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.  

Diversity Week!

Diversity Week_Main ImageBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

As the photos included in this newsletter show, we had an amazing Diversity Week! This annual tradition showcases students’ heritage through a Diversity Fair, a Diversity Potluck, flag-making, and more. The Diversity Fair on Tuesday showcased tables staffed by students and from organizations in the community. Our students from Spain, Germany, and China had tables; there was African storytelling and Norwegian fortune-telling; and Mexican and Somali heritage were represented (to name a few), along with community partners such as the Adelante Hispanic Achievers organization. The Diversity Potluck fed dozens from dishes brought in by both students and adults in the community, featuring some favorite recipes. Friday afternoon after Community Service brought the finale of Diversity Week activities. The week was enjoyed by all! Terri White spearheaded the Diversity Week events, assisted by Angela Katz and a fantastic student Diversity Committee. A huge thanks to all of them!

The We Act Group is excited to report that the Color Run raised over $2,000 and the final tally on the Penny Wars (together with the Goshen Campus’s Coin Drive) for hurricane relief is also over $2,000! The Color Run funds will support the Offin Children’s Center in Ghana, and the Penny/Coin funds will be divided into fourths, with an equal allotment supporting relief efforts in Texas, Florida, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. On behalf of the We Act students and of the nonprofits we are helping, thank you so much for your support!

Just a reminder that next week brings our Two-Campus Field Day at the Goshen Campus on Tuesday and a half day for the PSAT on Wednesday. The quarter ends next Friday, and grades and comments will be out the following Friday, October 20th.

College Corner October 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

College Corner appears in the Wyvern Weekly once a month, with suggestions and dates to help make the college search and application process as stress-free and enjoyable as possible! Read on to see what you should be doing now as a freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior. 

Freshmen:   

  • Get acquainted with your teachers, the coursework, and the activities available for Wyverns
  • Know that how you perform and how you get involved this year are strongly considered by colleges/universities

Sophomores:   

  • The PSAT is scheduled for Wednesday, October 11th from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in the Commons Room (Kit Llewellyn has registered all students). Please bring 3 (#2) pencils and a standard calculator fully charged or with fresh batteries.
  • Colleges take your grades from this year into consideration, so be sure to study hard!
  • Begin some college research and visit with the college reps who come to school (always check the calendar in gathering space)
  • Get involved in sports and extracurricular activities, and explore your interests!

Juniors:      

  • The PSAT is scheduled for Wednesday, October 11th from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in the Commons Room (Kit Llewellyn has registered all students). Please bring 3 (#2) pencils and a standard calculator with new batteries.
  • Begin reviewing your personal preferences, strengths, and weaknesses in order to make your college search meaningful and thorough
  • Accumulate data for your brag sheet/resume so that during your senior year when you are preparing it, you do not omit any activities or extracurriculars

Seniors:       

  • By October 11th, be ready to complete your Common Application, put finishing touches on your essay, learn some tips regarding interview techniques, and generally begin to see the light re college application deadlines
  • Take the SAT and/or ACT, and, if required, register for SAT Subject tests. Remember, many selective colleges require literature, math, and possibly a third subject test of your choice.
  • Confirm all college and financial aid application deadlines
  • Finalize your list of colleges with Kit Llewellyn
  • Complete your resumes and submit to Kit Llewellyn
  • Your teacher recommendation requests were entered in Naviance by Kit Llewellyn
  • Work on college essays as directed/guided by the English department
  • Determine your college costs with your family, research scholarships on fastweb.com, and obtain all related financial aid forms from each of your colleges/universities
  • If you are planning on applying early decision or early action, the usual deadlines are November 1st; your teacher recs and High School report forms should be in the appropriate hands by the last week of October
  • Send in rolling admissions applications – the sooner the better, particularly to the state schools

As a reminder, the registration deadlines and test dates are as follow:

ACT:
Deadline/Test Date November 3rd for the December 9th test and January 12th for the February 10th test

SAT:
Deadline/Test Date – October 5th for the November 4th test, November 2nd for the December 2nd test, and February 9th for the March 10th test

Students Engage in Special Opportunities

HS Main ImageBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

We have had a number of special opportunities for students this month. Last week, the Biology students experienced the Pulse of Surgery program at the Kentucky Science Center. They viewed a live heart surgery and later were able to explore other interesting cutting-edge medical technology. Biology teacher David Word told the rest of the student body about the surgery the next day because the patient was a heroin user whose heart condition was a result of her drug use. He said that he has been taking students to this program for years, and never seen anything like it – an important caution to the student body as heroin takes an ever-stronger foothold in the Louisville community.

Yesterday, 10 students (our Black Students Association and Diversity Committee leaders among them) and history teacher Ralph Marshall (who is also this year’s Sacred Space Committee Chair) went to the Non-Violence Symposium sponsored by the Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion. Held deliberately on International Day of Peace, the Symposium included a morning component for young leaders and an afternoon session featuring Mayor Greg Fischer and other local civic leaders. At the end of the day, the group launched Nonviolent Compassionate Louisville.

Next Tuesday, 17 juniors and seniors will attend Thrivals, an annual student-oriented component of the IdeaFestival. This year’s Thrivals, subtitled “Finding Your Algorithm for the Future,” was preceded by each student being given copies of Grit by Angela Duckworth and Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil (who was also one of the presenters). Thrivals participants this year “will be challenged to use their imagination to consider not only how humans have used their minds to change the past but how humans might also use their minds to change the future.”

Both the Pulse of Surgery program and Thrivals were downtown, so our students were able to walk from school. As ever, this proximity to events is one of my favorite aspects of being a downtown school!

Dragon Boat Team Wins Scholastic Division for the Second Year!

Dragon Boat Races 2017_Main Image 4x6By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

It’s been a festive week at the High School! Last Saturday, our Dragon Boat Team repeated as Scholastic Division Champions at the Louisville Dragon Boat Festival. Overall, they finished 6th out of 22 teams (including some that train for the event and travel to it!). Congratulations to teachers David Word and Chris Hutchins for spearheading this year’s event, and to all the other rowers:  students Angela Liu, Sam Yost, Caroline Pepa, Hanna Otto, Kelly Baize, Eden Baize, Justin Strothman, Connor Strothman, Bennett Middendorf, Grayson Razavi, Chris Hammond, Clay Foye, Lily Johnson, and Josh Arnett; parents Chrys and Doug Strothman; High School teacher Ralph Marshall, former High School teacher Bob Jones, and Goshen teachers Billy Spalding and Jason Chlopek.

As the week began, so did the build-up to the Fall Sports Picnic and Bonfire. Tuesday was Pajama Day, Wednesday was “Dress Like a Teacher Day” (with Mike Snyder’s Jenn Buck and Osaz Omoruyi’s Juan Ramirez garnering top honors), and Thursday was “Twin Day” (with Michael Crinot and, again, Osaz Omoruyi winning by a landslide, Parker Smith and Victoria Richardson in second place, and Caroline Pepa and history teacher Ralph Marshall in third). Friday is Wyvern Spirit Wear Day and we’re sending the fall sports teams off at the end of the day with banners and balloons. We’ll enjoy a student-faculty volleyball game, celebrate Senior Night after the games conclude, and then gather for our third annual Bonfire. Because even tradition can be improved upon, this year, by student request, we’re featuring a Watermelon Eating Contest. I watch the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest every July 4th, so I feel well qualified to hold this competitive eating event, the first of which I am aware in St. Francis history. Results to come next week! Hope many of you can join us for the games and picnic.