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After honing her letter-to-the-editor skills in Kody Partridge’s English 11 class, junior Laura Summerfield took that lesson to the next level: she entered and won Westminster College's annual Honors College Statewide Essay Contest. Read her winning essay in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Laura—an aspiring journalist herself—penned the persuasive piece in response to the following prompt: “Write an essay (600 words or less) that explores the role played by media in promoting or impeding civility in our political and civic discourse. In an age of Twitter and ‘fake news,’ what responsibility does the media have to encourage civility?”

My generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.—Laura Summerfield, Class of 2020

The contest drew 85 entrants from 22 high schools across Utah, according to Westminster Honors College Dean Richard Badenhausen. A distinguished, bipartisan panel of five judges (a former Salt Lake City mayor, an acclaimed author, a lobbyist, a professor, and a Trib reporter) evaluated 13 finalists. Although it was an extremely close contest—Laura won by one point—her essay was the only one that appeared on every judge’s ballot.

Westminster held the contest in conjunction with a March 19 lecture by New York Times Op-Ed Editor James Dao. Laura received her prize, a $2,000 check, that evening, and the Trib published her piece not long after.

“When I received the email telling me I had won, I literally didn't believe it,” Laura said. “Even when my essay was in the Trib, I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it.”

I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others.—Upper School English Teacher Kody Partridge

Incredulous as she may be, there’s no denying that Laura—thanks in part to family discussions and Kody’s class—was well prepared to respond to this year’s prompt. “The topic resonated with me because my family's go-to pre-dinner, dinner, and post-dinner programming is the news and political talk shows, so I knew the state of our political climate,” Laura said. “This topic is important because my generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.”

Kody attended the March event to support Laura and hear the lecture. Though Laura didn’t write the award-winning essay specifically for Kody’s class, the beloved Upper School teacher of over 16 years has a unit that covers writing letters to the editor, and respectfully and compellingly voicing opinions outside of the classroom. “I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others,” Kody said. The lesson certainly got through to Laura, and Kody is a proud teacher. “Laura is a talented writer and a thoughtful young woman,” she said. “It was a fantastic letter.”


Top photo: Laura and Kody at the March 16 event.

Writing

Junior Wins Statewide Essay Contest on the Media’s Role in Promoting Civil Discourse

After honing her letter-to-the-editor skills in Kody Partridge’s English 11 class, junior Laura Summerfield took that lesson to the next level: she entered and won Westminster College's annual Honors College Statewide Essay Contest. Read her winning essay in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Laura—an aspiring journalist herself—penned the persuasive piece in response to the following prompt: “Write an essay (600 words or less) that explores the role played by media in promoting or impeding civility in our political and civic discourse. In an age of Twitter and ‘fake news,’ what responsibility does the media have to encourage civility?”

My generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.—Laura Summerfield, Class of 2020

The contest drew 85 entrants from 22 high schools across Utah, according to Westminster Honors College Dean Richard Badenhausen. A distinguished, bipartisan panel of five judges (a former Salt Lake City mayor, an acclaimed author, a lobbyist, a professor, and a Trib reporter) evaluated 13 finalists. Although it was an extremely close contest—Laura won by one point—her essay was the only one that appeared on every judge’s ballot.

Westminster held the contest in conjunction with a March 19 lecture by New York Times Op-Ed Editor James Dao. Laura received her prize, a $2,000 check, that evening, and the Trib published her piece not long after.

“When I received the email telling me I had won, I literally didn't believe it,” Laura said. “Even when my essay was in the Trib, I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it.”

I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others.—Upper School English Teacher Kody Partridge

Incredulous as she may be, there’s no denying that Laura—thanks in part to family discussions and Kody’s class—was well prepared to respond to this year’s prompt. “The topic resonated with me because my family's go-to pre-dinner, dinner, and post-dinner programming is the news and political talk shows, so I knew the state of our political climate,” Laura said. “This topic is important because my generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.”

Kody attended the March event to support Laura and hear the lecture. Though Laura didn’t write the award-winning essay specifically for Kody’s class, the beloved Upper School teacher of over 16 years has a unit that covers writing letters to the editor, and respectfully and compellingly voicing opinions outside of the classroom. “I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others,” Kody said. The lesson certainly got through to Laura, and Kody is a proud teacher. “Laura is a talented writer and a thoughtful young woman,” she said. “It was a fantastic letter.”


Top photo: Laura and Kody at the March 16 event.

Writing

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Senior Jordan Crockett Commits to Playing D1 Soccer for the University of Denver

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). 

A dream come true: Jordan signing her National Letter of Intent at her November 13 signing party.


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 National Collegiate Athletic Association (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.

Athletics

Rowland Hall student essayists.

For the second-consecutive year, a Rowland Hall student has taken home the grand prize in the middle school category of the McCarthey Family Foundation’s Lecture Series Essay Contest. Eighth grader Omar Alsolaiman won $1,500 for his cogent interpretation of a famous Walter Cronkite quote on how freedom of the press is the bedrock of democracy.

Omar entered the contest because he thought it would be fun, he said, and a good opportunity to learn more about the Constitution and our rights. In the process of crafting his submission, he discovered a lot about the topic and his own writing style. “I learned that I prefer writing a detailed outline that allows me to organize my thoughts and then practically copy and paste them into the final essay,” he said. “I also learned that I am often a writer who struggles to ‘cut the fat.’” But cut the fat, he did: Omar’s essay clocked in at 493 words, just under the competition’s 500-word limit. He was surprised, excited, and grateful, he said, to learn his hard work paid off with a win.

In addition to Omar’s win, seventh grader Aiden Gandhi and senior Kajal Ganesh landed finalist nods in their respective categories. Aiden was also a finalist last year.

In addition to Omar’s win, seventh grader Aiden Gandhi and senior Kajal Ganesh landed finalist nods in their respective categories. Aiden was also a finalist last year, when then-eighth-grader Arden Louchheim won. Read last year’s story.

The total number of contest submissions grew to 456 this year, up from 400 last year, and the number of middle school entries doubled. Foundation Trustee Philip G. McCarthey—also the vice chair of Rowland Hall’s Board of Trustees—complimented the quality of submissions. "The essays reflected an exceptionally well-informed student population keenly aware of the challenges facing press freedom in our society today,” he said. 

Omar will be recognized during the November 9 McCarthey Family Foundation Lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham. Rowland Hall hosts this popular annual event but that doesn’t factor into the contest: judges aren’t told essayists’ names or schools.

Below is Omar’s essay, unedited by Rowland Hall.

Views expressed in the following essay are those of the writer and don't necessarily represent those of Rowland Hall and its employees.


Essay Question for Utah Students in Grades Six Through Eight

“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.” —Walter Cronkite

In an essay of no more than 500 words, (1) explain the meaning of this quote and (2) provide examples to support your explanation.

Winner

By Omar Alsolaiman, Rowland Hall eighth grader

We inherited our democratic government from people who believed that freedom of the press was valuable enough to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The American belief in this right dates all the way back to a time even before America in one of the most famous pre-colonial trials, the Zenger Trial. Peter Zenger, an immigrant in New York, published articles critical of the royal governor William Cosby. Cosby was so angered that he charged Zenger with libel and jailed him, a strategy that backfired when the public supported Zenger. The jury quickly freed him, establishing that in a democratic society, anything that could be proved could be published. 

History proves Walter Cronkite right; freedom of the press came before American democracy. But to truly understand his quote, we need to understand the two main reasons that freedom of the press is so essential to democracy. First, the power of the press can expand democracy. Secondly, democracy is about the ability of communities to make informed decisions according to what they want. Without a free press, the people can be kept in the dark about the issues that affect their communities.

Democracy is about the ability of communities to make informed decisions according to what they want. Without a free press, the people can be kept in the dark about the issues that affect their communities.—Omar Alsolaiman

Throughout American history, the press has been a tool for expanding the ability of people to participate in democracy, allowing the U.S. to become more democratic over time. David Graham Phillips was a muckraker, a term for journalists who exposed problems and advocated for solutions during the early 20th century. In The Treason of the Senate, he exposed the corruption of the United States Senate at the time which eventually led to the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an amendment that established a popular election for senators. In this way, freedom of the press allowed for an expansion of democracy, handing more power to the people. The amendment made corruption more difficult since senators needed to rely on the support of many people, not just a few state legislators. 

It is not only national journalism that matters though. The communities we live in each have their own problems which can’t be solved without exposure through the press. In 2017, Rebecca Liebson, a student reporter at Stony Brook University broke the story that the administration would be cutting their budget, many different departments, and laying off over 20 professors from the school. The campus became outraged by this plan which would not have been exposed without Liebson. The administration attempted to scare her into silence. However, this only proves the power of the press. Stony Brook wanted to preserve its reputation while doing unpopular things, hiding the truth from the people who could punish it by leaving, not donating, or protesting. Democracies only work when people like Liebson do their civic duty to keep people informed about what goes on in their communities. Leaders always prefer their actions happen in the dark so that they can encounter no opposition, but as Justice Brandeis said, “sunlight . . . is the best disinfectant.”


Top photo: From left, seventh grader Aiden Gandhi, eighth grader Omar Alsolaiman, and senior Kajal Ganesh.

Student Voices

Students Share Inspiration and Gratitude at 2019 Graduation Ceremonies

The lessons over the years have sparked my firm belief that many of the global challenges we face today could be ameliorated by dedicating time and energy to protect beauty and all of its manifestations. —Sydney Young, co-valedictorian

At Rowland Hall’s fifth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade graduation ceremonies this June, student speakers shared funny, reflective, and inspiring stories with those in attendance.

Senior Ben Korngiebel spoke of the strong, supportive community the seniors created, and Sydney Young spoke of human kindness and connection. Eighth-grade students Maile Sunhee Ling Fukushima and Rodrigo Fernandez-Esquivias shared the many events that shaped their collective Middle School memories. Several fifth-grade students thanked their teachers, family, and friends for helping to create an encouraging and engaging learning environment in the Lower School.

We have posted their stories here for you to enjoy.

 

Student Voices

student with teacher at event

After honing her letter-to-the-editor skills in Kody Partridge’s English 11 class, junior Laura Summerfield took that lesson to the next level: she entered and won Westminster College's annual Honors College Statewide Essay Contest. Read her winning essay in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Laura—an aspiring journalist herself—penned the persuasive piece in response to the following prompt: “Write an essay (600 words or less) that explores the role played by media in promoting or impeding civility in our political and civic discourse. In an age of Twitter and ‘fake news,’ what responsibility does the media have to encourage civility?”

My generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.—Laura Summerfield, Class of 2020

The contest drew 85 entrants from 22 high schools across Utah, according to Westminster Honors College Dean Richard Badenhausen. A distinguished, bipartisan panel of five judges (a former Salt Lake City mayor, an acclaimed author, a lobbyist, a professor, and a Trib reporter) evaluated 13 finalists. Although it was an extremely close contest—Laura won by one point—her essay was the only one that appeared on every judge’s ballot.

Westminster held the contest in conjunction with a March 19 lecture by New York Times Op-Ed Editor James Dao. Laura received her prize, a $2,000 check, that evening, and the Trib published her piece not long after.

“When I received the email telling me I had won, I literally didn't believe it,” Laura said. “Even when my essay was in the Trib, I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it.”

I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others.—Upper School English Teacher Kody Partridge

Incredulous as she may be, there’s no denying that Laura—thanks in part to family discussions and Kody’s class—was well prepared to respond to this year’s prompt. “The topic resonated with me because my family's go-to pre-dinner, dinner, and post-dinner programming is the news and political talk shows, so I knew the state of our political climate,” Laura said. “This topic is important because my generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.”

Kody attended the March event to support Laura and hear the lecture. Though Laura didn’t write the award-winning essay specifically for Kody’s class, the beloved Upper School teacher of over 16 years has a unit that covers writing letters to the editor, and respectfully and compellingly voicing opinions outside of the classroom. “I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others,” Kody said. The lesson certainly got through to Laura, and Kody is a proud teacher. “Laura is a talented writer and a thoughtful young woman,” she said. “It was a fantastic letter.”


Top photo: Laura and Kody at the March 16 event.

Writing

You Belong at Rowland Hall