by Nick Sawicki '19 for the Shady Side News, Fall 2018
Q: What’s changed since you were a student at Shady Side and what’s the same?
A: The student body is more diverse than it was when I attended, making the SSA of today an even richer learning environment. And the performing arts and athletics programs have grown significantly as a result of the Hillman Center construction and the school’s 1994 decision to join the WPIAL. But so much has stayed the same – the campuses remain beautiful, the young people here are still kind and remarkably talented, and, most importantly, the faculty continues to love and commit fully to students. As ever, Shady Side is an inspiring place to be!
Q: Favorite SSA memory?
A: Shady Side was the most enjoyable, transformative experience of my childhood, and so I am lucky to have countless good memories. The one that probably comes to mind most often is our upset of rival Kiski School in what was the final game of my senior football season. Football meant a lot to me in high school, but despite a lot of training and hard work, we did not win many games while I was at Shady Side. On that day, however, against a very strong opponent, with a beautiful snow falling over the whole scene, everything finally came together and my teammates and I inspired one another to perform beyond what we thought was possible. I reflect on that game to this day as an example of how much can be accomplished when people believe in each other and commit to a cause larger than themselves.
Q: What activities were you involved in?
A: I played football and basketball and wrote for the newspaper, serving as an editor my senior year. I was also in a number of clubs, including a fledgling sketch comedy troupe that ultimately produced a SNL-type show we called Tuesday Night Live, which was lots of fun to do and ended up being popular with the student body and faculty. It had some of the same energy as WSSA-TV!
Q: What was the college process like for you at Shady Side?
A: I was not admitted to my first-choice college. At the moment, I remember being very disappointed. But over time I began to appreciate this outcome as a blessing because it offered me unexpected gifts of resilience, humility and perspective. It also helped me to recognize and seize the learning opportunities that so often emerge in wake of a disappointment. And I ended up attending a college that was an absolutely perfect fit for me!
Q: Were SATs or APs a thing that you had to do as a high school student? If so, what did you do back then to prepare?
A: I don’t remember taking any AP exams, but the SATs were definitely something I thought about and prepared for – I actually took an SAT prep course that Mrs. Krauland taught here at SSA in the evenings. And it totally helped!
Q: Was the college admissions process as competitive as it is today?
With today’s increasingly global applicant pool and new technologies and systems allowing students to apply to seemingly countless schools, the college admissions process is definitely more competitive now than when I was at Shady Side. While I hope students will challenge themselves and aspire to the very best colleges and universities, I remain concerned about the burnout this new competitive reality can cause. For some students and families, the dash can begin as early as elementary school. My advice? Do your best to achieve but also be sure to enjoy your childhood. It’s the only one you will get.
Where did you attend college, what major did you choose and why?
A: Bucknell. I double majored in English and History. I guess I chose to study literature and history because I have always been compelled by stories; they help us to think creatively, know ourselves and others, and raise the good questions that inspire new ways forward. I rely on these skills daily as a teacher and school leader.
Q: Did Shady Side prepare you for college?
A: Undoubtedly. More importantly, Shady Side readied me for a life full of challenge and change.
Q: What, if anything, would you have changed about your experience at Shady Side?
A: I wish I would have developed relationships with a greater diversity of classmates. I generally got along with everyone but ultimately engaged a relatively small circle of close friends, likely missing out on daily opportunities to know peers who came from different backgrounds from me or had separate interests. So many of these classmates have gone on to significant careers and extraordinarily interesting lives – it is a reminder of the chance we have every day to extend ourselves to exceptional people and build meaningful friendships.
Q: What do you think you’ll change at Shady Side now that you’re the president? Goals/objectives/first project that you feel like tackling?
A: Before considering any significant school change, I am first looking forward to reacquainting myself with Shady Side. I want to spend time getting to know students, faculty, and parents and learning more about why people love this school and what they see as its greatest opportunities for the future. In the end, it’s going to be about focusing on the connections in the community that provide a sense of purpose, the friendships and relationships that inspire growth and make it all worthwhile.