Freshman Peyton to Compete in Equestrian Nationals

UnknownFreshman Peyton Freeman ’17 qualified to compete in Hunt Seat Nationals at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Championships to be held in West Springfield, Massachusetts, May 16-18. Peyton is one of two riders in California to qualify in the Varsity Intermediate Over Fences Class which requires riders to jump up to three feet on their usual mounts at home (compared to five feet at the Grand Prix). Peyton is among a total of 24 riders from California who will be competing in the Nationals competition, from a field of 340 students and 38 teams who competed in all classes.

Peyton has been on Athenian’s equestrian team since its formation in 2013. Only her second year competing with a scholastic equestrian team, Peyton went from placing fourth and sixth in her first competition to qualifying for Nationals this year. This is the first year Athenian will send a student to Nationals.

Unknown-2“Peyton rode a beautiful, nearly perfect round over fences, earning her high scores in the 80s,” said Athenian’s equestrian coach, Hilary Johnson. “Peyton’s hard work and dedication throughout the IEA season showed as she piloted her horse through the eight-fence course. Peyton has repeatedly shown that she competes well under pressure and has developed her skills at adjusting quickly to different types of horses. She has worked hard on strength training by practicing many hours without stirrups both on the flat and over fences courses. It has been a true pleasure watching her growth as an equestrian athlete and I look forward to coaching her at Nationals.”

One of the challenges of Hunt Seat, according to Johnson, is that riders do not compete on their own horses and do not use their own equipment. Unknown-4Riders draw a number before each class that corresponds with a horse. The riders are given a brief description of each horse and have only a few minutes to mount and adjust their stirrups. Then they are allowed an extremely limited time to perform a short two-jump warm up pattern and proceed to the competition arena. Often the rider does not get a true sense of their mount’s athletic ability until they are actually in the show ring.

More than 500 of the nation’s leading middle school and high school equestrians will compete for top prizes at the 2014 Hunt Sea Nationals Finals. The competitors represent the best of nearly 9,000 riders on more than 250 teams from eight zones in 32 states that competed in numerous shows during the year.

Good luck at Nationals, Peyton!


Cast Your Vote for Town Meeting Officials!

Cast your vote in the quad

Cast your vote in the quad

Athenians in the Upper School–Make sure you exercise your democratic muscle and vote for Town Meeting officials tomorrow at lunch! Faculty and staff, remember that you can vote too.

Vote for your representatives for Town Meeting President, VP, Moderator, and Secretary. This year’s candidate pool is notable in that two freshmen are running for positions (Moderator and VP). Read soundbites from candidates’ election speeches:

“I can ensure an effective Town Meeting that means as much to all of you, as it means to me.” –Dina Mehta ’15

“I will be dedicated beyond belief to moderate a town meeting in a way that will make people want to stay.” –Ryan Ball ’15

“As moderator, it is my goal to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and taken into account and that meetings run smoothly.” –Ysabel Munoz ’17

“It is my firm belief that Town Meeting is one of the most special parts of our community. All students, not just a small group who are elected to a student council like at most schools, but every student is invited to participate in a discussion about the framework of our community.” Sarah Newsham ’15

“I want to be your Town Meeting moderator because I want the student’s voices to be heard.” –Trenton Tan ’15

Vice President:
“This school has shaped and molded me into the person standing before you today. I owe a great amount to this school and that is why I would like to be your Vice President.” –Delaney Inamine ’15

“Any decisions that are made and any decisions that I assist in making will be with you guys in mind.” –Zarah Sheikh ’17

“I promise to fully and wholly commit myself to serving the needs and the concerns of the community. Because when you love a place as much as I do, you want to do everything in your power to make it the very best place it can possibly be.” –Tessa Sternberg ’15

“I do want to say, that even if I don’t get elected, I’ll be doing this anyway, because my passion is seeing ideas come alive, seeing what was first in the mind appear before our eyes.” Lauren Glenn ’15
“Students, teachers, faculty: we ask you to join us. We ask for your support, questions, and ideas so we can create what we want Town Meeting to be. Because in the end, participants empower democracy.” Lauren Santo Domingo and Ryan Donovan ’15
“If there’s a problem in our community, it’s easy to recognize it, but a challenge to take action to change it. I want to be there for students to help them take action.” Brendan Suh ’15

Parents Serve on Mock Juries for 8th Grade Trials

To introduce and integrate students into the American judicial system, 8th graders participated in a mock trial, replete with student plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers, and witnesses. Administrators and parents who work in the legal system lent their expertise as judges and jury members. Several 8th grade parents were touched by the experience and took the time to write about their impressions of the day.

This is the first time that I have had the opportunity to participate in the Mock Jury Focus Day with the eighth graders, and I was impressed at how seriously these kids engaged in their roles, and how excited and prepared they were to deliver a very persuasive case. The coaching that had occurred prior to the courtroom day was clear; they had a strong grasp of how to deliver effective and concise opening statements, their questioning strategies allowed the events to unfold in support of their arguments, and both sides made powerful closing arguments that were well-articulated. They also worked really well as “legal” teams supporting each other, and the learning experience from this day was very authentic–you could have heard a pin drop in the room when the jury came back in to deliver the verdict! Bringing in the parents as jurors was a great addition, and I would highly recommend the experience to all future eighth grade parents that can take advantage of it. This is a day you don’t want to miss.

My daughter informed me at the end of the day that she is now considering law as a possible career choice going forward–I think that pretty much sums up the value of the experience from her perspective! Thanks again to Nancy, Ted, and all the faculty for the work that went into making this day possible; the rewards were well worth the efforts!  –Pam Yares, Parent of 8th grader

I thoroughly enjoyed serving on the jury! My favorite part was watching the students transition from working on an assigned activity to becoming completely engaged and passionate as they melded into their roles as prosecutors, defense counsel, defendants and witnesses. I believe that they even forgot at times that there was a script to follow and let their knowledge and love of learning come into play. Thank you for the opportunity to experience their enthusiasm!  –Dana Mayo, Parent of 8th grader

I was absolutely delighted to see the engagement, attentiveness and care with which all of the students approached the day.  The effort that everyone put into making the activity a rich learning experience was remarkable, and the teamwork and support that the students displayed throughout the day was truly inspiring.  I had a wonderful time participating with the students and I applaud everyone for their enthusiastic efforts in making this a rewarding learning experience for all.  –Darcelle Lahr, Parent of 8th grader

What Drives My Success? A Student Perspective

By Sajia Bidar ’16

2013-09-25 15.20.19Once upon a time, there were only a few things in my life that I really, truly cared about: my family, my friends and occasionally, school.

When I first came to Athenian, I looked to thrive and grow as a person, not only academically, but also socially and physically. I figured Athenian is the place for this. Halfway through my second year here, I am proud to say Athenian has been everything I hoped for, and more. From the academic, social, mental and physical challenges that I have faced during my time here, I can truly believe in the fact that I have indeed grown as a person, and into a thriving young woman.

For the first fourteen years of my life, I attended public school. During these years, school was simply a place I went to hangout with my friends. With classrooms overflowing with students and more than four hundred kids per grade, my individuality was not important to my teachers. Now, not to say that I didn’t like being in the shadows, I was a very shy person. However, I believe that in order for one to mature as a person, individualism and personal attention are a necessity

The many interactions that I have had with students and teachers here are those that have helped me thrive. You may have heard of the challenging academics that transpire throughout the Athenian campus, however, the long nights and countless essays and projects have helped me to procrastinate less and be more responsible. The amount of attention that is paid to ones’ academic, social and individual performance at Athenian is remarkable. I am  grateful for the teachers who have given up their lunch breaks and afternoons working with me to make sure I was on the right track.

Athenian has pushed me exceptionally far out of my comfort zone, and for this I am grateful. I am not the shy and timid Sajia I once was and I have Athenian to thank for this.  Because of Athenian, school is not just a place to hang out with friends anymore.

School has become a passion of mine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I’m crazy about the homework, but the feeling of accomplishing a challenging task and thriving academically gives me a feeling I cannot describe.  A feeling which ignites me with the passion to push forward in life, and to keep fighting, no matter how strong the current is against me.

Inaugural Run Through AWE Ceremonial Gate from the Class of 2013

DSC08497The Class of 2013 wanted to honor their Athenian Wilderness Experience with a lasting class gift of a decorative gate for Athenian’s traditional Run-In. To complete their 26 day backpacking adventure, students run the last eight miles back to campus, where the entire community welcomes them back on the field. Previously, students ran through a small gate onto the field; now, students run through a beautiful, symbolic gate inscribed with the words “There’s more in you than you think,” by Kurt Hahn.

DSC_0018To inaugurate the gate, alumni were invited back for a ceremonial jog-through. David Buchanan ’72, Nicola Place ’76, Bryna Winchell ’84, John Kohler ’88, Wendell C. Arnold ’92, Allison Fletcher ’96, Philippa Stewart ’04, and Beth Heinen ’05 represented all AWE alumni by jogging through the gate before the Death Valley 2014 group came in.

Allie Rowe, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Dick Bradford, Upper School Head and Academic Dean, and Gabe Del Real, Dean of Curriculum, emceed the event before the small group of alums and the Board of Trustees. Dick spoke about how AWE is the pinnacle of experiential education, students learn compassion for each other, and gain a better appreciation for the outdoors. He concluded with a piece of a poem by Tennyson:



I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! 
strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The side of the gate facing the street reads "The Athenian Wilderness Experience"

The side of the gate facing the street reads “The Athenian Wilderness Experience”

Watch the 4-minute ceremony.

The gate’s design was a combination of student and alumni ideas, brought to life by Chad Dietz, a metal artist out of Monterey County.

“Not only did I notice my physical strength–feeling weak and still running farther than I ever thought possible–but I realized that as ‘strong’ as some people are on their own, knowing that you can ask for help and depend on your support system gives you immense strength to do things you never thought possible,” Emily Knell ’07 reflected on her own run-in experience.