Senior, National Cathedral School
As a member of the Choir of Men and Girls at Washington National Cathedral, Eliza Poggi sang at the funerals of President George H.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain in 2018. She has dedicated about 15 hours per week since sixth grade to the selective group (just one singer is admitted out of every five that try out) and has taken on a leadership role as a head chorister.
“She works exceptionally hard,” says Canon Michael McCarthy, music director at the private National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. “She has not been shy about speaking out.”
Eliza chose not to participate when the choir sang at President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 for several reasons, including his anti-Muslim rhetoric and stance on climate change. She did participate in the inaugural prayer service. “I could reconcile that because no matter what side you are on [on] the political spectrum, you can agree the president right now needs some prayers,” says Eliza, 18, of Chevy Chase Village.
Eliza’s interests include studying Arabic and geology. Her internship at the University of Maryland involved traveling to California’s Catalina Island to collect rock samples with a team led by Sarah Penniston-Dorland, an associate professor of geology. “She is a real go-getter, [a] quick learner, and is able to synthesize information quickly,” Penniston-Dorland says. In the fall, Eliza plans to study geology and geophysics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
At home, Eliza helps her family take care of her father, Matt, a former U.S. Navy doctor with multiple sclerosis who became a quadriplegic the summer before her freshman year. The experience has taught her resilience and empathy, especially when dealing with others who used to annoy her with their complaints about how busy they are. “I have no way of knowing what’s going on in their lives,” she says.