News Detail

Beyond The Hilltop

Neil Isakson

The following is BONUS content—an extension of our cover story in our print edition Worcester Academy’s Hilltopper magazine. Even more stories will be added next week! 

Worcester Academy students are exploring exhibits and research endeavors just a few miles away and traveling to other continents. They’re reaching out with effective service learning projects and applying that knowledge to a broader understanding of economic and social concepts. They’re meeting experts in their fields and collaborating with them on real-world solutions.
The cornerstone of Worcester Academy’s outreach: The Hilltop itself. It’s our urban location that gives us nimble access to museums, higher-education research, and those service learning projects that teach us the most and pave the way into our neighborhood, the city, and beyond!  Here are some of our student stories with more to come!
Mila Kaul appreciated the opportunity to attend the Leadership Training program at Springfield College. Mila and other WA Middle Schoolers spent two days there this year learning what leadership means in the WA Middle School.
“We did a lot of team building and we got to know everybody,” Mila says.  “It was a lot of fun and showed us how to work together as a team.”
So what does Mila think leadership looks like at WA?
“Leadership is helping others become better people,” she says.
Trisha Pahari agrees that the Leadership Training was an important experience for her and others.  In addition to helping her make friends, “It taught us how to be leaders,” she says, “but it also taught us how lead by practicing Worcester Academy’s core values (Honor, Respect, Community, Personal Growth, and Challenge).”
Those are leadership skills that Trisha has used in the Building Bridges Program in which she and other WA Middlers partner with 6th and 7th grade students at nearby Union Hill Elementary School, a neighborhood public school here in Worcester. The program promotes cross-cultural connections and empowers students to embrace themselves as individuals and to think more critically about peer groups.
“As a leader, you can make a difference wherever you are,” Trisha says.
Travelers to Italy have long marveled at its natural beauty, its welcoming people, and its place at the crossroads of culture, religion, architecture, art, and history.  Worcester Academy students who travel there today can attest that the allure remains strong, more than two millennia after Rome’s founding.
Brendan Carroll of was one of the students to go on WA’s most recent trip to Italy where students toured culturally and historically significant sites, continued their Latin language learning, performed community service, learned a bit of Italian, and got to know some of the people who live there.
According to Brendan, “It was cool to have the out-of-classroom experience while still learning and at the same time having fun.
“I thought it was a great experience to go on this adventure with classmates I have known in Latin class for the last three years,” he says.  “It was great to experience the subject (Latin) in a real-life setting.  It’s everything we’ve been learning but also seeing how it relates to the subject.”
Dr. Timothy Markey—head of the WA World Languages Department and a longtime Latin teacher—led the learning experience to Italy, where he continued teaching all along the way, Brendan says.
“It added on and built on everything that we’ve learned so far, and that was great.  We were there for a week and each and every day we did something new and it was even better than the day before.  I am grateful to have had that experience.”
How has the experience changed him?
“People say Latin is a dead language,” Brendan says, “but the trip embodies the counter argument to that. It translated into an understanding of the true importance of Latin.”
So much so, that Brendan now says he is considering majoring in Latin in college.
Viva l’Italia!
Dan Sullivan also had a great learning experience in Italy.
“It’s similar to a field trip, but a more intense version than I’ve ever experienced before,” Dan says.  “You’re learning about Latin at WA month after month, and then you go on this field trip and it revolutionizes the way you look at it. It takes on new meaning.”
He notes that the interactions he had with other students were as integral to the Italy trip as some other aspects.  Many of the WA students were in different grades, he says, but they all managed to form friendships by the time they returned to the U.S.
“We were all really good friends by the time we finished,” Dan says.
Still, the food he experienced holds a special place in his memories of Italy.
“The food was amazing,” he states, enthusiastically, noting that there were three courses with every meal, including pasta and salad, and the food was served family-style.  “I especially loved that you were supposed to stuff yourself.”
Dan is now considering taking Latin in college after he graduates from WA next year.
Emily Ledoux rode 50 miles in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), an annual bike-a-thon that today raises more money for charity than any other single event in the country. Founded in 1980, the PMC supports initiatives at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston in its efforts to research, treat, prevent, and cure cancer.
“One of the most memorable experiences was when we were all lined up at the start of the race,” Emily says.  “It was cool to see the amount of people who said they were fighting cancer or had won their battles against it.
“I felt so empowered,” she says.  “It was so cool to see everyone out riding bikes, so inspiring, and it gave me a different viewpoint. Not only was it cool to see people who were passionate about curing cancer, I got to see the people who the Pan-Mass Challenge helps.
“I’ve also supported the PMC, but by helping out at the Kids Ride,” says Michaela Brady.  “Our goal is to raise awareness about kids who are in the hospital fighting cancer.”
Michaela says she does whatever is necessary to support those children and families who are participating in the race.  She especially loves just interacting with and playing with the kids—maybe even having a few water fights here or there.
“Whatever we do is to keep their spirits up,” Michaela says.  “It makes me feel grateful for what I have and that I can contribute to caring for other people.  That’s a real-life experience.”
Nature’s Classroom, the chance to learn off-campus on an overnight trip in a natural setting, is a signature Middle School experience.  For many students, there’s no substitute to the way it shapes their WA career—and their excitement for learning—at Worcester Academy.
Claire McShea remembers vivid details from her trip to a seaside camp.
“Being in the dining hall, singing songs, spending time with your classmates 24/7—even the bus ride was fun,” Claire recalls. “I met a lot of new people and it was a good team-building experience.
“We studied moon jellyfish,” she adds, enthusiastically.  “We went down to the water at night and they were glowing.  That was really cool!”
It helped that students didn’t have cell phones, she says, which made them all “very aware” of each other and their surroundings.  Another nice part of being there was taking responsibility for themselves.
“We explored at our own pace,” Claire says. “And, not having your parents there to tell you when to go to bed made us independent.”
Maya Yoshikawa ’17
Sometimes looking “beyond the hilltop” means looking at it from the 10,000-foot level.
Maya Yoshikawa was excited when the WA Green Team was revived in her junior year.  The Green Team club, which lapsed for a time, had as its aim the protection of the environment, the preservation of resources, and responsible and equitable use and management.
“Issues around climate change are huge,” says Maya, now studying at the University of California, Davis.  “It was, and it is, a problem for me—especially plastic trash and the methane gas we are producing. The Green Team gave me an outlet to raise awareness for fellow WA students.”
Last year, Maya helped lead Earth Day celebrations and activities on the Worcester Academy Quad. In addition to being a great educational opportunity, and fun, it had limited impact on the environment. Event planners made use of eco-friendly materials and repurposed corrugated cardboard and old rags. And they taught skills such as composting, which could be practiced by students and their families long after Earth Day and their event on the Quad had passed.
It’s important promote being green,” says Maya.  “There are things we can all do to contribute to solving environmental problems.”
Maya is currently studying environmental toxicology in UC Davis’ Department of Agriculture and Environmental Science.