On Thursday, February 9, Dr. Wilfred Reilly, an author and professor of political science at Kentucky State University, visited Providence Academy for the return of the beloved “Pancakes at Providence” event.
Headmaster, Dr. Todd Flanders explained, “Mrs. [Sarah] Hogan and I found Dr. Reilly through our affiliation with the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism.” Hogan and Flanders ultimately chose him to speak at Providence because of his interesting and engaging style. Additionally, Flanders hoped that students would learn to listen to different perspectives, and form opinions based on facts rather than emotion.
Reilly started the day meeting guests over pancakes in the Great Room. He then spoke to Upper School students and faculty, as well as parents, grandparents, and alumni about topics such as racism and COVID, and media exaggerations surrounding these topics.
His speech explained how people should use data rather than emotions when discussing these issues in our society, using empirical tests to support this.
“The way our media functions encourages false narratives,” Reilly explained, “…we need to speak the truth because the numbers impact how we treat these issues.”
To end his Providence visit, Reilly sat down for a pizza lunch with Upper School students, giving them the opportunity to further discuss the topics in his speech. “I am very glad that students had the opportunity to continue the conversation,” reflected Upper School Religion teacher, Mrs. Angela Jendro, who hosted the lunch. “I was really impressed with the students; they asked really terrific and thoughtful questions.”
Reilly’s visit was a very thought-provoking revival to “Pancakes at Providence.” He hopes that PA students use the information from his speech to not, “be credulous…especially in the age of social media. If you hear something that sounds crazy, ask if it’s true and use your resources.”
The term “Friday Night Lights” has become synonymous with high school football. However, on September 28th, Providence Academy junior and senior girls brought fans “Wednesday Night Lights” for the 17th annual Powder Puff game and bonfire.
“It’s a really fun part of student life during Homecoming,” reflected Upper School Director and former Athletic Director, Kurt Jaeger. “It’s a fun tradition for students, faculty, and others to look forward to, and probably the biggest event during the week besides the real game.”
The juniors and seniors took the tradition very seriously, from Sunday afternoon practices to plenty of smack-talk throughout the week. The juniors took plays from NFL coaches’ playbooks, even using headsets and breaking clipboards after failed score attempts.
“The very best part of Powder Puff is the back and forth between the grades,” explained Upper School religion teacher, Angela Jendro.
The juniors were the underdogs of the game, however according to coach Anthony Fahnlander, ‘24, they had “more speed and focus than the seniors.”
They even pulled off the first touchdown of the night, with an impressive catch by Avery Lampe, ‘24, in the end zone. After that, the rivalry between the grades turned flag football into tackle football.
Five intense touchdowns followed from Grace Counts, ‘23, Bridget Healy, ‘23, Carly Bixby, ‘24, and Skylar Bartz, ‘23.
Despite the juniors’ countless efforts to pull through, the seniors ultimately won 38-12.
“We came back, we took the lead, and didn’t look back from there on,” emphasized coach Alvin Mokua, ‘23, following the senior victory. “We put in some trick plays that really confused the defense, and we played with heart,” added coach Nate Dierberger, ‘23.
The juniors, however, had a different perspective on the outcome. “It was embarrassing,” exclaimed announcer Max Igbanugo, ‘24.
Leaving the battle on the field, the seniors and juniors ended the night with a bonfire, music, marshmallows, and lots of laughter while reflecting on the game. Powder Puff 2022 was definitely one to remember.
John 15:13 is not only a verse often quoted by Providence Academy Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders, but also one that calls to mind the events of September 11, 2001.
The verse reads, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his own life for his friends.”
Flanders explained, “It reminds us that we are called to show honor to those who sacrifice their lives,” which is exactly what PA students did on September 12, 2022 during the annual 9/11 commemoration.
American flags lined the campus, representing each life lost in the attacks, a tradition that began in the early 2010’s with the help of the Lions for Life group.
“There are 2,977 flags, and each one set up by students represents one life lost that day,” explained Lions for Life president Rylie Schoenfelder, ‘23, who has been involved in setting up the memorial for the past four years.
In front of the flags stood every PA student and faculty and staff member watching Plymouth’s own first responders drive through.
“When you turn the corner and see everyone standing out there in remembrance, it’s very humbling,” stated Plymouth traffic control officer Anthony Elia, who first came to the PA memorial six years ago. “It’s huge to see everyone’s respect for the profession, which boosts all of our morale as officers.”
Despite this part of the ceremony being the most anticipated by the officers as well as the community, both inside the yellow walls and throughout Plymouth, it was actually the result of an impromptu idea in 2015.
“Initially, the fire department called and asked if they could go through the campus to look at the flags because they’re quite iconic. So, I had the faculty bring everybody out to surprise and honor them while they drove through,” Flanders revealed.
Although it is important to focus on first responders during this time, 9/11 was significant for veterans as well.
11th grade US history teacher and former Army Armor Officer, Mike Guardia, expressed this saying, “I felt the Global War on Terror would be a war unlike any other. Following 9/11, we were no longer training to fight a conventional enemy.”
For Guardia and other veterans who have risked their lives protecting us, the PA memorial proves itself to be powerful.
“Veterans will drive up and around the campus this weekend, and they weep to see our students honor all of the lives lost,” described Flanders.
Even though tragedy can often tear apart communities, 9/11 did the opposite.
Dr. Flanders felt it was important to gather students in an effort to show them, “their lives are about more than just themselves. We decided to call the middle and upper school to the chapel that day, to inform them what was going on, and to lead them in prayer.”
In a similar way, PA’s commemoration continues to bring the community together each year.
“Everyone came together after 9/11, and that’s kind of the feeling that you get when you come out to Providence for the memorial,” noted Elia.
As 9/11 shaped the country, it also shaped Providence Academy after its occurrence on the sixth day of the school being open.
On that day, Flanders released a note to families saying, “As the aftermath of this tragedy unfolds, faculty and staff will be available to help students to think about the events, and to try to understand matters that are, admittedly, very hard to understand.”
President of the Board and PA parent, Mr. Bob Cummins, emphasized the importance of keeping this tradition saying, “It’s especially significant for young people to remember and to understand what went on.”
No matter how many years pass, Providence Academy students will never forget what happened on September 11, 2001, because as stated by Flanders, “There is something true, good, and noble about doing this.”
A typical Thursday for high school students probably does not include wearing formal business attire and presenting a speech 3 to 4 times in front of a judge and timekeeper. However, members of the Providence Academy Speech Team did just that on April 7, as they ventured to Maple Lake High School to compete in the Section 2A tournament.
“Speech is a MSHSL sanctioned activity, which gives students the opportunity to work on public speaking skills through a variety of categories,” explained coach Megan Simonson.
The competitive categories include: Discussion, Informative Speaking, Original Oratory, Creative Expression, Poetry, Storytelling, Duo Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Great Speeches, Extemporaneous Reading, Extemporaneous Speaking, Poetry Reading, and Prose Reading.
“Through speech, I’ve learned a lot about things I never would’ve otherwise researched,” emphasized captain Skylar Bartz, ‘23. “It helps me educate myself on important issues and learn to talk about them with some kind of authority.”
Bartz has indeed learned how to speak with authority, as recent judging confirmed when she earned her ticket to State in the Discussion category.
Though the speech team started out with just five members, in the past few years, it has quadrupled in size and become a contender against peer schools because of the participation of students like Bartz.
The growth of the program “gave us a consistent, supportive, and driven group that competes,” said Simonson. “The fact that we have students in every category except one helps gain points.”
In the week leading up to sections, most team members worked on memorizing and tweaking their speeches. However, for Bartz, “It was more mental. I didn’t do much other than approaching the competition with a goal in mind and a certain level of confidence.”
The speech team not only gave it their all, but also made school history, placing 6th out of 14 teams and sending three members to the state tournament. Bartz, Aly Marshal, ‘23, and Violet van Gyzen, ‘24, will represent PA at Eastview High School on April 23 in Discussion, Humorous, and Storytelling, respectively.
“I’m so proud of how we did at sections! For a small school, we do really well, and our placement shows that we put in a lot of effort and dedication,” van Gyzen–who ‘finaled’ for the first time in her speech career and earned a spot at State–remarked.
Simonson shares van Gyzen’s sentiments. “Join Speech!” she exclaimed in the wake of their recent success.
Simonson continued, “We are always excited to have new members, and even if you are super nervous to get up in front of a group of people, you should just try it. You can compete at whatever level you’re at.”
Most young students comedically picture their teachers living at school. Though many teachers may sometimes even feel it themselves, when he’s not in the classroom, Upper School history teacher Edward Hester can most likely be found in his kitchen.
When people think of Mr. Hester, they tend to remember his generations-old blood feud with fellow Upper School history teacher Dr. Kevin Keiser, his professional-level photobombing student selfies, and, of course, his ever-so-famous kilts (that he even wore to prom).
However, Hester is also an avid chef. He cooks and bakes every day, a hobby that has been an integral part of his home life since he was a child.
“It is just very relaxing to be in the kitchen,” Hester reflected.
“My mom loved to watch Julia Child, which got me into baking and cooking,” he explained, “Then when I was probably 10 years old, my parents got me a chef’s hat and apron for Christmas.”
Hester has since passed on this enthusiasm to his own children, who now enjoy being in the kitchen themselves.
“I think I’ve always enjoyed baking or helping my dad in the kitchen when I can, but it’s only been within the last few years when I’ve really picked up baking for myself,” stated his daughter and current substitute teacher Malia Hester ’15.
“When my dad is cooking or baking, we’ll all pop into the kitchen at some point to taste the food or stir something that doesn’t actually need to be stirred because we’re bored.”
Mr. Hester enjoys sharing his talents with his students, making sweet “pick-me-ups” (ranging from cookies, candy, and “McMuffins”), and telling cooking stories both before class and over Remind…even the night before the history final to point students’ last-minute efforts in the right direction.
However, despite the lengthy lineup of sweet treats and hearty meals Hester has made, his favorite recipe is his “classic” chocolate chip cookies, which is something his daughter and students can’t help but agree upon. Evidence suggests teachers agree as well; should a few cookies make it to the faculty lounge, they quickly disappear.
“His cookies are actually phenomenal, and it makes my day when he brings them,” exclaimed Anna Strang ‘24, “The fact that Mr. Hester has hobbies in the real world helps him be more relatable and really helps us grow relationships with him because we can talk about things as a class that aren’t just history.”
Mr. Hester simply isn’t your average history teacher. With his amazing baking skills and his plethora of quirks that are present in and out of his classroom, he constantly finds ways to make his class more memorable and even just a little sweet!