Managing Stress through Exam Week

Zen Zone_Main Image_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Exam time! High School students take seven sets of exams during their four years, each December and May (except that seniors are exempted from non-AP exams in May). The point, of course, is to prepare them for the kinds of cumulative exams they’ll take in college. We even use “blue books” for history and English, just as colleges do. In addition, we want to help them learn to manage their stress. So we provide “brain food” – muffins, bagels, granola bars, fruit, etc. – to ensure that they’ve had something to eat before they go into an exam; schedule “therapy” dogs and cats (“therapy” in this sense equals friendly, happy, and amenable to being petted for a day) to be at school each day; and, new this year, are featuring the Zen Zone, with tea and hot chocolate, a bubble wrap wall (pop to de-stress!), a coloring station, a relaxation area, and a “Words of Encouragement” wall. For me, the sophomore hallway is a feel-good area, with the lights festooned across the lockers and the Christmas/Hanukkah decor (not to mention some sophomores decked out daily in holiday wear; other students got in on the act this week, as well!).  

As this is our last Wyvern Weekly of 2017, I wish all of you a restful and peaceful Holiday Break and a very happy New Year!

Encouragement Club Inspires

Encouragement Club_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

This fall, under the guidance of sophomore Adelaide Lenihan and with the help of other SFS students, the Encouragement Club has come into existence. The Encouragement Club endeavors to spread kindness and brighten the day of the student body, through individual reach-outs or larger-scale efforts. The above photo shows a recent effort from the Club to demonstrate care and concern for their fellow students. As we transition from the gratitude of Thanksgiving into the celebration of December holidays and the New Year, their example is truly inspiring.

Kudos to all those who wrote, directed, or acted in the Showcase of Plays last weekend – it was an alternately hilarious, dramatic, and poignant performance. Mark your calendars now for March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, when the musical Little Shop of Horrors will take to the stage!

We have three regular school days next week (Monday – Wednesday) and then exams begin on Thursday. Please see the exam schedule in School Notes. As usual, we will have “brain food” (muffins, granola bars, fruit, etc.) available for the students to ensure everyone’s eaten before going into an exam. The school will be open normal hours and students are welcome to be here during those hours outside of their exam times.

A Busy Week Back from Break!

9th & 12th Pizza Lunch_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

After Thanksgiving break, we all returned to school life with a bang! The Showcase of Plays premieres Friday night, with a repeat on Saturday night – come out to see our talented playwrights, actors, directors, and improv troupe, at 7:00 p.m. both nights. Our basketball teams kicked off their seasons at Brown, with a resounding win for the boys and a hard-fought (came back from a double-digit deficit) two-point loss for the girls. The 9th and 12th graders shared a pizza lunch on Thursday, along with the chance to get to know one another better and for the seniors to give the freshmen some advice on exams and school life. And on Friday, we welcomed Representative Attica Scott (D-41), whose district in the Kentucky House includes the Downtown Campus. Rep. Scott reached out to us through the America’s Legislators Back to School Program, a nationwide event sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), with the goal of helping students understand the value of democracy.  

Exams are coming up in just a week and a half; the schedule is listed under School Notes and each student should also know his/her schedule. The school will be open normal 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. hours during exams. Students only need to be here for their specific exams, but they are welcome to be at school anytime during those usual hours.

Our Director of Admissions/Diversity Kisha Watts and School Counselor Terri White (along with Goshen Campus Spanish teacher Salema Jenkins) are attending the NAIS People of Color Conference this week; I look forward to hearing what they learn and seeing how we can use it to the benefit of student culture and school environment.

College Corner December 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

Don’t forget about your December college preparation to-dos! Read on to see what you should be doing now as a sophomore, junior, and senior.

Sophomores:

  • Talk to your senior friends about their applications/visits to campus/interview experiences
  • Be sure to keep up background reading (newspaper, novels, magazines, sci-fi) to maximize your performance on the SAT next year
  • Research possible colleges for admission using handbooks, catalogs, videos, virtual tours, and online resources
  • When your PSAT test scores arrive in early December, study the results to discover where you need more focus or assistance. You will be sitting for a practice ACT test in the winter (Sunday, February 25th from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.) for experience.
  • Mark your calendars to attend the Introduction to the College Admissions Process program on Tuesday, January 23rd at 7:00 p.m. with Kit Llewellyn and Annie Murphy, Associate Director of Admissions at Centre College.   

Juniors:

  • When you receive your PSAT test results in early December, make sure to discuss your scores with Kit Llewellyn
  • Using your PSAT scores as a preliminary indicator, begin narrowing the range of colleges you are researching
  • Research possible colleges for admission using handbooks, catalogs, videos, virtual tours, and online resources
  • Register for the SAT and the ACT on one of the spring test dates (observe that some of the test dates fall during Winter Break, Spring Break, Derby, et al) so plan ahead
  • If you are interested in SAT/ACT prep courses or tutorials, Kit Llewellyn is a good source of information, especially since the SAT and ACT now have a writing component
  • Keep your academic focus during exams and this next semester
  • Check into some summer programs that you might coordinate with the proposal of your Senior Project

Seniors:

  • All of your evaluation forms and teacher recommendations have been submitted via Naviance to your colleges
  • You should complete SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests (if required) testing this month. Walk-in registration is possible, if you did not register on time. Remember that it is your responsibility to send your official scores from ACT and College Board to the universities.
  • If you are accepted early decision, withdraw applications to all other colleges by writing a note
  • If you are deferred early decision, write to the college stating that it is still your first choice and you will attend, if accepted in the spring
  • Parents, finish filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and/or the CSS profile (if applicable) for January mailing. The earlier the better!
  • Deadlines for scholarships, whether college-related or outside sources, are NOW! Please do your research and keep an excel sheet of your priorities and deadline requirements.
  • Everyone will enjoy the holidays more if all of your paperwork is completed by exam week.
  • Realizing how the juggling of your daily work, sports, drama, jobs, friends, and family can be overwhelming, try to stay organized and manage your time wisely.
  • If a college requires an interview and you cannot make it to campus, it is your responsibility to call the admissions office and set up an alum interview locally.
  • As always if you need clarification or are confused about any piece of this process, do not hesitate calling or emailing Kit Llewellyn at 502.736.1012
  • Make sure to get all information regarding the financial aid process at EACH college/university; their requirements and deadlines vary

What I Find Myself Grateful for at SFS

Brent Fryrear_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Heading into Thanksgiving week, I find myself grateful for so many things related to St. Francis School.

I am grateful to have been at the ISACS Annual Conference last week (along with Alexandra and several Goshen Campus colleagues), attending sessions on implicit bias in the classroom, the science behind happiness, how to discern fact from fiction in the news, and more. I also visited the well-known progressive Francis Parker School (whose Head chaired our recent ISACS Visiting Team); seeing another like-minded school is always terrific professional development. (I am also grateful to be through our ISACS visit!)

I am grateful for a student population where advocacy is a way of life, and particularly this month for the Project Green Challenge, created and run entirely by students on our Climate Council. Each day for two weeks, the Climate Council leaders have given the students, faculty and staff a “challenge” to complete if they wish – from watching “An Inconvenient Truth” to calculating one’s water footprint to eating meatless for a day – and made all of us more aware of the resources we are using. 

I am grateful for all the students and families interested in the High School. At our Open House last week, we had over 60 prospective students, along with their parents – over 100 new visitors to the school. They enjoyed an Activities Fair covering our athletic, extracurricular, and other special activities, heard from a panel of students and parents, and then toured the school. As each group came downstairs after visiting the academic departments, parent after parent commented – as they always do – “I wish I could go back to high school and take these classes!”

I wish all of you a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving!

Mental Health is Health

Mental Health_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I am at the ISACS Annual Conference and look forward to sharing more with you about the conference next week. In the meantime, I want to share with you some communication from our school counselor Terri White, who has just completed education on depression and suicide prevention for each grade level.

From the Counselor…

One of my goals as Director of Counseling Services on the Downtown Campus is to educate and raise awareness about mental health. Mental health is health. This is the message I am trying to teach to our students. Too often, there is a stigma associated with mental health, and adults, as well as students, ignore, or aren’t fully aware of important signs that indicate there may be a problem. Beyond that, we all should be taking steps every day to manage our stress. In my 12 years at St. Francis, I have noticed an increase in the number of students who are experiencing anxiety and depression, which coincides with national mental health trends.

Below is an excerpt from an October 11th, 2017 New York Times article, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent. Those numbers — combined with a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall — come as little surprise to high school administrators across the country, who increasingly report a glut of anxious, overwhelmed students.

Last year, I began implementing a depression and suicide awareness program, “The Lighthouse Curriculum: Depression and Suicide Awareness for High School Students.” The program was developed by Erika’s Lighthouse: A Beacon of Hope for Adolescent Depression, which is a mental health education and advocacy organization. The program goals include raising awareness of depression and its symptoms, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and encouraging the utilization of support services if necessary. I recently finished teaching the curriculum to all students in grades 9-12. The student were taught the risk factors and warning signs of depression and suicide, how to help a friend, how to access resources, and daily considerations and actions to address their own mental health, including sleep, nutrition, exercise, and other coping skills. Parents, grandparents, and guardians can help support good mental health by modeling healthy behavior; talking with your adolescent about his/her sleep, exercise and eating habits; and encouraging students to ask for help when they need it. If you ever have a concern about your student and you think I could be helpful, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you are interested in more information on depression, suicide and other mental health issues, below are a few helpful websites:

Erika’s Lighthouse

National Institute of Mental Health

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Continuing the conversation, Wednesday, November 15th at 8:30 a.m. on the Downtown Campus. Dr. Kevin Chapman will be leading a parent discussion, presenting on stress and anxiety in adolescence. Dr. Chapman will be providing the latest information on this topic, as well as identifying emotion regulation strategies that can be helpful in managing daily stress and anxiety. Goshen and Downtown families are invited. Please contact Terri White, Director of Counseling Services, Downtown Campus, if you would like to attend. Coffee and breakfast food will be provided.

Halloween Creativity Does Not Disappoint!

HS Main ImageBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Students and faculty enjoyed the annual Halloween Costume Contest on Monday, with a terrific range of individual and group costumes (see the weekly Photo Gallery!). Halloween is one of Alexandra’s favorite holidays and the costume contest is definitely one of her favorite annual school events, so the prizes are really worth winning, and student creativity does not disappoint! 

Student voice is important in progressive schools, and certainly at St. Francis, so I always particularly enjoy presentations when they are led by students rather than teachers. We had two this week, in Morning Meeting. The first, on Halloween, was about cultural appropriation and costumes and the second, on Wednesday, explained Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), connecting the sorrow of missing a loved one to the joy of that celebration. We also had students this week announcing signups for the upcoming Project Warm Blitz community service opportunity and promoting next week’s Project Green Challenge (which also apparently has some spectacular prizes!).  

Please check out the Athletics and Kudos sections of this newsletter for some great Wyvern accolades and accomplishments!

College Corner November 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

Don’t forget about your November college preparation to-dos! Read on to see what you should be doing now as a sophomore, junior, and senior.

Sophomores:

  • Focus on your academics
  • Begin reviewing your personal preferences, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Talk to your “older” friends about their applications and college visits
  • All sophomores will be sitting for the Pre-ACT in the spring (more details to come)   

Juniors:

  • Work on a resume and keep it updated throughout the year
  • Chat with college representatives who visit our school
  • Begin searching possible colleges
  • Use weekends for short exploratory trips to nearby colleges/universities
  • Focus on your academics and extracurricular involvement

Seniors:

  • Finish taking your SAT, SAT subject tests, and ACT
  • Kit Llewellyn will send your teacher recommendations, High School reports, transcripts, and school profiles electronically via Naviance
  • Students will send (paper or electronically) applications, fees, essays, supplements, resumes, and any other additional portfolios, writing samples or video/tapes
  • Students are responsible for sending their official test scores directly to colleges by contacting ACT and/or SAT and/or TOEFL
  • Most applications and school submissions will be sent by December 1st
  • Send in rolling admissions and state school apps (the sooner the better)
  • Keep working on January and February deadline applications
  • Research scholarships offered by companies, parents’ employers, civic and church groups
  • Polish your essays with Brett Paice, Michelle Salerno, and Juan Ramirez
  • Focus on your academics
  • Plan to schedule interviews with local alum or by Skype if visiting the campus is not possible (arrange by calling the admissions office)
  • If you have any questions at all, communicate with the Admissions Offices so that they know that your interest is genuine and deliberate
  • Then…submit FAFSA and CSS Profile (if required!) financial aid forms beginning October 1st. Money for financial aid has a tendency to run out quickly. Please adhere to these deadlines.

A Visit from a Special Wyvern!

Wyvern_4x6By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

We had a visit this week from our Founding Head, Tom Pike, and his daughter Lisa Pike Bailey (who, interestingly, teaches at the Kingswood-Oxford School in Connecticut, which like St. Francis is one of the very few schools in the United States that has the Wyvern as a mascot!). Tom helped found the Goshen Campus in the 1960s with St. Francis School’s first Head, Frank Cayce and then, in the 1970s, worked with parents and founding Board members to create the High School downtown. He retired in 2003, after 25 years as Head and after a two-year mentorship with Alexandra. It is almost unheard of in Independent school circles to have had only two Heads in 40+ years of existence! Tom continues to come to Graduation each year, where he presents the Thomas H. Pike Award, given to the student who best exemplifies values especially important to the St. Francis community: a compassionate and respectful nature, a willingness to ask constructive questions, determination to make one’s very best effort, and self-confidence as an independent young adult. We introduced him in Morning Meeting, and I hope the students were able to understand for a moment that everything we do here, every day, relates back to the vision and energy of this now-elderly man (still with a twinkle in his eye) who dedicated his life to education and to teenagers. 

Speaking of the Wyvern, our mascot and the story of why it was chosen, back in the day, were featured in an article in the Lexington Herald-Leader last week. Current students were shocked to learn that they were *this* close to being the River City Rats (and grateful for the Dungeons and Dragons crowd for saving the day). If you haven’t seen the article, check it out here.

Downtown and Goshen Campuses Have a “Field Day”!

Two-Campus Field DayBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus and Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

This Tuesday brought one of our most fun events of the year – our Two-Campus Field Day, held at Goshen. With our two campuses 20 miles apart, our students don’t get to interact together nearly as much as we wish they could, and this event brings them together in a fun-filled (and wacky!) way. After a delicious picnic cookout of hamburgers, brats, and hot dogs courtesy of Chef Matt and his incredible crew, and an opportunity for our 4th and 9th grade penpals to meet one another, our JK – 12th grade students banded together in groups with various grade levels mixed together. Each group had an animal name with a tall sign to match to keep them together. Thus, Goats, Turkeys, Bees, Hedgehogs, Pandas, Zebras, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, and more parade around the campus (many in costume or make-up!) doing fun activities and games together. A group of teachers designed the activities this year, and we decided to branch out and include more activities than team-building games. Our kids rotated every 20 minutes and moved from stations inside (“Just Dance!”), to the play shelter (creating a Mandala art mural together), to team-building games on the soccer field, and finally to the track for field games. This was where we were both stationed and got to watch all ages work together in tug-of-war, sack races (their different techniques were fascinating!), and everyone’s favorite – a water balloon toss! The little ones were particularly adorable during the water balloon toss – they would approach us and say “My balloon broke so I need a new one” and it was difficult to have the heart to explain to them that the balloon breaking is when the game ends! Admittedly, we handed out more than a few “second-chance” balloons.

Article Image Field Day_1What we noticed this year was a heightened sense of camaraderie among the kids. As we’ve now done this three times, it gets better every year, and everyone knows what to expect. It was touching to see the kids during the unstructured times hanging out together. Many Middle School and High School kids played basketball together on the sport court and had a ball (literally and figuratively!). More than one Lower Schooler managed to hitch a piggyback ride from a High Schooler in their group. The students clearly enjoy seeing each other and there is a palpable nostalgia as the older students look back in fondness at their “youth,” while the littler ones are in awe of the “big kids.” It helps us to be one school – and Wyverns (as opposed to cockroaches!).

We also wanted to share with you what we did on our Professional Development afternoon on Wednesday. After students dismissed, the Downtown faculty traveled to Goshen for discussion around three articles selected by our Director of Diversity, Kisha Watts (who is also our Downtown Campus Admissions Director). Related to the book all faculty and staff read this summer, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, the articles were “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, “What White Children Need to Know About Race” by Ali Michael, and “What Happens When Minority Kids Are Taught Not to Talk About Race” by Jesse Singal. We had small-group discussion about the articles, talking about the importance of open communication, recognizing privilege, and working with students on issues that are really complex. Our commitment as a school is to having these hard conversations, to not shying away from the difficult moments, because we believe that within the St. Francis community, we have a real (and perhaps rare) opportunity to talk openly and honestly with one another, living out a few of our core values in particular: inclusivity, community, thought, openness, and expression. Our Professional Development day in January (right before students come back) will continue this work, as we are led in sessions with Crissy Caceres, Assistant Head of School and head of the Office of Diversity and Equity at Georgetown Day School.