What is it like to attend WRA? What makes it different than other schools? No one knows better than the students themselves. In WRA Voices, Ajay '16, Caitlin '16, Kyle '16, Anna '15, Niraj '16, Joey '15, Jessica '15, Cat '15, Sophie '15 and Kristina '16 share their perspectives on anything and everything WRA. Read on!
As temperatures drop to their lowest point of the year, it can be difficult to imagine what there is to do with the biting cold making it difficult to appreciate the beauty of snow. As a four-year senior, I have had my fair share of cold.
It can be easy to allow yourself to stress about the expectations that await you as you return to campus, and the long wait until spring break. Although the spring offers students one of the most scenic walks to class, it can be hard to imagine our buildings ever recovering from the snow accumulation.
However, this time of year holds some of my favorite activities on campus and can bring out the best of our student body.
I have created a list of all of the best things to do on campus in January:
1. Spend time in the WRAp (student lounge) in Seymour Hall after lunch with friends. Because of the uninviting weather, you can find most students here enjoying each other’s company playing Apples to Apples, watching Netflix together, or discussing weekend activities. The WRAp is the most comforting place despite the cold; it is a space to relax and see everyone.
2. Head to the library. Whether it is to meet up for a group project or simply to read during a free period, the library offers a large fire as comfort for the wind-burned. If you have ever been to campus, it is hard to ignore how great our library is. We have different levels that offer different study atmospheres for every type of student, offering a respite for everyone.
3. Head over to the MAC to support one of the winter sports teams. Particularly with boys basketball (Did you see Cat’s post below?), sports serve as a great weekend activity on campus. The community comes out to support the players: students paint up, the band plays and the teachers come out to cheer too.
4. Enjoy Community Service Day. Reserve students participate in multiple community service days, one of which is in mid-January. Students may choose from a variety of projects on and off campus, from helping at a food bank or helping prepare hot meals to serve to communities. Community service days break up the regular routine of school and allow students a day to think of others instead of the frigid temperatures.
5. Head downtown to Open Door. Although the cold makes walking outside somewhat difficult, on slightly warmer days one of the best treats is relishing a cup of hot chocolate at the (very close) coffee shop downtown.
6. Spend time with your advisor. During the beginning of the second semester, most advisors will have some sort of group activity, ranging from a home-cooked meal to a movie night. These activities foster your relationship with your advisor and fellow advisory members after the hectic end of the first semester, serving to reinforce a sense of community as students return to campus.
7. Attend the winter play. Every year, Reserve students put on three dramatic performances: one drama, one musical and one comedy. This winter, students will perform Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. On opening night, it is tradition for students attending the performance to dress up in formal wear to show support for their classmates.
Despite the cold, campus comes alive after the holiday break. The community comes together and produces enough excitement and energy to warm anyone.
As we come back to school from our much needed, well-deserved winter break, it is difficult to get back in the “swing of things” and re-acquaint ourselves with the demands of WRA. During breaks, my daily routine consists of sleeping in more than I need to, eating all the wrong foods and watching an inordinate amount of television shows. It is safe to say that over break my overall vigor declines as the days pass by. For me, breaks serve as a safe haven where I can retreat from all the struggles of school life. As lamentable as my life is over break, I think this time serves as an opportunity to momentarily forget about deadlines, tests, and obligations, doing whatever makes us happy. During this time I try to do nothing academic, not as a way to neglect academics, but to pursue other areas of interest that I could not otherwise engage in during school.
Before we know it, our refuge away from school comes to an end and it is time to re-engage in our normal school routine. It is interesting to observe the joy of students as they are eager to see their friends after two weeks. As the day begins, I see students abruptly stop in their tracks and turn around, waiting for their friends to run full force at them and give them a warm, welcoming hug. At the end of 1st period, the concept of winter break vanishes into the ether and the reality of school hits us. Throughout the day, I say many “Hellos” and give many hugs as I am thrilled to be back with all my friends.
Now, in the Ong Library for study hours, I am occupied with finding literary devices in poems, making sure my chemistry answers have the correct number of significant figures, and even greeting more people. I now bear the title of a “second semester junior” and must take on the duties of that moniker.
It’s a big decision to be a boarding student at a boarding school. At the ripe age of 14 years old you are thrust into a life of your own. No parents to tell you what to do, no space of your own to relax in, no comfort of what you’re used to. It’s scary. I remember arriving on campus as a freshman. I didn’t know anyone and I was filled with terror. I was shaking inside and out and sad to leave my beloved middle school behind. However, there are also a lot of great things about being a boarding student. You have the luxury of independence, you can form close bonds with your roommate and friends that live nearby, and you choose how and when you want to do things. As it turns out, it was also nice to come here not knowing anyone. I didn’t have to hold on to who I used to be, it was like a clean slate. While it’s definitely a big risk, I believe that it’s the big risks that have the biggest payoffs. Every tremble of fear that riveted through my body was worth it, it was worth it to be able to stand here where I am and know all the great things boarding school has done for me.
For one thing, boarding school made me grow up. I had to learn to take care of myself. No matter what age you are this is never an easy process and I’m thankful to have experienced it with a tight-knit group of people rather than in a large college setting. Boarding school also taught me how to manage drama and rumors. People will always say things that aren’t true and there will always be those people that feed off of other’s suffering, but it’s important to learn who you are and not let others define you. Lastly, I am incredibly thankful to have a roommate. My roommate, Sophie Shen, has been such an incredible person to experience all of this alongside. I guess the reason I think that boarding school is a good thing is because it offers a small community, a safe haven where we can begin to experience all of the things we will have to experience in college, but in a safe space.
Even though as a senior I feel that I have earned the right to stand up here and tell you about my journey of embracing a new experience, I can’t even seem to take my own advice. I’m scared to leave for college. I’m scared to have to start over and meet new people. But I just have to remind myself of everything I gained here at WRA, I have to remind myself that my vulnerability was a good thing and that changes are a part of life. It’s always scary to start something new, but sometimes we just have to jump, we have to take a risk and hope it will pay off. I know it’s scary but I do believe that boarding school is one of the best things that young people can take advantage of, it’s an incredible experience.
Anna Karen Ballard
WRA Student Life
on Wednesday January 14 at 03:38PM
With snow starting to pile up around campus and temperatures dropping by the day, weekend activities are being moved indoors and a stroll downtown feels more like a trek through the arctic. Yet, the change in weather sure isn’t putting a damper on Reserve’s school spirit. Basketball season is back in action and bringing in a bigger crowd than ever. With the boys basketball team currently ranked 20th in Northeast Ohio (and only expected to improve) they go into holiday break with an undefeated record. Dunks, impressive plays and thirty point leads, aren’t the only things bringing students out to the games. A few seniors sparked a new spirit into the Reserve fans with themes for every game, students from all grades have even started skipping study hours and coming out to the Murdough Athletic Center on weeknights to watch the boys. This past Thursday students could be seen decked out in ugly Christmas sweaters and elf outfits, and found the following day in shorts and Hawaiian shirts. Last week, a Reserve fan bus drove students to an away basketball game, with a cheering section five times bigger than Hawken’s, we easily brought home the W. Basketball games have constantly brought in students in the past, but it is safe to say that this year’s fans are louder than any season I have seen so far. The boys come back after the holidays with a home game on Jan. 9 against Mansfield Temple Christian, and have a full schedule to follow. So, when you’ve had enough of the Cavs, stop on by and support your ‘Neers.
The first sign of Christmas at Western Reserve Academy is the cold. It’s the first thing that people notice when they are walking from class to class. People may notice it getting cold around Thanksgiving, but the real chill comes with the consistent snow in December. Students and teachers alike get all bundled up between periods to make the march from Seymour to Wilson, or KFAC to the library. The worst of all is the walk from class to lunch at Ellsworth. Once you round the corner onto Aurora Street from Brick Row, instantly you are exposed to the wind and snow of the open area. The walk to the dining hall, although on a decline, is nothing but an uphill struggle. The conditions only get worse as you near your destination. As you finally stumble into Ellsworth, tripping over the abundance of backpacks outside the coatroom, warmth hits you wonderfully, making the trip seem worth it. However, the trip back to class is no better. You put on your coat, pull your hat over your ears, wrap your scarf tightly around your neck and make the trek back to Seymour for your next class.
Despite all the snowy weather and rosy cheeks from the cold, people raise their spirits around the holidays at WRA. Students donate toys and money for the Toys for Tots collection, people volunteer for the Salvation Army, and so much more. Teachers open their homes to students for cookies, hot chocolate and conversation. WRA truly becomes even more of a community during the holiday season. I believe this makes the Christmas season so special at Reserve. No matter what the diverse collection of faculty and students believe, they all embrace the spirit of the season, and most importantly, one another as one big family.
Joseph Anthony Mylott
WRA Student Life
on Wednesday December 17, 2014 at 02:38PM
The past weekend, we had our fall dance performance, Let’s Go To the Movies. The performance included a lot of soundtracks from different movies such as Gone with the Wind, Austin Powers, Harry Potter, American Beauty and more. As an advanced dancer, and someone who has been participating in the WRA Dance Program for the past three years, I was exhilarated for the performance.
Opening night was on Friday, and we had a tech week before to make sure the dance performance is an enjoyable experience for the entire audience. This year, not only girls were actively involved in our program, so were boys. In one of the regular dance classes we have the same number of boys and girls, which enabled partnering to happen. Even though we had to take almost two hours out of our busy days to prepare for the dance performance, it was worth it. We grew close everyday as a team. Laughs coming out from the dressing room, smiles on our faces after each rehearsal, and countless pictures that were taken during the week are all evidence of our love for dance.
Mrs. Barth, our dance teacher, is extremely dedicated to our performances, which make them outstanding. Even at the time when her baby was due in a week, she still devoted herself to be there with us every night, to ensure the quality of each run. Our program is like a family, and Mrs. Barth takes care of us like a mother. Her compassion leads us to be better dancers and people.
I do not think there is anything more special than being a cast member in a production here at Reserve. This year’s fall musical, The Addams Family, was a really fun experience to be a part of. At some point during the long dress rehearsals, true connections were formed. Friendships old and new flourished due to the time commitment, and the commitments made to one another. This year especially, the cast had a really fun time. The atmosphere backstage was colorful and full of energy, and each person played a big role in the success of the show.
The best part of musical rehearsal was definitely the time between dinner and rehearsal. Each day we would arrive 10 to 15 minutes before and play music that everyone enjoyed and could sing along to. A time to escape from the daily whirl of tests, papers and sports, and just be with friends created a really fun atmosphere. I encourage every member of the Reserve community to step outside their comfort zone; ultimately the reward will be much greater than the initial sacrifice. I want to thank everyone involved in making the production a success, and also making it lively.
Most people have heard of The Addams Family, and many of them can even sing the little theme song in their head, but not everyone knows what it’s actually about. I was one of these people. However, this weekend at Reserve I attended this years musical and learned all about this creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky family. It was a really great way to spend Halloween and I can honestly say I loved every second of it.
I must admit that I do not really enjoy shows. I love the idea of dressing up and going out to the theatre to see a wonderful musical or play, but in reality I can barely keep my eyes open after an hour of sitting still in a dark theatre. That was not the case this time. The cast was incredible and made the production so fun. One of the great performances was by Mika Takahashi, which was so awesome to see. Mika is a great dancer, but it was fun to see her in a new role of acting. Another great performance was by Simon Ong, who even went so far as to shave off his luscious head of hair to fit his role. The musical was so entertaining because each member of the cast really got into character and gave it their all and there were plenty of jokes to keep the fun alive.
This really encompasses what it’s like to be at Reserve. No one feels trapped in a stereotype, no one feels like they have to act a certain way or do certain things, they are free to explore their options and really invest themselves in their endeavors. This is what I love so much about this school. The cast ranged from the student body president to multiple sports captains and everything in between. No one is a theatre geek, no one is a jock, we are all just students at a great school. Unfortunately, The Addams Family is over, but I would highly encourage you to come see another production here at WRA!
Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of the week – with Friday, the bright light at the end of the tunnel, just out of hands reach – Reserve students usually find themselves suffocating under mounds of homework, sport practices and Netflix episodes. Reaching midweek, the last thing students want to do is sit through an hour long assembly in the Chapel. Surprisingly enough, before I was about to surrender to exhaustion right in my Chapel pew, in came marching thirteen men in tails. Dressed to the nines, they took over the Chapel stage with poise and excitement. My nap could wait.
The Yale Spizzwinks(?), America’s first and oldest a cappella group, ventured far past their campus in Connecticut and came prepared to entertain on the grounds of WRA. Serenading the crowd with songs like Frank Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight, Let it Be by the Beatles, and Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band, they managed to incorporate every genre – all within a forty-five minute time slot. Besides their harmonic voices and fabulous selections of songs, these Yale students brought with them a comedic and amusing humor; Harvard, Yale’s rival, being the butt end of most of their jokes. Each man, though all dressed the same, brought a unique flare to the overall performance.
The Spizzwinks(?), yes, the question mark is included in their name, tour both nationally and internationally. After their kickoff in Cleveland, they head cross-country to San Diego, Ventura, and Albuquerque, continue onto Florida and finish off their season in Turkey and South Africa. After their performance, Spizzwink members stuck around and answered questions. While eavesdropping, I heard words like “a-ca-awkward” and Pitch Perfect. Though a cappella groups are far from a new concept, with the help of Rebel Wilson’s hilarious character and Anna Kendrick’s voice, in the movie Pitch Perfect, a cappella groups have become the new rage. If you get the chance to see the Yale Spizzwinks(?), take it; you will not be disappointed.
Stress. The whole of senior year is filled with it. This semester is the last, and probably the most important, of our academic transcripts. On top of schoolwork, we have common apps, essays, supplements, and more to fill out in order to apply to college. Sports and social events cram the weekends as well. It’s impossible to fit everything in and do everything justice. However, we must make choices and live with the results.
My life is getting out of hand with all of the applications and work I have to do. But, Western Reserve Academy offers so much help for anyone experiencing difficult time, for whatever reason. There are application help nights and informational meals with college admissions representatives. Some Saturdays are devoted to working on the college process. Teachers accommodate the needs of students and write awesome letters of recommendation. WRA really steps up and delivers for their students in these times of overwhelming stress.
Life isn’t crazy for only the seniors though. Many other students receive help for their various needs as well. Teachers are probably the best resource on campus. They are always available to talk. They hold extra help sessions in the evenings. They even open up their homes to students. At times, life at WRA seems overbearing and too difficult. But so many people want to see students succeed that it’s hard to get completely lost in the shuffle. Although WRA seems like an intimidating place with unbearable amounts of work, not only is the help amazing, but also the rewards for all of one’s efforts are immense.
Joseph Anthony Mylott
WRA Student Life
on Friday October 17, 2014 at 02:23PM