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Welcome, Grandparents!

Grandparents of our students are valued members of our community, and we hope you'll enjoy a rewarding association with the school. As a Rowland Hall grandparent, you'll be invited to community events, you'll have opportunities to volunteer, and you'll be able to connect with other wonderful families! We hope you take advantage of these ways to get involved:

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Save the date

Grandparents Day will be held on November 21, 2023. Please be sure to update your contact information above to ensure you receive an invitation! We look forward to seeing you.

School Stories from Fine Print Magazine

Rowland Hall Debate Team claimed its fourth consecutive 3A state title in 2024.

For the fourth straight year, Rowland Hall Debate has claimed the 3A speech and debate state title.

And while it might look easy to defend a title when it’s been done three years in a row, Rowland Hall’s debaters are quick to tell you that, thanks to the nature of the event and the quality of teams that turn up each year, it’s definitely not.

“This was by far the closest tournament yet,” said Coach Mike Shackelford. In fact, Rowland Hall held onto the state title only by a single point, finishing 103-102 over Juab High School. Mike credits the full commitment of each debater in securing this year’s tight win.

“Every person on the team played a critical role in this collective effort,” he said.

A major part of that effort was that debaters were willing to take on speech events they don’t ordinarily compete in. As a debate-first team, Mike explained, Rowland Hall students specialize in events such as Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, and Public Forum. But at state, teams that want the top spot also need to compete in speech events such as Impromptu, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Oratory. Additionally, because Rowland Hall plays up a division level to compete in 3A, the team has fewer debaters than other schools, and so team members have to be willing to drop their usual events and/or compete in new events to secure enough points to hang on to the state title.

“Almost no one was in their traditional event, but they translated prior debate experience into a new challenge,” said Mike. “It’s not just showing up—we had to mutate and morph and try new things.”

Senior Logan Fang was one of these students. Usually a Policy debater, Logan took on Public Forum and Extemporaneous Speaking for the first time this year at state and said his time on the team prepared him for this change.

“Given how well Rowland Hall Debate prepares you to be successful in different events, the adjustment was relatively smooth,” said Logan. “Switching to a speech event just meant I had to focus more on persuasive speaking and articulation, compared to the fast delivery of Policy.”

For senior Harris Matheson, who took on the Foreign Extemporaneous event in addition to the Public Forum event he specializes in, the experience built his confidence and connections with his teammates.

“Two other Rowland Hall debaters and I made it to the finals of Foreign Extemp this year, helping the team get the points we needed to win state,” said Harris. “I learned that if I set my mind to a task, I am capable of doing well at it, and it’s even more rewarding to do it with others.”

For this year’s seniors, the state win marks a new milestone: the first time a group of Rowland Hall debaters has helped claim a state title every year of their high school careers.

For seniors Harris and Logan, as well as Marina Peng and Rosie Schaefer, this year’s win also marks a new milestone: the first time a group of Rowland Hall debaters has helped claim a state title every year of their high school careers. It’s an honor these students worked hard for.

“Defending the championship each year added both pressure and motivation,” said Marina. “Knowing that we were the ones to beat made us try our hardest and do our best in every round we were in.”

But while these seniors are the first to have this experience as Rowland Hall debaters, they, like their coach, are clear that it takes the commitment of each team member to be victorious and that their state win is a reflection of team-wide dedication.

“When each member of the team does their best and gives it their all, being able to see our effort shown in our title really means something,” said Harris.

This team-first attitude is passed on each year by experienced debaters and helps make Rowland Hall’s program such a success, locally and nationally. As another school year wraps, Mike expressed his gratitude to this year’s seniors for the role they played in the Rowland Hall Debate legacy.

“They led by example and demonstrated that the team is bigger than the individual,” said Mike. “Thanks to them, I'm confident the next generation of debaters will know what it takes to win and I'll be able to rely on them.”

Rowland Hall Debate State Performances 2024

Below are Rowland Hall’s top performances at the 2024 state tournament.

  • Ninth grader Tyson Brown was the top Student Congress debater from Rowland Hall. In Student Congress, debaters lead and participate in a simulation about pieces of national legislation.
  • Ninth grader Chloe Vezina was the state finalist in Impromptu Speaking, an event in which debaters prepare and deliver five-minute speeches on random topics, with only one to two minutes of preparation.
  • Senior Logan Fang took second in Extemporaneous Speaking, an event in which debaters are given a current event question and have 30 minutes to research, write, and deliver seven-minute speeches.
  • Junior Aiden Gandhi was Rowland Hall’s top Lincoln-Douglas performer, finishing fifth for his solo debate on the ethics of rehabilitation in criminal justice. Lincoln-Douglas contestants debate the pros and cons of a topic one-on-one.
  • Junior Elena Owens and senior Marina Peng took second in Public Forum, an event in which debaters give short speeches interspersed with three-minute crossfire sections. Their topic was on paying college athletes. Seniors Harris Matheson and Rosie Schaefer took third in this event, and ninth grader Chloe Vezina and sophomore Anya Ellahie finished fifth.
  • Sophomores Gavin Schmidt and Baker Campsen took first in Policy, an event in which debaters advocate for or against a policy change resolution, for their debate on the best proposals to solve economic inequality. Ninth graders Sofia Drakou and Emery Lieberman were second, and ninth graders Arianna Ali and Elle Prasthofer finished third. That’s a clean sweep!

Debate

Rowland Hall eighth grader Sophia Z., a Time for Kids reporter.

Time magazine is one of the oldest and most respected publications in the United States. The 101-year-old periodical has published interviews with presidents and kings. It has covered thousands of stories, publishing the work of thousands of journalists. For the past year, a Rowland Hall student has been among them.

Eighth grader Sophia Z. is one of eight students from across the country who was selected this year to be a reporter for Time for Kids (TFK), an offshoot of Time magazine aimed at young readers. She caught the eye of the selection committee with an article asking, and answering, an intriguing question: Would an epic winter with a historical snowpack in 2023 save the Great Salt Lake from dying? This piece of investigative journalism was inspired by Rowland Hall’s seventh-grade Great Salt Lake project, where Sophia was introduced to the issue of ecological crisis facing the Great Salt Lake, and previously presented to the United Nations’ 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

“This is a critical crisis to Utah because if the Great Salt Lake dries up, there will be toxins in the air and our snow-based tourism industry will decline because of the lake effect on snow,” said Sophia about some of the many negative impacts of a drying Great Salt Lake. “We cannot rest upon wet winters; taking actions to conserve water and shepherd water to the lake is the key to save the lake,” she emphasized.

In her role as a TFK reporter, Sophia has interviewed a wide array of people, from the stars of movies like The Tiger’s Apprentice and Avatar: The Last Airbender to Maurice Ashley, the first Black chess grandmaster and author of many books on the sport. One of her favorite stories, though, was the one closest to home: an interview with a Utah teen working to make robotics more accessible to underrepresented communities.

“I really hoped sharing this story would not only inspire kids in STEM, but inspire them to inspire others,” Sophia said. “They can help expand STEM education just by doing STEM activities that they really, really enjoy.”

While Sophia is used to being the interviewer, we thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about being a TFK reporter. The following interview has been lightly edited.


What was the best part of being a journalist for Time for Kids?

I’ve realized that I really enjoy talking to people about their interesting experiences and inspiring opinions. I also really enjoy retelling those stories in my words and further passing those messages onto my readers. Meeting amazing people and listening to their inspiring stories do not only enrich my own life but also help me to convey my interviewees’ wisdom to my readers and enrich their lives.

Meeting amazing people and listening to their inspiring stories do not only enrich my own life but also help me to convey my interviewees’ wisdom to my readers and enrich their lives.—Sophia Z., class of 2028

How did this experience help you become a better journalist and writer?

I learned to write for certain audiences. Writing for the second graders is so different from writing for the fifth and sixth graders. My mentor at TFK taught me to know my readers, keep their interests in mind, adjust my writing style accordingly, and deliver the story in the language that they would understand and relate to.

I also learned that interviewing isn’t just about asking questions and taking notes of what my interviewees said; it’s a conversation. Conversations are never one-sided. Of course, a reporter always prepares for a set of questions before an interview; however, she does not need to strictly follow those questions. One of my questions could stimulate my interviewee to share a piece of experience, memory, opinion, or suggestion, which could inspire me to ask a follow-up question. Engaging with the conservation is more essential and fun than completing a set of prepared questions.

What was your greatest challenge?

When I started to conduct investigative journalism in the summer of 2023 for the TFK contest, I was nervous. I worried that I would not be able to nail down any interviews with adult professionals, such as scholars and government officials. I doubted whether those busy adults would talk with a seventh-grade kid. Then I feared that I would mess up with those important interviews by missing the key questions or important information. So I prepared a lot by doing more research on the topic of the Great Salt Lake. To my surprise, all of the professionals I talked with were so patient in answering my questions and so nice in recommending other professionals to me. Interviews were carried on and became easier and easier, with each interview adding pieces, helping me to solve the puzzle. Now when I look back at it, there is nothing special about journalism. Curiosity makes one ask meaningful and relevant questions to the right persons. Conversation drives the questioning and answering and drives the direction of the story. It is similar to having a conversation with one’s friends and family. Just get a meaningful conversation starting and going.

What is your dream assignment as a young journalist? 

I have many dream assignments! I would love to go to the Olympic Games and interview the top US swimmers, since I am a swimmer. I would love to go to NASA and interview NASA employees about the Artemis mission, since I really love space and want to be an aerospace engineer when I grow up. I would love to go to the World Chess Championship, interview both the current world champion and his challenger, and record their aspirations, excitement, and stresses.

Great work, Sophia! We can’t wait to see what you do next!

Student Voices

Zack Alvidrez, head varsity boys basketball coach for Rowland Hall, named director of athletics.

We are pleased to announce that Zack Alvidrez, a leader in high school athletics and former professional athlete, has been named Rowland Hall’s next director of athletics.

Zack Alvidrez, Rowland Hall

Zack is currently the school’s assistant athletic director and varsity boys basketball head coach. He will begin his new role on July 1 and has been tasked with leading an already strong Rowland Hall Athletics program into a new era.

“Our foundation has been established and defined,” said Zack. Indeed, Rowland Hall prides itself on being a leader in 2A and 3A athletics in the state—as of late April 2024, the school holds 71 state and 142 region titles, six of which were added in this school year alone. Rowland Hall also provides a unique experience for student-athletes. Thanks to our size, athletes get far more play time than they might at larger local schools. Rowland Hall students are also more likely to participate in school sports: this year, 79% of middle and upper school students were on school sports teams. Beyond building skills, these athletic opportunities provide social-emotional support for students, further connecting them to their peers and school community. Zack knows it’s important to continue to provide this experience.

“I’ve had a boots-on-the-ground perspective, seen through the lens of student-athletes,” he said, which has helped him understand what students need and how to best support them. “My philosophy is to continue the tradition of athletics that’s been established at Rowland Hall. I’m going to do that by mixing together healthy competition with the skill of problem solving through education-based learning.”

But for Zack, a solid program foundation is just the start. He’s also excited about growth.

“I want to bring athletics to the forefront by showcasing student-athletes, coaches, and our facilities through social media and outreach opportunities,” he said. Additionally, the school’s upcoming move to a larger campus and new athletic facilities will allow for more Upper School students—and as a result, more athletes.

We have exciting teams and programs, phenomenal athletes and coaches. Come out and support them, and meet me if you don’t already know me. Come say hello, let's have a conversation and build relationships.—Zack Alvidrez

Importantly, Zack is the best person to lead this charge. Out of a pool of more than 80 national candidates and four finalists, the longtime Rowland Hall coach was the most prepared for the director of athletics role.

“Zack stood out from a large, deep pool of candidates from across the country,” said Upper School Principal Ingrid Gustavson. “His approach is all in and kid-first. He shows up to support students and peer coaches, and encourages school spirit in the student body. He has already developed relationships with coaches and admin at member schools and in the greater Utah athletics community. We are confident in his ability to continue Kendra Tomsic's legacy of a competitive and inclusive athletics program, while also finding opportunities to grow our offerings and exposure.”

A former high school varsity athlete himself, Zack joined Rowland Hall as the Middle School girls and boys basketball coach in fall 2016 after playing basketball professionally for seven years in Mexico and then working as a coach. Over the years, he’s taken on additional roles across the Lincoln Street Campus: Upper School boys varsity basketball coach, advisor, health teacher, and assistant director of athletics. He is honored to have been selected for this new opportunity to impact students and the school community he calls home.

“It means everything to me,” said Zack. “The pride I have in this community and this school means so much.” And he hopes he can encourage even more people to catch Winged Lion fever.

“We have exciting teams and programs, phenomenal athletes and coaches,” said Zack. “Come out and support them, and meet me if you don’t already know me. Come say hello, let's have a conversation and build relationships.”

Athletics

Rowland Hall broke ground on the Richard R. Steiner Campus on April 19, 2024.

On Friday, April 19, more than 300 members of the Rowland Hall community gathered for the groundbreaking of the Richard R. Steiner Campus, future home of our Middle School and Upper School, as well as a new athletic complex and performing arts center.

Scheduled to open for the 2026–2027 school year, the Steiner Campus will reunite all Rowland Hall students at one location for the first time in four decades and provide welcoming, collaborative, and flexible-use spaces that better support our students’ learning.

The groundbreaking event began with remarks by Mick Gee, head of school, followed by Sarah Lehman, chair of the Board of Trustees, who told attendees, “We are going to break ground and embark on the boldest vision yet: to unite our campus by 2026.”

Reuniting our community has never just been about a new building. Our focus is on providing thoughtfully designed, modern learning spaces that aren’t available at our Lincoln Street Campus—spaces that better support how today’s students learn and that are in line with our school’s extraordinary vision.—Mick Gee, head of school

Students (and sisters!) Zoe Y. (grade 5) and Elle Y. (grade 3) then spoke, wrapping their speech by announcing that it was time to officially break ground. Zoe and Elle joined Mick, Sarah, members of the Steiner family, and school trustees to scoop the first shovelfuls of earth from the lot on which the Steiner Campus will be built.

“The Rowland Hall community has long looked forward to the day when all our students would be reunited at one location,” said Mick about the momentous event. “But reuniting our community has never just been about a new building. Our focus is on providing thoughtfully designed, modern learning spaces that aren’t available at our Lincoln Street Campus—spaces that better support how today’s students learn and that are in line with our school’s extraordinary vision.”

In support of this vision, Developing People the World Needs, the Steiner Campus will include state-of-the-art facilities that support programmatic priorities (including applied mathematics, engineering, environmental and research science, technology, and entrepreneurship) and flexible-use spaces. The campus will also house three centers that emphasize deep learning: a Center for Community Impact, which will educate, empower and inspire students to become agents of positive change, as well as support our commitment to being an indispensable partner to educational institutions, nonprofits, and businesses; a Center for Science, Engineering, and Research, which will feature collaborative science classrooms and a student-led research area; and a Center for Design and Creativity, which will feature maker workshops and a robotics hub. The Steiner Campus will also provide space for an expanded student body, welcoming more students who value the innovative, authentic learning for which Rowland Hall is known.

Want to get involved? Visit Rowland Hall’s capital campaign website to learn more.

Strategic Priorities