Daily Life in the Upper School

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Upper School Sample Schedule
School Starts/Block 1 8:30 am
Block 2 9:55 am
Lunch  11:10 am
Block 3 12:35 pm
Block 4 2:55 pm
School Ends 3:15 pm

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Upper School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Rowland Hall's 2021–2022 debate team after winning their second consecutive 3A state championship.

For this year’s debate team, there may be one thing that feels better than claiming Rowland Hall’s second consecutive region and state titles.

Doing it in person.

After two years of online-only competition, debaters from across the state were able to gather in person once again for the 2022 regional and state tournaments. After numerous Zoom-room competitions, said Mike Shackelford, Rowland Hall debate coach, these in-person gatherings were a welcome change.

"A return to in-person debate was rejuvenating,” said Mike. “Sure, it meant more planning and earlier mornings—but it also meant pep talks and motivational speeches, real-time collaboration, bonding and playing together between rounds, and supporting one another by watching final rounds as a group. It allowed our students to be truly seen and heard by their opponents, judges, and their teammates." And it was especially exciting for the team members who hadn’t yet experienced in-person debate events. “They didn't even know what they were missing,” said Mike.

Sophomore Zac Bahna was one of these students: he experienced his first year of competition—where he placed third in Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking at state—on Zoom, and now understands the contrast between the two settings.

We were able to foster an environment in which everyone was willing to help each other out and push each other to succeed.—Zac Bahna, class of 2024

“The in-person experience is a lot different but more fun,” said Zac, who, with fellow sophomore and partner Harris Matheson, took third place in this year’s Public Forum event. “You get to talk to debaters from other schools and hang out with your teammates between rounds. Although last year’s debate season was still a great experience, the team felt more isolated and disconnected when we were all debating from our own homes. The state tournament was one of the first times that I could really feel the good energy of a team environment.”

That energy makes a difference for Rowland Hall not only because the team plays up a division into the 3A classification, pitting them against larger schools, but also because they had to spend a lot of time preparing for individual speech events—an area they don't practice during the regular season—to be competitive.

“It was so awesome to see so many Rowland Hall debaters come together and push themselves to compete in different events than they normally would and work together to achieve a common goal,” said Zac. “We were able to foster an environment in which everyone was willing to help each other out and push each other to succeed.”

As a result, the team walked away from the state tournament with their second consecutive 3A state title (their total score, 108, was 33 points higher than the second-place team) and an impressive list of performances:

  • Senior Samantha Lehman took first place in National Extemporaneous Speaking, an event in which debaters are given a domestic affairs question and have 30 minutes to research, write, and deliver seven-minute speeches.
  • Senior teammates Ella Houden and Kit Stevens took first place in Public Forum, an event that includes short speeches interspersed with three-minute crossfire sections, on the topic of the pros and cons of organic agriculture. Senior Samantha Lehman and junior Micah Sheinberg as well as sophomores Zac Bahna and Harris Matheson closed out the top three spots, giving them a co-championship.
  • Junior Layla Hijjawi and sophomore Joey Lieskovan took first place in Policy, an event in which teams advocate for or against a policy change resolution, for their take on the best proposals for water resource protection. Juniors Ruchi Agarwal and Julia Summerfield also went undefeated in this event, giving them the co-championship, while senior George Drakos and sophomore Gabe Andrus, as well as sophomores Marina Peng and Logan Fang, tied for third place—a clean sweep of the top four spots! (Learn more about how debaters across the state, including Rowland Hall students, prepared for this topic in The Salt Lake Tribune.)
  • Freshman Aiden Gandhi took fifth place in Lincoln-Douglas, a solo debate event, for his speech on journalistic ethics.
  • Junior Zachary Klein took third place in Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking, an event in which debaters are given a foreign affairs question and have 30 minutes to research, write, and deliver seven-minute speeches.
  • Freshman Andrew Murphy took fifth place in Student Congress, a competition in which students lead and participate in a simulation where they debate different pieces of national legislation.
  • Junior Micah Sheinberg took fourth place in Impromptu Speaking, an event in which debaters are required to prepare and deliver speeches on a random topic, with only one to two minutes to prepare.

Samantha Lehman also made school history by being the first Rowland Hall student to win an individual state championship in three different debate events over her high school career. The senior said the accomplishment showed her that she can successfully debate on both national and state levels—and reminded her of what she’s learned over four years.

Debate has made me more confident in my voice.—Samantha Lehman, class of 2022

“Debate has made me a more confident person,” said Samantha. “I’ve always been willing to put myself out there, but debate has made me more confident in my voice, in my ability to convey ideas. I know how to speak to a specific audience, to use my research skills and cater arguments to different groups. I know how to speak efficiently and clearly, in a way that’s not pedantic. I know more about the world: criminal justice issues, arms sales, international relations, water, climate change—subjects you would never find out just in school and reading the news.”

This perspective was echoed by ninth grader Aiden Gandhi, who emerged as a team phenom in his novice season, taking fifth place in Lincoln-Douglas at his first state tournament.

“The season allowed me to grow and learn about topics and ideas that I never would have explored otherwise,” said Aiden. And though he is thrilled about the accomplishments of this year, he’s even more excited about his personal growth. “I think I am most proud of achieving the growth that I did this year in debate. It means that I will be better equipped for next year and future debates.”

It’s this kind of attitude, found across the team, that promises continued excellence for Rowland Hall Debate. Even after graduation, said Samantha, she’ll be keeping an eye on the team—she’s that excited about what lies ahead. Zac and Aiden, also looking forward to what's in the team’s future, have already promised to contribute to ongoing success by challenging themselves and their teammates, cultivating a positive and fun environment, and building community.

“I am excited for the opportunity that next year's season brings to connect, grow, and improve,” said Aiden.

Debate

Rowmark ski racer Elisabeth Bocock is one of the newest members of the US Ski Team.

Congratulations to junior Elisabeth Bocock, who this week was nominated to the US Ski Team.

Rowmark and US Ski Team ski racer Elisabeth Bocock

Elisabeth is one of 42 athletes nominated to the US Alpine Ski Team and one of three athletes who will be joining the women’s Development Team (D-Team) for the first time for the 2022–2023 competition season. (Athletes qualify for the team in the spring based on selection criteria, and the official team is announced in the fall once nominees complete physical fitness testing and medical department clearance.) She is the youngest addition to the D-Team and the only new member from the state of Utah.

“It was unreal,” said Elisabeth of the moment she received the call from US Ski Team Coach Chip Knight congratulating her on her season and confirming her place on the team. “It was what I’ve been hoping for basically my whole life.”

She’s not kidding. Thanks to her family’s love of skiing, Elisabeth has been involved with the sport for as long as she can remember: she clipped into her first pair of skis at age two, and some of her earliest memories include traveling with her family to Colorado to watch the World Cup—an experience that inspired her first dreams of joining the US Ski Team. “Seeing people on the team there was super exciting,” she remembered. “It made me want to be a part of that.”

It was unreal. It was what I’ve been hoping for basically my whole life.—Elisabeth Bocock, class of 2023, on being nominated to the US Ski Team

It also didn’t hurt that Elisabeth has three older siblings—brothers Scottie ’18 and Jimmy, and sister Mary—who were early naturals on the slopes and whose ski racing journeys inspired her own competitive drive. Elisabeth began racing for the Snowbird Ski Team at age six, and she joined Rowmark Ski Academy at age 13—a move she credits for preparing her to excel in both racing and academics, and where she’s had an exceptional career. In the 2021–2022 season alone, Elisabeth had five podium finishes in elite-level FIS races and is currently ranked first for her age in the US in slalom, giant slalom, and super-G, and second in the world in giant slalom.

“What is so impressive about Elisabeth objectively earning a spot on the US Ski Team is that her season was filled with setbacks,” said Foreste Peterson, Rowmark Ski Academy’s head women's FIS coach. “Whether it was having to quarantine from COVID exposures, or the many hard crashes she took that left her concussed, bloody, bruised, and banged up, she was knocked down time and time again. Yet, she bounced back every time, better than before, and always with a smile on her face. It was truly a pleasure to work with Elisabeth this year, and I so look forward to seeing what her future holds.”

And while Elisabeth’s riding the high of simply making the US Ski Team, she’s also enjoying an additional perk not available to every athlete in her position: the knowledge that this new experience will include her older sister (and role model), Mary, who was nominated to the US Ski Team last spring. “I’m super excited to work together in a different atmosphere,” said Elisabeth. “Mary’s been a real inspiration to me and has shown me what it takes to get to where I need to go.”

We can’t wait to see where she goes next. Congratulations, Elisabeth—we’ll be cheering you on!

Rowmark

A Rowland Hall Debugging Club member works on a project.

Every day at Rowland Hall, students have their limits tested by a challenging curriculum and by mentors. It helps them grow. But what happens when the curriculum and mentors are pushed by challenging students?

More growth.

At the beginning of the school year, members of Rowland Hall’s technology team were approached by a number of ninth-grade students who had a complaint: they wanted to be able to do more on their school-issued laptops, but the current administrative settings wouldn’t let them. The restrictions were impeding their ability to grow as coders, they said. They didn’t just want more access, they needed it to learn.

The tech team is used to complaints, but not like this. They decided to try something new. They came to the students with an offer they couldn’t refuse.

“They challenged us to hack through the protections,” said Eli Hatton. “They said if we could do it they would let us keep the access instead of revoking it.”

This isn’t to say the tech team didn’t have their reservations. And they had very good reasons to say no. But they also knew this was an opportunity.

This isn’t to say the tech team didn’t have their reservations. And they had very good reasons to say no. But they also knew this was an opportunity. “We are always interested in cybersecurity,” said Alan Jeppson, associate director of technology. “Sometimes the only way to know if our security is working is to try and break it.”

Break it they did: the ninth graders were able to gain the access they desired, and then walked the tech team exactly what they had done so the weakness could be resolved. And thus the Rowland Hall Debugging Club was born.

“First thing we did was have them write a contract for acceptable use with their new machines,” said Alan. “Then we started looking around the school for more projects.”

Members of the Rowland Hall Debugging Club, working on the Lincoln Street Campus in Salt Lake City.

Debugging Club members met in late April to choose upcoming projects.


It didn’t take long to find them. Upper School Assistant Principal Bernard Geoxavier needed a solution for tracking students needing physical education credits while not playing a sport or taking a class. The Debuggers figured out a solution: students needing the credits can now log time in the weight room with just a swipe of their student IDs when they exit and enter. It was a learning experience for the club members they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. “We learned about readying software for very specific hardware and then deploying it,” said Eli. “Then we had to test it and see if it worked.”

Cybersecurity is a growing issue worldwide, and the club, along with members of the tech team and faculty, are looking at ways to improve their skills and the skills of the school community.

That was the first of many projects. Now the club is working on building a chatbot that will help students with everyday tasks, like navigating schedules, reviewing assignments, and performing other functions they would normally have to log in to the student portal to complete.

The opportunities are multiplying too, for both the benefit of the students and the school. Cybersecurity is a growing issue worldwide, and the club, along with members of the tech team and faculty, are looking at ways to improve their skills and the skills of the school community.

“We are looking at how we can get more kids involved, and how we could eventually compete in events like hackathons as a school,” said Ben Smith ’89, Upper School computer science teacher. “This would help these kids grow in areas where they could have real professional success in the future.”

Of course, the founding members of the Debuggers may have a future in store that no one has yet imagined. “This is a good group of super smart kids,” said Chief Information Officer Patrick Godfrey.  “It’s put all of us back on our toes how advanced they are and how they take a project and go after it.”

Added Alan, “These kids are crazy smart and talented. I really am interested in where they go from here.”

STEM

Rowland Hall junior Anna Hull, whose essay received an honorable mention in the fifth Westminster Honors College contest.

Ask any American if they think political and cultural polarization is at an all-time high. Chances are, they’ll say yes.

Discussions around polarization are everywhere: at the water cooler, around the dinner table, on social media—and, this year, as the topic for the Westminster Honors College civility essay contest: Political and cultural polarization in the United States seems at an all-time high. Why is that and what can be done specifically to improve the fractured state of our democratic citizenry? Write an essay (600 words or less) that addresses this question.

Now in its fifth year, the Westminster Honors College civility essay contest provides Utah high school students with an annual opportunity to, in the words of the college, “engage in civil conversation about the crucial issues of our day, making arguments about hard topics in a reasonable, evidence-based fashion.” And students rise to that challenge: this year alone, 187 students from 57 high schools across Utah submitted essays.

As a student, you're constantly having to scrutinize your work in order to learn and grow, so I'm overjoyed (and relieved) to know that my writing holds up in a competitive atmosphere.—Anna Hull, class of 2023

"The judges agreed that the overall quality of work submitted in this year’s pool was the strongest in the history of the contest," wrote Dr. Richard Badenhausen, founding dean of the Westminster Honors College, in his email announcement of this year’s winners.

A bipartisan judging panel whittled the 187 essays down to 15 finalists, and from there chose one first-place winner (including a $2,000 cash award) and two honorable mentions (including a $500 cash award for each). The judges awarded Rowland Hall junior Anna Hull and West High School junior Anika Rao the honorable mentions and Copper Hills High School senior Ethan Hepworth the top prize.

“I felt really ecstatic,” said Anna of when she learned her essay had received an honorable mention. “I tried to not become overly hopeful, simply because so many people entered the contest. So when I learned that I was one of the award winners I was just really surprised and happy. I also felt really proud of myself. As a student, you're constantly having to scrutinize your work in order to learn and grow, so I'm overjoyed (and relieved) to know that my writing holds up in a competitive atmosphere.”

Congratulations, Anna!

With Anna’s permission, we have shared her response to this year’s essay question below.


The Cycle and Solution of Political Polarization

By Anna Hull

Political polarization has existed within the United States since its conception. Although divisions existed before the establishment of the two major parties, the animosity between them largely contributes to the polarization of today. George Washington recognized in his farewell address that political parties would divide the nation, but citizens ignored him.1 As a U.S. history student myself, I’ve learned that polarization is cyclical; there are periods of intense disagreement and periods of profound unity. In the election of 1800, for example, Federalists and Democratic Republicans (the two major parties at the time) spoke viciously of one another, labeling presidential candidates as unchristian or authoritarian.2 Nevertheless, the young country’s citizens reveled in their independence and shared a strong sense of national unity. Later, in the mid 1800s, The Civil War tested this national identity. Ironically, Reconstruction was supposed to unify the nation, but it actually witnessed the birth of de jure segregation which intensified existing racial divides. One hundred years later, citizens battled at lunch counters and participated in mass protests during the Civil Rights movement. Simultaneously, the country united around a shared fear and hatred of Communism during the Cold War. Thus, polarization is not new to America, but there are contemporary factors of today’s disconnection.

One social fact of the United States is that Americans affix a high value to membership of political parties, on par with race, gender, or even social status.3 One of our nation’s prominent ideologies is individualism which makes supporting political parties so appealing: citizens choose what organizations represent them.4 Consequently, citizens are incredibly politically impassioned, turning dinner tables hostile. However, partisanship has maintained a constant existence in the United States, meaning the primary cause behind today’s polarization is not the American support of political parties, but rather how newfound societal powers reinforce feelings of division. CNN and FOX news, for example, disgrace each other on air, even attacking individual anchors. Networks sponsor the Presidential debates and transform them into sports events, where journalists, political advisers, and citizens all take their seats awaiting the sparring, predicting the victor, and cheering on their gladiator. Today, partisanship is tied to aspects of identity, such as location or religion, that brands prey upon to increase citizen engagement. Most importantly, political cooperation is no longer a goal.

A monumental experience that best illustrates the extent to which America is divided is the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather than drawing the country together for the sake of safety, the disease became politicized; mask mandates, quarantines, school closures, and other measures were not uniformly followed. If division is so ingrained into our country, how do we make change? It’s important to recognize that the current state of polarization is part of an ongoing cycle, meaning there’s no need to catastrophize, and no absolute solution. Conflict is one part of this cycle, but another is unity. Thus, one way to decrease political polarization is to acknowledge the similarities between political enemies. Regardless of party, all citizens of the U.S. witness the same problems, such as homelessness, unaffordable healthcare, and poor education systems. The minimization of political polarization comes when citizens identify that their enemies are not the people opposite them politically, but the systems that created these widespread problems. In order to remove power from these systems, it falls upon Americans to question the information thrown at them, to push against elected officials, and to make themselves uncomfortable. Most importantly, we must engage with political opposites to understand each other’s positions, rather than to prove ourselves victorious.

  1. George Washington, “George Washington’s Farewell Address,” 1796.
  2. “The Election of 1800,” U.S. History, accessed February 10, 2022, https://www.ushistory.org/us/20a.asp.
  3. Thomas B. Edsall, “America Has Split, and It’s Now in ‘Very Dangerous Territory’,” The New York Times, Jan. 26, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/opinion/covid-biden-trump-polarization.html.
  4. Milenko Martinovich, “Americans’ partisan identities are stronger than race and ethnicity,” Aug. 31, 2017, https://news.stanford.edu/2017/08/31/political-party-identities-stronger-race-religion/.

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