Thankful for Our New Space

major-donor-partyBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

This week, we opened the school for two major groups:  on Monday, the donors who made our beautiful new spaces possible, and on Thursday, prospective students and parents at our Admissions Open House. The renovated space – and the way the students spend time together using them – continues to be one of the most significant things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving season.  

Other things for which I am profoundly grateful: the energy and passion of our teachers; the civic interest of our students; the families who partner with us.  I wish all of you a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving break!

First-Time Voters

i-votedBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

It is difficult to know where to begin recapping this week. Presidential elections are always exciting at the High School because for a number of students, it is the first time they have been eligible to cast a ballot! On Tuesday at Morning Meeting, we acknowledged that milestone and I reminded the students that nearly all of them will be voting in the very next Presidential election in 2020, which is a true privilege and something they should cherish and take advantage of. (Given that it appears nearly half of eligible voters did not choose to vote this go-round, I can only hope SFS alumni will do better. And I am sure they will!)

Wednesday morning found many students stunned at the results, which were the opposite of those predicted by polls. While we want to always take care that at SFS, acceptance and tolerance includes people at various places on the political spectrum, this election felt different to many because of the campaign’s divisive rhetoric. As I looked around the room in Morning Meeting, I saw students who, because of the election results, feel fearful for themselves, their families or their friends, based on their religion, race, gender, identification, etc. – feelings that transcend politics as usual. So we began. Alexandra and I both shared some thoughts, and then other students and faculty did. We acknowledged the pain in the room and talked about the divide in our country that must be seen and healed. Brownie Southworth ’17 shared a moving poem he had written while watching the election results, with a refrain of “We the People”. It was a meeting filled with understanding and with a sense of community.

Throughout the morning, classes happened as usual but discussions continued as well. Many students and faculty gathered to watch Hillary Clinton’s televised speech. Then, already scheduled for that day was an all-school screening of 13th, an incredible Netflix documentary that examines the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) against the history of the “war on drugs” and the prison industrial complex in which African-American males are disproportionately incarcerated. The film was followed up today by an optional discussion, sponsored by the Black Students Association, which was attended by dozens of students. History and law teacher Trent Apple opened with some explanation of the history of the 13th Amendment and the Constitution, followed by students sharing the moments they found most impactful in the film. Toward the end, BSA moderator Brett Paice asked BSA President Alexis Nelson ’18 what she felt the white students in the room could do to be allies. She responded that they could join the BSA, support their activities, be a part of their discussions. It can be difficult for white students – with the best of intentions, but not really understanding what to say or do – to be the kinds of allies they articulated wanting to be during the discussion. For me, what is vital about this conversation, the movie screening, and the discussions from Wednesday is this: St. Francis is a place where we can and will have the tough conversations on race – or on any other subject that needs it.  Where we will encourage people to be vulnerable, to open themselves to new ways of thinking and to ask questions rather than squelch those questions out of fear, and thereby never learn the answers. Where we will do our very best to know one another, to communicate without rancor, and to understand different points of view. It’s not a solution to all of society’s ills, but it’s a start.  And this week, there’s nowhere I am more proud or grateful to be than with this group of teenagers and adults.  

It’s Starting to Feel Like “Home”

high-schoolers-playing-poolBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

OUR NEW SPACE IS OPEN!!!!  

You all know that, of course, and many of you have had the chance to see it, but I had to say it again! It’s starting to feel like “home” to all of us. The students took quickly to their new digs, with the pool table in use all day every day, and the ping-pong table soon to be ready for play. The kitchen with its huge refrigerator/freezer and plentiful microwaves is fully operational. And the Wyvern Store is open, with a variety of snacks and drinks, including some substantial and healthier options like frozen burritos, mac and cheese, etc. The sophomore class is staffing the Wyvern Store, and all profit on items sold will go to their class fund. Parents, if you would like, you can purchase a Wyvern Store punch card in amounts of $10, $25, or $50 for your student. These will be kept in the Wyvern Store as “accounts” for each student who has one. If you would like to buy a punch card, please contact Danielle Tracey.

High School Halloween costume contest

We had our always-festive Halloween Costume Contest last week, with a group of seniors (Mariana Wilson, Ruby LeStrange, Gabby Smedley, Mac Smith, and Ethan Mackin) taking top honors by dressing up as some of the teachers, a bona fide teacher (Seth Miller) coming in second, and a group of freshmen (Carly Durbin, Dereka Robinson, and Destiny Otto) dressed as grapes taking the third spot. I have to give a personal shout-out to Lily the jellyfish and Evvie the highlighter, as well, for some really inventive costuming.  

Next Wednesday, we will have an all-school screening of the Netflix documentary 13th, which premiered in late September at the New York Film Festival. From critic Odie Henderson, the film “takes an unflinching, well-informed, and thoroughly researched look at the American system of incarceration, specifically how the prison industrial complex affects people of color.” Our Black Students Association will lead an optional discussion about the film the following day.  The film has been extremely well reviewed, and this should be a thought-provoking afternoon for all our students, as we hope it will (in the words of BSA faculty moderator Brett Paice) “provide much-needed context for the state of race relations and mass incarceration in our country.”

College Corner November 2016

college-corner

By 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

Juniors:

  • On Saturday, November 12th, all juniors will sit for the Pre-ACT (just as you did for the PSAT) at SFS from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Please bring pencils, calculators, and a snack. The Pre-ACT fees will be billed to you.  
  • 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

Seniors:

  • Finish taking your SAT, SAT subject tests, and ACT
  • Early Action and Early Decision deadlines are usually November 1st
  • 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, Cia White, 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. Pleased adhere to these deadlines.

Endings and Beginnings

By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Watch your email for an exciting announcement about our new spaces opening SOON!

This week brought the end of field hockey and soccer seasons (congratulations to both squads for fantastic seasons!) and the start of basketball practice and 9th-grade-in-downtown-louisvillebowling matches! Auditions for our Showcase of Plays are underway and the Quick Recall team began league play. And we still found time for the annual 9th grade downtown adventure field trip/10th-11th grade PSAT/12th grade college application and essay work day on Wednesday!

The noon dismissal on that annual PSAT (etc.) day has always allowed for some professional development time for faculty, which we’ve used in various ways. This year, it was devoted to work time for our ISACS Self-Study. You may remember filling out the ISACS Constituent Survey last spring; with the results of that in hand, we can now dive into every school area (curriculum, programs, services, facilities, technology, etc.), identifying strengths and challenges to create reports that will comprise our Self-Study. We work on the document throughout this school year and provide it to the ISACS Visiting Team in advance of their three-day visit to SFS next fall. You’ll certainly hear much more from us about this as the year goes on. 

College Corner October 2016

By Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

College Meeting with Ms. LlewellynFreshmen: 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: 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! The PSAT is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. – noon on Wednesday, October 19th at St. Francis School (Kit Llewellyn has registered all students). Please bring 3 #2 pencils and a standard calculator with new batteries.

Juniors: 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 you do not omit any activities or extracurriculars. The PSAT is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. – noon on Wednesday, October 19th at St. Francis School (Kit Llewellyn has registered all students). Please bring 3 #2 pencils and a standard calculator with new batteries.

Seniors: 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.

Also:

  • Confirm all college application deadlines and obtain all applications (paper or online)
  • Finalize your list of colleges with Kit Llewellyn
  • Complete your resumes and submit them 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
  • By October 19th, 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
  • 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 4th for the December 10th test and January 13th for the February 11th test

SAT:

Deadline/Test Date – October 7th for the November 7th test, November 3rd for the December 3rd test, and December 21st for the January 21st test

We’re All Kids at Heart

By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

4th-and-9th-soccer-gameI hope everyone had a good Fall Break! We headed off to it in fine style, enjoying a Two-Campus Field Day where we traveled to the Goshen Campus, joined up with groups of Lower and Middle Schoolers, had a cookout, and played games. I loved seeing the little ones climb all over (literally) our High School students and enjoy the time with them. Our 9th grade and 4th grade penpals got to meet one another and enjoy lunch, some impromptu soccer time, and an art project. We also appreciated the invitation to stay for the St. Francis Day Pet Blessing, if students could get rides home from the Goshen Campus – a number of High Schoolers had pets come for the blessing and enjoyed seeing the festivities.  

This week, we had our first group of Goshen Campus 8th grade shadows and our second group of non-Goshen prospective student visitors, our third of four Community Service days this semester, a trip for some science students to the Pulse of Surgery program at the Science Center, a fabulous Senior Night for our field hockey team (with a big win), an incredible overtime penalty-kicks win in the district tournament semifinal for our soccer team, the final meeting of first-quarter Projects, and the last day of the first quarter itself! Grades and comments will be out next Friday, October 21st, given to students in Advisee Groups and then uploaded to the Parent Portal later in the day (and we will email you to let you know the reports are there).

In this newsletter are links to our Parent-Teacher Conference signups which you also saw in an email earlier today. You are welcome to meet with any or all of your child’s teachers.

A reminder that we dismiss at noon next Wednesday, October 19th.  

Have a wonderful weekend!

Real-World Opportunities

By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

ideafestivalToday, 25 students had the opportunity to attend the annual IdeaFestival, courtesy of Goshen parent Kristin Rahman Hanel. They heard from award-winning writer Christine Kenneally, evolutionary biologist Lee Dugatkin, filmmaker and artist Ricardo Rivera, MIT professor Christine Ortiz, and several members of a panel on tech companies. We love being within walking distance of fantastic real-world opportunities like this, and are grateful to Kristin for making this opportunity possible!

Yesterday, we engaged in an event that the senior class has been asking about since school started: the annual 9th grade – 12th grade lunch. Seniors and freshmen are assigned to table groups, and get to know one another over a pizza lunch. It’s another way we try to connect across grade levels, and from the level of chatter, it appeared a good time was had by all.  

Hopefully everyone saw the email I sent earlier this week, but if not: Two-Campus Field Day is Wednesday, followed by the Blessing of the Pets, at the Goshen Campus. We have two classes in the morning, followed by a trip to Goshen. Students may drive their own cars (or with a sibling) or will ride a provided bus. At 2:30 p.m., parents are welcome to join and bring pets, if you like. Students will either head back to the Downtown Campus on a bus or stay for the pet blessing, dismissing directly from Goshen at 3:30 p.m. And then Fall Break will be upon us! Enjoy!

School Spirit All Around!

By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

hs-fall-sports-assemblyThe Fall Sports Picnic and Bonfire last Friday were great successes – a big congratulations to our field hockey and soccer teams on strong performances! The bonfire was a wonderful event, with about two-thirds of the student body in attendance and many s’mores consumed.

The varsity soccer team managed to get some sleep, wake up early the next morning, and endure fatigue and rain to win the Whitefield Invitational, defeating both Holy Cross and Whitefield handily. The varsity field hockey team also spent their Saturday competing, in the CAL Invitational, and they represented themselves well. So proud of both teams!

I am also proud of our students’ community service efforts. My We Act group, speaking of early Saturday mornings, will be at Goshen starting at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow to prepare for the My School Color Run, which should get us very close to reaching our goal of $10,000 needed to fund the building of a school in Haiti. This past Tuesday was our second (of six) Community Service day, and groups worked hard, some even weeding and whacking in the heat.

Our Admissions Director, Trisha Amirault, is getting us ready to start welcoming 8th grade shadow visitors, starting next Friday. A whopping 28 9th graders have volunteered to be “guideverns” (guides + Wyverns = guideverns) and will be helping Trisha out with shadow days, High School Nights, Open Houses, and any/all admissions events. Can’t believe we are already gearing up for 2017-18!

A Festive Day!

nms-matthew-sicilianoBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Congratulations to our National Merit Semifinalist this year, Matthew Siciliano! In other exciting news, congratulations to our Dragon Boat team, who won their division at the Dragon Boat Festival last weekend. (See Bob Jones’ article below for more details.) And in epic news, a huge thanks to Buffalo Construction, Inc. (the firm spearheading our renovation project) for treating the entire student and faculty/staff body to a free lunch today from Booty’s Food Truck!

After recovering from the exciting surprise lunch, we regrouped to have a few classes, and then had a festive send-off for our fall sports teams as they headed to the Fall Sports Picnic!  Students (particularly the freshman class) helped blow up nearly 300 balloons yesterday. At the end of classes today, as the field hockey, golf, and soccer teams stood at the bottom of the atrium, the rest of the school lined the stairs and dropped balloons and candy as the teams were introduced. Good luck to all the Wyvern competitors tonight – and win or lose, we all get to enjoy a festive bonfire afterward!

Snapshots from this week: Colleges have been visiting, and Kit Llewellyn, our College Advisor, always tells me how impressive our students are to these admissions representatives. Kit constantly marvels at how well our students are able to articulate (to total strangers) who they are and what they are interested in. PSAT preparation is underway for the juniors, thanks to parent and standardized test tutor extraordinaire Audrey Morrison. I saw one of David Word’s science classes outside in the Courtyard yesterday, in a circle holding hands, cracking up. I am not exactly sure what they were doing, but I suppose whatever it was defines the phrase “hands-on learning”?  Our Workshop (MakerSpace) is essentially finished, thanks to the construction crews and to the efforts of the science department. We will show pictures and report more on that in an upcoming newsletter. The Project Warm Community Service group attended the Project Warm Green Spark Awards Luncheon at the organization’s invitation. Quick Recall practice is underway; the Improv group is organizing; the Black Students Association had a guest speaker at a lunchtime meeting; and the Underground Lifting Society is working out hard in the Fitness Room. Feels like we are in full swing!