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!
Sincerely, Anna Shott
Class of 2016
Top: Anna Shott ’16 at her graduation, receiving her diploma from now-retired Head of School Alan Sparrow.
As red and blue maps and graphs coated the screens of news websites Tuesday, the Upper School used their virtual monthly chapel to share hopeful, nonpartisan research and reflections about election day.
The speakers—several upper schoolers, Harvard senior and Rowland Hall alum Will Matheson ’17, and Interfaith Chaplain Jeremy Innis—also encouraged students to participate in our democracy by, for instance, voting when they turn 18. And throughout the heartening half hour, Jeremy, Will, and the student presenters touched on a central idea: especially when tensions are high, remain kind and respectful, and work to build trust and dialogue with others.
“I hope that you can find some wisdom here, some hope and compassion, and that we can think as a community about how to move through this week gracefully and thoughtfully,” Jeremy said as he kicked off the virtual event.
Scrutinize the information you see on social media and the news. There will be competing media narratives about what's happening and who won. Your job is to educate yourself.—Senior Alex Hodson
Seniors Augustus Hickman, Alex Hodson, and Katie Kern presented first. As students in Mike Shackelford’s political science class, they’re learning about the societal and institutional forces—as opposed to the individual candidates or choices—that affect election results. Drawing from that practical foundation, they offered level-headed insights: “Brace yourself. It's OK that we don't know immediately,” Alex said, referring to the election results. Let the system run its course, she added. “Second, scrutinize the information you see on social media and the news. There will be competing media narratives about what's happening and who won. Your job is to educate yourself.”
Next, alum Will Matheson—a Harvard senior studying government with a secondary concentration in economics—presented an overview of his work as a research team lead working on the Harvard Youth Poll. Will reassured upper schoolers that Americans aged 18–29 are more alike than it might seem: a majority of the young Democrats and Republicans surveyed, for example, want the government to do more to address health care issues, mental health services, and the economic consequences of the pandemic. Young Americans are also highly engaged right now and may have voted at record levels in this election.
Previous generations that rose to the challenges that faced them did so not by pointing a finger, but by extending an open hand, and Rowland Hall actually does a great job at instilling these qualities and skills involved.—Alum Will Matheson ’17
So what can Rowland Hall students do with this information, especially considering most can’t vote yet? Will—who fittingly co-wrote a CNN op-ed back in June entitled “Dear Gen Z, don't give up on America just yet”—encouraged students to vote in every election they can, from age 18 onwards. “The system has to be impacted by youth over time to make progress on those issues,” he said, referring to the shared priorities revealed in the Harvard Youth Poll, “so turning out in every election at every level of government matters.”
Second—less concrete but no less important, Will said—he asked students to become the best citizens they can be. “Previous generations that rose to the challenges that faced them did so not by pointing a finger, but by extending an open hand, and Rowland Hall actually does a great job at instilling these qualities and skills involved,” he said. “We need to embody qualities like curiosity, empathy, and humility to admit when we are wrong … It requires hard skills like being a smart media consumer, but also soft skills like being able to talk to people that you might not agree with. Once we've done that, only then can we begin to really heal our civic culture.” Only in trial is progress possible, Will closed. “It requires all of us, with big hearts and open minds.”
At Rowland Hall’s September 4 all-school Convocation, alumna Charis Benjamin ’12 reminded students, “How you engage with others and interact with your peers matters.”
“We’re not only building our own confidence in our lives, but we also have an opportunity to help build the confidence of our peers,” she told them. “The gift that we give each other is the chance to interact with others and help each other be our best selves.”
We’re not only building our own confidence in our lives, but we also have an opportunity to help build the confidence of our peers.—Charis Benjamin ’12
As the 2020 alumni speaker for Convocation, Charis was asked to join other speakers—including Head of School Mick Gee, Chaplain Jeremy Innis, and Student Body President Maddy Frech—to reflect on the theme Welcome Everyone. She used this opportunity to think back on her nine years at Rowland Hall, weaving stories of her own experience into her speech to illustrate the power of relationship and spoken words in a learning community.
“Our interactions matter—we’re constantly learning from each other,” Charis said when asked about why she chose to focus her speech on peer-driven confidence-building. She wanted to show students of all ages that they have the power to encourage others simply by being a friend—something that everyone can relate to. “Building elements of confidence or using your words kindly is universal for young or older learners,” she said.
And because she knows that students often hear about people clashing over differences, she also wanted to use her experiences to encourage them to build space for others’ uniqueness—to embrace, rather than fear or avoid discussing, differences. “We have to spend time celebrating differences,” she said. Charis further noted that Rowland Hall’s size benefits kids who are getting comfortable with these skills: “At Rowland Hall, you get a chance to have a smaller group of peers. You can spend time asking unique questions to get to know the people around you.”
Charis knows firsthand the benefits of peer confidence-boosting—how it spreads beyond the individuals who feel safe and welcomed to classrooms, where students take risks and engage in deeper learning. This builds skills they then take into their adult lives. “How engaged you are in the classroom impacts how comfortable you feel to speak up,” she said. “The space that you spend a lot of time in helps cultivate how you move through the world.”
Charis’ experience illustrates just how far this confidence can take students—and how it prepares them to continue living with a community-minded focus. Since graduating from Rowland Hall, Charis has studied how to make individuals and communities healthier, first earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and society from Cornell University in 2016, then a master of public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2019. While earning those degrees, she also worked as a research assistant, a graduate PHASE intern, and a program administrator—opportunities that, she explained, helped her “really understand some of the big-picture issues” around public health. In August, Charis began the newest chapter of her journey, entering the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health as a first-year medical student.
Charis can readily call up memories of Upper School teachers who prepared her to grapple with real-world problems and to think beyond herself: In Doug Wortham’s French class, she learned how to be uncomfortable and to have empathy for others learning a new language. In Carolyn Hickman’s English class, she learned that reading comprehension skills go far beyond texts. And in Ryan Hoglund’s ethical learning class, she took part in life-changing group discussions around ethical dilemmas.
As a physician-in-training with a background in epidemiology during the time of COVID-19, Charis is confronted with challenging questions every day—but she stressed that she feels prepared to take them on, thanks in large part to the confidence she built at Rowland Hall, which she credits for true friendships and her first encounters with “big questions, and how we tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.” Charis can readily call up memories of Upper School teachers who prepared her to grapple with real-world problems and to think beyond herself: In Doug Wortham’s French class, she learned how to be uncomfortable and to have empathy for others learning a new language. In Dr. Carolyn Hickman’s English class, she learned that reading comprehension skills go far beyond texts—in her case, preparing her to ask the right questions to diagnose illnesses in patients (“Reading comprehension really is life comprehension,” she pointed out). And in Ryan Hoglund’s ethical learning class, she took part in life-changing group discussions around ethical dilemmas.
“Most prompts did not have one clear, correct answer—and that’s the point,” Charis said. “Getting comfortable with ambiguity at the high school age is important, because in life you’re going to have gray areas.” This is especially true in her line of work. “Right now with coronavirus we have a lot of questions,” she continued. “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.” But being comfortable in the gray area keeps scientists like her moving forward, looking for ways to fight the pandemic as well as to protect communities—global examples of the kind of community-building that takes place daily at schools like Rowland Hall.
“Charis is a keen reminder that Rowland Hall graduates are community builders long after they leave this community,” said Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund. “Listening to Charis' inspiring speech, I hope we all can understand the importance of taking care of each other in a community and recognize how interdependent we really are. Her reminder that our sense of self-worth and confidence is co-created by our peers and mentors speaks to the importance of little moments when we can show greater patience, compassion, and curiosity to each other. Taking the time to see ourselves as caretakers for each other is critical to our own well-being and to the well-being of the communities we rely upon.”
Banner photo: Charis on the campus of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. As a first-year medical student, Charis is continuing on her journey to make individuals and communities healthier. Photo courtesy Charis Benjamin.
Editor's note: this piece is republished from Rowland Hall's 2019–2020 Annual Report story "The Rowland Hall Internship Program: Connecting Classroom Learning to Careers and Community."
For Jonah Holbrook ’16, a Rowland Hall internship was more than a summer experience—it was the first step on his career path.
After taking Advanced Placement Biology as a junior, Jonah was reconsidering plans to study mechanical engineering in college. When he saw Rowland Hall's internship program advertising an opportunity at Michael S. Kay’s biochemistry lab at the University of Utah, he jumped at the chance to explore the field, and spent that summer assisting a PhD student researching a viable inhibitor for Ebola virus strains.
The following summer, Dr. Kay recommended Jonah for a second internship at Navigen Pharmaceuticals, where, thanks to his Kay lab experience, Jonah transitioned from intern to assistant research scientist working on a lead inhibitor for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). He also took part in a weekly club where employees discussed conditions that may benefit from Navigen technology—Jonah researched how it could potentially inhibit a circulating peptide related to migraine headaches.
Reflecting on his Kay lab internship, Jonah said, “It helped me find my passion in terms of my career.”
In fall 2016, during his freshman year at Cal Poly, Jonah joined the Medical Design Club, which enables students to develop, research, design, and manufacture technology that improves quality of life. Jonah received permission from Navigen to pitch his migraine drug idea, and received funding. This experience led to the opportunity to run for club president (a position he held his sophomore through senior years), where he advised peers on a variety of projects, from an alternative EpiPen to a neurostimulator. It also helped him realize a desire to attend medical school, a goal he worked toward at Cal Poly alongside conducting his own research and returning to Navigen every summer to work on the RSV drug.
Reflecting on his Kay lab internship, Jonah said, “It helped me find my passion in terms of my career.” And he’s well on his way. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in May 2020, Jonah began working as a medical assistant to a vascular surgeon. He plans on starting medical school in fall 2021.
Top photo: Jonah with former Head of School Alan Sparrow at his 2016 graduation.
Lauren Samuels ’11—a Rowland Hall graduate who competed for Rowmark Ski Academy her senior year and two postgraduate years—served as the youngest panelist on a July 15 US Ski & Snowboard virtual discussion on how to remedy the glaring lack of racial diversity in snowsports.
Lauren, who identifies as Black and multiracial, spoke candidly about how systemic racism and discrimination impacted her skiing career, and how the industry might better foster a love of skiing among people from more diverse backgrounds. Excerpts featuring Lauren—a newly named member of the US Ski & Snowboard’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee—are transcribed below.
Though the COVID-19 outbreak cut the 2019–2020 ski season short, Rowmark was grateful to have Lauren return (if only briefly) in a new capacity: FIS assistant coach and academic liaison. This fall, she’ll head to the University of Oregon to start a graduate program in sports product management, and plans to pursue a career in the outdoor industry.
Lauren has a rich history in ski racing. While enrolled in Rowmark, she spent much of each season traveling as an invitee with the US Ski Team. She’s a J2 National Super-G champion who also raced in the US Nationals and World Juniors championships. After Rowmark, she attended the University of Utah and competed as a member of their prestigious alpine ski team. She captained the team her senior year when the Utes won the 2017 NCAA National Championship.
We’re proud to call Lauren an alum, and we'll be referencing and building on discussions like this one as we redouble our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and antiracist work.
Not until I joined the National Brotherhood of Skiers and went to my first summit did I see another skier of color besides my dad and my brother.
Henri Rivers: Lauren, I’m going to go to you first. And I really want you to be honest with us. Has racism and discrimination altered or shortened your career as an athlete?
Lauren Samuels: This question is hard to answer. Altered, absolutely. Shortened, possibly.
Henri: I don’t want to put you on the spot like that because I understand where you’re coming from, I do. If you want to answer, you can, but we could rephrase it.
Lauren: I’m open to speak about it, it’s just tough to talk about. But I would say in regards to altering, it’s more what Schone and you, Henri, spoke about. I was already exposed to skiing because of family. I grew up skiing, learned how to ski when I was two. But once I got into the more—I mean really, even at the grassroots level, my home club, not seeing other people who looked like me, [having] that lack of comfort and support. And I was lucky to be involved with NBS, the National Brotherhood of Skiers, from a young age, where we had other athletes who were older than me and better than me that I could look up to. But not until I joined NBS and went to my first summit did I see another skier or ski racer of color besides my dad and my brother. In the topic of shortening my career, again, that’s hard to say, but I think possibly that shortened my career.
I had the highest vertical jump on record when I tested at 15 years old on the development team and immediately I was told, ‘That's just because you're Black.’
Some language I was faced with at any level, specific stories with the US Ski Team, being disrespected or being told that I wasn't working hard enough even though I would show up to our physical testing and break records. I had the highest vertical jump on record when I tested at 15 years old on the development team and immediately I was told, “That's just because you’re Black.” And then I continued on, [being told] I'm not working hard enough, but my fitness and everything shows that I am working hard enough. These are things that, that’s racist language—as much as no one said I’m not working hard enough or it’s just because I’m Black that [I’m] not making it to the next step. But I do believe there is some ingrained racism in our sport, and in the people in our sport, and in the highest levels as well.
Henri: It’s hard to even comment on that because I’ve watched you grow up. I’ve watched you as such a spectacular racer and I'm really sorry to hear that you had to go through that. Do you think having coaches—and I know it’s also a gender thing as well—but do you think that having coaches (male and female) of color would have helped you adjust to some of the things that you were exposed to?
I was told I had to braid my hair to ski downhill because it's the fastest, most aerodynamic style. Maybe if I had a coach who had an experience similar to mine, they would've come up with other ideas or not judge me for not braiding my hair.
Lauren: Yeah, I think it's more, again, about that comfort and belonging there. There comes a big relief, at least on my shoulders, when there’s another person of color on the hill that day. And it’s as minor as that: I know there’s someone else here who will stick up for me or speak out if something does happen or go that way. And same with being able to relate on other things. My hair: I can't braid my hair—it doesn't really braid—but I was told I had to braid my hair to ski downhill because it's the fastest, most aerodynamic [style]. Well, maybe if I had a coach who had that experience similar to me, they would come up with other ideas or not judge me so hard for not braiding my hair. It's things like that that I think a coach of color and female would help with, but I don't even want to say that it has to be a Black coach or look exactly like me. Does that answer your question?
Henri: Yeah, it does. Wow, you know, I take a deep breath because you know I have young racers as well and they will start experiencing those things. That is why we’re here, that is why we’re having this discussion, so that we can stop this type of thinking and these thought processes because they are unfounded, they’re unnecessary, and they hurt young people. Lauren is a young racer that should not have to experience these things. But this is what we continually do year after year after year. We need to stop the cycle. Forrest, my question for you, same question I had for Lauren. Has racism or discrimination altered or shortened your career (I know it has) with [US Ski & Snowboard or Professional Ski Instructors of America]?
Forrest King-Shaw: Well, it hasn’t shortened my career, that's for sure. It’s altered it, oh, absolutely. And before we go too deep into this I wanted to comment on a couple of things Lauren said. I have two daughters that ski race and if you knew the discussions I had with them about helmets, that was something I had to figure out. I'm a man and had to learn how to be a better man by raising daughters. So I think there’s a parallel here. You don’t have to be in our circumstance. You don't have to be whatever gender or whatever ethnicity to be better at understanding what people have to carry.
Getting more kids and athletes from all aspects of diversity will expand our talent pool and make it better.
Henri: Lauren, what do you think the US Ski Team or [US Ski & Snowboard] can do to develop more athletes of color? Have you ever thought about that? Is there anything that you think they could do a little different that would help attract or bring in—you know, that’s a hard question to ask because the snow industry, it’s a difficult sport to get into, but what do you think? Have you ever had any thoughts about that?
Lauren: Yeah, I’m going to kind of piggyback on what Forrest said about how it’s the outward-facing portion of your association, your organization, and that outreach, and partnerships with organizations like Winter4Kids and with [Share Winter Foundation]. I’m going to speak about one that I know purely off of location, it’s within a mile of my house: the Loppet Foundation. They are getting kids from inner city Minneapolis out skiing and on the snow, and they focus on nordic skiing. And I think starting at that grassroots level is really, really important. And like Forrest said, if your first experience isn't great, you're not coming back. But this is more about getting the new athlete, the new member, to love skiing in one way or another. If they dont love skiing they're not going to work their way up and be a coach. Or even at a later age, if you get exposed to skiing when you're 20, 30, whatever it is, if you don't love it, you're not going to stay involved in the sport. And again, really, it's a lot of the same as [what Forrest said]. That interaction between the elite level and the younger or less elite level, between the current athletes on the US Ski Team and reaching out and connecting with those younger kids. Or even coaches, newer coaches to the sport, feeling like you matter, feeling like you can make it to that next level, to that next step, whatever it is. It doesn't have to be the elite track, but it can be. And I don't think that should be disregarded that getting more kids and athletes from all aspects of diversity will, one, expand our talent pool, and make it better.
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.”
On November 13, surrounded by family and friends, Rowland Hall senior Jordan Crockett did something she had been dreaming about for years: she signed the National Letter of Intent confirming her decision to play soccer at the University of Denver (DU).
Jordan is one of eight women who signed onto DU’s 2020 roster this month. As a Division I school—the highest level of intercollegiate sports sanctioned by the NCAA—DU recruits some of the strongest high-school athletes from around the country. Jordan brings to the team years of high-level experience in club soccer, where she has played on several Utah teams: Black Diamond Soccer Club, Utah Soccer Alliance, and Celtic Premier FC, which won the US Youth Soccer National Championship in July.
While club players often choose to play at that level alone, rather than on high school teams, Jordan opted to play at Rowland Hall because of its close-knit community and for an extra, athletics-focused layer of college counseling and preparation. Bobby Kennedy, who coached Jordan for four years, explained that Rowland Hall was committed to helping her achieve her goal of playing D1 soccer. To do this, the school didn’t just help to hone her technical skills; her coaches, teachers, and college counselor also helped Jordan identify her top schools and develop the academic skills necessary to secure a spot on their teams—and, ultimately, in their classrooms.
Jordan’s high-caliber skills don’t come with an inflated ego: she’s a recognized leader among her peers, in part, because she’s fully committed to Rowland Hall’s team-first, family-like atmosphere, Bobby said.
“When we asked all the kids where they would prefer to play, she would write down, ‘Anywhere on the field but goalie,’” he explained. “You might think a player that’s reached her level of prominence in club, and is the classification’s MVP, would say, “I want to play center midfield,’ or ‘I want to play up front where I can score goals.’ By saying ‘I’ll play anywhere,’ you can read into the fact that she’s putting the team first.”
In addition to her strong leadership, Bobby said, Rowland Hall will remember Jordan as a consummate student-athlete, and probably the most impactful player in the last 10 years.
“She’s literally a once-in-a-decade player,” he said.
Update November 26, 2019: For the second time, Jordan Crockett has been named 2A MVP. Read the story in the Deseret News. Congratulations, Jordan!
We asked Jordan to share more about her experience and how it feels to commit to DU. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about your athletic journey.
I started playing soccer when I was two, with my mom. I wasn’t really focused on soccer at first—I was a gymnast until I was around six. Then I decided I just wanted to play soccer, and that’s when I started playing club competitively. Once I got to Rowland Hall, my freshman year was a little bit rocky, adjusting to a level I wasn’t really used to playing at. But to build a relationship with people who are in the same community as me every single day was super special. The next three years we won the state championship, which was amazing. And with club, my junior year, I was also able to win the national championship. We are the first team from Utah to ever do that, so that was pretty amazing too.
Why was it important for you to continue playing at the high school level, even while you were involved with club soccer?
I didn’t want to let go of the community; I wanted to stay throughout my four years. It was a different level, but taught me how to lead in a different way and how to share an experience with everyone else. It helped me understand that I’m building family relationships with all of my teammates.
What does it mean to you to be recruited by a D1 school for the sport you love?
Relieved is one of the main things. I was recruited by many D1 schools, and to go to Denver is honestly a blessing. I remember 13-year-old me taking Polaroid pictures of my Denver soccer shirt and posting them on my wall. It’s really a dream come true.
How were you able to balance academics and athletics while at Rowland Hall?
My teachers, the principals, and the whole staff at Rowland Hall are so helpful and really easy to communicate with about being a high-level athlete and having to balance academics. I think being able to have a community that’s so accepting, and having them support me through my whole athletic career, was super helpful.
What is the top skill you gained at Rowland Hall that you'll be taking with you to Denver?
Probably the willingness to be open to new things. Rowland Hall has given me a lot of opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. It’s really cool that Rowland Hall is a community that is able to teach you new things every single day.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to be on the national team—that’s one of my biggest hopes and dreams. But if not, then I see myself in a job I enjoy, with my family and friends supporting me, and just enjoying life— trying to take each day a step at a time and live with no regrets.
Rowland Hall is thrilled to announce that senior Ben Amiel was honored as the 2019 Outstanding Young Volunteer at the Utah Philanthropy Day luncheon on November 19. This annual award goes to one role model who’s under age 30 and demonstrates exceptional and sustained commitment to philanthropy and volunteerism in the community.
Ben’s nomination was spearheaded by Jewish Family Service (JFS), where he began volunteering in the food pantry at age 13 for his bar mitzvah project. Ben still serves in the food pantry today, and over the years has taken on more responsibility: in fall 2017, when JFS received a grant to enlarge the pantry, Ben helped reorganize the space. In 2018, he ran an iPod drive and fundraiser for Music and Memory, a program for people suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
It is a rarity to come upon such a young person with such an interest in responding to the varied needs of our clients.—Jewish Family Service
“Ben brings a kind, calming presence to the agency,” the JFS team wrote in their nomination letter. “He seems to recognize the value in each person, and also in what we do to support them.” And his work makes a difference—his dedication to Music and Memory, for instance, resulted in the most successful donation drive in JFS history.
“Ben’s willingness to commit to JFS, adapting and finding additional ways to support and further our work is exceptional,” the team said. “It is a rarity to come upon such a young person with such an interest in responding to the varied needs of our clients. Many of our volunteers opt in for a short time, often fulfilling a goal or project, or doing something they think will look good on a resume. Ben is a committed volunteer.”
His demonstrated devotion to JFS helped set Ben apart from other nominees in the Outstanding Young Volunteer category. “What’s superlative about Ben is his tremendous, and ongoing, commitment to JFS,” said Utah Philanthropy Day committee member Jessie Foster Strike. “Each year, Ben has found new ways to deepen his contributions to the organization, which has allowed JFS to deepen its service to the community. Whether he’s stocking shelves in the food pantry, organizing a fundraiser, or educating himself on a new program, he sees an opportunity, steps up, and take the initiative to help.”
Ben’s dedication to JFS, on top of his rigorous academic and extracurricular load, would be impressive on its own. But he has also chosen to dedicate much of his time to serving fellow students at Rowland Hall, where he’s attended school since third grade.
“Over the years, I have seen the development of a truly sincere mentor of younger students and a hardworking individual who values and contributes to his community,” wrote Rowland Hall’s Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund in one of the letters that the school contributed to the JFS nomination.
Ben’s commitment to leadership and service at Rowland Hall is best illustrated by his involvement with the school’s debate program. A successful debater himself (he’s an Academic All-American, a National Qualifier, and has won awards at tournaments all over the state and country), Ben has mentored Middle School debate students since his freshman year, happily giving his limited free time to tasks like helping students hone their research and argumentation skills and judging tournaments.
“Debate is Ben's life and he's naturally drawn to opportunities that let him showcase his experience and wisdom,” said debate coach Mike Shackelford. He explained that Ben played a major role in establishing the debate mentoring program, including setting the tone and expectations for those who want to help. And he doesn’t shy away from the time-consuming work required, Mike said, because he understands the benefits of mentoring. “Ben will go out of his way to give real coaching feedback. He'll write out comprehensive evaluations. He'll proofread student work. He's always pushing them to meet their potential.”
Ben understands that dialogue is the basis of a healthy democracy. More important than ‘winning’ any argument, for Ben, is the opportunity for ideas to be tested and exchanged respectfully in public.—Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund
This influence on middle schoolers is powerful, particularly because Ben has been in their shoes and serves as an example of where hard work can lead. “Middle School students can relate to Ben in direct and meaningful ways that I will never be able to,” Mike said. “They can see themselves on the same path. This gives them confidence and assurance that it will work out.”
Ben’s love of debate and, most importantly, to learning itself, also inspired him to establish a student debate group that meets weekly to discuss timely political topics. “Ben understands that dialogue is the basis of a healthy democracy,” Ryan wrote. “More important than ‘winning’ any argument, for Ben, is the opportunity for ideas to be tested and exchanged respectfully in public.”
Mike agreed. “He's always had a larger perspective on why he debates. For him, debate is a means to an end. He doesn't do it for trophies—he participates because he loves the challenge, the skill development, the knowledge he gains, and the people he meets. Setting up clubs and doing service is just a natural extension to this purposeful approach to activities.”
It is this natural drive to use his strengths to make a difference that truly sets Ben apart as a leader. Former Upper School history teacher Fiona Halloran summed it up when she wrote, “I believe that Ben is a person for whom puzzles and challenges are central to intellectual and personal engagement. He thinks the world ought to function smoothly. It does not. So he seeks ideas and actions that can make it a little better.”
Thank you, Ben, for your commitment to making the world a little better every day. From all of us at Rowland Hall, congratulations on this recognition.