by Cate Murway
Ailsa [diminutive of Elizabeth, meaning “noble”] Maire Coughlan, BHS ’09 is apparently so very capable of analyzing, judging and discriminating, that very little ever escapes her observation and deep understanding. She is charming, undemanding and knows how to make an impactful impression. She voices her active concern for social causes with her precise sense of judgment.
She was born on a Sunday, Easter Sunday to be exact.
Easter occurs on the first Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). The perfect Spring colors of Purple and yellow are her favorites. Ailsa shares her birthday with Dr. Felice Leonardo Buscaglia Ph.D., author of a number of NY Times bestselling inspirational books on love and human reticences on the subject that overcome social and mental barriers that inhibited the expression of love.
“Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.”
Leo Buscaglia (1925-1998)
Our existence is precisely what we make it and by embracing the many pleasures life has to offer, Ailsa has been able to experience unlimited joy, finding delight in the simple things--in food, in music, in dance, in books, in art, in memories, and in her family.
Ailsa’s parents are Bristol Township resident Anthony John, PHS class of ’81 and interior designer, Adine [Freed] Koeppe, PHS ’81. Her older brother, Aaron, BHS ’04 was a football/wrestling/baseball athlete.
Historic Bristol on the Delaware has been home for her family for generations. Her late great-grandmother, Doris L. [Stewart] McClafferty had always resided in the Borough.
Her Grandmother Doris “Dor” [McClafferty] Freed, BHS ’61 whose senior quote was “understanding is the wealth of wealth” and her late great Aunt, Winifred Mary, BHS ’62 are part of her Bristol Borough lineage.
She often cites her loving father as a formative influence.
“Oh, you just made my day!”
Ailsa enjoyed Bill Bryson's unmatchable read, the national bestseller A Short History of Nearly Everything, given to her by her dad that meanders through a brief yet epic journey of [well, almost!] everything.
The vastness of everything and the significance of whole universe, and utter insignificance of our presence is just a tad unnerving!
Fondest memories? Bike riding on her mountain bike with her dad and playing Frisbee [disc] golf at Tyler State Park. She smiles when she reminisces about the family get- togethers for New Years at a camp near Gettysburg.
Scariest memory? Her dad shaved his beard and “I didn’t know who he was!”
Funniest memories? “Too many to mention but any time in band and in the musicals”
An overachiever is someone who achieves success over and above the standard or expected level, especially at an early age, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Although the definition fits her precisely, Bristol High School senior Ailsa Coughlan would most likely refuse to admit she’s anything special.
She doesn’t seem to think what she does is abnormal. Everybody’s busy!
But not quite as busy as she! Ailsa, 17, is an NHS student and one of the top 5 in her class, while taking Advanced Placement courses and participating in the jazz band [playing the clarinet since 5th grade]. She runs cross-country [relieves stress] and she has the endurance, speed and skill to hurdle on the track & field team, too.
She was a member of MYAC last year and completed the Martin Luther King Day service, collecting canned food for the unfortunate and will be participating in the “Shop with a Cop” charity event sponsored by the Bristol Lions Club. Oh and add karate for one year at the Bristol Karate Club with Master Thomas McGonigle!
She has mastered AP European History and an online BHS virtual H.S. AP Government & Politics course. Her academic profile also includes Introduction to Peacemaking, Introduction to Mandarin, the official language of the People's Republic of China [“really cool language”] and Introduction to Statistics.
In addition, she works on the senior portraits page, dedications and the AP courses for the yearbook.
“When Ailsa first joined the cross country team, she did not seem to enjoy the training. However, once she began to gain in fitness, her smile broadened and she began to experience the confidence that only improvement can bring. She improved her times over 5K by about four minutes over the course of the season. She became more of a presence in practices and in races. She was a quick study, listening to critiques and advice and applying them to good effect. Ailsa started the season as a reserved observant, however, by season's end, she was one of the wisecracking groups--always a ham, always ready with a quick-witted quip! She is definitely one to reach for the stars and to avoid the mundane. Thank you for featuring this fine young woman. She will shine in the spotlight!!!”
Ronald B. McGinn, BHS World Cultures teacher/XC coach
“Wow, you're fast. I'm glad I caught up to you.”
Ailsa also works two part-time jobs.
She works with her General Contractor father at times [dry walls, paints, and a “little electrical”] in his Anthony Coughlan Contracting Business [ 215.788.6399]. She also currently stirs up the sorbetto and garnishes the gelato at Cannoli Coffee bar & gelateria.
[p.s. Her favorite is blood orange sorbetto, an amazing blend of pureed whole fruit and fruit juices.]
“Thank you for thinking of me with Ailsa's article.
Did you ever meet someone and just know they were going to be successful in life? That is how I feel about Ailsa. Not only do I love her like a daughter, I really enjoy working with her and I know I will have a hard time letting her leave Cannoli to go to college! I hope she remembers me when she becomes famous.”
Maryanne C. Lalli, owner of Cannoli Coffee bar & gelateria
“You did it! Congratulations! World's best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It's great to be here.”
In spite of her filled planner, which is apparently completely void of white space, she finds time to do her homework, complete community projects and fill out a myriad of college applications.
She plans to study pre-law [Human Rights lawyer] or psychology next year. She will pay for her education with savings, loans and hopefully scholarships. Her 1st choice is Swarthmore College that “celebrates the life of the mind” integrating social and ethical responsibility.
“I feel I can put all my idealistic notions into effect” and Ailsa will indisputably be prepared to favorably influence a changing and complex world.
She is very excited about college and learning with students with like minds!
Sounds like a perfect pick for Ailsa! Swarthmore’s idyllic, 357-acre campus is a designated arboretum, complete with rolling lawns, creek, wooded hills, and hiking trails.
From the web site- 75 Ways to be a Swarthmorean:
#68 Re-evaluate your basic assumptions about the world.
#75 Do something good for the world.
“ I just wanted to meet you and thought maybe you might want to meet me.
Who wouldn't wanna meet you?”
She is very expressive and positive in her words, her acts and her feelings. Ailsa has chaired one of the two BHS Model UN's [a simulated session of an intergovernmental organization] with poise and gravitas, per World Cultures teacher, Ron McGinn.
She represented BHS at the National Young Leaders Conference in D.C.
Ailsa is now avidly preparing for her 3rd year of PA statewide High School Mock Trial Competitions. These competitions provide outstanding preparation for today’s high school students to become tomorrow’s lawyers!
This year’s case is Robin and Sandra Hansbra v. Plane’s Park and Polish, LLC [airport valet service], involving an employer’s potential liability for the negligent actions of an employee. Ailsa projects confidence and competence and her convincing verbiage with precision of thought and expression have earned her “best attorney” and “best witness”.
She masters her roles with pluck!
“I just like to smile, smiling's my favorite”
“This is the third year I have worked with Ailsa as the attorney moderator of the Mock Trial Team. She is an amazing young person who is bright, works hard, leads her teammates, all with a pleasant personality. I am sure she will succeed at whatever she chooses to do.” William J. Salerno, Sr., Esq.
Ailsa still finds time to be a teenager.
She “discovered her inner elf” when she saw the well written and refreshing “Elf” film in which Will Ferrell was brilliant as “Buddy”. It obviously touched her heart in many ways.
“Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?”
Her boyfriend is “Most School Spirit” Dennis Antolin Black, BHS ‘08/DeSales U., who is “really serious about his chemistry”.
She enjoys the very unique and interesting listening experience of 89.1 in the evening and sets aside some time to watch the Emmy-award winning "mockumentary", “The Office” set in the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
When she does find some “free time”, she pedals her Beach cruiser through historic Bristol on the Delaware.
“I’d love to drive a seafoam green ’57 Bel Air sport coupe. I know it’s totally impractical! In the real world, I’ll be driving my mom’s Volvo.”
“Sorry, sorry. I think your car is pretty.”
Ailsa thinks Café Bombay is the best for authentic Indian meals and loves the food at Annabella’s. Her mom whips up a mean cauliflower curry soup and her dad makes “really good chili” with lots of beans, steak and coriander.
“So... do you wanna eat food?”
Ailsa dreams of possibly working in Hague. This is the 3rd largest city in the Netherlands, the seat of international law and diplomacy. The full Dutch name is Des Graven Hage, meaning “the Count’s Domain”.
But historic Bristol on the Delaware is home! She knows everyone and the people are friendly. “I would love to get more people to see the town, it’s so cool and we have so much history and so much to offer! It’s a great place to raise a family and the schools are great”. She expresses a concern about additional educational funding for the Arts.
“Whoa. Where did you say you were from again?”
Knock ‘em alive, Ailsa. The world needs more people like you!
[italicized quotes from Ailsa’s favorite film “Elf”] She’s into fun films right now!
Recommend a “Children are our future” candidate: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org