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Robin Follet opens doors

CA Curious

Salutations, esteemed learners

August 26, 2021

Yes, students, I know that I typically start my weekly emails with that opening to you.  I like that beginning, though, because it combines two important elements: my love of delicious language, and my respect for you.  So, once again, in the spirit of literal and figurative introductions, salutations to you, and to all parents, alumni, and/or Middle School students who happen to be reading this epistle. 

We are starting the school year, and I’ve naturally been thinking about how you are transitioning into all the newness—the new classes, the new classrooms of the Upper School, the new schedule.  And paradoxically over the past few weeks, along with all my conversations with you, I’ve also been chatting with some of the alumni, who, unprompted, have helped remind me of some of the timeless elements of Cary Academy—both the good and the challenging. 

A few days ago, I ran into a former student gabbing with a teacher in the CMS.  He was laughing as he recounted how he and some friends had built a fort of furniture in the middle of the CMS lobby a few years ago.  I remembered that building–the edifice definitely towered overhead, much to my chagrin at the time.*  I joined the current discussion, and the alum reminisced a bit more about friends, about cross country, about various classes, about being in the hallways.   Then, as we talked about his college experience, he interjected, “and I just have to say, the College Counseling Office is awesome!”  He mentioned their help as he looked at college fit, rather than university name.  He mentioned the excitement that they shared with him as he worked through the opportunities.   

Not once did he mention his grades from Cary Academy. 

I met with another alumnus several weeks earlier, and in our conversation, we reflected on the opposite of relationships, talking about the pressures that students face at Cary Academy.  Yes, Cary Academy avoids the overt methods of measurement: we don’t calculate GPA or class rank.  But that person described the quiet ways that CA students tend to measure themselves against each other—number of advanced courses taken, grades achieved, colleges applied to, hours overworked.  “And the funny thing is,” this person said, “once I got to college, none of it mattered.  Everything that I thought was so important in high school—the things I got stressed about—they weren’t that important.  I wish I knew then what I know now.”  What did the alum really remember?  The relationships.  The work ethic that was developed.  The stories about interactions with others. 

I’m sharing those words with you for obvious reasons. 

The college counselors, in all their talks with you, whether you are in grades 9, 10, 11, or 12, offer one key piece of advice: focus on building your life.  You are crafting experiences with friends.  You are exploring topics that intrigue you.  You are using your creativity for good (yes, the furniture fort is chaotic good, more or less). 

So I am tying those wise words from the college counselors together with the reflections from people who have walked your pathways from science classrooms to English seminars to history discussions to art room creations to playing fields to debate rooms to math competitions.  Yes, get good grades, but avoid that mistaken belief that you are measured by a letter or number.  And even though your teenage brain is demanding that you compare yourself in some way to the people around you, remember that those comparisons are ephemeral.  They feel so important right now.  They will be meaningless in several years.   

I’m sharing these stories now, at the start of the school year, because in this year of new, in this exhausting time of yet more COVID, it’s more important than ever that you are learning for you.  Find ways to embrace the joy in that journey.  

On Tuesday afternoon, I spent an advisory period with a group of seniors, and they demonstrated the best of learning for oneself, of developing relationships, of honing a work ethic.  Yes, they had to accomplish various tasks, and they did so, bouncing between focused (how do I complete this portion of the Common App?) to the not so focused, from the inventive to the joyfully silly.  And they did it with each other. 

So, esteemed learners, find joy in this year.  Support each other.  Listen to the college counselors.  Eschew measuring yourselves against your friends (or even your frenemies). 

And have a good year. 

*A description of previous questionable decisions does not grant approval for future bad choices. So please don’t try to build furniture forts (or fortresses of any type) anywhere on campus, even if a couch-based structure in the past was an example of chaotic good. 

Written by Robin Follet, Head of Upper School

Athletics

Charger earns a spot on national table tennis team

Upper School

Student’s voice earns national recognition

Faculty Reflections

Founding vision

Isabella Xu ('25)

Athletics

Charger earns a spot on national table tennis team

August 19, 2021

Congratulations to Isabella Xu (‘25) for making the 2021 girls’ U17 U.S. national table tennis team! USA Table Tennis, the sport’s governing body named Xu to the eight-member team following the 2021 US National Team Youth Trials, held in Milpitas, California and Pleasantville, New York.

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

6th

Sixth-grader shares vaccination experience, hopes with national audience

Athletics

Senior Nights: Girls’ Varsity Track and Field

Alumni Spotlight

Re-working the System

Sydney Ross '23

Athletics

Charger student-athlete earns national recognition

August 3, 2021

Congratulations to Sydney Ross (’23) for being named to the 2021 USA Volleyball AAU Academic All-American team! The award recognizes high school student-athletes for their excellence in the classroom as well as the volleyball court. Ross is the only Triangle-area student-athlete named to the team for 2021.

In addition, Ross received the Junior Volleyball Association AthLeader award. For 2021, Ross is one of 22 players from across the country to receive this prestigious award, which recognizes the top JVA member club players in the nation for outstanding achievement outside of the volleyball court. 

Ross’s mother, Donna, credits her time at CA with enabling her to reach such national heights, “Sydney’s experience with CA’s Leadership During Crisis Program, along with her facilitator role set her apart from other scholar athletes.”

Go Chargers!

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

Art

CA Junior’s one-act plays earn accolades

CA Curious

Looking ahead to a new ‘typical’

Athletics

2020 Spring Athletic Awards

Rachel Wang ’25

Athletics

Charger athlete a smash at national table tennis championships

July 13, 2021

Congratulations to rising-9th grader Rachel Wang ’25 for reaching the semifinal round of the 2021 U.S. National Table Tennis Championships in the girls’ singles U15 division! Playing in Las Vegas last week, Rachel finished in the top 8 of all players in her age group, nationally. #GoChargers!

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

Athletics

Varsity cross country teams take TISAC trophy

Faculty Reflections

At the heart of the Middle School

Community

A message of support of our Asian and Asian-American community

Ella Gupta 23

Upper School

Sophomore writes the book on financial literacy for her generation, literally

June 3, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed significant economic disparities across the American economic landscape, Ella Gupta ’23 realized that there wasn’t anyone guiding her generation on how to save and spend wisely. So, she decided to write the guide herself.

“I was shocked by the wealth disparities for people of color, and I saw a lack of financial literacy, in general, for young people in our society. It’s not a topic commonly found in school curriculums,” shares Gupta. “So, I decided to write the book I felt was missing. There are tons of financial guides on the market for millennials, but not for Gen Z.”

Over the past year, while balancing virtual and in person learning, Gupta — whose personal financial passion began at age 10 with a business selling rainbow loom bracelets — was also hard at work on Gen Z Money $ense: A Personal Finance and Investing Guide, now available at major bookstores, from New Degree Press.

“Being at CA definitely bolstered my sense of independence and my eagerness to take on a topic I’m curious about. I was fortunate to grow up in a house where finances were never a taboo topic; my parents and grandparents always made a point of involving me in financial decisions.”  

As she set out to write her book, Gupta interviewed financial industry professionals and economic communicators, from CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin to JJ Kinahan, Chief Market Strategist at TD Ameritrade, and Metropolitan Capital Advisors co-founder Karen Finerman. Gupta is currently working with Tim Ranzetta at Next Gen Personal Finance to distribute the book to educators across the country in the hopes of bolstering financial education for young people. 

The book features unique topics that are very relevant today, including investing apps, cryptocurrencies, Environmental Social Governance investing, automation, mobile banking.

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

Art

Stats and Storytelling

CA Curious

Welcome to the 25th Anniversary Year at Cary Academy!

Community

Campaign for Cary Academy

Class of 2021 tosses their caps in the air

Alumni News

Congratulations, Class of 2021!

May 24, 2021

On Friday, May 21, 2021, Cary Academy celebrated the Class of 2021 as they embark on the next step of their journey, attending 49 different colleges and universities in 18 states, Canada, China, and Scotland. After being welcomed to CA’s first outdoor commencement by Head of School, Dr. Mike Ehrhardt, Class Speakers Armita Jamshidi ’21 and Vibhav Nandagiri ’21 addressed the graduates, faculty, crowd of family, friends, and well-wishers. Nandagiri was presented with the Founders’ Award by Head of Upper School Robin Follet. Chair of CA’s Board of Directors, Manju Karkare, introduced celebrated author and food historian Sandra Gutierrez, who delivered the ceremony’s keynote address.

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

Upper School

Billboards showcase CA student’s award-winning artwork statewide

CA Curious

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CA Curious

The Privilege of Play

Students enjoy music on the Quad during Quadchella

CA Curious

Community Vignettes

May 20, 2021

Even before our Director of Communications, Mandy Dailey, asked me to write this week’s blog, I was savoring scenes from around the Upper School, especially since they all seemed to coalesce around a common theme: community.  I thought I would share a few of them with you. 

Yearbook day

One morning last week, a senior stood in front of a classroom of adults, a group that included the Head of the School, Director of Facilities, and Board members. She explained what she had learned over the course of this year in an independent study focused on environmental sustainability.  Specifically, she shared how she had calculated Cary Academy’s immediate carbon footprint, then she offered suggestions about how we can move forward as a community, mentioning small and large actions we can take as a school to improve our world.  The adults scribbled notes the entire time. 

One afternoon last week, the six students in Yearbook, along with their teacher, parents, and advisor volunteers, passed out the 2020-2021 Yearbook, a compendium all-the-more impressive considering we started the year with much of our school life boxed into Zoom meetings. That afternoon, Upper School student stood in clumps about the Quad, pens in hands, flipping through pages, scribbling quick messages, perusing pictures. 

One afternoon last week, students lounged at the end of the Quad close to the Library, enjoying Quadchella. CA performers played and sang for each other in an informal concert developed over the course of a week with energetic input from StuCo and our arts faculty. Under that afternoon sun, the audience applauded the student performers, grabbed snacks, and laughed with a joy that we haven’t seen in some time.   

One morning this week, a gaggle of seniors sprawled under the trees, chatting and laughing and debating and—oddly enough—laying on their backs, the soles of their feet pressed together. That small scene (minus the feet) echoed countless other versions of the small conversations I witnessed this year, conversations about both nothing in particular and everything in general. 

The Jazz Band plays Quadchella

Earlier this week, the seniors on campus danced through the hallways and onto the Quad, the leader holding a speaker on his shoulder like some throwback to an 80’s movie. Their fifteen-minute pilgrimage was an homage to our annual Glow Stick dance, a soiree that didn’t take place this year. But this week’s journey, with its moments of exuberance, celebrated their bond built across the years—celebrated their bond with the school. 

A bit later that day, two of those same seniors, along with a group of 10th and 11th graders, talked about a year-long Cary Academy class, one that melded English and history and art and activism and entrepreneurship and experiential learning. They discussed once more that idea of community, even though they didn’t immediately form a close-knit group in August. At least not a first. The essence of their discussion? How even with their differences, they came to trust one another as their learning became personal, as they understood how their knowledge linked to each other and the larger world. 

Next week, a group of new alumni and newly-minted seniors will lead a symposium for 10th graders that brings national figures to campus virtually (yay Zoom!), allowing our students to hear from professionals in a variety of fields that touch our lives.  This opportunity comes to us, once again, courtesy of student ingenuity. 

During a year when so many of us yearned for physical community, the students have taken that urge and built beautiful, sometimes unexpected celebrations of togetherness.   

Yes, the adults have been present. Yes, we provide the guardrails and the reminders and food. Yes, that sense of belonging is coded into our school’s DNA; just consider the C in DICE. Or look at the opening phrase of our Statement of Community Values. 

But in a year when students could be forgiven for shying away from collecting together, they instead embraced opportunity: they searched for ways to understand, to come together, to lead. 

They built communities—so many enchanting, vibrant, celebratory communities. 

So, to our students: thank you.  Your actions give all of us hope.  Even when you play pattycakes with your feet. 

Written by Robin Follet, Head of Upper School

Community

Holiday Shoppe springs forward to 2022

Athletics

2020 Spring Athletic Awards

Upper School

Cary Academy students honored as Catalysts for Change

Bella Nesbeth ’22

Art

CA Junior’s one-act plays earn accolades

May 6, 2021

Congratulations to Bella Nesbeth ’22 on being selected as a featured playwright for Burning Coal Theatre Company’s KidsWrite Festival, streaming on stage May 28-29, 2021.

Nesbeth’s one-act play, Queen of the Night tells the story of singer Whitney Houston’s early career.

Later in the summer, Burning Coal will produce a second of Nesbeth’s plays, A Tale of Two Stops, which explores the duality of the American experience, divided along racial lines. Similar events on a single night take very different paths for two families – one Black and one white – in a play inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

Inspired to write the play after seeing Burning Coal’s call for submissions on Twitter, A Tale of Two Stops is Nesbeth’s first serious foray into writing for the stage. “I really enjoy Broadway musicals, but I don’t consider myself a singer or an actress. So, I thought, ‘why don’t I try and write my own play?’” One Tuesday evening, in order to give her sister, Cici some privacy while she prepared for the SAT in their shared bedroom, Bella sat down and wrote the play in a single four-hour session.

“I kept thinking about how, in police brutality cases, people always seem to say, ‘well, if they were white, this wouldn’t have happened.’ So, I wanted to explore the exact same situation, but with characters of two different races,” explains Nesbeth.

Nesbeth is currently working with directors Eric Kildow and Amy Lloyd to adapt A Tale of Two Stops for production. It and other KidsWrite plays written by Triangle area 6th-12th grade students will be presented via streaming, free of charge, on Friday and Saturday, May 28 and 29, 2021 at 7:00pm on Burning Coal’s website.


Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

Faculty Reflections

Faculty Conversations: Social and Emotional Health

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Athletics

Five CA seniors commit to collegiate sports

German Day 2021

World Language

Virtual German Day 2021 results: sehr gut!

April 15, 2021

This year, the North Carolina German Day Competition took place virtually due to the pandemic, with a mix of live online events and prerecorded submissions. German Day is hosted by local universities (this year led by Appalachian State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and organized by the N.C. chapter of the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG).  Congratulations to the following winners! 

Middle School: 

A Capella Song: 
1st place:   Gavin Koo (Level B) 
2nd place:   Aubrey Bundy, Sebastian Escobar, Kelley Felix, Alexander Ferretti, Mirabelle Greenwolfe, Jonas McMullin, Tess Perkinson, Riley Powell, Rishi Ramesh, Hogan Wendt and Rajan Wood  (Level A) 

Song with Choreography: 
1st place:  Izzy Bottorff, Anurag Gaddu, Reagan Lee and Max Leuchtmann (Level A) 

Song with Musical Accompaniment: 
1st place:  Sebastian deSouza, Nora Leuchtmann and Zelin Ye (Level B) 

Cooking Show: 
3rd place:  Aviva Wang (Level A) 

Upper School: 

3D Art: 

1st place: Mary Esposito 

2nd Place: Emma Esposito 

2D Art: 

Honorable Mention: Sara Martin, Rin Mauney 

Poster: 

2nd place: Louisa Wendt 

3rd place: Alexandra Butulis 

Song with Musical Accompaniment: 

3rd place: Kaeshev Alepati 

Karaoke: 

1st place: Zoe Koo, Rin Mauney 

2nd place: Rin Mauney, Cy Reading, Sedef Iz 

3rd place: Koa Kaliebe, Claire Ferris, Eva Hammer, Kyle Murphy, Mary Esposito 

Verb Bee: 

1st place: Claire Ferris 

Culture Bowl: 

2nd place: Tommy Frank (Level B) 

2nd place: Charlie Eheman (Level A) 

Poetry Recitation: 

1st place: Kendyl George (Level 3) 

Extemporaneous Speaking Heritage Level: 

1st place: Claire Ferris 

2nd place: Tommy Frank 

3rd place: Koa Kaliebe 

Cooking Show: 

1st place: Leah Wiebe (Level B) 

3rd place: Kaeshev Alepati, Tymur Tkachenko (Level B) 

Honorable Mention: Louisa Wendt, Adora Koonce (Level A) 

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

Art

Meet the Company of ‘The Theory of Relativity’

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French Fries

Upper School

Putting their game face on