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Celebrating Black Joy!
A mid-February Wednesday night chapel service was organized and led by the members of Essence & Onyx, the school’s affinity groups for students who identify as Black or as a member of the African Diaspora. The service celebrated both Black History Month and Black joy through readings (verse by Beyoncé, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes, to name a few), dance, music, song, art, student reflections, and videos. View photos and videos from the service here, and read student reflections from the service here.
Every Wednesday night, the school community enjoys family-style dinner together in the Dining Hall, then gathers in the A. Felix duPont, Jr. Memorial Chapel to hear a faculty, staff, student or guest speaker deliver a chapel talk on a subject of his or her choosing. Wednesday night speakers are encouraged to share personal experiences and stories of emotional or spiritual growth. We also gather in chapel for Sunday morning services and optional Friday midday services. We are an Episcopal Church School, but our students come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds. We honor all, welcome all, and celebrate all who join us in the chapel and in our community.
Sipprelle Field House
The Sipprelle Field House opened in 2011 and is LEED-Gold certified. The Field House is home to three basketball/volleyball courts (see here), an indoor track, a performance studio, weight room, and cardiovascular fitness room, and our sports medicine & rehab center.
Learn More About Our Athletic Facilities
On the SAS bucket list: scream-singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” with your face covered in red/black/white face paint at a Saints state tournament game in any sport.
Each winter, the school’s theatre program puts on two productions: a play in Engelhard Hall, and a musical with a live pit orchestra in Forbes Theatre. This year’s musical was Mamma Mia!; you can view more photos from the production here. The theatre program also produces plays in the fall and spring.
BTS with SAS
Theatre Program Director Ann Taylor runs a “behind the scenes” Forbes Theatre Instagram account. Taylor is a professional actor and director; previously, she worked with the Glimmerglass Opera Theatre in Cooperstown, New York for about 15 years as a performer and as a member of the technical staff.
Since the founding of the school in 1929, St. Andrew’s has been a school affordable to all students who are qualified for admission, regardless of their financial means.
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We not only learn together, but live together—and that fundamentally changes the nature of your high school experience.
Hear from current students on the ways in which living at St. Andrew's has transformed them.
The full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on Thursday, February 24, and in the month since then, St. Andrew’s senior and Kyiv resident Zhenia Khalabadzhakh ’22 has been working both on campus and off to fight for her country.
Unable to go home for Spring Break, Zhenia spent the recess at the home of her advisor, Senior Associate Director of Admission Kristin Honsel P’24. She kept busy by speaking with middle school students at local schools—MOT Charter and St. Anne’s Episcopal School—where she shared Ukrainian history and her perspective on the war as a Ukrainian citizen. She has also organized, with the help of her classmate April Seo ’22, a t-shirt fundraiser for Nova Ukraine, an organization that provides humanitarian aid to Ukrainians. They’ve raised more than $1,500 for Nova Ukraine and the fundraiser is still going; you can purchase a t-shirt or sweatshirt here.
“I think the main problem for Ukrainians [living] internationally is this feeling of survivor guilt that we have,” Zhenia said. “It’s the idea of: ‘I'm not there, hence, I'm not helping.’ You feel bad for feeling safe. That’s the hard part of it, and that’s why a lot of Ukrainians abroad are so proactive—that’s a way for us to help Ukraine, but also it’s a way for us to sort of escape that feeling of guilt and feel like we’re making change, even if it’s on a very small scale. It’s just important for us as individuals, and it’s important for us as a nation, to be united and do whatever we can.”
She reflected on her feelings immediately following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “I think the first couple of days everyone was in shock. And then it kind of ‘clicked’ and you realize, ‘Okay, me crying here [in the United States] is not really helpful, so I should do something. Anything.”
With her classmates back on campus following the Spring Recess, Zhenia then set about organizing campus vigil for Ukraine. First, she worked with SAGE Dining Services to organize a Wednesday lunch of traditional Ukrainian dishes using recipes from her family, including borshch (a beet soup); varenyky (a type of pierogi that her family makes together by hand); and yabluchnyk (Ukrainian apple cake). Then, for that evening’s chapel service, the school community dressed in yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, and gathered in the chapel to sing Ukrainian hymns and folksongs, and Zhenia shared a moving talk on the unity and bravery of Ukranians not just in this moment, but throughout the history of her country. Although offerings are not typically collected at Wednesday night chapel, baskets were passed during the vigil with all proceeds going to Razom, a Ukrainian NGO that is providing relief inside the country; the school community raised more than $1,000 for Razom through the offering.
“The Ukrainian coat of arms has a word encrypted in it,” Zhenia said in her chapel talk. “The word is volia. Interestingly, it can be translated in two ways: ‘freedom’ and ‘will.’ Ukrainians as a nation know that there is no freedom without the will and no will without freedom. We know that we need to fight for our freedom. And if history wants us to show how brave and united we are once again, we will do it.”
You can listen to Zhenia’s chapel talk in full here.
Zhenia came to St. Andrew’s through the Ukraine Global Scholars program, an almost entirely volunteer-run organization that connects Ukrainian students “of modest means” with scholarship opportunities at top colleges and high schools around the world. In turn, UGS students commit to returning to Ukraine after the completion of their education abroad to help lead—and now, rebuild—the country.
“In light of everything that’s going on, we understand more than ever that the kids who are 15 in Ukraine right now are the people who are going to be rebuilding Ukraine once the war is over,” Zhenia says. “That’s the long-term vision of UGS, and that’s how I see myself. Someone will need to do that, and the UGS kids are exactly the people who will be qualified to do that.” Like all UGS students and alumni, Zhenia volunteers for the organization and mentors upcoming students who are currently in the scholarship application pipeline.
Zhenia is the second UGS student to attend St. Andrew’s; preceding her was Robert Shyroian ’21, who currently attends the Illinois Institute of Technology. You can support families of UGS students who have been displaced by the war via this UGS fundraiser.
Even before the invasion, Zhenia was working to share the story of her country with the St. Andrew’s community. At a School Meeting in early February, she read an excerpt of the English translation of “Europe was silent”, a poem written by Oleksandr Oles in 1931, just before the Holodomor, an artificial famine and genocide of the Ukrainian nation designed to suppress Ukrainian resistance to Soviet collectivization.
“What I personally love about this poem is that it reminds me how much responsibility there is, not only in the person who is committing the crime, but in the person who fails to speak up,” she explained on the Engelhard stage. “Russian aggression uses a lot of information and misinformation, and information is a weapon in the 21st century. By educating yourself, you support me, and you support my country.” The following weekend, she organized a Friday night viewing and discussion of the 2014 film “The Guide,” set in 1930s Soviet Ukraine, and collaborated with school librarians to put up a display of books on Ukrainian history and culture. She has been working in the library throughout the school year to refresh the school’s collection of Ukrainian and Eastern European history texts. “There was a ton about Russian history [in the library collection], but not enough about the history of smaller countries that were formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union,” she says. “But they all have history before that—Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, all of these Baltic and Eastern European countries have a longer history than Russia wants us to have. Most people think that Ukraine was formed 30 years ago! I really hope there will be Ukrainian students after me [at St. Andrew’s] who can come to the library and say, “Oh my God, this is such a great collection about Ukrainian history.”
Zhenia recommends https://www.standwithukraine.how/ as an excellent resource for ways to help and support Ukraine and its citizens—organizations that need donations, letter-writing templates, information on rallies and marches, and so forth. “When you want to donate somewhere, it’s very important to seek out what Ukrainians might want you to donate to, rather than just donating somewhere and feeling good about yourself,” Zhenia notes. “We are asking you to donate to Ukraine, and to the army, not because we want to go and conquer Moscow, but because we want our land back. If Russia stops fighting, there will be peace. But if Ukraine stops fighting—there will be no Ukraine.”
Years ago, while her peers in Lagos, Nigeria were still learning to read, Angela Osaigbovo ‘24 was embarking on a competitive Scrabble career that would take her around the world—and eventually to Middletown, Delaware and St. Andrew's.
At the age of five, Angela began playing Scrabble as an extracurricular activity at her school in Lagos, and her talent quickly attracted attention from coaches nationwide. Just one year after she began playing, Angela competed at the World Youth Championships in Dubai, where she placed second in the eight-and-under age category. She has since competed for the US youth Scrabble team and the Nigerian national youth team, qualifying for Scrabble world championships in Australia, France, and Malaysia, while remaining a fixture at Nigerian national competitions.
The world of competitive Scrabble is much more than a word game in which one makes points by piecing together tiles. Developing an ever-expanding word bank, learning the strategy behind playing words of different lengths, understanding board layout, and calculating scores under the pressure of a timer are just some of the skills Angela has refined over the past decade. She also works with a coach to hone physical and psychological tools, learning to use body language and communication to throw off her opponents.
Angela notes that her young age usually works to her advantage. It’s easy to take older players by surprise, she says, and when she beats them, they are often excited to share their knowledge and experience to help her develop further in her game. In reflecting on her swift rise to the top, she credits the mentorship of these more experienced players.
Angela’s favorite aspects of Scrabble are the academic challenge and the game's community, and in choosing to attend boarding school, she sought the same from her high school experience. Scrabble has unsurprisingly has helped her excel in school; she credits mental math skills, the ability to pull ideas together quickly, and knowledge of linguistics from Scrabble with assisting in all of her classes. At St. Andrew’s Angela has become passionate about reading and writing poetry and playing in the Jazz Ensemble, and she hopes to eventually start a Scrabble club on campus.
Angela’s long term Scrabble aspiration is to remain competitive on the national and international stage, but this year she is most proud of how she has continued to play a strong game, despite the interruptions of starting at a new school, being away from her coach, and devoting most of her time to the demands of a rigorous boarding school schedule.
And her favorite word? (She gets asked that question a lot.) "My favorite word is 'zapping,'" she says, "because of how rare [in Scrabble] it is. I was playing in a tournament in which I was well below the age limit—you had to be in high school to play, but I was eight—and in my last game, my first word was 'zapping.' It was 111 [points], and the person I was playing against couldn't get up to that score throughout the entire game. I was just really proud of that."
English teacher Will Torrey on the capital-Q-questions of teaching
As Opening Day of the 2021-22 school year neared, I found myself especially eager to make a great plan for the first day of class for my two sections of seniors in English 4—one that would not only engage my students and encapsulate the goals of the course, but one that would help me answer—for them as well as myself—the capital-Q-questions I think of all the time:
Why do we talk about literature?
What’s the point of this class?
I thought for a long time about what to show, do, or discuss with my students on that first day. And finally, the day before the first day of class, I wheeled my one year-old son past the Organic Garden in his stroller and was reminded of a conversation I’d had the previous spring with my then-advisee Riley Baker ’21. On a day shortly before Commencement, Riley came back to dorm from working in Organic Garden and told me that while digging in the dirt, she’d been listening to an episode of the On Being podcast in which the host Krista Tippitt interviews the writer Ocean Vuong.
“Mr. Torrey,” she said, eyes bright. “It was, like, the most profound thing I’ve ever heard. You should listen to it; I think you’d love it.”
So I did listen to it, and it was profound, and I did love it.
And then I forgot all about it—until that sunny Labor Day afternoon a few months later.
“There it is,” I thought. “My plan.”
At the end of the interview—during which Vuong covers everything from his immigrant childhood in Hartford, Connecticut to the power of language and its capacity to evolve—Tippit references an essay of Voung’s, in which he, in the face of a family tragedy, embarks on a walk through Manhattan and can’t stop noticing, of all things, fire escapes. They are everywhere, Vuong writes, clinging to the sides of our homes, calling out to us “with the most visible human honesty: We are capable of disaster. And we are scared.” Vuong goes on to assert that literature—the poem, the story, the novel—is itself a form of fire escape, a safe haven that’s often ignored but always at hand, a place of intimate vulnerability where we, as readers, as people, can find refuge. We hurt, Vuong’s essay asserts, because we’re afraid to bear ourselves. But by studying the stories of others, by witnessing their pain and triumphs, we move toward a better understanding of ourselves and a solution to our common crisis of communication.
As soon as this seed of an idea had been planted, ideas for other pieces to discuss on the first day came to mind faster than I could process. By the time my first section rolled into my classroom the morning of September 7, I had a thick packet of readings for them: Barry Hannah’s “Water Liars,” George Saunders’s “Sticks,” a scene from Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. We dove in and enjoyed an intense (in a good way) seventy-five minutes of rapid-fire discussion.
For me, and I hope for my students, this first class was not just great, but wonderful. As I made my way home, I felt more excited about teaching than I had in some time—maybe since the beginning of the pandemic. I was excited to have connected with my students, and to watch them connect with the ideas buried in our readings. I was thrilled by how eager, how perceptive, even how open to being vulnerable they all were. But most of all, I was humbled. A five-minute conversation I had had with a student three months earlier had suddenly bloomed into the answers to my questions.
Why do we talk about literature?
To move toward a better understanding of ourselves and a solution to our common crisis of communication.
What is the point of this class?
To be a place of intimate vulnerability where we—as readers, as people—can find refuge, and bear ourselves.
How was the first day of classes?
The familiar question, asked in the hallways at school and over phone, email, and text from everyone close in my life, feels particularly poignant this year.
In short, Tuesday, September 7 felt to me like a celebration. Students donned dress code outfits—not without much debate and perhaps some consternation on the part of a few students—and found their way to classes in Amos, Founders, and O’Brien. Teachers enjoyed coffee and breakfast pastries in the new faculty room. And all our beautiful campus spaces—no classroom tents this year—were gleaming and ready for the learning to begin. Great anticipation, planning, and energy went into our collective preparation for the first day and for the 2021-22 school year.
Teachers and students alike have been thinking deeply about the opportunities and the challenges before us. All our students, faculty, and staff are back together again on campus, and we once again have the ability to hold immersive, 75-minute in-person classes. Because we’re returning from a period of interruption and distance, we’re noticing with fresh eyes what it means to learn and teach here at St. Andrew’s. It’s almost as if all of us are new this year.
During our opening meetings, faculty focused intensively on ways to build and rebuild our inclusive, collaborative academic culture, and how to teach the habits and skills of genuine intellectual engagement. With those goals in mind, on the first day of class, teachers talked a lot about:
- how to listen
- how to take part
- how to support
- how to concentrate
- how to manage time
These skills are the first rails on the scaffolding we will build for our newest and youngest students as they learn to problem-solve, reason, write, debate, and deduce. But after the dislocation of the past 18 months, even our VI Formers—indeed, even our faculty—may need to dust off their intellectual toolkits. As teachers, we attended closely to where students are in their learning of these core skills and content—or, as we say in the Faculty Handbook: we worked to get to know each student as a learner. Our job as teachers is to adapt and build from there.
We asked III Form students in a survey this week what they most looked forward to; the top responses were building relationships with teachers and classmates. And in our meetings with new faculty in August, teachers explained that they joined St. Andrew’s to be part of a school where positive teacher-student relationships, strong engagement, and respect and trust between all members of the community are the foundation of the culture. The “joy of learning”—something we talk a lot about here—is always going to be rooted in that moment of discovery, or that feeling of understanding or doing something that you previously thought you could not. However, this year, I think all of us appreciate more than ever the type of intellectual joy that is rooted in making connections—not just between concepts, but with other people. We are even more aware of the joy of togetherness—the joy of listening, taking part, and supporting each other. Of course, all of those skills can be practiced over Zoom, but there is a kind of irreplaceable intellectual alchemy that occurs when humans occupy a space together.
So what will we do with our togetherness this year? That’s what we’re all here to find out.