Custom Class: post-landing-hero


By Maddy Frech, student body president

This year, Rowland Hall welcomed students back to school with a virtual Convocation on Friday, September 4. This year’s speakers focused on the theme Welcome Everyone—one of Rowland Hall’s core values—recognizing the power we all have in building our shared community. For Maddy Frech, 2020–2021 student body president and a Rowland Hall lifer (a student who has attended the school for 12 or more years), the event was a chance to reflect on her time at Rowland Hall and to use that experience to challenge each grade to find ways to build community and make a difference in the world. Her speech—lightly edited here for style and context—appears below.


Traditionally, a welcome can include a high five, a handshake, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek, but unfortunately these friendly gestures are no longer acceptable at the moment. We now have to depend on the sincerity of our words and honesty of our actions to convey our welcome. So, it is with heartfelt and candid excitement that I say, “Welcome, Everyone.” This year is going to be amazing!

Now, you may think, “How can we be sure that this year will be a great one when no one knows exactly what to expect?” But there are a few things that you can be assured of.

Firstly, you are at the very best school in the state of Utah. Our faculty and staff care about you and want you to succeed not only academically, but personally. Our school will adapt to these uncertain and frightening circumstances to provide you with the means to be successful and, more importantly, develop individuals who contribute to and are prepared to change the world. How do I know this? Well, this year will be my 14th year at this school. Since walking through the front doors of the Beginning School and being greeted by classmates who remain my friends to this day, I have known Rowland Hall to be welcoming. I can attest that your senior class is inspirational. They not only are talented but thoughtful. We can use the class of 2021 as a model of community spirit as we rally around the unknown.

A simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall.

So, how can we be welcoming and rise above the uncertainty that feeds our anxieties? Well, let’s start with our Beginning School. I challenge students in 3PreK, 4PreK, and kindergarten to meet new friends. Whether this is in the sandbox, on the playground, or in the classroom, a simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall. My memories of growing pumpkins, making green eggs and ham, constructing Mother’s Day hats, and learning all about the many varieties of apples are cherished, and my partners in those activities are still some of my best friends. Also, I can assure you that the entire senior class is really envious of your allotted naptime!

First graders, congratulations! You are in a different building on campus. You have a bigger playground, which at first may seem overwhelming but will be exciting as you learn to navigate a world that seems bigger. Share those monkey bars and help a friend that skins their knee. Remember that caring friends will last a lifetime.

Second graders, you will start writing your own stories. Try to write stories about friendship and making the world a better place. I wish I had written more of these instead of stories about Justin Bieber and my Bieber fever; I suspect our vice president, Cooper Davis, may have had some similar stories about the Biebs. So, focus on what you can do to be more inclusive. Your stories could teach adults how simple it truly is to be kind. Your parents may keep that story; re-read it to remind yourself who you strive to be.

Third graders, welcome to the upstairs! When you pick your biography project, I challenge you to, rather than picking a sports legend or celebrity, choose a person that actively tried to change the world. I actually chose Mother Teresa, initially not because of her amazing service, but because my teacher, whom I loved, was named Teresa, and my mom could easily convert my Princess Leia costume into a holy shroud. However, through that project, and looking back now, I am happy I chose her because I learned that she was an incredibly happy person by living a life of service.

Fourth graders, be prepared to learn about the great state of Utah! The lyrics “Utah, people working together” will soon be stuck in your parents’ heads. Even though the song is a little—no, really—incredibly annoying, it teaches you that we are a local community and everyone in that community matters and contributes to our great state.

Fifth graders, you are finally the oldest on the McCarthey Campus. When you learn about explorers, challenge yourself to think about what they could have done better. Many social problems exist because they could have explored and settled without harm to humanity. It is important to learn from the mistakes of history so we do not repeat them.

Maddy through her years at Rowland Hall

A Rowland Hall lifer, Maddy tapped into her experiences in all grade levels to share wisdom with her fellow students. Photos courtesy Maddy Frech.

Sixth graders, I am sure you are terrified…I know I was. A new campus, and all the other students look so much older. But make sure you take advantage of the sports and the arts opportunities so that you can meet those older students. You will be surprised just how much community spirit our events can foster.

Seventh graders, you will likely have your first big trip to the Tetons to do amazing science. Even if that does not happen, the brilliant faculty will figure out some way for you to learn about the beauty of nature. Take advantage of the incredible knowledge of our teachers to learn what you can do to preserve our environment.

Eighth graders, similarly we hope that a trip to Washington, DC, happens. In preparation, make sure you learn about the importance of government. Don’t just plan to visit the sites—think about what decisions are made in those buildings. The only way we can have effective change is the next generation of leaders; be that change.

Freshmen, I cannot imagine what you are feeling. Starting high school is scary enough without added uncertainties. But please know that your Student Council is here for you. Specifically, we have a website for you to ask questions and get help.

Sophomores, you made it through a very strange freshman year. Even though you did not get the joy of losing Battle of the Classes, please know that Student Council will try to make that up to you. We will plan more class competitions so that the class of 2023 can come in last place a few times (but perhaps, with enough class spirit, you might pull off a few victories).

May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community.

Juniors, your symposium was canceled last year, but, fortunately, the advertising project can be done mostly virtually. This project will challenge you to think about stereotypes and the importance of positive change. Be prepared to work hard and concretely propose ideas that reduce bias. It is a hard year—power through it!

And finally, my fellow seniors, I challenge you to be leaders. Look to set an example for those younger than yourselves. What do you wish the senior class did for you? Please use the Student Council website to voice your ideas to surmount these challenging times with innovation. Please propose a community gift so we can leave an impactful legacy. The community gift is something I believe will allow us to leave our mark.

In conclusion, please know that I sincerely welcome you back to school with a virtual high five, handshake, hug, and kiss on the cheek. May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community. Winged Lions, I wish you all health, safety, and comradery that can sustain you through the uncertainty. As your president, I promise you an amazing year. Thank you!


Top photo: Maddy, left, arriving on the Lincoln Street Campus on the first day of the 2020–2021 school year.

Student Voices

Welcome, Everyone, to the Best School in Utah


By Maddy Frech, student body president

This year, Rowland Hall welcomed students back to school with a virtual Convocation on Friday, September 4. This year’s speakers focused on the theme Welcome Everyone—one of Rowland Hall’s core values—recognizing the power we all have in building our shared community. For Maddy Frech, 2020–2021 student body president and a Rowland Hall lifer (a student who has attended the school for 12 or more years), the event was a chance to reflect on her time at Rowland Hall and to use that experience to challenge each grade to find ways to build community and make a difference in the world. Her speech—lightly edited here for style and context—appears below.


Traditionally, a welcome can include a high five, a handshake, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek, but unfortunately these friendly gestures are no longer acceptable at the moment. We now have to depend on the sincerity of our words and honesty of our actions to convey our welcome. So, it is with heartfelt and candid excitement that I say, “Welcome, Everyone.” This year is going to be amazing!

Now, you may think, “How can we be sure that this year will be a great one when no one knows exactly what to expect?” But there are a few things that you can be assured of.

Firstly, you are at the very best school in the state of Utah. Our faculty and staff care about you and want you to succeed not only academically, but personally. Our school will adapt to these uncertain and frightening circumstances to provide you with the means to be successful and, more importantly, develop individuals who contribute to and are prepared to change the world. How do I know this? Well, this year will be my 14th year at this school. Since walking through the front doors of the Beginning School and being greeted by classmates who remain my friends to this day, I have known Rowland Hall to be welcoming. I can attest that your senior class is inspirational. They not only are talented but thoughtful. We can use the class of 2021 as a model of community spirit as we rally around the unknown.

A simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall.

So, how can we be welcoming and rise above the uncertainty that feeds our anxieties? Well, let’s start with our Beginning School. I challenge students in 3PreK, 4PreK, and kindergarten to meet new friends. Whether this is in the sandbox, on the playground, or in the classroom, a simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall. My memories of growing pumpkins, making green eggs and ham, constructing Mother’s Day hats, and learning all about the many varieties of apples are cherished, and my partners in those activities are still some of my best friends. Also, I can assure you that the entire senior class is really envious of your allotted naptime!

First graders, congratulations! You are in a different building on campus. You have a bigger playground, which at first may seem overwhelming but will be exciting as you learn to navigate a world that seems bigger. Share those monkey bars and help a friend that skins their knee. Remember that caring friends will last a lifetime.

Second graders, you will start writing your own stories. Try to write stories about friendship and making the world a better place. I wish I had written more of these instead of stories about Justin Bieber and my Bieber fever; I suspect our vice president, Cooper Davis, may have had some similar stories about the Biebs. So, focus on what you can do to be more inclusive. Your stories could teach adults how simple it truly is to be kind. Your parents may keep that story; re-read it to remind yourself who you strive to be.

Third graders, welcome to the upstairs! When you pick your biography project, I challenge you to, rather than picking a sports legend or celebrity, choose a person that actively tried to change the world. I actually chose Mother Teresa, initially not because of her amazing service, but because my teacher, whom I loved, was named Teresa, and my mom could easily convert my Princess Leia costume into a holy shroud. However, through that project, and looking back now, I am happy I chose her because I learned that she was an incredibly happy person by living a life of service.

Fourth graders, be prepared to learn about the great state of Utah! The lyrics “Utah, people working together” will soon be stuck in your parents’ heads. Even though the song is a little—no, really—incredibly annoying, it teaches you that we are a local community and everyone in that community matters and contributes to our great state.

Fifth graders, you are finally the oldest on the McCarthey Campus. When you learn about explorers, challenge yourself to think about what they could have done better. Many social problems exist because they could have explored and settled without harm to humanity. It is important to learn from the mistakes of history so we do not repeat them.

Maddy through her years at Rowland Hall

A Rowland Hall lifer, Maddy tapped into her experiences in all grade levels to share wisdom with her fellow students. Photos courtesy Maddy Frech.

Sixth graders, I am sure you are terrified…I know I was. A new campus, and all the other students look so much older. But make sure you take advantage of the sports and the arts opportunities so that you can meet those older students. You will be surprised just how much community spirit our events can foster.

Seventh graders, you will likely have your first big trip to the Tetons to do amazing science. Even if that does not happen, the brilliant faculty will figure out some way for you to learn about the beauty of nature. Take advantage of the incredible knowledge of our teachers to learn what you can do to preserve our environment.

Eighth graders, similarly we hope that a trip to Washington, DC, happens. In preparation, make sure you learn about the importance of government. Don’t just plan to visit the sites—think about what decisions are made in those buildings. The only way we can have effective change is the next generation of leaders; be that change.

Freshmen, I cannot imagine what you are feeling. Starting high school is scary enough without added uncertainties. But please know that your Student Council is here for you. Specifically, we have a website for you to ask questions and get help.

Sophomores, you made it through a very strange freshman year. Even though you did not get the joy of losing Battle of the Classes, please know that Student Council will try to make that up to you. We will plan more class competitions so that the class of 2023 can come in last place a few times (but perhaps, with enough class spirit, you might pull off a few victories).

May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community.

Juniors, your symposium was canceled last year, but, fortunately, the advertising project can be done mostly virtually. This project will challenge you to think about stereotypes and the importance of positive change. Be prepared to work hard and concretely propose ideas that reduce bias. It is a hard year—power through it!

And finally, my fellow seniors, I challenge you to be leaders. Look to set an example for those younger than yourselves. What do you wish the senior class did for you? Please use the Student Council website to voice your ideas to surmount these challenging times with innovation. Please propose a community gift so we can leave an impactful legacy. The community gift is something I believe will allow us to leave our mark.

In conclusion, please know that I sincerely welcome you back to school with a virtual high five, handshake, hug, and kiss on the cheek. May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community. Winged Lions, I wish you all health, safety, and comradery that can sustain you through the uncertainty. As your president, I promise you an amazing year. Thank you!


Top photo: Maddy, left, arriving on the Lincoln Street Campus on the first day of the 2020–2021 school year.

Student Voices

Explore Our Most Recent Stories

Troy Price with the 2019–2020 All Mountain Rippers.

After a four-month delay caused by the global pandemic, the US Ski & Snowboard Intermountain Division (IMD) announced on September 22 their 2019–2020 season awards. We are thrilled to share that Rowmark Junior Program Director Troy Price was named IMD Official of the Year.

Rowmark Junior Program Director Troy Price

An already well-recognized coach (Troy was most recently named US Ski and Snowboard’s Development Coach of the Year in 2018), Troy’s career is marked by an exceptional commitment to his student-athletes and colleagues, as well as to the larger division—he is actively involved with IMD, running yearly officials’ clinics and, this month, completing studies to become a International Ski Federation (FIS) technical delegate, the senior alpine official at internationally scored events. With the completion of this certification, Troy has become the division’s first new FIS technical delegate in 25 years—a necessity for this area of the country.

“There is a desperate need for this certification in our division and region,” said Rowmark Program Director Todd Brickson, who also noted that Troy takes on both his IMD and Rowmark tasks “with tremendous passion and knowledge of our great sport.”

As someone who is enthusiastic about helping to improve the ski-racing experience for athletes not only in Utah, but throughout the West, Troy is honored to be recognized by his peers for his work—although he is quick to point out that he is one of many working toward this goal.

“All alpine officials play a critical role to ensure our athletes have a safe environment and to enforce the rules of our sport. Our division is full of great individuals willing to donate their time and expertise,” Troy said. “I have had the pleasure to follow the lead of many great officials that have guided me throughout my career. I now have the pleasure to share my experience with the next generation and some outstanding folks who volunteer their time throughout our division. I look forward to continuing my education and giving back to the sport for many years to come.”

In addition to Troy’s recognition, five Rowmark student-athletes were recognized by IMD:

The breadth of the awards, both academic and athletic, across all ski racing disciplines is a reflection of our Rowmark values of teamwork, balance, and determination.

  • Carter Louchheim ’20 was named the 2019–2020 season’s Alan Hayes Intermountain Scholar for his athletic and academic achievements.

  • Harry Hoffman ’23 earned the Bryce Astle Intermountain Cup Award for men’s overall, as well as Intermountain Cup Awards for men’s slalom (first place), men’s giant slalom (first place), and men’s super-G (second place).

  • Elisabeth Bocock ’23 earned the Bryce Astle Intermountain Cup Award for women’s overall, as well as Intermountain Cup Awards for women’s slalom (third place), women’s giant slalom (first place), and women’s super-G (second place).

  • Jack AbuHaidar ’22 earned an Intermountain Cup Award in men’s giant slalom (third place).

  • Dagny Brickson ’21 earned an Intermountain Cup Award in women’s downhill (second place).


“I'm so pleased to have so many Rowmark athletes receiving awards from our Intermountain Division,” said Troy. “Carter, Harry, Elisabeth, Jack, and Dagny all came through the Rowmark Junior Program. It is extremely rewarding to see them continue their love for the sport and their pursuit of excellence.”

Todd echoed Troy and said Rowmark is proud of its award winners. “The breadth of the awards, both academic and athletic, across all ski racing disciplines is a reflection of our Rowmark values of teamwork, balance, and determination.”


Banner photo: Troy Price, left, with coaches Megan Hanrahan and Jay Sawyer and some of the members of the Rowmark Junior 2019–2020 All-Mountain Rippers team.

Rowmark

Upper School girls soccer coach Colette Smith on the Steiner Campus fields.

Rowland Hall is thrilled to welcome Colette Smith to Winged Lion Athletics.

Rowland Hall girls soccer head coach Colette Smith.

Colette Smith

Colette joined Rowland Hall in summer 2020 as head coach of the Upper School girls soccer team, taking the reins from longtime coach Bobby Kennedy (BK, to players), who now teaches physical education and coaches girls soccer at Rowland Hall’s Middle School. With her impressive resume, Colette is an ideal successor to BK, who led the Winged Lions to three State Championship victories.

“Colette brings with her a wealth of soccer background, both as a decorated player and as a successful coach,” said Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic. “She has brought on board two equally qualified assistants, Annie Hawkins and Haylee Cacciacarne. Together, this dynamite staff—full of positive energy, enthusiasm, and love of the game—is inspiring our team to a very successful 2020 season.”

To help introduce Colette to the Rowland Hall community, we asked her to play a round of 20 questions. Her answers—lightly edited for style and context—appear below.


1. Welcome to Rowland Hall! This summer you joined our community as head coach of the Upper School girls soccer team. Why did you choose to come to Rowland Hall?

I applied for the job and after the first interview knew it was a special community. I wanted to be a part of something that I believed in, both on a soccer and community level.

2. Soccer has been a major part of your life. How did you first become interested in the sport?

I have four brothers that played. My dad also played soccer, and he and I would go to the park to play. It was the best because we’d just play. He didn’t coach or expect anything. I just followed him with the ball.

3. You’re not new to coaching. You previously assisted Davis High School to three state and two national championships, and you coached the Utah Royals FC Reserves to a runner-up spot in the Women's Premier Soccer League National Championship in their inaugural season. What’s the number-one thing you’ve learned about coaching (so far)?

It’s all about the players. I genuinely care for every player and respect their needs and feedback. My job is to help them be their best. That takes us understanding each other.

4. What do you think is the best thing about coaching at the high school level?

Being with the team almost every day. We are able to implement tactics and build off each game and practice. I also enjoy getting to know the girls. It is a rather quick season, but we spend so much time together and that makes it so much fun.

5. In addition to coaching, you have an impressive background as a player—you played for Brigham Young University, where you captained the team to two West Coast Conference Championships and an NCAA tournament run to the Elite Eight, and you played professionally for Real Salt Lake Women and Utah Royals FC. What moment from your own athletic career are you most proud of?

I am honestly just happy I got to play the game I love competitively for so long.

The girls have learned that they can do hard things. They are sacrificing to be able to play the sport they love. I am incredibly proud of them every day.

6. We’ve been hearing a lot about challenges in athletics this fall due to COVID-19, but do you think there are unique opportunities or benefits to this season?

The girls have learned that they can do hard things. They are sacrificing to be able to play the sport they love. I am incredibly proud of them every day.

7. Let’s take a moment to learn a little bit more about who you are off the field. What three words would you use to describe yourself when you’re off duty?

Mom, playful, adventurer.

8. Where’s your happy place?

Outdoors.

9. Where do you want to travel next? (You know, when air travel isn’t quite so scary.)

Greece.

The Rowland Hall girls soccer coaching team looks on at a September 2020 game.

Colette and her coaching staff look on as the Winged Lions play the Logan High School Grizzlies on August 27.

10. What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a busy day?

Reading books with my boys.

11. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Plums.

12. What book do you read over and over?

Atomic Habits by James Clear.

13. What was your favorite subject in high school?

Psychology.

14. What’s your family’s favorite thing to do on the weekend?

Mountain bike.

15. What’s one fun fact about you that you don’t often get to share?

I broke my jaw and had it wired shut.

16. Who’s your favorite soccer player of all time?

Mia Hamm.

17. Is there a sport you enjoy watching or playing besides soccer?

Spikeball and pickleball.

18. Who has been one of the biggest influences in your life?

My husband.

Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.

19. To wrap things up, let’s talk a bit about your goals during your first season at Rowland Hall. We know that playing sports helps young adults build important life skills. What top life skills do you want to help build in your student-athletes this season?

Confidence in themselves and empathy for others.

20. What’s one piece of advice you have learned over your career that you want your players to keep in mind this year?

Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.

Athletics

Rowland Hall alumna Charis Smith '12 on the campus of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.


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 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.

Alumni

Senior Ashlee Jackson performing at alum dance show INTERsect.

As the sun set on September 5, its golden light illuminated a masked dancer, casting long shadows that fell on audience members watching her from blankets and benches spaced six feet apart. The dancer’s arms and legs crossed and uncrossed, mimicking the freeway overpasses rising above the group that had gathered in this industrial area of downtown Salt Lake City. The sound of cars whirring overhead mixed with live music, all of it echoing off the area’s concrete columns and warehouses.

This alum-organized dance event, called INTERsect, was designed as a special collaboration between Rowland Hall performing arts students and alumnae dance artists. INTERsect came together after Sofia Gorder, Lincoln Street Campus director of arts and co-director of dance, had heard from several alums who were looking for a creative outlet during COVID-19 restrictions.

“There was a desperate outpour from students I hadn’t talked to in a long time, saying, ‘I want to create, I want to respond, I want to connect,’” Sofia said. Remembering an underground show she had attended in the industrial area located at 600 South 600 West, Sofia proposed that these alums, along with interested current students, use that same space for a physically distanced dance performance. She knew that this opportunity would not only help them feel connected during an uncertain time, but also help them process the emotions they were feeling due to the heavy news of 2020, from the ongoing fallout of the coronavirus pandemic to racial injustice around the country.

“It was a platform for artists to respond to the world around them,” Sofia explained.

Each artist was asked to choreograph a dance or build a performance art piece at home, to use minimal lighting to take advantage of shadows cast by sunset (and by construction lights, after the sun went down), and to wear a mask (a requirement for attendees as well; the event poster specified WYOM—wear your own mask). For alum and student dancers who had felt disconnected from their passion for months, the opportunity was therapeutic.

“Dance is a very important part of my life and I have missed collaborating with others and performing,” said Rowland Hall senior Katie Kern. “This project safely allowed me to connect with other artists and feel the joy of performing again after six months of missing out.”

In dance class, we always talk about how, compositionally, we take bits and pieces from each other. Each of us is a combination of our peers melded by our own style. In other words, all of the dancers from Rowland Hall are connected by an artistic link, even if we never physically danced in the same space.—Ashlee Jackson, class of 2021

INTERsect featured dances by current seniors Katie Kern and Ashlee Jackson, sophomore Mikel Lawlor, and seven alumnae: Laja Field ’08, Elissa Collins ’15, Sophia Diehl ’15, Eliza Kitchens ’16, MiaBella Brickey ’17, Adie Christiansen ’17, and Sydney Rabbitt ’18. The show also included the talents of Matt Jackson ’13—who provided live music with his father, Rowland Hall Jazz and Pop Band Director Bret Jackson—and Oliver Jin ’18, who designed the promotional poster and ran day-of tech. (Sofia also called out four alumnae—Sophia Cutrubus ’18, Grace Riter ’18, Cassidy Clark ’19, and Tori Kusukawa ’19—who were unable to perform due to scheduling or geography conflicts, but who were instrumental in building inspiration for the event.) The evening’s success was due to the enthusiastic collaboration between these students and alums, many of whom had never met before the event. Participants were quick to credit Sofia's ability to make connections among current and former dancers—a testament to the Rowland Hall faculty’s focus on building, and maintaining, meaningful relationships.

“We all have a connection through the education and guidance we gleaned from the one and only Sofia Gorder,” said alumna Laja Field. “The strength of this community is shown through generations of connections coming together.”

The dancers also discovered that, despite varying graduation years and styles, they were connected through a similar approach to dance, thanks to the years they spent in the Lincoln Street Campus studio studying under their esteemed instructor.

“Watching these dancers communicate through the medium of dance—while keeping traces of the same fundamental teachings of Sofia Gorder—has been beautiful to watch and amazing to be a part of,” said sophomore Mikel Lawlor. Senior Ashlee Jackson added, “In dance class, we always talk about how, compositionally, we take bits and pieces from each other. Each of us is a combination of our peers melded by our own style. In other words, all of the dancers from Rowland Hall are connected by an artistic link, even if we never physically danced in the same space.”

For Sofia, these connections, and the show they inspired, are reminders of how Rowland Hall is a place to find calm within chaos.

Sofia isn’t surprised to see dance act as a healing balm during chaotic times. Dance has the power to remind us of our collective humanity, she explained, and it is one way we make sense of life. Because of this, the dances coming out of the pandemic are some of the most creative, intelligent work she’s seen.

“I am so happy to see people coming back to the space of Rowland Hall to find connection and purpose,” she said. And Sofia isn’t surprised to see dance act as a healing balm during chaotic times. Dance has the power to remind us of our collective humanity, she explained, and it is one way we make sense of life. Because of this, the dances coming out of the pandemic are some of the most creative, intelligent work she’s seen. “It’s taken COVID, and being separate, to see why movement has such connecting power,” she said.

Laja, a professional dancer who has devoted her life to sharing the art form with others, echoed her former teacher: “It’s clear that most—I would argue all—people live through some kind of art. We seek out conduits of expression and portals that transcend us elsewhere,” she said. “The arts are the vessels that make us feel whole, allow us to laugh, to mourn, to speak our multilayered emotions that are sometimes difficult to articulate.”

And even, perhaps, to inspire change.

“In a time where COVID-19 has exposed the very pitfalls of our country, and technology has made history and the present of systemic racism an undeniable fact, it is only through art that I find my will to continue working, dreaming, and fighting for a better future to come,” Laja said.


Banner photo: Rowland Hall senior Ashlee Jackson performing in INTERsect. Photo courtesy Joel Long.

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