Individual attention to students in the college process empowers them intellectually, socially, and emotionally to confidently find the right-match schools of their choice.
Rowland Hall’s college counselors promise to:
- know and care for each student;
- guide students to discover colleges that reflect their interests and aspirations;
- work with students to present their strengths in the best light possible; and
- offer expert counseling to students and their families throughout the college-admission process.
Guiding students and their parents through the highly competitive, complex college-admission process requires an expert degree of knowledge, counseling, professionalism, networking, and skill. Our college counselors draw on many years of experience in college admissions and advising when they discuss each individual student’s and family’s goals for the next step after Rowland Hall. You can expect informed guidance regarding schedule planning, college-entrance tests, creating a college list, teacher and school recommendations, and college essays and applications. We provide current and accurate information about a range of colleges and universities—as well as information about trends in the ever-changing college-admissions environment—to help students gain admission to institutions that best match their interests, academic record, aspirations, and the family’s financial considerations.
Historically, all Rowland Hall graduates continue their education at a four-year college or university, including the nation's most competitive and well-known institutions. Keeping in mind the high cost of tuition, many of our graduates wisely choose to ultimately attend colleges that offer merit scholarships, packages not offered by some highly selective colleges.
College counseling at Rowland Hall is a student-centered process and draws on the resources, history, and tradition of the Upper School as well as on the professional relationships and broad experience of two highly qualified and well-respected college counselors. Rowland Hall juniors and seniors meet frequently with the college counselors in group meetings and individual conferences, and the College Counseling Office offers a wealth of resources and perspectives to help students and parents navigate the process.
Just as Rowland Hall expects students to assume greater responsibility for their own education throughout their years at school, the college counselors expect students to complete tasks and meet deadlines throughout the college-admission process.
Connected and Well Traveled
The college counselors frequently travel to and present at regional and national professional conferences of organizations such as the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling, and often visit colleges and universities that may be of interest to Rowland Hall students. Rowland Hall is a known quantity in the admissions offices at several hundred colleges and universities throughout the country, including highly to most-competitive institutions as well as colleges of different types, styles, sizes, and settings.
During Interim week in May, the college counselors offer a several-day tour of colleges and universities in a different area of the country. Popular with juniors and sophomores, these trips combine college visits with tours of historical and cultural points of interest. The most recent destinations have been the Chicago area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Boston.
Get Ready, Get Set
Each fall, the college counselors visit freshmen during first-year seminar and sophomores during a tenth-grade core class. The college counselors present separate meetings for parents of ninth and tenth graders to introduce the college process for younger students.
The Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling (RMACAC) recently named College Counseling Director Michelle Rasich one of two recipients of their 2019 Roger H. Campbell Award—the organization’s most prestigious distinction, signaling career-long excellence.
RMACAC’s description of the honor:
The Roger H. Campbell Award was presented for the first time in 2000 and honors individuals who have made significant contributions to RMACAC and our profession through their many years of service. This award recognizes those who have met the highest standards of commitment to our college admission profession. The Roger H. Campbell Award is the highest tribute RMACAC can give to recognize individuals who exemplify excellence and dedication to serving the needs of students in the transition from high school to college.
Michelle has worked at Rowland Hall since 2010 and has made international waves in her field by popularizing a new approach to letters of recommendation, among other accomplishments.
“All who serve and sacrifice in furtherance of the RMACAC mission inspire and motivate me to work smarter, dream bigger, and innovate faster,” Michelle said after receiving the award, adding she was grateful for and humbled by the recognition.
Michelle received the award at an industry conference May 22. RMACAC is a nonprofit professional association consisting of over 450 people from secondary and post-secondary institutions. They’re an affiliate of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
By Coral Azarian, associate director of College Counseling, Student Council advisor, and a 2017 graduate of the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute (gcLI) Leadership Lab
Republished from gcLi with permission; this version lightly edited.
In the late ’90s, John Christensen visited the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. He watched fishmongers toss massive fresh catches to one another while effortlessly interacting with throngs of tourists, and realized that despite the smiles, jokes, and radiating positivity, throwing heavy fish for an audience all day was tedious work.
Yet the experience for everyone was always happy, because regardless of variables—from bad weather to long work shifts—the fishmongers were always happy. They were always positive; they were always present; they actively sought ways to make their audience’s experience memorable; and they always had fun.
Leadership is complex, but at its core, it should be something we enjoy. Successful leaders are consistent and have fun, and we should instill that in our students. People who embrace that philosophy are more impactful and sustainable leaders than those motivated by expectation alone.
For the last four years, I’ve worked as Rowland Hall’s associate director of College Counseling. In the fall, our office is dedicated to supporting the needs and nurturing the anxieties of over 70 seniors, and we often find ourselves at a loss as to how to serve everyone to the fullest degree.
The last straw was when one admissions representative visited our school without meeting a single one of our students. He represented a college that my colleague and I knew would be a great fit for a number of our seniors, but because it wasn’t in the 25 perennial favorite “reach” schools of students and their parents, no one signed up. The representative was instead left to meet with my colleague and me. This experience, along with the daily stress of meeting the needs of students and visitors, inspired our College Counseling Ambassadors program.
The tenets—choosing your attitude, being present, finding small ways to make someone else’s day, and infusing fun into your work—serve as the perfect platform for a student-leadership program.
So what does a new student-leadership program have to do with fishmongers? Well, with my unwritten but foremost job responsibility being relationship building, I live my own version of the fishmonger’s story every day. The FISH! philosophy, the leadership theory that Christensen developed as a result of his Pike Place observations, is now used by organizations the world over. It’s a natural match for Rowland Hall. The tenets—choosing your attitude, being present, finding small ways to make someone else’s day, and infusing fun into your work—serve as the perfect platform for a student-leadership program.
Our ambassador team began with a group of second-semester sophomores who completed applications and interviews and participated in two months of training. Each ambassador developed a campus tour highlighting their unique Rowland Hall experience, then conducted mock tours with their peers and provided constructive feedback to ensure everyone would lead successful visits. Starting in the fall, they turned that training into concrete leadership as they adapted to last-minute schedule changes, guided peers on what to expect while talking with college reps, and synthesized and relayed institutional highlights in weekly emails to entice seniors to attend college meetings.
As the semester progressed, their confidence grew, and I witnessed—while they experienced—the FISH! philosophy in action:
Choose Your Attitude
We all have days when things don’t seem to be going right. For our ambassadors, this might mean they overslept or have anxiety over a test. But when it’s time to don that nametag and welcome college reps to campus, ambassadors choose to have a positive attitude. They ensure guests leave knowing more about Rowland Hall, and that their time here was valued. This is a major goal of the program and a key component in developing students’ abilities to be positive leaders.
For our ambassadors, being there doesn’t just mean showing up on time. It means staying engaged throughout a rep’s visit, asking questions during their presentation, and cultivating curiosity about the opportunities an institution provides.
Our students exist in a culture that is constantly propelling them forward, providing little reward for being present and getting out from behind a screen. For our ambassadors, being there doesn’t just mean showing up on time. It means staying engaged throughout a rep’s visit, asking questions during their presentation, and cultivating curiosity about the opportunities an institution provides, even if they don’t think it would be a great fit for them personally. Being there also manifests in an ambassador’s ability to think on their feet and adjust to schedule changes. Focusing on the present helps them adapt to unplanned or less-than-ideal situations.
Make Their Day
Emotional intelligence is an important component of leadership development. For our ambassadors, this takes shape when they find small ways to make reps special. Ambassadors ensure that reps have the opportunity to set their bags down or get a drink of water before their tour. They also send reps handwritten thank-you cards. Helping our ambassadors develop the emotional intelligence to read and respond to situations empowers them to make others feel valued.
Ambassadors may not be be enthusiastic about every college they’re assigned, and they may not always be jazzed about drafting yet another email on what they learned about a university. But we can still have fun. Celebrating successes—whether by hosting our end-of-semester breakfast or by sharing compliments paid to ambassadors via post-visit surveys—is an important practice that our lead ambassadors (a new component of the program this year) are now adopting. Taking a step back to find joy in your work is an important facet of leadership.
So as I kick off my 27th school year (as a student and counselor) with a new crop of ambassadors and our first crew of lead ambassadors, I’m energized by the enthusiasm of my students diving in headfirst. Our lead ambassadors are learning how to mentor our new folks, and in each interaction, I see them actively choosing positivity, finding ways to make each other’s day, and exploring new opportunities to infuse play into every aspect of the program.
Coral graduated from the gcLi Leadership Lab in 2017. The lab, by presenting a foundation in developmental psychology and brain science, helps educators develop the ability to identify, utilize, and create teachable moments to transform individuals, classrooms, sports teams, and whole schools.
College Counseling Director Michelle Rasich has helped to fine-tune a new, effective format for recommendation letters. Now she's leading the charge to teach her peers about it, and it's gaining traction across the globe.
When College Counseling Director Michelle Rasich and three colleagues from other institutions learned they'd be presenting a conference session in a 20,000-square-foot ballroom at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, they suspected there'd been a miscommunication.
The group was scheduled to give a presentation called "Recs that Change Lives" early on Friday, September 15, at the National Association for College Admission Counseling's (NACAC) annual conference.
"We were convinced there had been a mistake, that this was not the right room for us—we were supposed to be in a smaller room," she said. A coordinator confirmed the roughly 1,000-seat space was indeed for them, and 958 attendees showed up that Friday morning.
"None of us had ever presented to a group that size," Michelle said. "I was more energized than nervous, because I was so excited to have that reach and to be able to affect that many people."
According to feedback from attendees, she and her presenters lived up to the hype. Comments included, "THIS alone was worth the travel to Boston"; "Best I've attended in my 31 years!"; "Life changing"; and "Michelle is amazing. I want to go to every session she does at every conference."
Word had already been spreading on "Recs that Change Lives," organized-narrative letters of recommendation for high schoolers applying to college. Michelle named the concept as a nod to Colleges that Change Lives, a book and subsequent organization of student-centered colleges well-known among college counselors. The letters use a series of headers and bullet points so they're easier for admissions officers to read and simpler for college counselors to write. Specifically, Michelle coined headers such as "Distinctive Qualities" and "College Readiness and Recommendation" based on what admissions officers told her they're trying to find in the letters.
"They're on a scavenger hunt," she said. "They're looking for this, so why not just give it to them instead of making them dig for it."
There has to be a better way, Michelle told fellow counselors, to work smarter, not harder, and to better advocate for high schoolers while taking into account the realities faced by admissions officers.
When Michelle started at Rowland Hall in 2010, she devoted ample time to writing traditional two-page letters. "I was spending a lot of time in transition—making sure that paragraph one was logically and smoothly tied to paragraph two," she said. She spent up to two and a half hours on one letter, while a college-admissions officer spent 15 minutes reading an entire 15- to 20-page student file. Accordingly, the number of college applications continues to increase in part due to the Common Application, Michelle explained, but individual colleges aren't necessarily hiring more admissions staff.
While on a bus tour of midwestern colleges with peers from the Association for College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS), Michelle broached the problem to colleagues. There has to be a better way, she told fellow counselors, to work smarter, not harder, and to better advocate for high schoolers while taking into account the realities faced by admissions officers.
Some of Michelle's New England peers discussed a format they'd long been using. It entailed organizing letter content in a more visual way, with headers and bullets, so readers could more easily find what they were looking for, whether that was extracurricular activities or academic growth and trends.
The Data-Driven Solution
We don't want to assume that we're doing our jobs in a way that is beneficial to students and college readers. We want to know for a fact.—Michelle Rasich, college counseling director
So counselors on the ACCIS bus tour mocked up a sample letter, and over the summer, Michelle—data enthusiast that she is—gathered feedback on admissions officers' reactions to the new format. Michelle and Associate Director of College Counseling Coral Azarian care very much about collecting data to assess their work, Michelle said. They regularly poll students, for instance, to track trends related to college counseling.
"We don't want to assume that we're doing our jobs in a way that is beneficial to students and college readers," Michelle said. "We want to know for a fact."
Michelle surveyed the 25 colleges that (a) Rowland Hall students most frequently apply to, and that (b) accept letters of recommendation. Seventeen representatives responded with positive feedback, and Michelle made minor adjustments to headers based on suggestions. She implemented the new format the following school year, and surveyed admissions officers once more. Feedback this time, she said, was even more positive. A representative from Vanderbilt University, for instance, wrote, "I really like the format, as it allows me to focus on a certain section. The categories that you've chosen are helpful and things that we would look for in our process." Other admissions officers encouraged Michelle to continue using the new style and to teach others about it.
Evangelizing 'Recs that Change Lives'
As an alumna of Bowdoin College, Michelle is a staunch believer in the common good. So after admissions colleagues praised the new format in the second survey, she led the charge to share "Recs that Change Lives." She wanted to spread the gospel on this effective method that steered counselors toward a more concise style—Michelle now spent about an hour on each letter—without sacrificing the personal details admissions professionals desired.
For several years, Michelle and her colleagues presented the concept at regional conferences. Traction at that level inspired them to present at NACAC, which opened the floodgates. Every day for a month after that Boston session, counselors from across the world emailed Michelle requesting the presentation materials. Now, six months later, knowledge of the format is nearly ubiquitous.
John McLaughlin, associate dean of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, co-presented with Michelle at NACAC. He's seen more organized-narrative recommendations come across his desk over the past year. The format allows writers to get to the point, he said, which can be useful for recommenders writing dozens of letters. "I think Michelle's work to share the approach has been a key factor in its growing popularity," he said. "It was thoughtful and generous to do that, and that's Michelle."
Michelle likes to bill the letters as a win-win-win: "It's a win for the student, because we are able to advocate more effectively based on the feedback; it's a win for the reader; and it's definitely a win for the counselor," she said. "I always put the counselors last in that equation because that's how it should be focused—the student, the audience, the writer."
Writers may be last in that equation, but they're still reaping benefits. Michelle said public-school counselors have told her time saved writing letters now goes back into spending more nights and weekends with their families. And of course, there's plenty of buy-in here at Rowland Hall, where 90% of teachers who write recommendation letters use the new format. A group of 12 early adopters included Math Department Chair Brian Birchler and English teacher Kody Partridge. Kody said the format keeps her focused on key components of the letter without surrendering to a formula. Brian said it helps him provide a clearer picture of the student, and to do so more efficiently: "As someone who has to spend a long time to write well, the bulleted format really lets me focus on telling the story of a student's experience with mathematics."
Service work by Michelle and Coral continues to bolster Rowland Hall's already-strong reputation in the fields of college counseling and admissions.
Service work by Michelle and Coral continues to bolster Rowland Hall's already-strong reputation in the fields of college counseling and admissions. In addition to regularly presenting "Recs that Change Lives," Michelle serves on a NACAC ad hoc committee and is co-chair for that organization's next annual conference here in Salt Lake City. Coral is the social committee co-chair for that same conference, and currently serves on the executive board of the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admissions Counseling, which Michelle led four years ago.
"Recs that Change Lives" has shone an international spotlight on Rowland Hall, and Michelle is still soaking it all in. "I'm so proud to be representing Rowland Hall at this level and to be contributing to the common good of all counselors and admissions professionals," she said. "This is a career hallmark."
Juniors attend monthly group meetings beginning in January that kick off the college planning process in earnest, and the college counselors meet personally with juniors and their parents throughout the late winter, spring, and early summer. Junior parents participate in an introductory group meeting in January, and they receive regular communication from the College Counseling Office as the year continues. In January of their junior year, students begin exploring Naviance, a powerful web-based college-planning resource that Rowland Hall has used for a dozen years.
Rowland Hall seniors confer regularly with the college counselors. Seniors participate in dedicated workshops on a wide range of topics: application boot camp, college essays, application case studies with admissions professionals, mock interviews, college-bound athletes, and college-bound performing and visual artists. Students also meet with some of the nearly 50 college and university admissions representatives who visit Rowland Hall each fall. The college counselors advise students on developing their college lists; drafting and revising their college essays and application supplements; considering early application/decision plans; taking the SAT, ACT, and/or SAT Subject Tests; making college-visit plans; and much more.
Though the pandemic affected their plans for events, summer internships, study abroad opportunities, and athletic competitions, these students still found ways to learn, to connect, and to share joy.
The class of 2021 is a diverse and talented group of young adults. During their time at Rowland Hall, they have grown academically and personally by embracing challenges, pursuing their passions, and committing to productive, responsible, and thoughtful lives. They’ve also shown impressive resilience, particularly during their junior and senior years, which were greatly altered by COVID-19. Though the pandemic affected their plans for events, summer internships, study abroad opportunities, and athletic competitions, these students still found ways to learn, to connect, and to share joy.
Members of this class took opportunities to expand their learning. They explored careers through internships—both in person and virtually—at organizations like Better Days 2020, McNeill Von Maack, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office, the University of Utah, and Utah Spine Medicine. They attended programs at The School of the New York Times and the National Security Agency, studied abroad in England and Ireland, and immersed themselves in languages and cultures in China and the Dominican Republic. They expanded their studies at the college level, enrolling in courses like numbers theory, 1700s American civilization, and introduction to architecture, and they partnered with Rowland Hall teachers to craft independent study courses when COVID-19 canceled classes. The class of 2021 also includes several students recognized for their academic prowess. The group boasts several top-tier debaters, including six individual state champions, three national qualifiers, two Academic All-Americans, and the captains who led the team to its first overall 3A State title in school history. Multiple young women in this class received Aspirations in Computing awards from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Another took home first prize in the Federal Bar Association’s 2020 civics essay contest.
This class has no shortage of artists bringing beauty to the world.
This class has no shortage of artists bringing beauty to the world. Its musicians include a winner of the American Protégé International Competition of Romantic Music, a principal violinist for the Utah All-State Orchestra and the Utah Youth Orchestra, and a pianist who earned several superior rankings from the National Federation of Music Clubs. One actor is a member of University of Utah Youth Theatre’s Conservatory, and one dancer attends Ballet West Academy. A promising writer honed her skills at a Brown University creative nonfiction writing program, while others wrote editorials on topics like homelessness reform, the importance of grieving lives lost to coronavirus, and the number of women in leadership, all of which were published in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Winged Lion seniors led our athletics program to top-five finishes in the Deseret News’ 2A All-Sports Awards each year of their Upper School careers. They captured 28 Region and nine State titles as teams, and four individual Region and State championships. Five seniors were named All-State, with one awarded 3A Swimmer of the Year; four earned All-Region honors; and one was selected to play in a postseason All-Star game. Fifteen Academic All-State and 25 Academic All-Region honorees led their teams to top-three GPA rankings among 2A schools over the past four years. All three seniors in Rowmark Ski Academy finished this season with career-best performances, including 10 Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) top-20 and two FIS top-10 finishes. In addition to school sports, this group pursued diverse athletics interests: they participated in rowing, figure skating, and club soccer. One is a national-championship-winning equestrian. Two are ski mountaineers, one of whom competed with the US National Team at the World Championships and Youth Olympic Games, and another who is a member of the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Team.
This class has left their mark on Rowland Hall: they founded clubs like Mental Health Educators, created safe spaces for peers including the LatinX affinity group and the Queer-Straight Alliance, and helped drive necessary conversations via the student Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee.
This class has left their mark on Rowland Hall: they founded clubs like Mental Health Educators, created safe spaces for peers including the LatinX affinity group and the Queer-Straight Alliance, and helped drive necessary conversations via the student Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee. They’ve devoted countless hours to the larger community, supporting causes like Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives, and volunteering for organizations including Circles Salt Lake, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Mission Math, the National Charity League, People's Health Clinic, Salt Lake Peer Court, the Sunnyvale Community Center, YouthCity Government, and YWCA Utah.
Many students held down jobs while in school, working as servers, referees, lifeguards, swim instructors, and babysitters; a couple entrepreneurs even started their own companies. And while balancing school, service, and work, these students spent time on passion projects, whether that meant joining the American Regions Mathematics League, examining area histories and geology with the National Outdoor Leadership School, earning a private pilot's license, or giving a TED Talk on microplastics for TEDxParkCity.
The future is bright for the 65 seniors in this graduating class. Our graduates earned admission to 131 different colleges and universities, and 74% of them received at least one merit scholarship to attend college. A few have chosen to take a gap year to work or pursue personal interests. Whatever their next steps, we know these experiences will serve as stepping stones on their journeys to living lives of purpose and impact.
Congratulations to the class of 2021. You have achieved many great things, and we are eager to watch you continue to change the world for the better.
Young Alum to High School Teacher: “I Cannot Thank You Enough for Sparking My Interest in Computer Science”
Alum Anna Shott ’16 sent the following email to middle and upper school computer science (CS) teacher Ben Smith ’89 on December 3, 2020. Anna graciously agreed to let us republish it here. We last interviewed Anna in 2016 when she was a senior taking her first CS class with Ben and enjoying the collaborative, problem-solving aspects of the field, which often gets falsely stereotyped as an antisocial and rote career choice. Ben has worked hard over nearly a decade to show his students—especially young women, who are underrepresented in the field—the reality: that programmers typically work together in teams to solve real-world problems and ultimately help people. This year, Ben is even weaving in social justice as a theme, using the Algorithmic Justice League as one of his teaching resources. We're grateful for Ben's dedication to CS education and can't wait to see what he and his former students like Anna do in the future. If you're an alum with a story about how a Rowland Hall teacher helped to inspire your career choice, let us know.
Dear Mr. Smith,
Hope you are doing well and enjoying a nice holiday season! I am reaching out with an update and to say thank you.
After graduating from Rowland Hall in 2016 I took a gap year where I worked at my family's company and traveled. In 2017 I enrolled as a freshman at the University of Southern California studying computer science and business. The last two summers I interned at Microsoft, first as an Explore intern and then as a program management intern. I am now a senior finishing up my last few classes before graduation in May. Next fall I’m heading to Seattle to join Microsoft full-time as a program manager.
I would not have even thought to try out programming, let alone make computer science my undergraduate major and career priority, if it weren’t for the very first computer programming class you taught at Rowland Hall during my 2015–16 senior year.
I’ve spent much of my last four years participating in startup incubators, building companies, and exploring Los Angeles. I've stayed involved in the engineering community as a counselor for an on-campus computer science camp for K–12 students and as a teacher's assistant for one of USC's core software engineering classes. I would not have even thought to try out programming, let alone make computer science my undergraduate major and career priority, if it weren’t for the very first computer programming class you taught at Rowland Hall during my 2015–16 senior year. Your class truly influenced the path I chose, and I cannot thank you enough for sparking my interest in computer science.
I've had so much fun reading the various articles on the Rowland Hall website regarding the incredible computer science program you have built. Congratulations on the numerous accolades you and your students have earned over the years. I hope the program continues to grow and expose students to computer science and engineering, and ultimately inspire many to pursue a career path in those disciplines.
I wish you and your family all the best and hope you are staying happy and healthy during this time.
Many thanks again, and happy holidays!
Class of 2016
Top: Anna Shott ’16 at her graduation, receiving her diploma from now-retired head of school Alan Sparrow.
Senior social justice advocate Dulce Maria Horn feels an innate pull to help the Latinx community, and in her stirring words, to ultimately “change the policies which entrap the comunidad I love so dearly.”
This deep passion to spur change has put Dulce on a seemingly unstoppable upward trajectory—and one that’s further bolstered by an impressive series of scholarship awards this spring.
In April, Dulce learned she’d won the Rotary Club of Salt Lake City’s $5,000 scholarship, which Rotarians give to one senior from each Salt Lake City high school. In addition to the Rotary honor, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah announced in May that Dulce (along with senior classmate Ria Agarwal) won a $3,500 Youth Activist Scholarship for 2020. The senior also won a John Greenleaf Whittier Scholarship from Whittier College, where she plans to major in global and cultural studies starting in the fall. Whittier will be a crucial step toward Dulce’s longer-term goal: becoming an immigration lawyer and working with unaccompanied, undocumented minors to provide emotional and legal support.
In the above ACLU Utah video, Dulce explains what being a civil liberties activist means to her: using the power that we have "to fight for all rights, for all humans, regardless of any barriers."
The work that I do helps me to feel that I am actualizing the justice immigrants deserve, due to the fact that we are a historically and continually marginalized community.
Dulce is Latina and bilingual, and her life story is central to her work: she was adopted and came to Salt Lake City from Guatemala at six months old. She grew up in what she called a predominantly White, upper-middle-class world, and from a young age, she’s used her advantages to help others: “Due to my relative privilege and outlook on life, I pressure myself to support my family and community,” Dulce wrote in her Rotary essay. “The work that I do helps me to feel that I am actualizing the justice immigrants deserve, due to the fact that we are a historically and continually marginalized community.”
The Rowland Hall lifer developed an activist mindset early on: she was only eight years old when she started volunteering for Safe Passage, a nonprofit that aids families who are making a living from Guatemala City’s garbage dump. In eighth grade she volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, helping Spanish-speaking adults learn English. And in 2018, she began volunteering for immigrant rights nonprofit Comunidades Unidas (CU), where she’s worked on Latinx community empowerment—including voter registration—and accrued several awards for her efforts. Accolades aside, Dulce finds the greatest rewards in the work itself: in the people she meets, and the progress she makes.
Through her work, Dulce met Vicky Chavez—an undocumented mother entering sanctuary with her two daughters. An unbreakable bond ensued. “Vicky’s daughters are no longer clients or friends; they are my sisters."
One anecdote is particularly emblematic of what drives Dulce. In 2018, through her work on deportation cases with the SLC Sanctuary Network, Dulce met Vicky Chavez—an undocumented mother entering sanctuary with her two daughters. Since Dulce is especially interested in helping children, she opted to work with Vicky’s kids. An unbreakable bond ensued. “Vicky’s daughters are no longer clients or friends; they are my sisters,” Dulce wrote in her Rotary essay. “Immigrants deserve fair and just laws and regulations that uplift rather than harm. No Ban. No Wall. No Remain in Mexico. No Separación.”
Rowland Hall Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund praised Dulce’s breadth of work and, in the case of the Rotary scholarship, explained what gave her an edge in an impressive applicant pool. “Dulce's engagement with the asylum-seeking community in Salt Lake expands the definition of service to include community activism. The Rotarians were so impressed by Dulce embracing an ethic of inclusion and working tirelessly on an issue from many angles,” Ryan said. The senior, he added, embodies a genuine concern for humanity and the conditions faced by the most vulnerable among us. “For those not even recognized legally to request a redress of grievance, Dulce is a powerful and compassionate voice.”
Thanks to Rowland Hall, I am one of the only people (and most certainly the youngest) to have roles in public speaking in my activist circle.
Though Rowland Hall had little to no impact on Dulce’s unique and extensive activism journey, she credits her school for giving her a solid foundation in public speaking. Through her work at CU and beyond, Dulce has made speeches galore, spoken at press conferences and on radio shows, and led workshops and classes. “I have no fear of public speaking, whether it be in front of the press or a tiny workshop. Rowland Hall helped greatly with this,” she said, adding she still remembers reciting poetry in second grade and giving a speech about a famous role model in third grade. “Thanks to Rowland Hall, I am one of the only people (and most certainly the youngest) to have roles in public speaking in my activist circle.”
For now, Dulce looks forward to continuing to fight for immigrant rights during her college years, and she’s happy that her scholarships will help her pay for Whittier. But true to her personality, Dulce is quick to shift the focus off of her as an individual, and onto the greater struggle: activists often work in silence and with little recognition, she said, trying to keep immigrants healthy and their families united. There are many others who are equally worthy: “Thousands of people deserve a scholarship for their hard work to keep immigrants safe.”
While this class has faced unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit during their senior year, we know that their heightened resilience from this experience—alongside their dedication to academics, passion projects, and volunteerism—will serve them all their lives.
Rowland Hall’s class of 2020 is made up of 78 passionate, driven young adults. During their time at our school, they have grown in confidence and competence, both inside and outside our classrooms, and their many achievements embody our vision of inspiring students who make a difference. While this class has faced unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit during their senior year, we know that their heightened resilience from this experience—alongside their dedication to academics, passion projects, and volunteerism—will serve them all their lives.
Members of the class of 2020 embraced opportunities to connect their coursework with the larger world. Many explored potential careers through internships at organizations like The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, HawkWatch International, McNeill Von Maack, Red Butte Garden, the office of Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, Intermountain Nurse Midwives, and Alliance for a Better Utah. Some used classroom experiences as inspiration for writing op-eds on subjects from overlooked sports figures to gun safety, while others combined in-class topics with critical thinking and communication skills at the lectern—the class of 2020 includes several top-tier debate students, including four state champions, five national qualifiers, six Academic All-Americans, and three qualifiers to the Tournament of Champions, two of whom finished in the top 15 this year.
Winged Lion seniors led our athletics program to top-five finishes in the Deseret News’ 2A All-Sports Awards each year of their Upper School careers. They captured 26 Region and seven State titles as teams. Eleven of our seniors were named All-State, with one named State 2A MVP in her sport; 10 earned All-Region honors; and four were selected to play in postseason All-Star games. Sixteen Academic All-State and 13 Academic All-Region honorees led their teams to top-three recognition for their sports in the Top 2A Team GPA award over the past four years. Of the five seniors in Rowmark Ski Academy, four competed in the US Junior National Championships in February and all qualified for the FIS Western Region Junior Championships. Their ski-racing successes this past season include 25 total FIS top-10 finishes and seven podiums in a season where the final month of competition, including year-end championship races, was cancelled. Without a doubt, this list of Rowmark and Winged Lion athletics accomplishments would have been longer had the season not ended prematurely.
Our students dedicated their time to various passion projects, from designing robots and rockets, to creating a computer program to defeat partisan gerrymandering in Utah, to applying for a 501(c)(3) to create an alpine ski racing nonprofit for under-resourced girls.
Our students dedicated their time to various passion projects, from designing robots and rockets, to creating a computer program to defeat partisan gerrymandering in Utah, to applying for a 501(c)(3) to create an alpine ski racing nonprofit for under-resourced girls. Others were active on the Rowland Hall campus, volunteering as tutors, heading sustainability initiatives, starting affinity groups for Black and Asian students, acting as ambassadors for admission or college counseling, and serving on the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.
Many artists make up this year’s graduating class: painters, graphic designers, illustrators, filmmakers, writers, a jewelry designer, and dancers whose studies vary from ballet and contemporary to Cretan, classical Indian, and Tibetan styles. This class’ talented musicians include competitive pianists, violinists, and a bassist—one pianist’s superior scores earned her the privilege of playing in the Utah Federation of Music Clubs’ honors recital and the Utah Music Teachers Association recital. One young author penned an essay on political civility that was published in The Salt Lake Tribune after winning the top prize in Westminster College's annual Honors College Statewide Essay Contest. A budding thespian helped write an original musical as a member of the University of Utah’s Youth Conservatory.
The class of 2020’s commitment to volunteerism cannot be overstated. Our students have made a difference for dozens of organizations.
The class of 2020’s commitment to volunteerism cannot be overstated. Our students have made a difference for dozens of organizations like the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake, Preservation Utah, LDS Hospital, Summit Land Conservancy, the Muslim Community Center of Utah, Friends of Alta, the Navajo Nation, and the Salt Lake City Sanctuary Network. They spent summers serving communities in China, Fiji, Thailand, and Vietnam. One student started a local chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, while another raised thousands of dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This year, a Rowland Hall senior was awarded Utah Youth Volunteer of the Year in recognition of his years of commitment to Jewish Family Service.
Many of our seniors also held jobs while in school, including working as bussers, hosts, baristas, spin and dance instructors, a certified nursing assistant, and a mountain adventure guide. One student plays in a jazz band for local events, while another ran electrochemistry lab experiments for graduate students.
The future is bright for the 78 seniors in this graduating class. Our graduates earned admission to 128 different colleges and universities, and 78% of them received at least one merit scholarship to attend college. A few have chosen to take a gap year to work or pursue personal interests. Whatever their next steps, we know these experiences will serve as stepping stones on their journeys to living lives of purpose and impact.
Congratulations, class of 2020! You have accomplished so much already, and we know you’re just getting started.
Top image: The class of 2020—view the full collage.