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student voices blog

Our amazing group of Senior School student bloggers will share their personal experiences at Shady Side Academy throughout the year.

Meet our 2015-2016 bloggers.

Student Voices Bloggers

A Few Wise Words for Students from SSA Teachers - by Quinn

Sometimes high school can get pretty stressful, especially when you’re an upperclassman. I decided to ask some of my past teachers what advice they would give high school students on how to most enjoy their high school years.

My sophomore year English teacher, Mr. Hendershot, said, “Develop confidence and integrity; do not compare yourself to others. Recognize your own strengths.”

My freshman and junior year art teacher, Mrs. Batchelar, said, “Live in the moment. Put the screen down and look at the world around you.”

My Latin teacher, Ms. Belles, said, “I enjoyed my high school years as much as I did because I wasn’t all work all the time. I didn’t try to be perfect or the best in class, just the best for who I was (which honestly could change from day to day). So I worked hard enough, but also prioritized friends, family, and fun. I think the students who most enjoy HS, who are most HAPPY and therefore healthy, are those who aim for a balance.”

My sophomore year chemistry teacher and advisor, Mrs. Powers, said, “Try new things to discover new interests. Try not to be exclusive with friends. Branch out and spend time with a variety of students. Take advantage of teachers for extra help in and out of class as well as student tutors.”

My junior year English teacher, Dr. Barndollar, said, “High-schoolers should seek out the things (courses, activities, sports, clubs, etc.) they find most fulfilling and pursue those things to the fullest extent that their limitations of time and energy permit. They should not worry about trying to do what other people think they ought be doing – especially college admissions officers – since what impresses people the most is encountering others who have genuine passion, skill, and experience in any field of endeavor. Whatever students do, they should strive to expand their horizons of interest beyond merely themselves. They should recognize that one of the best ways to help oneself is to serve others. Last: students should make sure to take care of themselves. Ideally, keeping the right perspective about activities and being true to oneself will fit naturally with essential self-care.”

Posted by studentvoices in Reflections, Faculty on Monday February 8 at 09:13AM
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Home away from home by Xinquan Wang

As you have seen in the previous blogs, Shady Side is a very energetic and interesting community. We have students coming from many different places.

I am from Beijing, the capital city of China. I came to Shady Side last year as a sophomore. Studying in a foreign country at such a young age can be intimidating and challenging, especially when your family is not around. Although my transition was way easier than I expected with the warm help from teachers and students at SSA I still got homesick from time to time last year. This year, with more new students coming from China, my homesickness appears much less frequently. The boarding Chinese students at SSA have become a close group of friends. We hang out with our American friends during school days, but we sit together at dinner to catch up with each other. I even made a group chat so that we can let each other know what time are we going to have dinner together. We talk in mandarin about foods at the dining hall, the classes we are taking, interesting things that are happening on campus, soccer, comic books and our hometowns. Some of us are from the southern cities in China such as Shanghai, Kunming, some are from northern city such as Beijing. From talking about our hometowns, we also learn interesting facts and dialects in different part of our own country. It reminds me of home every time we laugh together at a pun or a joke in Chinese.

One of the most amazing things about studying at SSA is that I can make friends with different cultural backgrounds and nationalities, and yet still hang out with students who come from the same culture as mine.

Posted by studentvoices in Reflections, Boarding on Tuesday February 2 at 03:29PM
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V-squad takes the road - by Noah

With the hockey season in full swing, and the start of the new year, it was time for Shady Side Academy’s boy’s varsity ice hockey team to make its annual road trip to face Western Reserve Academy. The weekend match-ups were to be held at a neutral location in Youngstown, Ohio. The two games against the league’s defending champions were critical to the success of the season, especially because it was us who they had beaten in the finals. In other words, we were looking for another shot at them and the day had finally come.

Our brief journey began at the Senior School on a Saturday afternoon, as we loaded the bus and prepared for the ride. Although it was an hour and a half long trip, it provided the team with rest and even time to bond. Upon arrival at our hotel, we were given our rooms and headed up to get organized for our upcoming game at the Covelli Center, the home arena of the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms. Soon after, we left the hotel for a pregame team dinner, which provided us with even more time to grow closer as a team. Then came the game. Although it was a close game at the beginning, it soon became clear that we were not going to emerge victorious. The team performed poorly and the results showed it, with a final score of 9-3. It was not nearly the team’s best effort and we were well aware that we were capable of much more.

With our return to the hotel, came a night to think about the loss and how we were going to play differently the next day to ensure a contrasting outcome. We hung out in the lobby for a while as a team, before going to bed and getting a good night’s sleep for the game the next morning. When we woke in the morning, we ate a quick breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and set off for the final game of the weekend. This time, we were ready and determined to beat Western Reserve. The game began similarly to the previous one, with the score remaining relatively close. This time, however, it stayed close for the duration of the game. At the end of two periods, the score was 2-1. We had played well up to that point and we were bent on taking control of the game and winning. Unfortunately, it did not finish as planned; every time we added a goal, they matched it. The game ended with a final score of 6-4. Even though it was not the result we had hoped for, we realized our potential. After all, they are the defending champions for a reason. In addition, the team got a rare opportunity to bond. It was a positive experience for everyone and it was a trip that I look forward to each year as a member of the team.

Posted by studentvoices in Athletics on Thursday January 21 at 08:22AM
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An exhausting but exciting day: staffing a robotics tournament - by Rain

On Saturday, SSA senior school hosted an FTC (First Tech Challenge) tournament for the third time! 24 robotics teams arrived in the morning with their robots to compete, and the 12 teams with highest scores advanced to playoffs and competed for regional championship. Here’s the FTC website that explains this competition in detail: http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc

As the hosting school, we were not allowed to compete in this tournament, but our robotics team members participated as volunteers, which was just as fun and rewarding. We arrived early at the gym and helped taking the teams to the judges, which was an important part of preparation of the tournament. After the tournament started, we were responsible for finding the teams that were about to compete, taking them to the designated queueing area, and giving them some last-minute advice. The tournament proceeded very fast - each competition lasted for only three minutes, so we had to work fast to keep the events on schedule. We hardly had any breaks, but when we do, we were able to have a close look at the competitions:)

The day was long, and we were all exhausted when the tournament ended. But we were all glad we came because we met many other robotics teams and learned much from them and their robots. Many of those teams will meet us again as we ourselves participate in the next tournament on February 14. Now it’s time to put some work into our own robot and get ready for our show time!

Volunteering at Saturday’s tournament was also rewarding for me personally, because it brought me back to hard-working robotics after my semester away from SSA, at a semester program. Although I kept in contact with the team when I was away, I always wanted to see the robot and attend meetings myself. I’m excited for catching up with the team and I look forward to contributing to it in real life.

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Extracurriculars/Activities on Tuesday January 19 at 11:55AM
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The Teachers in Our Community by Annika Dhawan

Obvious by the last couple blog posts of school events and spirit, community is a large part of Shady Side. Because we are not a huge student body, students are especially tight knit here and are involved in each other’s lives and school events. But the sense of community that I especially appreciate is the bond between teachers and students at this school.

Over the years at SSA I have realized how easy it is to talk to and connect with my teachers, and have realized how helpful it is to me as a student. Shady Side teachers are always willing to talk to you in class and especially out of class. At a school with classes as rigorous as ours, it is necessary even for the best students to at some point have to meet with teachers for help or guidance. The doors to the teacher departments are always open and students can meet with their teacher or other teachers in the department with ease. I can safely say that I have never been scared or intimidated to ask a question in class or come up to a teacher in the halls or in my free periods.

Not only there for help with schoolwork, though, I have found that building relationships with my teachers has been one of the best things at this school and has made life in and out of class easier, because you have more people supporting and caring for you. I have gotten to know some of my teachers, especially the ones who have taught me several times, really well and I know I can come up to them to talk about any problems I have or just to talk about life. You’d be surprised to know that some adults in our community are also very interesting and funny people! Knowing that you have your friends as well as close teachers there for you is extremely comforting, and seriously makes high school life more bearable. Meeting with my advisor every cycle is one of the best parts of my day and really helps me de-stress. Here at SSA, it is common for teachers to become your friends. Often you’ll see deans and faculty (many of whom also happen to be coaches) stopping by the student center to chat with students, or juniors and seniors stopping by to talk with the college counselors. I don’t know how easy or difficult it is to connect to teachers on such a personal level in other schools, but I know how lucky I am to have such a great faculty to guide me and to see on a daily basis, and to be completely comfortable around. Our student-teacher dynamic is one of my favorite things about this school!

Posted by studentvoices in Faculty on Friday January 15 at 09:52AM
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A Peek Into Independent Studies by Arya

"What would you like to talk about today?" Dr. Wroble, my independent study advisor asks me as we sip tea or talk over lunch. This is probably my most relaxed, but most challenging class. My class is entitled "Genetic and Physiological Bases of Human Behavior." I am taking it as my science class for the whole year as a grade. This year, the science classes that I wanted to take would force me to drop Philosophy or AP Spanish, both classes that I really wanted to take. Therefore, I created my own class; I can learn what I want to instead of taking an already offered course that might interest me for a few chapters or units. This is by far my favorite class, because it is a very relaxed environment, the pace goes in accordance with my schedule, and requires me to think about concepts that are incredibly challenging to grasp at first but fascinating once I understand them. Currently, I have been creating a proposal for the past few months of better methods of managing surgical stress in order to improve surgical outcome. I work with Dr. Wroble through the challenging academic journals that I draw my information from for my proposal. Through this course, I have not only understood more about the connection between the mind and body, but also confirmed my interest in academic medicine. Science isn't the only type of course that one can take through Shad Side's independent study programs. My sister is currently in a year long Italian independent study. She also took a history independent study last year entitled "How United is the United Kingdom?" Some of my friends are in writing independent studies, higher math independent studies, etc. It is essentially anything you want to learn and an SSA faculty member who can help you along your learning process. The possibilities are endless, especially with the amazing faculty here at SSA. My independent study is a class that I really enjoy taking, and is just one more reason why I love being an SSA student!

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Faculty on Thursday January 7 at 06:23PM
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A World of Support – Students and Faculty Getting Us through College App Season - by Abbie

As everyone knows, the first half of the school year is a busy and stressful time for seniors. This is when we do the bulk of our work on college applications and start getting answers back from the schools we’ve applied to early. As Dickens would say, it is the best of times and the worst of times – but I will be the first to tell you that SSA students and faculty alike are extremely supportive of everyone going through the process.

I know from experience that you don’t have to be the most popular kid in school to receive a rush of congratulations after hearing good news. Students you’re super close with and students you haven’t had a class with in years will all go out of their way to say they’re happy for you, and it feels wonderful to know this sense of comradery exists at your school. On the other side of that, students in need of a shoulder to lean on can find it without difficulty. I’ve known teachers to give great pep talks, and I also know that the sense of empathy in such a small student body travels quickly through the class.

All of us at Shady Side are at a great advantage in the college process, thanks to our knowledgeable college counselors and the closeness we have with our teachers. With the competitive nature of today’s college admissions, it sometimes feels like everyone has a perfect SAT score and runs at least a dozen clubs. It can seem almost impossible to stand out from the crowd, but our counselors and teachers know us well enough to bring out the human side perfectly in their outstanding recommendation letters. Everything that makes Shady Side special, in my opinion, comes back to the wonderful teachers who care so much about us.


Working with my counselor, Mr. Colt, has honestly felt like making a new friend. We’re both history nerds, so I love walking into his office to some joke about one of my favorite presidents or a book recommendation based on what he’s reading at the time. He’s always there to answer my questions or sign a scholarship form, but he’s always there for a laugh as well. I’m very thankful for the time he’s taken to get to know me beyond the grades and resume – it’s really been a lot of fun. After I was admitted to my first choice college, I also realized how helpful it was to have a counsellor who really knew me, and who could so effectively put my personality into a one-page rec letter.

I’m also very close with the two teachers who wrote my other recommendations. The first is Ms. Garvey, whom I’ve had as an English teacher for two terms and as an advisor for two years. I always look forward to our cyclical advisee meetings, because I know I can talk to her about literally anything, and could do so well past the end of a fifty-minute period. She is a patient, caring listener, and always has something wise and/or witty with which to respond. The other is Ms. Whitney, whom I had for a trimester of Trig, and then for BC Calculus Part 1 and 2 my sophomore and junior years. BC Calc is known to be one of the hardest courses at Shady Side, and most every student goes through a mini-breakdown at some point on the road to the AP exam. When my time came, Ms. Whit was more than ready to channel my frustration into positive energy. She knew me well enough to identify exactly what item of my personality was tripping me up (the woes of a perfectionist!) and also to recommend that I take some time for myself listening to Talking Heads (which she knew was my favorite band).

It is truly a gift to attend a school where the teachers really care about their students’ well-being and the students are so aware of one another. While I am especially appreciative of these facts during college application season, I know they’ve been true ever since I first started at SSA. In fact, I would say these are some of the big reasons I’ve been able to achieve as much as I have in my time here.

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Faculty, College on Monday January 4
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A Community Experience - by Anya

Last month, Shady Side Academy students and faculty took time out of their busy schedules to save the lives of multiple people by donating blood. Because one has to be at least 16 years old to donate blood, this opportunity was mainly open for juniors and seniors. Now that I am a junior, I finally had the opportunity to donate this year! At first, I was really hesitant, because I know drawing blood is not a fun experience, so the idea of drawing blood for 20 minutes was scary. Despite my fears, I decided to take the plunge. When I was finally situated on the chair feeling frightened as ever, I look around and saw that I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by students and faculty who sensed my fear, and encouraged me. As I was sitting down, my former math teacher Mr. Felder, gave me a head nod and a smile, which reassured me that I was doing the right thing. When the needle finally went in, looking at it terrified me. Instead of looking at it, I took this opportunity to spend a solid 20 minutes talking to Mr. Felder, and other students, whom I had never spoken to. Donating blood allowed me to bond with other teachers and students. When the needle was finally drawn out, I was told that I saved about three lives with this blood! Wow! It's incredible how in the time I was talking to teachers and students, I was able to save three lives! That day, I walked in feeling terrified, but the SSA teachers and students helped me overcome my fears by talking to me, and distracting me from the the needle in my arm. It was an amazing experience that revealed to me how much of a community our school really is.

Posted by studentvoices in Reflections, Faculty on Wednesday December 23, 2015 at 02:02PM
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School Spirit - by Gannon

A newly created A Capella group, the band concert, SSA Idol, and weekend hockey games, what do these things all have in common? All of these groups are able to thrive at Shady Side due to the support and camaraderie that all of us students share with each other.

One of the most special aspects of the students at Shady Side is that they all have a strong school spirit and school pride. No matter if it is Friday nights for football games, basketball games, or hockey games, there will be students out to cheer on their friends and their school. While school pride and spirit are by no means solely attributes of Shady Side students, it seems so impactful on students here. Each time a student steps out of his or her comfort zone to perform, it seems like the entire student body is on their side willing them to do there best. This is truly a special thing to have at a school because it creates an environment where no student feels like they will be judged for their passions. The same happens at sports games throughout all three seasons. Whether the Tribe is out and about for lacrosse, football, hockey, or any of the other sports at Shady Side, there will always be students supporting and rooting for each other. Because of this environment of comfort for all students, the arts and athletics are able to flourish at Shady Side.

Posted by Mrs. Mihm in Arts, Athletics, School Life on Monday December 21, 2015 at 01:47PM
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Choir is in the festive spirit - by Sameer

It is a not-so-frosty middle of December, but despite the lack of winter weather, Chamber Choir is still in a festive spirit! With the December 16 Winter Assembly Concert upon us, we have been intensely rehearsing our two pieces before we perform in front of the student body. The first, a piece we will be doing with the Concert Choir, is a four-part a cappella arrangement of the classic tune "Hallelujah" (like the one from "Shrek"), and the second is a Michael Jackson medley, arranged by our conductor Dr. Brill. The medley includes some of Jackson's most famous pieces, from "I Want You Back" to "Man in the Mirror." We follow the King of Pop's evolution and celebrate his revolution in this piece. The two are very different pieces, but are both a joy to sing. The former emphasizes dynamics and mandates that we carefully listen to the other sections, while the latter requires us to enunciate and sing energetically. It has been a process perfecting the pieces, but with everyone's hard work, Dr. Brill's support and honesty, and our talent as a group, we are in good shape. The concert promises to be everything this winter hasn't been, which is good news for us all.

Posted by Mrs. Mihm in Arts on Monday December 14, 2015 at 01:49PM
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