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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

It's the Season for Squash (the vegetable and the sport) - by Quinn

To me, it only really starts to feel like Thanksgiving and winter are around the corner when the winter squash season starts. This year, I am playing squash for the third year. Going into freshman year, I had never played squash before and actually didn’t even know what it was. I was very intrigued that a school actually offered squash as a sport. Now as a junior, squash is definitely one of my favorite sports.

Squash is such a fun sport because in a match you play alone against your opponent, but on and off the court you are still part of a team that encourages and cheers you on. The season started last week with tryouts and twelve of us made the team. One of the good things about having a small team is that you become so close with everyone. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a freshman or a senior because we all practice together, travel together, and most importantly have fun together. Although the girls’ squash team didn’t win a lot of our matches last year, we still bonded and had a great time, and I am looking forward to doing the same this year.

I love the squash season because the boys and girls’ teams get to travel to Buffalo, New York to play matches against a few really good schools. Afterwards, we always eat at a delicious restaurant whose specialty are wings, and they have some insanely spicy wings. For the other sports I play, which are field hockey and track, we never travel outside of Pennsylvania so getting to go to New York is a great experience. We have new coaches this year, which is exciting because they are both amazing at squash and have a lot of great advice and skills to teach us. I can’t wait for our first match!

Posted by studentvoices in Athletics on Thursday November 19 at 08:36AM
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My Passion! - by Arman

When I first arrived at Shady Side, I was amazed by all of the clubs that were offered. I could not believe that this was a high school —not a college — with this many opportunities for students to pursue their passions. I saw clubs ranging from Speech and Debate, to Service Learning; the one club I did not see was a club for students interested in and who want to pursue medicine — however this was not a problem.

Last year, my good friend, Knox Coulter, and I decided to combine our shared passion for medicine to co-find the school’s first Pre-Med Club; what amazed us was the ability for us to create this amazing club. Our club was a huge success, as we had over 100 students sign up each of the past two years!

Last year we had several physicians and medical students come in to speak to our club members about their specific specialties within medicine. We had several neurosurgeons, internal medicine, and sports medicine physicians. We had a few physicians that were even worked on our hometown teams: the Penguins, the Steelers, and the Pirates!!

This year we have just recently partnered with Lending Hearts, an organization built on supporting pediatric cancer patients, and Surgicorps International — an organization built upon providing free surgeries to many developing countries.

For me, the Pre-Med Club is my outlet from school and my life. My peers and I gather together and just discuss our future aspirations, hope, and dreams. Shady Side provides the time and space for us — stressed high school students — to meet with busy, highly respected people in the medical field. I am really grateful for opportunity and cannot wait to see what else this year holds!

Posted by studentvoices in Extracurriculars/Activities on Wednesday November 18 at 08:02AM
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My semester at Oxbow in CA - by Rain

I’ve just made a few sketches for a sculpture about my imaginary sibling who “grew up” with me and always “supported” me, “listened to” my sass and gossips, and also “quarreled” with me a lot on silly subjects. I wanted to start this project because, born under the one-child policy in China, most people in my generation had such experiences with siblings. I have done some research on topics related to siblings, along with China’s one-child policy’s effects on the country and on individuals. In a few days I will be busy turning my ideas into reality and, on December 12th, I will present my sculpture to the public, as a conclusion of my experience at The Oxbow School.

Located in Napa, CA, Oxbow is a semester program for high school juniors and seniors focused on visual arts. It also provides academic courses to meet students’ sending high school’s graduation requirements. I decided to come to Oxbow soon after an Oxbow representative came to SSA and introduced this program to me last fall. I have always been making art on my own, and I knew that coming here to meet other young artists from all over the country would be a unique, life changing experience. (Learn more about SSA's semester programs)

It turned out that Oxbow is even more fantastic than I had imagined. Here we have painting, new media, printing and sculpture studios that are typically open for 7.5 hours a day. There are great faculty members who help us academically, artistically and in everyday life. Here we enjoy the California sunshine, stories and laughter from 42 other students, field trips to SF, amazing food, and love from the dogs and rabbits in the Napa Animal Shelter. In the past few months here, I tried so many forms of art including acrylic painting, sculpting with cardboards, filmmaking, printmaking, dyeing fabrics, weaving with leaves, manipulating flower pedals and spider webs, etc. I have never felt this enriched as an artist before.

Being away from SSA campus doesn’t mean being disconnected from home. Alisa Pugacheva (SSA senior) and I both came to Oxbow for its art prowess and are both still in touch with faculty, friends and clubs. I still check my email and SSA news regularly. I’m also still involved in the SSA clubs. As a robotics club member, I keep myself updated with the FTC tournament information so that I can jump right in when I get back. I try to help from afar as much as possible. I’m in charge of designing the team logo, t-shirt and hopefully also stickers and flyers. I’m also still in contact with the portfolio club by email. I can’t wait to meet the new club members and see how everyone else is doing back at SSA!

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Arts, Extracurriculars/Activities on Tuesday November 10 at 09:05AM
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A Life Changing Experience - by Noah

With the beginning of the school year, also comes the yearly foreign exchange program, and this year, students studying Spanish at Shady Side Academy had the wonderful opportunity to host an exchange student from Madrid, Spain for two weeks. This program will conclude with a two-week trip to Spain in the spring, which will include a brief visit to the beautiful city of Barcelona, and culminate with a 10-day experience in Spain’s capital of Madrid. I, luckily, was one of the Spanish students here at SSA who was selected to participate in this extraordinary program.

About two months ago, after much anticipation, the students from Madrid finally arrived. While waiting for my exchange student, Alonso, at the airport, I was a little bit nervous about what he would be like, because after all, he would be staying at my house and following me around school for the next two weeks. Prior to his arrival, I had communicated with Alonso a little bit over social media, but I still did not know him all that well. If we weren’t really into the same things, it would be a long two weeks. As it turned out, Alonso and I are very similar. Immediately after returning back to my house with him, we had our first opportunity to play soccer together. We went to a field nearby and played for hours, which was when we first really bonded.

Over the course of the two weeks we had together, I had many great opportunities to show Alonso what life is like for kids living in America. I took him to a Shady Side football game under the lights on a Friday night, which turned out to be the most exciting of the year because SSA ended up winning the game in overtime. Alonso got other opportunities to attend American sporting events as my family and I took him to both a Pirates’, and a Steelers’ game. In addition, I also got to show him the most breathtaking view of Pittsburgh from Mount Washington. On the last night of his trip, Alonso and I got the chance to go to Stage AE to see Pittsburgh’s own, Mac Miller, live in concert. It was an incredible way to end Alonso’s experience here in Pittsburgh.

During his brief stay in Pittsburgh, Alonso made a collection of friends here at Shady Side Academy. This school has made such a tremendous impact on him that he wants to try to attend SSA beginning next fall. Alonso has left just as much of an impression on the school as it left on him, as everyone here that had the chance to meet him misses him and hopes that he will one day return. I had an amazing time with Alonso while he was here and I can’t wait to visit him in Spain, meet his friends and family, and experience the life of a teenager living there. His two weeks in Pittsburgh are a time in which I hope he will never forget because I know that I will remember it forever.

Posted by studentvoices in Academics on Wednesday November 4 at 02:24PM
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Acting and Writing and Directing, Oh My! - by Abbie

Shameless plug for the fall play! As we’ve been moving along in rehearsals for The Crucible, and each run’s gotten more and more dramatic, I can’t help but grow increasingly excited for opening night. I can tell you I’ve been getting goosebumps already – it’s a beautiful play and our actors are doing a really great job with it. I hope you’ll help us sell out this year, as we have in past productions! Here’s where to buy tickets: http://www.shadysideacademy.org/page.cfm?p=3941

Shady Side’s Theater Department is, in my opinion, one of the school’s greatest gems. We hold three major performances each year: the fall play, the winter musical, and the spring Original Theater Works Festival. There are so many ways to get involved, from the traditional roles of acting, stage crew, or pit orchestra, to the more unique opportunities offered at Shady Side, including writing and student directing.

Writing was how I got my start in the Hillman – the summer before my freshman year I became involved in a rewrite of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to create a modern adaption with teenage characters for the fall play. I remember first meeting my fellow writers that summer in a Panera, along with the director Ms. Hardy-Bingham, and feeling instantly welcomed to the theater family, as well as the Shady Side senior school, by extension.

We continued adapting the next year, too, this time with a play by Henrik Ibsen, titled An Enemy of the People. Having worked two summers now on the rewriting process, Ms. HB offered me the open spot of assistant director, which proved to be a new and exciting experience. I found I really enjoyed the production side, and I have continued in this role ever since, alongside a student stage manager and a student set designer. That speaks to the wealth of opportunity Shady Side offers – the school has a way of helping us discover new interests that we otherwise might not have tried.

Before I wrap up, I want to mention my personal favorite of our school’s theater accomplishments. This was the rewrite for last year’s production of Moliere’s The Misanthrope. As part of a ten-person writing team, I spent much of my summer reworking the original text of the play, which was written in rhyming couplets. When we wrote our adaption, reworking the story to fit a high school setting and bringing the language up to date, we gave ourselves an extra challenge – to keep our modern version in the original meter and rhyme scheme. That we did! It was such a neat project to tackle, and it came with a HUGE sense of accomplishment when we finally brought it to the actors and saw it performed on stage.

Obviously, theater isn’t for everyone, but as you can see, there’s a lot more to it at SSA than what is at the surface! There really is a place for anyone who wants to get involved, and we all find our own little family in the Hillman.

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Arts on Thursday October 29
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A Bit of Fresh Fall Air - by Annika

One of my favorite things about Shady Side is the beautiful campus we have and the fact that it’s spread out - kind of like a small college! Especially now, with autumn in full swing and the leaves changing color on campus, I am reminded of how lucky we are to be on such a wonderful campus. It may seem tiring at first, but it is so nice being able to walk outside going from class to class. A bit of fresh air is always welcomed in the day, and gives us a bit of a breather between our rigorous classes. Whether it’s chilling outside on one of the many sunny spots on campus, eating lunch outside, or walking around the quad for an advisor meeting, we definitely don’t get the feeling that we’re trapped in a building all day.

One of my favorite places to study when it’s nice out is Fisher Gardens, a nice and (usually) quiet area outside of the library, with many tables and benches to work in a free period, have lunch with

a group of friends, or for people to hang out after school.

Sure in the winter it is a concern walking around in the freezing temperatures or icy roads, but the maintenance crew does such a good job making sure everything is safe outside that it isn’t a big worry. Plus, a favorite across the student body is to stop by the dining hall and pick up a hot chocolate on one of those snowy winter days.

The freedom SSA gives to us, the students, is really one of the best things about going to high school here. We can go anywhere we want on campus in our free periods instead of having to sit in an assigned room, and seniors get the awesome privilege of driving off campus in their free time provided they don’t miss class.

Took a couple pictures of my day at school today!

Posted by studentvoices in Reflections, School Life on Monday October 26 at 08:16AM
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Runners to the line, Set, Go - By Gannon

Running through the woods, jumping over roots, and dodging past trees, that is our sport. The Shady Side Cross Country team has taken great strides towards success during this year: both on the course and as a team. At the end of the season the team sits with a 4-3 record, but those numbers cannot highlight the true success of the year.

One of the great aspects of the cross-country team is the great friendship that grows between all of the members. Many people say that it takes a crazy person to want to run for thirty minutes to an hour each day, but that is not true. When the group of runners is comprised of friends, then running is a lot easier.At Shady Side, athletic success is not as important as personal growth and bonding. As each day goes on and each mile passes, every member grows closer to each other, and our family grows tighter. However, just because athletic success is not our number one priority does not mean that our team is not successful. Going into the WPIAL Championship meet next week our team is fully prepared to earn a top three team title and a trip to States the following week in Hershey.

All of this camaraderie and success starts with our two beloved coaches, who always encourage and inspire us. Whether on an easy run or after a tough meet our coaches constantly push us to improve or help us up when we are down. Every day, the coaches come in with an upbeat attitude and are ready to help us improve. Because of that, over the season our times have dropped, and we have grown closer together as a team.

Posted by studentvoices in Athletics, Faculty on Thursday October 22 at 05:24PM
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Parkin Fellowship: How it Changed My Perspective - by Sameer

I was granted a Parkin Fellowship for the summer of 2015, which I used to go volunteer on the Blackfeet Native American Reservation in northern Montana. I have long been fascinated and saddened by the current state of Native Americans in modern America, and it was actually seeing the poverty so many of them live in and learning about it in school that motivated me to take this journey. SSA offers a myriad of service opportunities, but Parkin Fellowships give students the chance to travel abroad to gain both a global perspective and a life-changing experience. I took a different route than my peers did by staying in the U.S., but I feel like I had an experience akin to theirs. I learned some great lessons along the way, about myself, my country, and about the life I have grown to appreciate that much more.

I went with a group that specialized in building projects, and we lived by the principle of “rez time,” which is an implicit part of reservation life. It basically entails that people have no fixed time structure to adhere to, making time slow down a lot and allowing work to be done slowly and surely. This was a gift, in many ways, as it allowed me to focus on the task at hand and do my best work. It helped me so much because suddenly I was not stuck wondering about the ten other things I needed to do, but just working. Consequently, my work was more purposeful, better done, and more worthwhile. In other words, I learned one of the most valuable lessons I ever will: work is often its own reward. I have always pursued goals and met deadlines, something that isn’t going to change a whole lot, but now it was all about making sure that I do my best and live with it.

My trip also gave me a great deal of perspective on my nation and my lifestyle. I have always been a huge history lover, and someone who adores his country. However, as I begin to see more of the problems Native Americans are facing, as well as the lack of coverage they receive, my patriotism has an ever-growing tincture of shame in it as well. I have been trained to be critical and open minded by everyone who has ever taught me, so experiences like my trip to Montana have shaped me to be honest with myself and reflect on the reality of America—the whole of America. I remember those cold showers in the dirty stall I shared with 15 other guys on the ranch where I stayed when I take my warm shower in my own bathroom everyday. I have been so lucky in my life, and the experience given to me by SSA has made me realize it yet again. The experience I had had, and will continue to, change my life.

Posted by studentvoices in Reflections, Extracurriculars/Activities on Monday October 19
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Supporting one another - by Mario

These past couple of weeks could have been really rough. Unfortunately, in the first game of the football season against Freeport, I dislocated my shoulder and had to be taken out of the game. In

an MRI later that week, I discovered that I had torn my labrum in three places. This meant that I would have to undergo season ending surgery and miss out on the pinnacle of my football career.

From the time of the injury to where I am now, I have received strong support from the caring community that surrounds me. All across the spectrum, everyone has made this process for me as smooth as possible. The faculty has been completely understanding of and accommodating to my injury. Whether it be a student holding the door for me or grabbing my books, these simple acts of kindness shine a positive light on the situation. I have never been more appreciative of Shady Side than right now in my life. This community has been unlike any other I have been a part of. Thank you, Shady Side! Almost three weeks out of surgery, I’m currently sitting on the lower field watching my team stretch. The sun is shining and it’s a Thursday afternoon, the last practice before the game. Everyone is tuned in and mentally prepared for what’s to come against West Shamokin tomorrow. The team knows that this a must win game in order to make the playoffs. Although I won’t be playing the rest of the season, it is my obligation to support them just as they’ve done the same for me.

Posted by studentvoices in Athletics, Faculty on Friday October 16 at 10:03AM
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There's a club for that! - by Arya

This year, my friend Sharon and I decided to start our own club which we have nicknamed SAWS (South Asian Women's Society). We wanted to start this club, because we wanted to get a group of people together who are:

Passionate about issues surround South Asian women and

Love or want to learn more about South Asian culture!

We planned our club out during a couple of free periods and by the next week, our club was approved and under way!

At Shady Side, there are a numerous number of clubs students can join based on their interests, such as Science Bowl or Angles (a journal publication at SSA), future goals, like Pre-med club, charitable clubs like Chiapas (a club that supports the education of children in Chiapas, Guatemala); the list goes on! As long as there are a few people interested in being part of a new club and a faculty member willing to sponsor it, it is pretty simple to start a club! Due to this, there are so many options to choose from! The best part is that you can be part of as many clubs as you want! If you love the Spanish culture, want to do charitable work, and test your science skills, there are clubs you can join to explore all those interests! And if you don't see a club that you like, you can start your own, just like I did with my friend Sharon! Since Sharon and I felt that there wasn't a club where we could talk about issues specific to South Asian women but also celebrate South Asian culture, we created the club SAWS. Currently, we are planning a club trip to the India in Focus festival that the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is hosting in the fall. We also are trying to partner with a local organization dedicated to women's health in South Asia.

Essentially, clubs are a great way to find people with mutual interests, participate in an activity that you love, or learn something new! After school and before sports, club meetings are a great way to do something you want to do for fun! My favorite part is that anybody can be part of any club as long as they want to be there! There are no deadlines or assignments due; it's what you make of it.

Posted by studentvoices in Extracurriculars/Activities, School Life on Tuesday October 13 at 03:24PM
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