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student voices blog

Summer is officially here and our bloggers are off on new adventures. Our recent graduates are headed to such schools as George Washington University, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Pittsburgh and New York University, and we will miss their insights about SSA. The juniors will be back in the fall with a new set of bloggers to join their ranks. If you are not a regular follower of our blog, please dive in as there is a lot here which we hope you will enjoy. We will see you in September!

Meet our 2014-2015 bloggers.

Student Voices Bloggers

Books Out, Party’s On - by Elena

The library at SSA is a very unique haven for students. Not only do students read, do work here, and hang out, but they also participate in a number of fun yet meaningful (very bookish) activities.

Belated Banned Books Week was celebrated during Sept. 21-27. That is right, Harry Potter should not be banned because it includes magic or some other book because of swear words. To spook it up, there was a Halloween Party in the library on that fated day (aka Oct 31). Aaah! A zombie just crossed the street! Monsters were parading! Just kidding…but everyone (who was brave enough) was invited for some sccccary treats and a spooktacular night…

Just newly created, the monthly Hot Chocolate Book Club discussions in the fall focused on books such as the smash hit Faults in Our Stars and…hot chocolate. Isn’t it wonderful to snuggle up, down some sweet liquid, and chat feverishly with fellow bookworms?

To get into the spirit of winter jolliness, there was a Holiday Tree Trimming Party in December. That is right, you get to put your brilliant decorating skills to work. As always, food was provided—yummy holiday treats and much more!

Mwhaha, you never expected this, did you? There was a Battle of the Books competition in the winter, sponsored by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Basically, interested bookworms read most or preferably all of the books on the Battle of the Books list and remembered a handful of trivia about these books. The competition quizzed on their knowledge such as about character, the setting, or important events in four rounds of questions. Definitely a worthwhile mental challenge!

The annual Library Games began in April to celebrate National Library Week. Clues about books were scattered all throughout the campus in very secret nooks…Students’ job was to find a clue using Sherlock’s skills, answered the question being posed, and dropped their answers in a designated box. The reward for all that brainwork? Gift cards from Amazon, Target, Barnes and Noble, Panera, iTunes and other cool prizes! May the odds be ever in your favor! Thank you, Effie, you can stop talking. The annual ice cream party ended this fun event (and mind you, people were very good at snatching away ice cream before it was gone).

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Extracurriculars/Activities on Monday May 18 at 08:13AM
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SSA @ U.S. Supreme Court - by Arya

Over spring break, some members of the SSA debate team were given the chance to go see a Supreme Court hearing in Washington, D.C. An SSA alumnus,  Dr. Zachary Kaufman '96, is one of four supreme court associates, and was able to give 10 tickets to our team. Going to the Supreme Court was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. The case we heard was Bank of America vs. 2 debtors who had filed bankruptcy. The financial jargon was a bit hard to understand, but essentially the case involved the issue of second liens. The debtors argued that since their first lien was underwater, the second liens are valueless as well.  Bank of America, the lender, was arguing that the second lien in fact did have value since the housing market rises and falls, culminating to the point that there is really no such thing as a valueless lien. A more detailed overview can be found on the Wall Street Journal link posted http://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-to-review-second-mortgage-bankruptcy-liens-1416259357 if you are interested in learning more about it.

Aside from the case hearing, getting to watch the judges and the whole process was not what I thought it would be like. Although court officers constantly patrolled the general seating area, the hearing was somewhat laid back. Justice Scalia was pretty funny when asking questions to the each lawyer, but the lawyers may not have thought so since it occassionally caught them off guard. Justice Roberts also made an unintended joke, saying something along the lines of liens underwater being completely fluid. Overall, there was certainly more laughter in the courtroom than I would have expected.

After the hearing, we took a tour of the Supreme Court, and met another Supreme Court associate, a colleague of Dr. Kaufman, who gave us a private lecture about how the Supreme Court works. My favorite part of the tour was seeing some of the portraits of the justices I had written about for history essays, like Salmon P. Chase and Robert Taney in my Civil War essay. Unfortunately, all the photos that are posted are from the tour and not the hearing, since no photography was allowed. Still, both the tour and observing the hearing were pretty great, and it was really amazing of Dr. Kaufman to get us those tickets. This was definitely the best part of my spring break, and an experience I'll never forget. 

Posted by kmihm in Extracurriculars/Activities, Alumni on Wednesday April 29 at 08:40AM
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May Music - by Lauren

There are two things coming up that I am really excited for.  First of all, on May 11-12, the Original Works Theater Festival is taking place in the black box. (the room where all the plays take place)  Secondly, the Senior Honors Concert is scheduled for May 13.

The Original Works Theater Festival is a really cool opportunity for students to showcase their original work.  Mrs. Hardy-Bingham’s playwriting classes have written plays, students have written scenes, some have written songs, and others have written poems.  This is my first time performing in this festival, but I am so excited because I will be singing a song I wrote and acting in another student’s scene.  One thing that makes this festival unique is that the students participating in it can decide the amount of time they would like to put in.  For example, some scenes are 10 minutes and require people with flexible schedules, and others are short and the actors can hold the scripts in their hands while performing.  I encourage all to come and watch!

The Senior Honors Concert is also a really fun opportunity.  This will be my third year performing in it, and I will be singing the song “The Best Day” by Taylor  Swift.  This concert is unique because it highlights the seniors and anyone who would like to perform a specialty number can volunteer.  It is the last concert of the year, and probably the most interesting to come see. 

I hope many of you can come watch both of these awesome events!

Posted by kmihm in Arts, Happenings on Monday April 20 at 05:47PM
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Chiapas Connection - by Harper

Although this is my senior year here at SSA, I still try my best to be involved with the community as much as possible.  Whether it's through joining new sports or classes, I like meeting new people and trying new things. This year I made sure to join Shady Side's "Chiapas" club which was set up by the head of SSA's foreign language department, Dr. McGreevy-Morales in order to sponsor and fund six school children in Chiapas Mexico to go to school.  

In this club, we meet every Wednesday and plan different ways to raise money through various Bake sales, fundraisers, and raffles.  Most recently, a group of my friends and I from this club went to a few local restaurants and asked for gift cards and special deals which we could raffle off to the community in order to spread the word and raise money. Our next milestone is to raise another $400 for the students in Mexico by the end of the year, we plan to do this by participating in the “Dine-n-Donate” program at our local “La Cappella” restaurant where for every customer who presents a Chiapas voucher to their server automatically donates 20% of their bill towards our Chiapas club. It’ll be a great way for us to not only raise money for a great cause, but also get a great opportunity to support one of our local businesses in the process.

Aside from all of the positive things we are doing for these six children in Chiapas Mexico, we are always having a great time at every one of our Chiapas club meetings. It’s always a fun environment filled with students who are anywhere from freshmen through seniors, looking to both help others and make friends with students of all ages. It really goes to show that clubs can be a lot more than just meetings, but a chance for students to get to know one another better, get involved with the community, and support students everywhere.


Posted by kmihm in Extracurriculars/Activities, Faculty on Monday April 13 at 02:12PM
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The Briefest Interview on Earth - by Elena

The Terse Interviewer: Hello! My name is Cindy…Let’s dive into this interview! What do you like most about SSA?

Me: Glad you asked! I love how teachers are always there for you, clichéd or not, whether it’s for school-related things such as papers or if you just needed someone to talk to. Specifically, when you are assigned (or choose in sophomore, junior, and senior years) your advisors, you really get close with them because even if they aren’t in the field you’re most interested in or they aren’t your teachers, they support and challenge you in so many ways. It’s amazing the strength of this community, from teachers to students, that continues to push everyone to new heights.

The Terse Interviewer: Are there extracurricular activities?

Me: Tons - Definitely! Every year, there’s a club fair in which these clubs set up shop and “force” students to sign up via food and other incentives. From math team to mock trial, a lot of these are student-run and student-based such as bringing in guest speakers, organizing bake sales, or volunteering at charities.

The Terse Interviewer: What’s special about the sports here?

Me: Well, when it’s time for competitions, people get superstitious and super serious, but there is still a strong sense of bonding among the teammates and the coaches. That is also due to the loud and positive cheering on the sidelines, from cheerleaders to “rowdy” students. People here are very committed to their sports, and I guess that’s why they’ve made to WPIAL quarter-finals, earned WPIAL or other league titles, or won section titles. Hashtag TRIBEVIBE! (Being poetic: That vibe is very much alive…)

The Terse Interviewer: What’s your favorite campus hangout place?

Me: Ooh, that’s tough! I’d say either the library or the computer lab because I enjoy quiet spaces, whether with books or computers. The library is cozy and very easy to sleep in (I confess that I’ve fallen asleep in one of those super plushy/soft chairs!) while the computer lab is a bit more chilled and very workspace-friendly—I get a lot of my homework done there.

The Terse Interviewer: What class would you recommend others to take?

Me: The philosophy class! I’ve always wanted to take this class; students learn in discussion-based and journal-oriented classroom setting.

The Terse Interviewer: Last question! If you have to do an acronym for SSA, what would it be?

Me: This is a fun one! It would be: Smiley Students Association!

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Extracurriculars/Activities, Faculty on Thursday April 9 at 08:05AM
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Disney Dreaming - by Mario

Term 2 has come to an end. The last days of a cold February have ended, but snow and frigid temperatures are still here and it appears that they will be staying for quite some time. How are teams supposed to practice in these wintery and dreadful conditions that still loom over Pittsburgh? Shady Side Academy has the answer!

Some of the best news that I heard when first applying to Shady Side was that during the spring, the SSA Baseball Team ventures on a weeklong trip to the warm and wonderful Orlando, Florida. Having the opportunity to travel on this trip both my freshman and sophomore years, I can say that it has been the highlight of my time at the academy so far.

The trip down to Florida has been crucial to the success that SSA baseball has acclaimed over the past years. While most other teams in the WPIAL are practicing inside a gym, SSA has the luxury of participating in spring training at ESPN’S Wide World of Sports. I mean what baseball player wouldn’t want to be playing baseball in 70 degree weather and perfectly groomed fields for nearly a week long? The opportunity to be able to practice in perfect conditions and play against other prestigious high schools in Florida has proved a significant advantage when it comes time for the team to start WPIAL play.

Aside from the excellent baseball experience of the trip, players also get to enjoy and relax in Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. This fun-filled paradise has numerous amenities ranging anywhere from relaxing by the private pools to playing beach volleyball in the sand with the rest of your teammates. Not only do players get to enjoy the numerous activities at the resort, they also get to experience the world famous parks at Disney World. This aspect of the trip provided time for the team to bond in ways that most other baseball teams don’t have the opportunity to do. Being able to spend a week with your team provides the necessary chemistry to win championships and succeed as one team, not individually.

Ever since freshman year, the baseball players that went on the trip are considered to be some of my closest friends here at Shady Side Academy. The trip has been a highlight for SSA baseball players since the 1960’s and I believe it is an integral component to the success of SSA Baseball. Come out and support the baseball team this year! Go Indians! 

Posted by Mrs. Sheehan in Reflections, Athletics on Tuesday March 31 at 01:36PM
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Physics Contest at SSA - by Roy

When I received an email from Mr. Skinner about three weeks ago with the subject “YOU MADE THE CUT!” I almost jumped out of my chair with excitement. I had qualified to take the USAPhO physics contest.

Let’s start at the beginning, when Mr. Skinner sent out an email to the student body announcing a unique opportunity: students could compete in the F=MA physics contest for free. The F=MA exam, named after Newton’s second law of motion (force equals mass times acceleration), is a high school physics competition run by the American Association of Physics Teachers and American Institute of Physics. The test is designed to select the team to represent USA at the International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) held this year in Mumbai, India.

Five SSA students, including myself, signed up to take the 25-question, 75-minute F=MA exam, which covers advanced physics topics such as mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, fluid motion, relativity, nuclear physics, waves, and optics. The five of us took the test in the morning before school, two weeks before Spring Break. Mr. Skinner reported results about a week after the test. Shady Side had achieved its highest average score in its history of participating in the contest, 12 problems out of 25. All SSA contestants correctly answered at least 10 problems. I met the cutoff score of 18 problems and qualified for the next round, the USAPhO. It was the first time—ever—that an SSA student had qualified.

The United States Physics Olympiad is a 3-hour, six-question proof-based exam. Only 250 students take it nationwide. Once this exam is complete, the top 20 scorers attend an intense training camp in Maryland to prepare for the International Physics Olympiad. I just took the USAPhO this morning, and it was mind-bendingly difficult. I think I correctly answered parts of two problems. I wish good luck to the top 20 scorers (I’m pretty sure I didn’t make that cut) as they prepare to compete internationally!

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Honors/Achievements on Friday March 27 at 04:49PM
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My Senior Night - by Mara

I have finally finished my illustrious career in high school swimming and it has been a blast. I can remember the feeling of entering my first high school swim season as a freshman and feeling as if the day when all the crazy scheduling and work would never come to a grinding halt. However, that day came and it came fast on February 12th Senior Night where we swam against Springdale. I have never been more excited and enjoyed a sporting evening as much as I did that night.

First I would like to give a shout out to all the people who made our senior posters. They were the best I have ever seen. Each one was perfectly tailored for each senior. There were six of us: Ben Skinner, Brendan Leech, Robert Davies, Elizabeth Ejzak, Emily Jaffe and myself.

I also want to give shout outs to those who qualified for wpials which were at the Pitt pool starting around 10:00am on February 20-21st. Kudos and congrats to William Liu who qualified for 3 events: 100 breast, 200 IM, and a relay. Christian Taylor who qualified in 100 back, Olivia Lyda and Emily Jaffe in 100 fly, and Ben Skinner who qualified in 200 free. Due to timing of this blog see News section for final results.

The magic was there that night as it always seems to be. Senior night is when the crowd is behind every swimmer in way that it seems like the crowd will jump into the lane and swim the race for that person. There are a lot of things I will miss and one of them is the encouragement and support of my teammates. I will miss the people who I could talk, laugh, and dance with on the side of pool. I will miss seeing my friends dropping one, two, three, four, even five seconds off their 50’s or 100’s. I will miss congratulating swimmers for their hard work and dedication, but I will miss the team itself the most.

So, I want to end this note by thanking my teammates and my coaches. My coaches in particular have made my swimming experience the best that it could possibly be.

Posted by studentvoices in Reflections, Athletics on Wednesday March 4 at 03:28PM
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Chamber Choir - by Lauren

One of my favorite classes here at SSA is Chamber Choir.  There are two choirs, Chamber and Concert, and Chamber is the audition group.  I remember I auditioned when I was in 8th grade, and even though it was pretty intimidating to sing in a quartet in front of high school Chamber Choir members, it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.  I've been a member of this choir since freshman year, and I've made so many friends because of it.  

We have around 4 concerts each year, and we sing a great variety of music, ranging from the Beach Boys to Debussy.  I have learned so much from this class, such as how to sight sing and how to improve the sound of my vowels, and it has allowed me to become more comfortable on stage.  Dr. Brill is such a good teacher, and he has helped me become the performer I am today.  Anytime I need help with my music during my free periods, he is a available and willingly helps.

I strongly encourage any student who is interested in music to audition this spring because it such a great experience.  


Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Faculty on Thursday February 26 at 12:02PM
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Why Speech and Debate - by Arya

For the past three years, I have been part of the speech and debate team at Shady Side. It's been fun, but also very intense. I participate in public forum, which is a type of debate format where relevant topics are discussed like worldwide poverty or privacy encroachment. One of my favorite topics was when we debated this topic: "Resolved: The Supreme Court rightly decided that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act violated the Constitution." The topic changes month to month, so if you're not a fan of one topic, you won't have to argue for it for very long. I've tried some other events too during my time with this club. I tried Parliamentary debate, which is much less evidence based than public forum (a good thing in my opinion). I've also tried a speech event, Prose, where you theatrically and expressively read a piece from a story, a novel, etc. Although I didn't have much success  in that event, I did have a lot of fun seeing other people who clearly practiced a lot read their pieces.

Debate is fun, but it is also very intense. In order to do well, especially at national tournaments, one has to prepare a lot. This can be hard, balancing debate with schoolwork, and for me, it can be very stressful. Even though its a lot of hard work, when you do well, you feel really good about yourself as you do with anything when you prepare a lot.  Although actual debating is very intense and stressful, it has helped me a lot in ways I wouldn't have thought it would. Debate has helped me a lot in the classroom. I am a lot more confident in historical class debates, and public speaking isn't really a problem for me. Participating in public forum, I've learned a lot about controversial current events, and since public forum is research intensive, I've also become better at finding pieces of evidence for essays or papers that we have to write. It has especially been helpful this year, junior year, with all the papers that I have to write and the greater amount of class presentations I have to deliver. Overall, debate was certainly worth it, because it made me a lot more confident in my public speaking abilities and my debating abilities, which I think will help me not just in high school, but for my whole life. 

Posted by studentvoices in Academics, Extracurriculars/Activities on Tuesday February 24 at 08:01AM
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