Growing Our Own Food

Last weekend, Athenian teamed up with The Urban Farmers to begin the process of planting a fruit orchard below Athenian’s baseball field.  Take a look at the video above made by Siamack of The Urban Farmers to see the progress that’s been made so far.  The next opportunity to get involved with this community project is this Saturday, February 2.  Sign up by clicking on the appropriate link here.

Orchard copy

Netball, Saturday School, Tea and Uniforms: Study Abroad in the United Kingdom

Two Athenians are currently studying abroad with sister Round Square schools in the United Kingdom.  Tope F. ’13 is studying at the Abbotsholme School in England and Lauren S.D. ’15 is at The Gordonstoun School in Scotland.  Both Tope and Lauren will be in England and Scotland for about two months and will be chronicling their experiences on The Athenian Exchanges Blog.

Tope Arrives at Abbotsholme

abbotsholme school

My first few weeks at Abbotsholme have been filled with meeting new people, getting settled in my cabin, and traveling around the area.

I flew out of SFO on British Airway’s daily direct flight to Heathrow Airport.  Because of a late take-off from SFO, I had the misfortune of having 20 minutes to run through the busiest airport in the world (Heathrow) to make my flight to Manchester. I landed in Manchester at around 1:30pm (England time) where I was met by a private hire taxi who drove me about an hour to the countryside, which is where the Abbotsholme School is located. Upon being dropped off, I was taken to the sixth form boarding house (years 11 and 12 in America), Barnfield, commonly known as the cabins. There are a total of five cabins, which are mini-houses equipped with full kitchens. My cabin has five other girls: one exchange from New Brunswick Canada, two gap years, and two Chinese girls.

That night, I was formally introduced all of the boarding sixth formers in our house meeting and was told the basic ins and outs of being a boarder. After the meeting, it was time to go back to our cabins to get ready for bed and for our first day of class. I was very grateful because I was completely exhausted from my day of traveling.  Read more.

Lauren’s first 24 hours at Gordonstoun

So far, my first 24 hours at Gordonstoun have been filled with new surprises and excitement (plus a little jet lag). Right now, I am writing to you from the common room (which is full of squashy arm chairs and bean bags) of Hopeman house, the place where I am staying while at Gordonstoun.Lauren

My journey began on Wednesday around 4:45 pm (San Francisco time) when my flight to London took off. I arrived in London around 10:40 am (Scotland time) and I just made my flight to Aberdeen which left at 11:40. Mr. Smit, the father of my exchange Hannah Smit (who is now at Athenian) and the Chaplain and ISC teacher at Gordonstoun, picked me up and gave me a ride to the school. I learned that I was “in the sticks” now, because our drive was in the country and filled with rolling hills, trees, farms, and quite a bit of sheep. Read more.

More Exchange Stories:

The Beat Goes On…Athenian Students Get Into the Rhythm of South Africa

Haley Goes to India

Comment Dites-Vous Athenian?

Athenians on Exchange

Junior Nominated for Volunteer Scholarship

Jamey Smart ’14 was featured on CSN Bay Area’s Cal Hi Sports for his nomination for the Student Volunteer Award.  The Volunteer Award, sponsored by Lexus of Stevens Creek, recognizes student athletes who champion the spirit of volunteerism.  Jamey was nominated for his international experiences focused around baseball.  Between a service trip to El Salvador building houses and  teaching a baseball clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, Jamey has repeatedly paired his baseball enthusiasm and skill with service to others.

Service Abroad

Athenian student Jamey Smart ’14 went on the El Salvador interim trip last spring.  He was so inspired by their work in a village there that he wanted to return with baseball equipment for the children.  He contacted Chris Burman, the Athenian teacher who organized the trip and had worked in the village as a Peace Corps volunteer, to see if this might be possible.  A trip to El Salvador was more than Chris felt was doable, but he did have contacts in Tijuana and was willing to take Jamie there.  Jamey recruited a friend to help and the two of them, plus Chris and his young son, headed down to Tijuana for four days this summer.  Jamey and his friend led three clinicas de beisbol for young people in Tijuana.  As part of the clinics, Jamey distributed a large assortment of donated baseball prizes he had collected including bats, gloves, helmets, catchers gear, hats, balls, and equipment bags.  Jamey showed initiative and follow-through in organizing this project, which was a big success.   Congratulations to Jamey and Chris for their outstanding work. — Mark Friedman, Director of Community Service

Chris put together this video of their trip:

Debut of Athenian’s First Competitive Equestrian Team

Athenian launched an equestrian team this year.  They had their first horse show this past weekend and all the riders ribboned in every class.

Athenian’s equestrian team participates in Hunt Seat, a form of English riding.  Competitions include both flat and over fences for show hunters (horses) and participants are judged on the horse’s movement and form as well as the rider’s ability. Riders are placed in different classes according to ability and experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with the “game play” of a horse show, riders are expected to draw a different horse per class.  One of the challenges of this competition is that the riders have never ridden their horse or sat the tack until they start the competition.  Riders are given a horse list with names, height, breed, personality traits, and riding hints.  They jump two warm up jumps and then officially complete the jumps.  Each rider performs a series of “tests” drawn from the following:

  1. Asked an appropriate horsemanship question that is tailored to the rider’s ability level.
  2. Halt
  3. Sitting trot.
  4. Two point position at the walk and/or trot.
  5. Figure eight at trot, demonstrating change of diagonals.
  6. Figure eight at canter on correct lead, demonstrating simple change of lead.
  7. Change Horses
  8. Ride without stirrups.
  9. Change leads down center of ring, demonstrating simple change of lead.
  10. Canter on the counter lead. No more than eight horses may counter canter at one time.
  11. Half-turn on forehand and/or half-turn on haunches.
  12. Jump a shortened course.
  13. Trot a jump not to exceed 2’6”.

Show Results

Saturday’s show was at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville.  Although rainy, muddy, and cold, the team performed with excitement and success.

Niki drew one of the smallest horses for one of her classes, a 12.2 hand pony and Ginger drew the largest horse there, 17 hands. As one of the tallest and shortest riders respectively it was an entertaining challenge for both of them. All the riders handled their horses well and are looking forward to their next show, a home show at Iron Horse on Jaunary 19.

Class1A Varsity Open Equitation o/f 2’6″
Ali – 2nd

Class 4A Future Intermediate Equitation o/f 2′
Ginger – 6th

Class 4B Future Intermediate Equitation o/f 2′
Niki – 1st
Peyton – 4th

Class 6A Varsity Open Equitation on the flat
Ali – 2nd

Class 8A Junior Varsity Novice Equitation on the flat
Irena – 6th

Class 10A Future Intermediate Equitation on the flat
Ginger – 3rd

Class 10B Future Intermediate Equitation on the flat
Niki – 2nd
Peyton – 6th

Athenian’s Equestrian Team:

Ali Hirt ’15
Niki Hirt ’17
Peyton Freeman ’17
Ginger Freeman ’19
Irena Volkov ’16

Find Out More

Want to learn more about the relatively new school sport of horse riding?  Read the Rules and Regulations from the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, founded in 2002.  Also take a look at Wikipedia’s article on Hunt seat, which explains the various aspects of the competition.

Did You Know?

Years ago, Athenian had its own horse pasture, as shown in this picture from the 1980 view book. We assume this field is up above the current baseball field.  The aspiring historians of the school would love to hear from alumni who were here during the era of horses.  We know that Head of School Sam Elliot had his own horses from 1988-1992 but there were no student horses at that time.  If any alumni have memories of where the stables were located and what year the horses left campus, we’d appreciate your help in filling in this gap in our collective memory!  Respond in the comments below, post to Athenian’s Facebook page or send an email to

2012: Current Events Class Rap for NYTimes Student Contest

Yesterday was the first day of the Spring semester at Athenian. The Current Events seminar kicked off the year with a look back at 2012.  The New York Times’ Learning Network blog is running it’s second annual student contest: write a rap about the news.  In 16 lines or less, students are challenged to write a Year in Rap based on major news stories from the past year.  In less than an hour, the students in the Current Events class hand-picked the major news stories of 2012, boiled them down to a chosen few, folded in pop culture references, and seasoned with some playful analysis to serve up this rap:

Athenian’s Current Events Class: 2012 Year in Rap

2012, the Mayans got it wrong
What happened? Let’s lay it out in this song
Mitt Romney tried to win, but he lost to Barack
Whatever happened with the war in Iraq?
Romney slammed the 47%, so Obama got a job
Banks had to pay the people they robbed
People figured out that you only live once
And if you believed in the apocalypse, you looked like a dunce
The Mars rover landed, Honey Boo Boo was a star
Felix flew from space, Gabby flew on the barre
PSY kicked Bieber off the YouTube stage
Two different giants won; it’s their golden age
Aurora brought fear, Sandy made the East drown
We cried for the first graders in Newtown
Yet its horrors created heroes who sacrificed their lives
We salute their courage, even as we mourn inside

— Leah, Eileen, Gordon, Katie, Natalie, Phillip, Christian, Kora, Logan, Kaia, Alex, Tyler, Andrea, Helen, Lori and Ben

Athenian Alum Interns for First Lady’s Social Office at the White House

Athenian Alum is White House Intern


Pantea Faed ’08 serves in the Office of the First Lady.  After learning that Pantea is serving as a White House intern, we posed several questions and her answers are below.

Athenian: Describe a typical day in your work as an intern.
Pantea: Working as an intern in the Office of the First Lady is an honor I cherish every morning I report for work. Catching up on emails and attending staff meetings are a part of the standard intern operation in the mornings. After touching base with supervisors about daily agendas, I, along with two other interns, begin to tackle our team and individual tasks for the day, which include, but are not limited to correspondence, administrative tasks, data management, helping staff and executing events that take place at the White House.

A: What was your first day like?
P: One major realization I took away from my first day as a White House intern was, “Wow, everyone is so extremely kind.” I could tell from my first introductions that it was going to be a very special few months. After attending orientation with the rest of my intern class and learning about the inner workings of our offices and hearing from alum of our program, I was introduced to the staff in my office. Walking into a room of warm and welcoming faces was just another reassurance that I was going to learn, grow, and enjoy the months to come. I was right.

A: What prepared you to be an intern? What skills do you need? What have you learned?
P: Being an intern takes determination, initiative, dedication to service and the collaborative effort of a team. Being able to stay organized and multi-task during this office’s busiest season is critical in supporting the staff over these next few months. I knew being in the First Lady’s Office, particularly the Social Office, would require an adaptive capacity and a sense of creativity to help make great ideas come to life. I came into this position with a strong understanding of these skills, but I have been able to hone in and improve on these components to progress as a member of this team. My time at Athenian and USC were critical in me developing these skills necessary to engage in this work in a productive way. Being a part of such diverse communities and working in leadership positions throughout my life have culminated in this opportunity and I feel extremely grateful.

A: What has been most surprising about your job?
P: The most surprising aspect of my job is how accessible the White House is. It truly is the people’s house. I feel very grateful that every person I have met thus far has been extremely generous, welcoming, and willing to share their own insights with me.

A: What are any detailed anecdotes you can offer?
P: While there are countless events, speakers, and moments throughout my time here that I could point to as “a favorite moment,” I have one that I would like to share. Helping to plan, coordinate, and execute an event for members of Congress was certainly a highlight. Seeing so many public servants in one room, many of whom I admire personally and have studied about since grade school, was a particularly special moment in my time here.

Learn more about the White House Internship Program.