What It Means To Be a Tiger

By: Connor F. ’16

Commencement is a day of celebration, congratulations and excitement! But it will also be remembered with some tears, sadness, and long goodbyes. I always knew the day would arrive. However, I could never have imagined my path nor expect the journey the Class of 2016 all would take together.

I have been a student here for 15 years, and I can honestly say that Staten Island Academy has become my home away from home. It is a place that has provided me with amazing friends, trusted mentors, and countless memories that will last a lifetime. For every commencement since I was in the fifth grade, I have sat with the orchestra, listening to so many speeches that seemed to have very similar messages. Every year it seemed that at least one speaker mentioned that the high school years would fly by.  And they were absolutely right.

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It seems like only yesterday that I was that wide-eyed fifth grader thinking my commencement was so far away. However, it has arrived, and instead of simply re-telling you all just how quickly the time does indeed pass, I want to implore you to stop every now and then to cherish your time here! Not every moment is going to be a memorable, triumphant, or glorious one, and that is okay. Because of all those years sitting on the other side of this stage—watching, listening and learning—I have taken the words and advice I have heard so often and managed to slow down time as much as possible so that I can appreciate the people in my life every day, the experiences we go through, and even the difficulties we encounter together.

I now view my high school years through the rearview mirror, but I am ready to move on with no regrets because I have valued my time here.  I am not sure too many students value their high school years as much as they should. It seems that we want to move onto the next stage of our lives too quickly, but believe me when I tell you that the Academy is a second home that should hold a special place in your heart.

With this in mind, I feel compelled to share three ideals that have been important to me throughout my journey at SIA. First, I want you to know that it is possible for you to find the best in every situation. Try to understand that all your experiences, both the positive ones and especially the challenging ones, will shape you. These moments will be connected and become “the big picture” that is your life. In the book, Chop Wood, Carry Water, author Joshua Medcalf reminds us to, make sure the life we are living today, is a story worth telling in the future. I believe in living each day to the fullest.  A lot of times we are caught up in a moment or complain about a little discomfort, and we lose sight of what is really important. I challenge you:  when you feel uncomfortable or feel like quitting, find something positive for which you are grateful for in that situation.  For example, during our ninth grade trip to Fairview Lake, our class—not known for our ability to “rough it”—complained endlessly about mosquitoes, dirty cabins, and inedible meals. However, these moments helped us bond together, and by the time we got back to school, we had grown closer as a class. By recognizing the benefits of a difficult situation, we will make the most of our years and be able to look back on all of our great achievements.

Second, and one of the most important aspects of my years at SIA, is living a life of service. Not just the kind that is written down on a form and receives recognition at the end of the year. I am referring to the ideal that by serving others, we can change the world!  Always serve! Always look for ways to give in every interaction—with strangers and also with people you know. You must find a way to serve, as only through service and sacrifice can we become great! The Class of 2016 has found their own ways to serve, and I’m talking about service beyond our required internships. From the Bread of Life Food Drive to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, from Habitat for Humanity to the Wounded Warrior Project, we have looked beyond our own lives to help others, enriching ourselves and others in the larger community.

Finally, I want to share my thoughts on leadership since we are given so many opportunities to lead here at SIA. Whether in the classroom, on stage, or on the playing fields, we all have honed our skills of leadership. As president John F. Kennedy once noted, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” During my time in each division—Lower, Middle, and Upper School—I was able to model my leadership style by learning from so many dedicated and caring teachers, coaches, and captains. Some lead from the front, others from the rear. Still others show leadership without saying a word. Over the past four years, the baton of leadership has been passed to us, and our learning has been enhanced through our roles as team captains, as leads in plays, as House representatives, as SAC leaders, and as club founders and presidents. In following our passions, we have led others. Leadership then is an integral part of who we are. And since we are Tigers, we have learned to be strong, fierce and patient leaders.

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Now, to the Class of 2016, commencement marks a new chapter in our lives. A chapter looked upon with anticipation, nervousness, and a whole lot of excitement. In the fall, we will all be off to our respective colleges and universities, ready and prepared for the challenges to come. I know we are prepared to serve, to lead, and to create positive change in the world. I hope to see each of you on the roads you choose to follow. After all we have been through together, we are connected to one another forever. Do not forget where you come from and when you get where you are going, do not forget to turn back around. Remember that the Academy is the home from which we all came.

What is Scholarship?

By: Trip M. ’17

Hello everyone! It is my job to discuss the idea of scholarship and it is out my sense of duty to the school, and not Ms. Crig’s Taser that she carries, that I have the pleasure of writing for you today. In preparing this article, the big quandary that I was faced with (apart from vague Taser threats, of course) was what is scholarship? And I think the issue is that the term scholarship is grotesquely and incorrectly defined in the sense that it is too often coupled with someone being smart. Even intelligence in this day and age is misinterpreted. If someone does well on a math test does that immediately make them smart? Is intellect that one-dimensional? Well, the math test may win you a hug from Justin Almeida, but can school assessments validate or invalidate someone as a scholar? Why was one of the world’s most famous geniuses, Albert Einstein, a sub-par student? (I am so sorry, I had to put at least one golf reference in.) So, what is it then that defines the scholar?

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In order to attempt to explain this idea of scholarship, let me tell you a story. The year is 2006; I am a bold and inquisitive six-year-old. My mother, sister, and grandparents are on a vacation in Rome. Our destination is the Vatican and I have the odd misconception that the pope will be waiting there for us. Well, before we can meet his exaltedness, we have to actually get there. The whole family piles onto a city bus that we just assume is going to the Vatican. And let me tell you, I am killing the style game as always, donning a mustard yellow shirt, dark mesh shorts, and socks with sandals. And to top it all off, a jean-blue Fannie pack. I know. I am basically the younger incarnation of an elderly woman named Bertha. So, Bertha and the family squeeze onto an overcrowded bus with commuters, gypsies, and many other tourists. Looking back at it, we are probably the most shameless tourists that Rome has ever seen. But back to the bus. It seems that every stop takes at least 15-20 minutes, and with the patience of a six-year-old, this city bus basically becomes a torture chamber. After about two hours, we decide to hop off the horrid bus, and look up to see a wonderfully tall and impressive building: but it happened to be our hotel. Yep. I spent two hours in a crammed bus doing nothing with half of the family being robbed by the time we got off, and in the end, we are exactly where we started. But what does this mean? How is it relevant? Well, perhaps that’s just what scholarship is.

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Scholarship is not about the result you achieve; it’s about the journey and the approach. Academic excellence ought to be measured in one’s diligence and attitude, not the result. So, if you take a Platis’ test and you don’t get the result you wanted, but you know that you gave your all, everything you had…that is scholarship. If you wanted to know the end to my story, my most beloved bus ride did not actually prove to be in vain. The next day, we oversaw a ceremony in which the pope did make an appearance, and now that I look back, perhaps my exasperating experience only strengthened the bond between my family and me. Similarly, the academic journey of the scholar, although not always successful, will build from past experience, until habitually sound academic practice becomes academic excellence! But it all has to start somewhere. And that somewhere is the determined mindset and educational insatiability that embodies the heart of a true scholar.

The President and a Rock Star

By: Kevin C. ’16

In his commencement speech to the graduates at the University of Michigan in 2009, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, said, “It is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams…Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition.” Ambition drives success. In my time here, I’ve learned firsthand that SIA instills ambition in its students. We all genuinely want to do great things and accomplish impressive feats, and this wouldn’t be possible were it not for the encouragement given by the faculty to take risks.

I remember being asked as a young boy what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I remember always giving the same answer—the President and a rock star. I wasn’t too sure how I would find time to do both, but I was determined to live that double life. Although I have pivoted on my dream, I still believe Larry Page’s advice to the Michigan graduates is important to take to heart. It’s easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams because no one else is crazy enough, or, ambitious enough, to follow them. We all have ambition within us, thanks to SIA, and now it’s time to put it to use and make a change in the world.

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Three years later, at the same University, neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta said, “I think being scared is good.” I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Gupta, as I believe it takes confidence to be afraid. It takes confidence to take chances. It takes confidence to fail. Just as it has given me a drive to succeed, SIA has made me a much more confident person as a whole. Not quite confident enough to pull off Mr. Acquilano’s plaid pants, but confident enough to believe that being scared is in fact a good thing. I’ve probably heard it a hundred times by now, but it truly rings true—SIA is like a family. Its small size coupled with the individual attention we receive creates a close knit community that teaches us to be self-confident and self-aware just as a family would. Had it not been for this personalized care and attention, I would be ten times more nervous giving and writing speeches. But thanks to the Academy, I am confident enough to add Sanjay Gupta’s words to the recipe for success which has been fostered by this school over the past thirteen years.

Finally, at the University of Southern California 2012 commencement, journalist and activist Maria Shriver said, “Before you go out and press that fast forward button, I’m hoping, I’m praying, that you’ll have the courage to first press the pause button.” While we throw around clichés concerning following our dreams, it is important remember where we came from. As we embark on the next chapter of our lives, we need to keep close the people who got us to this point. Two weeks ago, I was at my older brother Kieran’s graduation from Stevens Institute of Technology and one of the commencement speakers gave some advice very similar to that of Maria Shriver. For every two steps forward, take one step back. While we’re bound to succeed and make remarkable advancements in the world, we can’t be afraid to stop and appreciate our families, friends, and Staten Island Academy for making us the intellectually curious and ambitious people we are today.

As I come to a close I would like to thank a few people. First, thank you to all the faculty that have helped form who I am today. A special thanks to Mr. Manske for helping me appreciate math once again, for teaching me how to find the spot on the backboard, and for believing in my abilities even when I did not. Thank you Mrs. Greenfield for providing me with the strongest foundation I could have asked for, for instilling in me my first curiosity to learn, and for putting up with my tears over the move from the early childhood building to Alumni Hall.

Thank you Mom and Dad for giving me the opportunity to attend such an amazing school and for supporting me for these past eighteen years. Thank you Kieran for setting a strong example of good character and maintaining focus on what’s important, and for always showing me the way.

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Fellow classmates, I urge you to take a moment and thank your loved ones. It’s been a privilege to be here, and I can say with confidence that no other school would have prepared me for the future like Staten Island Academy has. I have the ambition to pursue dreams that others aren’t crazy enough to pursue. I have the confidence to be scared. And I have the unparalleled love for this institution that would not be possible had it not been for its extraordinary faculty and community. This is the time of our lives where we are in control. All clichés aside, congratulations Class of 2016.

What is Character?

By: Charlotte A. ’17

What is Character?

As the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” So today think of me as a Greek philosopher, minus the beard and the toga, as we touch on the universal question: What is character?

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Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Every single person has their own set of beliefs and guidelines for how to treat other people, behave in certain situations, and make ethical decisions. These beliefs and guidelines for our emotions and behaviors that we display on a daily basis are what give us our personalities and our “character.”

Throughout your education everyone here has certainly had at least one English teacher who has talked about the importance of “characterization” in a story. “Characterization is the process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character.” I remember one author who wrote, “Unfortunately, characterization is one of the most difficult aspects of creative writing to master, because authors tend to naturally fall into the fatal trap of creating two-dimensional, cardboard characters. We may describe the grandmother in our story, for example, as kindly, with softly-curled gray hair, and a preference for polyester floral prints. Isn’t that how all grandmothers look? Of course not; that’s a stereotype. Good stories feature characters who turn the stereotypes upside down — people who defy expectations.” This quote really made me reflect upon Staten Island Academy and the character of the students that attend here. We defy expectations.

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I am what the Academy calls “a lifer.” I have been enrolled here since Pre-K. As I look toward senior year, I realize I have never once regretted staying at my home on the hill, because in my opinion, the community here defies those previously mentioned “expectations.” I have had the privilege of being raised in this community, and my character was shaped and molded as I made my journey through each grade. Kids who start attending SIA in middle or upper school are quickly integrated into our family and embraced with open arms, as we help them to understand how our community works – how our character evolves.

A person of character exhibits kindness, creativity and respect. They are accepting and nonjudgmental. They are principled, and have integrity. I am proud of my friends, the Academy community who are truly people of character. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again. Who knows great enthusiasms; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Staten Island Academy students do not sit on the side lines. As Teddy Roosevelt said, we are actually “in the arena.” And whether that arena is a stage, basketball court, lacrosse field, art studio, or a classroom, we defy expectations, we strive valiantly, and even if we fail, we fail by daring greatly. We are in the arena, an arena of great character.

Class of 2016

By: Julia K. ’17

It’s that time of year again when we have to say goodbye to the seniors, the leaders of the Academy, and my best friends. I have gotten so close with the senior class this year and I am so proud of what they have accomplished as a whole. I am caught sitting with the senior class in their lounge at least once a day because I want to make each moment with them count. I hope that they will all stay in touch and have an absolutely amazing time at college.

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Watching most of my closest friends graduate will be one of hardest things I’ll ever do, but I hope we can all keep our friendships thriving. Staten Island Academy will miss the Class of 2016 because of their amazing leadership skills and success in athletics and academics. It is going to be so sad to watch the seniors graduate but this means that my class has to step up and have a positive influence on the rest of the school. Thank you seniors for the endless laughs and memories that will stay with me forever.

Victory on the Field: JV Lacrosse

By: Cameron C. ’17

Coming off a loss in the previous game against Tottenville, the Staten Island Academy JV lacrosse team captured an 8-3 victory over the Pirates. We knew we could get back at them and give them their first loss of the season. We practiced hard and had a definitive plan to take the win.
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“Pretend like this is a state championship game, shut down number 5 and number 12,” echoed the motivational words of Mr. Aquilano. Francesca Marchese ’19 and Cameron Corbett ’17 absorbed each and every word and dominated the defensive end. Every loose ball, we were there.

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“We intimidated them, and they went into the game thinking that they were going to win after our 6-7 loss in the previous game. Cameron took number five out of the game which completely shattered their game plan and our attackers started out strong,” said Francesca Marchese ’17 of the Lacrosse team. As the 25 minutes ran out of the second half, everyone felt a rush of excitement because we finally broke Tottenville’s undefeated record. I couldn’t ask for a better team!

You Can’t Buy Love, But You Can Love RENT!

By: Ms. Santino

It’s hard to believe people so young could display such maturity and depth of emotion. As the voices rose in a musical medley, singing “Will I,” the echoes of hope and despair rang true. Whether depicting the heated battles between partners Maureen (Alice G.) and Joanne (Alexa F.), the fiery spirit and unbreakable of Mimi (Yvonne B.), the friendship in the face of terrible disease amid Roger (Jahir H.) and Mark (Daniel B.), or the undying love despite death between Angel (Gabriel P.) and Collins (Trip M.), these students knew how to pull at the audience’s emotional heartstrings.

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While the stars of the show certainly shined, the rest of the cast and crew could not be ignored. Stellar performances from Grace A., Chris C., Tara M., Mia W., Mike T., Katarina R., and A’Mit L. stood out, but only name a few of the handful of superb actors and actresses on the stage. Ryan A.’s non-stop percussion performance accented the heartbeat of the show. Theater crew, including Assistant Director John H., and the ever unstoppable guru of the performing arts, Director Mark Weissman, put on the production of a lifetime.

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Now and Then

I danced to “La Vie Boheme,” laughed at “Take Me or Leave Me,” grooved to “Santa Fe,” rejoiced in “Seasons of Love,” cried in “Without You,” and cheered wildly at the “Finale.” As a high school student when Rent first appeared on Broadway, I grew up to the music of the show. It was edgy, different, and touched on chords especially present in that tumultuous time between childhood and adulthood. Seeing it performed by the Staten Island Academy students took me back to that time; although the play is as relevant now as it was then. It demonstrates a different side of theater, the kind that doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter, but instead puts it on the stage for the audience to reject or embrace. No matter your take on the show, the give-it-all attitude from these talented teens cannot be denied and would win over even the staunchest critique. Bravo, SIA! Bravo!

Tech Week Diaries: RENT

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A Week in Review
By: Sophia A. ’17

Backstage during the rehearsals, the actors are working hard and so is the stage crew.  At the beginning of tech week, the heads of each wing created a cue sheet, consisting of time and placements for the stage crew to bring props out and place them on their designated spikes. This had props working on their toes. We have to make sure to give the cast what they need when they perform, and practice so that it’s perfect for the production. Overall, tech week was strenuous and stressful for the cast and crew, but this resulted in everyone pulling together to put on an amazing show!

Sunday’s Rehearsal
By: Alexa F. ‘ 16

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon began the long week we had all been looking forward to… Tech Week: Rent Addition. The five hour rehearsal ran through the entire show with stage crew joining the cast to plan and learn the placement of tables, chairs, props, and lighting. Since costumes had not yet arrived, running the show with them will hopefully begin Monday. The cast is especially looking forward to meeting  Adam Pascal, the actor who originated the role of Roger, and will be joining rehearsals Monday. During this rehearsal we will have a Q & A with Mr. Pascal and he will watch a few numbers of the show to give his feedback. So far, this week is starting off pretty strong with the cast anxious for opening night to arrive.

Decoding the Dress Code

By: Andrew B. ’16

At least once a week a comment or announcement is made by a faculty member about dress code at morning meeting. Despite this, a good portion of the student body continues to ignore the dress code, which allows for plain white, navy, gray, or maroon sweaters with a white or maroon polo. For male students, khaki, gray, or navy pants are required, while female students have the option of navy, gray, or khaki pants or skirts. Then, there’s formal which requires a crisp, white button down and navy blazer with knee high socks and flats for girls, while boys wear dress shoes and school ties. For the most part, students follow formal dress; however, regular dress code seems to be the largest issue. As I walk around school, there are days I cannot tell who is in dress code and who is in dress down. Some students don’t even own a polo and simply wear t-shirts. I have seen everything from a subtle black or beige to red, hot pink, and even, camouflage. A few days ago, I saw students wearing black sweatpants instead of khakis. If no one is following dress code, then why have it?

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I speak from experience when I say I have stretched the dress code. I’ve worn worn every variation of white there is and several shades of grey. I’ve pushed the dress code with subtle neutrals like beige and black, but have gone as far as to wear a leather jacket, a denim jacket, and even olive green. The majority of the time I’m allowed to wear these items because it’s usually a neutral or subtle color. Now, by no means am I complaining about not receiving a warning or detention over what I wear, but I find myself wondering why we continue to mandate what students wear, when half the time it’s not enforced.

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Several independent schools in the area have amended their dress codes in lieu of a much lenient one. Students at some of these schools are expected to dress “preppy.” Boys are not allowed to wear sweatpants or jeans, but can wear chinos or khakis in varying colors and styles. They also have flexibility in the color of the collared shirt they are required to wear—whether it be a polo or button down. Outwear and sweaters don’t have a specified color; they simply can’t have large logos or writing. For female students, any pants that aren’t leggings, jeans or sweatpants are allowed, along with skirts and dresses of an appropriate length. This sort of dress code offers students a better chance to express themselves through their wardrobe. With such a lenient dress code, dress down days would not really be necessary.

At some point or another, students at SIA have complained about dress code, but the dress code here is much better than at most schools with religious affiliations. While a more lenient dress code would be an added perk to attending Staten Island Academy, I think we are all grateful for the fact that a dress shirt and tie is not required daily. Who knows, maybe by next year the more lenient dress code mentioned in this article will be a part of SIA.

The Science Olympiad

By: Sharukh K. ‘17

On Saturday February 6th, 2016, Staten Island Academy’s Science Club left campus at 5:30 AM and travelled all the way to Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, NY to compete in its annual Science Olympiad. This was only the Academy’s second year competing, being that the Science Club just started two years ago, and even though we are still developing as a team, we did a phenomenal job.

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Last year, which also happened to be our first year competing, Wesley D, ‘17 and Ryan A. ‘17 earned 10th place in the competition, “Write It. Do It”. In this competition, one teammate has to write a procedure to an experiment that the other teammate will use to complete it. Competing against schools like Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, and Staten Island Tech is not easy, but with our determination and diligence, we did it. This year, the Academy won two awards, one in “rite It. Do It” and the other in “Electric Vehicle”. In “Write It. Do It” Wesley D. ‘17 and Ryan A. ‘17 earned first place and in “Electric Vehicle” Wesley D. ‘17 and Trip M. ‘17 earned eighth place. Both of these events had around forty-five teams that competed and to place in the top ten, earning a medal is a great accomplishment; especially given it was only our second year.

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The Science Olympiad is much more than kids working hard and concentrating on winning. It is also a place where kids from high schools get to spend time with each other and enjoy the experience. Morenike M. ‘16 was willing to share her experiences and said, “I thought the Olympiad was definitely fun and a good educational experience. My favorite part was competing in Protein Modeling with Kevin G. ‘16 because we trained for it so we worked cohesively throughout the event.” Kevin G. ‘16 also shared his experiences and said, “The Science Olympiad was very fun and I enjoyed designing experiments, playing with chemicals, reflecting lights off of mirrors, and after the events were over, playing games with other kids on the Science Club and Dr. Ward.”

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Wesley D. ‘17, founder and leader of the Science Club, shared with us his thoughts on the Science Olympiad, “The NYC Science Olympiad is a chance for SIA students to compare their scientific prowess to some of the best schools in the metropolitan area. Last year, our single team placed 51st overall out of 61. This year, our first team, made up of all returning members, placed 33rd overall out of 63, while our new second team placed 53rd. I would say this is a huge and unprecedented improvement, considering it has only been two years. We will aim for twentieth or less overall next year. Hopefully, we can compete in states, which requires 7th place or less overall. Though we received medals for 1st and 8th in two events, we will need similar results in the other twenty-three events that also count towards our placement. My favorite part was watching everyone build and test their awesome devices for the events. It felt good knowing that many of us prepared heavily for the event, and thirsted for the win. Winning individual awards is great, but what I really want is one of the team awards given to teams who go on to states.”

Even though it was the students who won the awards, the only reason that the Science Olympiad ran so smoothly was because of our dedicated faculty members. On this past Olympiad, we had Mrs. O’Hara, Mrs. Meyer, Mr. Wollney, and Dr. Ward accompany us on the trip. This was sadly Dr. Ward’s last Science Olympiad being that it is her last year teaching at the Academy. She was also willing to share her experiences and said, “By far what I love the most about Science Olympiad is hanging out with all of my students and doing science outside of the our normal classes. The club really felt camaraderie this year. Each open lab was so relaxed and simultaneously buzzing with activity. This year I learned a great deal about self-propelled airplanes and electric cars and watched in awe as Philip and Patrick hit target after target with their air trajectory device in the atrium. Science is always fun for me, but spending time with my students while they show me their love of science is something I will always cherish.” Overall, the Science Olympiad is a fun event and hopefully we do as well next year as we did this year and enjoy the experience at the same time.