”
Her great-grandparents Esther and Isadore Alterman were key contributors to building the Atlanta Jewish community, said Weiss’ mother, Cheryl Weiss. The Marcus JCC’s Camp Isidore Alterman was named for Maquie’s great-grandfather to honor his philanthropic contributions.
“My grandma and my mom talk about their kind hearts,” she said.
Throughout high school, Weiss educated her classmates on Judaism. The school has a weekly chapel assembly in the gymnasium to discuss a passage from the Old or New Testament. Weiss planned two chapel assemblies, on Passover and Rosh Hashanah, and brought in a rabbi.
Weiss also shared her life story with her classmates. She said she was nervous beforehand but described it as an interesting experience overall. “Everyone liked it. A lot of people didn’t know I was Jewish.”
Weiss said it is “needed and necessary” for people to learn about other religions, especially when she hears a student make an anti-Semitic remark and tell a disturbing Holocaust joke. On such occasions, she said, she always educates that person.
Weiss expressed universalities: “Bagels are Jewish; Jesus was a Jew.”
She introduced her classmates to the festive side of Judaism and organized apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah and matzah for Passover to be served in the school cafeteria.
Weiss was one of seven seniors to win the school’s iDiploma Stoles award, which celebrates failure and entrepreneurship. Weiss was on the student team that designed the park at Peachtree Station in Chamblee. The project was led by Jeff Garrison, a partner at S.J. Collins Enterprises, a commercial real estate and retail development firm.
She described herself in three words: “determined, motivated and curious.”
Weiss was diagnosed at age 7 with Type 1 diabetes.
“It changed my life forever,” she said. Weiss said she has supportive parents, but the constant effort to maintain proper blood-sugar levels and meet the disease’s other demands has caused her to “grow up fast and take care of myself very quickly.”
Weiss described her pull toward philanthropy as “second nature.”
In thee 11 years since her diagnosis, she has raised $300,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She has spoken in front of senators and congressmen for the cause and participates in the JDRF walk with her team, Maquie’s Marchers. She also asks companies and her neighbors for donations.
“I do not live for a cure because, realistically, if there is not a cure, that’s OK,” Weiss said. She is not letting anything hold her back. “Diabetes does not define me as who I am.”
Weiss will attend Elon University on the pre-med track with a major in biology. She hopes to attend Emory University School of Medicine to become a pediatric endocrinologist on “the patient side but also have my hands in research.”
This summer she will be a junior counselor at Camp Kudzu, a nonprofit Georgia camp for children with diabetes. Weiss has attended the camp since she was 8.
The camp serves as “a time where you don’t feel alone with the disease,” she said. “You can all complain about the same problems. … (It) makes everything special.”
To continue her Jewish journey, Weiss plans to join Hillel at Elon. She said she is “excited to connect back to Jewish people and Jewish friends.”