Senior Profile – Jonah Popp
Senior Profile: Jonah Popp – Creative Thinker, Actor and Wordsmith
by Sheryl Blunt, AFA Parent and Freelance Writer
Jonah Popp is not one to let a good challenge slip away. An Ad Fontes student since the fourth grade, Jonah is known for his creativity, hard work, and for putting his all into whatever he does. He is a man who is always up to the task—and then some!
While maintaining a high GPA, he’s led AFA’s award-winning Mock Trial team, acted in school drama productions, and served as House Head of Athens – serving as part of AFA’s student government through the house system. Whenever there was a need, one always knew you could call on Jonah to help out if you were in a pinch.
Last year when a teacher had to withdraw from one of the lead roles in a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” shortly before the show, who stepped in, but Jonah? In short order he learned the lines perfectly and delighted the audience with a simply stunning performance.
“He has a very impressive work ethic,” said drama teacher Ms. Jessica Johns. “He strives to do the best he can do and will ask about different methods of acting and how to make his performance better. He treats acting as a professional performing artist would.”
Jonah, who played Bottom the Weaver in his first Shakespearean play, also recently performed the role of Bassanio in AFA’s spring production of “The Merchant of Venice.”
“I love performing Shakespeare mainly because of the language,” said Jonah. “I do find it more difficult than other plays sometimes, but it’s well worth it.”
A lover of classic literature and many other literary genres, Jonah also enjoys writing fiction and poetry. And while you won’t hear it from him, his stories on the online writer’s forum Wattpad, have won a host of recognitions and awards.
“Writing definitely interests me—creative writing,” he said. “A lot of what I write for class I also really enjoy.”
Jonah said he believes his teachers’ knowledge of the classics fuels his passion for reading and writing.
“It’s cool when you are reading books like the Iliad and the Odyssey, having a teacher like Mr. [Arthur] Rogers who communicates his love of the subject,” he said. “The teachers at AFA really have a desire for their teaching to be excellent. When teachers put everything they have into their classes, it inspires you to put everything you have into your work.”
Among his favorite high school memories are traveling with fellow AFA students to Peru over the summer to work with children and adults with disabilities at the Refuge of Hope. He also fondly recalls the all-night school Read-A-Thons where students take turns reading an entire Homeric classic aloud as part of a festive school fundraiser. “Staying up all night to read Homer was pretty cool,” he said.
He has also enjoyed being a member of AFA’s Mock Trial team multiple years and serving as a witness, lawyer, and team captain. In the program students must be prepared to both prosecute and defend a reality-based legal case in a courtroom before actual judges. Jonah said he valued the experience not only for what he learned about the law, courtroom protocol and litigation, “but it also helped me decide that I don’t think I really want to become a lawyer.”
Acting, writing, literature and rhetoric, however, are not his only passions. Since he was young Jonah has also been fascinated by rockets and space exploration.
“The company SpaceX really interests me at the moment,” said Jonah, whose senior thesis was on the colonization of Mars. “What they’re doing with landing rockets back on boats is truly spectacular.”
Jonah said he particularly enjoyed attending a discussion along with his fellow physics classmates at George Mason University about the New Horizons mission that went to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt. “That was amazing!” he said.
He credits his classical Christian education with expanding his horizons and broadening his appreciation and enthusiasm for learning and the arts.
“I learned how to appreciate things I really wasn’t interested in at first,” he said. For example, “the classical model of looking at art showed me how beautiful it is.”
Jonah said he is thankful for leadership opportunities such as serving as a House Head this year, a job that tested and stretched him. “I’ve learned about leadership and how complicated and messy it is sometimes,” he said. “It has also taught me what some of my strengths and weaknesses are.”
Strengths that have been noted by others are Jonah’s diligence, positive attitude, discerning thinking, and engagement in class.
“His attitude is cheerful and he is interested in whatever we are discussing,” said Mr. Blunt, who teaches Apologetics and Senior Seminar at AFA. “What I’ve loved seeing in him is how creative and courageous he is in attempting new ideas and approaches to writing, and how insightful his observations are. He is simply a joy to be around.”
Asked if he had a favorite or inspirational passage of scripture, Jonah cited Lamentations 3:31-32. It reads: “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”
“It has to do with God’s mercy,” said Jonah. “In the midst of all the terrible things happening in Lamentations, I just find that verse very uplifting. It reminds me much in the same way that even though things can sometimes look bleak here in our lives, we have that one same verse to hang onto.”
He is looking forward to attending Hampden-Sydney College in the fall on a scholarship. The liberal arts college for men founded in 1775 is located just west of Richmond, Virginia. Jonah said he was attracted to the college primarily “because of its rhetoric program and its focus on the classical style of teaching and learning.”
Mr. Blunt said he believes the school is an excellent fit for Jonah, who he also describes as “a deep thinker about life and learning.”
“He’s realized how important community is and how critical the learning environment is beyond the efforts of one individual,” said Mr. Blunt. “He takes the initiative to talk about important questions of life. His scholarship to Hampton Sydney seems perfectly suited for who he is as a person, leaner, and a follower of Jesus.”
“Jonah is very multi-gifted and creative,” said Ms. Johns. “He wants to live to the fullest and really maximize what he can do with what God gave him. When I think of Jonah, ‘fighting the good fight’ comes to mind.’”
Looking ahead, this seems an apt observation about Jonah as well as an encouragement much like Paul’s purpose in writing to the young Timothy. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course,” wrote Paul. “I have kept the faith.” (II Tim. 4:7)
Whether Jonah’s path ultimately leads further into the world of classics and creative writing, or into the world of science and space, no one doubts that he will pursue his future endeavors with excellence and keep the faith to the end.