Senior Sentiments: Con-GRAD-ulations, Seniors!

“It’s surreal,” “I can’t believe it’s actually happening,” “I’m sad to be leaving,” and “I’m looking forward to what’s next,” sum up the mixed sentiments of the senior class as they inch closer to graduation day. 

June 3rd is hours away and seniors feel the weight of it all. The realization that high school will no longer be a present experience, but a memory, has stopped many seniors in their tracks. Although everyone knows students’ time at PA culminates in walking across a stage and shaking Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders’ hand, it’s shocking to realize the long awaited day is actually approaching. For some, it’s almost as if it won’t feel real until the day has passed. 

Providence Academy Spanish Teacher Señora Fran Ramirez smiles as she proudly hangs students’ graduation cards in her classroom. Emma Wohlwend ‘22 is one of many students who share grad party invitations with teachers, a charming opportunity that a small school like PA provides through strong relationships with teachers.

Amidst all these emotions, big things are happening: decision day for colleges has passed, seniors finished painting the senior rock, and many have sent out grad party invites. Despite the fast paced nature of the last couple of weeks, the Class of ‘22 is still taking time to reflect on the chapter of their life that will soon be over. 

“I’ve grown up with this school, these teachers, and these people. I’m sad to be leaving something that’s been a part of my life for so long,” confessed Sophia Gable ‘22, after finding it complicated to articulate her feelings toward graduation. 

“I feel like I’ve just lived here the past 14 years,” remarked Lifelong Lion Eli Schmidt ‘22 with a chuckle.

Schmidt is one of twenty PA seniors who have been attending Providence Academy since Pre-K. These students can easily say that a beautiful brick building on a hill has been their second home for almost eighty percent of their lives. 

“Over the years, there were times I wished I went to a bigger school and other times I’ve been very grateful to have been here for so long,” continued Schmidt, “But in the end, I’m glad I’m a Lifelong Lion because that’s what God planned for me. And at the same time, I’m looking forward to what’s next.”

Seniors Liz Trubeck, Sophie Koch, Anna Heaney, and Ava Wasserman make their handprints on the senior rock with fellow classmates, participating in a long-standing Providence Academy senior tradition.

There’s a lot on the horizon for the sixty-eight soon-to-be graduates. Seniors visualize years full of new responsibility, travel, independence, new people, new things, and the ability to stretch themselves in new ways. 

Additionally, as teachers send off yet another graduating class, they can’t help but notice how much they’ll miss these seniors. 

Upper School History teacher Mr. Ian Skemp shared his thoughts smiling, “Morale is high in this class. They have a certain level of comradery that you don’t see in every graduating class. Their willingness to enjoy each other’s company and maintain civility despite differences has prepared them well for college.”

Overall, as these individuals make the transition from students to alumni, it’s clear they will bring PA values on each of their journeys, wherever they may lead.

Senior Sentiments: A School Year Chock-Full of Memories

As graduation day approaches, the Class of 2022 can’t help but reminisce about their time at Providence. Most seniors share the sentiment that 12th grade has been the best year of high school. Previous years pale in comparison to the bond seniors have made as a class over the past eight months. 

They started the year off with a bang as they watched the sunrise together on the first day of school. Then, they carried their excitement through football games and festive fall activities, such as the senior retreat. 

“The senior sunrise and retreat brought us together and forced friend groups to mix who otherwise wouldn’t have had a reason to. We hadn’t had that in high school at all until then,” reflected Emma Kelly ‘22. 

Seniors Matthew Narog, Paul Hogan, Macallister Clark, and Matthew Wooden cheer for PA’s Girls Basketball at the final state tournament game. Their enthusiasm even caught the attention of the cameramen.

Seniors have also undergone PA graduates’ dreaded right of passage: senior speeches. Since November, seniors have been sharing personal stories, points of interest, and comedic relief with their classmates and teachers. Some speeches have even produced stories the class still talks about daily.

For example, for a couple weeks earlier this year, speeches were held in the Great Room rather than the Performing Arts Center. During the first speech delivered in the new location, a lower school student ran, panting, right between the speaker and the audience. The comedic timing was impeccable as everyone fought to keep their chuckles inside. However, as soon as the speech came to a close, students couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably. 

“All the seniors had the same reaction: don’t laugh, there’s a speech going on. I tried so hard not to, but every time I’d push it out of my mind, I’d see him running all over again and burst into laughter,” admitted Mary Rillens Lee ‘22, still laughing.

Luckily, the speaker knew none of the laughter was for the speech, but solely for the child who had no idea he’d encounter speeches around the corner as he was trying to catch up with his class.

Mary Rillens Lee ’22 serves Emma Wohlwend ’22 and Sophie Koch ’22 their waffles with a smile at seniors’ “Pancake and Waffle Day.”

The fun continued as seniors supported the Girls Basketball team’s journey to state. Several senior boys left no stone unturned as they arrived at the final game in tuxes and paint-covered faces. 

“We wanted to test the bounds of our school spirit. I didn’t think anyone had painted their faces before, so we figured we had to try it. We even got the commentators to notice us!” reflected Paul Hogan ‘22.

Over the course of the last few months, seniors have found a way to make regular school days something to look forward to. In March, a handful of seniors hosted “Pancake and Waffle Day” in which they made and served breakfast to seniors and teachers throughout morning classes.

Seniors Paul Hogan, Jack Lindberg, Matthew Narog, Macallister Clark, and Ryan Keller sing “Hakuna Matata” with Upper School English teacher Mr. Adam Schmalzbauer and Physics teacher Mr. Michael Plucinski on seniors’ karaoke day.

Macallister Clark ‘22, the student who coordinated the event, exclaimed, “What ties people of all backgrounds together? Waffles! We knew the idea would land because everyone loves waffles and you can make them however you want.”

Senior fun doesn’t stop at assorted breakfast food. Most recently, when weather put a damper on the senior cooker, seniors devoted the time to chips and karaoke. Almost all the class crammed into Upper School English Teacher Mr. Adam Schmalzbauer’s classroom for the last period of the to share some tunes and eat some chips.

PA’s seniors have made the most of their last year of high school. Although it may appear their time in the sun is over, it’s quite the opposite. The group of sixty-eight still has four weeks left at PA, and they’re determined to enjoy every minute of it. 

Senior Sentiments: Teacher-Senior Switcheroo

“This is what we love about this year’s seniors.” “It was truly the best senior prank ever.” “It was so well coordinated,” and “How could anyone ever top this?” were some of the overwhelmingly positive reactions to the Class of ‘22’s long anticipated “senior prank.”

Last Friday, March 11th, most of the senior class dressed up as teachers and faculty members of Providence Academy in an unconventional approach to the tradition. They only wanted to do it if they could do it right, so speaking with administration for permission was crucial for a flawless execution. 

Matthew Narog ’22 enjoys impersonating the beloved Upper School English teacher, Mr. Adam Schmalzbauer, who can always be identified by his gait and jingling keys on his belt. Narog commented on the experience saying, “It was very empowering to walk like ‘Schmalz’ for a day. I see why he walks like that.”

First, members of the senior class asked Mr. Kurt Jaeger, Director of the Upper School, and Mrs. Kate Gregg, Upper School Administrative Assistant. Both Jaeger and Gregg were eager to give their approval.

“I thought it was a really creative way to do a senior prank that was, in some ways, a tribute to teachers as well,” commented Jaeger. 

The next step was checking with teachers to be certain all were aware and none would be offended. Not only did teachers approve of the idea, but they encouraged it as well. Some even offered clothing and impersonation tips to ensure authenticity.  

Upper School English teacher Adam Schmalzbauer reflected, “I was touched when they asked me. I endorsed the plan, of course, because imitation is the greatest form of flattery.”

Upper School Administrative Assistant Mrs. Kate Gregg smiles alongside her student doppelgänger Mary Rillens Lee ’22. Gregg is known for her colorful sweaters and stylish earrings, so Lee captures the look perfectly.

In addition to talking with teachers, seniors had to juggle logistics for the day. Matthew Narog, ‘22 took this on. He was the driving force behind the prank and seniors could not be more thankful. Narog made spreadsheets, matched students to teachers, sent reminder emails, and more, in addition to committing fully to impersonating the teacher to which he was assigned. He, with the help of a handful of seniors, united forty of the Class of ‘22 in one effort to create a special day for everyone. 

“I couldn’t stop laughing. It made me so happy all day. It put everyone in such a fun mood, both teachers and students,” Gregg noted smiling.

Joseph Uzelac ’22 pulls out all the stops to impersonate Dr. Jeff Biebighauser, Upper School Latin and English teacher. Like a true theater student, Uzelac spent weeks studying his part. He reflected on the experience saying, “I loved comparing and contrasting my mannerisms with his and seeing how my impression measured up to the real deal.”

The day exceeded expectation in every way. Seniors arrived at school unmistakably dressed as the teachers they were impersonating and faculty members were delighted to find their student doppelgängers. Students went so far as to learn to replicate distinct mannerisms, phrases, and attire of their teachers. Some teachers even gave their impersonators opportunities to teach classes or take their place throughout the day. 

In addition to putting smiles on faces, seniors found a perfect middle ground between honoring teachers and poking fun. The respectful tone of the day demonstrated a true bond between teachers and students. 

“As teachers, I think we’ve all been mocked. But to be imitated respectfully, as in this case, that is something different entirely,” remarked Schmalzbauer. 

Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders reflected, “We really appreciate a spirit of creativity and goodness here at PA. Pranks are often perceived as negative things, but the seniors found a way to have fun in a positive way. It was so charming.” 

Paul Hogan ’22 spends Friday, March 11th looking strikingly similar to Mr. Joshua Blonski, Upper School Dean of Students. The sweater and lanyard tie Hogan’s ensemble together, as Blonski is famous for this outfit.

The headmaster also hinted that this group of seniors will likely be remembered for a long time. The event even grabbed the attention of PA alumni, who followed the prank via social media. Underclassmen also stared in awe as they watched their classmates turn into teachers.

“I thought the prank itself put our culture at PA on full display. It showed how well staff and students know each other. It really said something about this group of seniors and what we are about here at PA,” reflected Jaeger. 

Although seniors have handed back their teachers’ name tags and returned to their uniforms, something is different in the air at PA. The Class of ‘22 has left an indelible mark on Providence Academy’s history, and it’s evident teachers expected nothing less.

Senior Sentiments: Wham! It’s the Seniors’ ‘Last Christmas’

Seniors are soaking up every second of the 2021 Christmas season. Realizing this is the last Christmas spent living at home, the Class of 2022 is focused on spending time with friends and family. 

Leia Gable ’25, younger brother Elkana Gable, and Sophia Gable ’22 pose in front of their carefully decorated gingerbread house. “I enjoyed using our creativity to make something together. Finding something small to do as a family made it so special,” Sophia reflected.

Whether it’s making gingerbread houses or planning holiday fun for House period at school, seniors are getting in the Christmas spirit. They are finding ways to make the most of this Christmas season because it won’t be the same next year. 

Many Senior House leaders are planning festivities for the last House period before Christmas break. These include organizing Secret Santa gift exchanges, decorating gingerbread houses, enjoying Christmas cookies and hot chocolate, and watching Christmas movies. Through these activities, seniors are bringing all grades together for the Christmas season. 

Members of the Class of 2022 also look forward to Christmas traditions with family. 

Although it may seem unconventional, Elle Wiederholt ‘22 and her family make a birthday cake for Jesus every year on Christmas Day. Then, they gather around the red and green cake to sing “Happy Birthday.” 

“It’s Jesus’s birthday, so why wouldn’t we celebrate like that?” Wiederholt laughed.

Nina Von Dohlen ’22 poses with her gift for Sandra Alb ’24, her Secret Santa, during House period, Wednesday, December 15th. They also enjoy hot chocolate and cookies as they prepare for Christmas.

Sadly, going off to college means the inevitable discontinuation of some Christmas traditions. Seniors have mixed feelings about the end of these customs, but are prepared for the change and excited to make new memories.

Seniors also eagerly anticipate family gatherings. Next year, coming home for Christmas will feel much different, so they appreciate the privilege of spending time with family for all of December. 

Kristin Welch ‘22 confessed, “ I think I’ll appreciate family gatherings more next year since I won’t be seeing my family as often when I’m in college.”

Kylie Onserio ‘22 expressed a similar sentiment. Until her older siblings left for college, her family always went ice skating, made gingerbread houses, and baked cookies throughout the month of December. Although some of these traditions ended when her siblings went off to college, her family has still been able to celebrate the holiday season together in different ways. This gives Onserio reassurance that she’ll be able to stay connected with family while she is in college as well.

Seniors’ parents are also prepared to make the most of this season before their children leave for college. 

Mrs. Megan Wohlwend, parent to Emma Wohlwend ‘22, acknowledges things will be different next year, but she is prepared to overcome the challenge. 

“We’ll share our Christmas preparations and festivities via FaceTime and photos!” exclaimed Wohlwend. 

Despite the fact that it’s the seniors’ ‘Last Christmas’ living at home, they know their hearts won’t be ‘given away the very next day’ just because they’ll be gone at college next year.

Senior Sentiments: The Deplorably Daunting Deadline

“Eye-opening,” commented Jimmy Fafinski ‘22 when asked what word describes the college application process for him.

“It broadens your perspective on things,” he continued. “You really have to know who you are. You need to figure that out first, before you begin applying to colleges.”

November 1st was a day Seniors both dreaded and anticipated for months. While “stress” is an obvious buzzword associated with this momentous day, “relief” is another, as the day brings the completion of college applications for many.

Seniors Emma Kelly, Gretta Martin, Olivia Bissonette, and Peyton Menzel work diligently on college applications during study hall.

Most Providence Academy Seniors felt precisely these things for the majority of October. Seniors endured each school day like stiff, drained versions of themselves. They had one goal: to make it past November 1st with their sanity.  

The hallways were filled with sighs, cries of help, complaints, and frantic conversations. One could truly see the tension in the air, it was all-encompassing.

“It’s extremely nerve-wracking. What if you don’t get into any schools at all? It’s always something in the back of your mind,” confessed Sophia Menzel ‘22.

Luckily, the frightening day has passed. Celebratory cheers have replaced pleas of help and animation has replaced rigidity. If overcoming the mountain of November 1st has taught PA Seniors anything, it’s that they can tackle whatever comes their way. 

“I’m amazed at how well-prepared, thoughtful, focused, ambitious, and purposeful the seniors are this year,” reflected Mrs. Paige Von Bank, PA’s new College Counselor.

However, the journey isn’t over yet. While some seniors feel relieved, others say the stress is just beginning.

Chungu Mulenga ‘22 openly admitted, “For me, the application process wasn’t that stressful.  I think waiting to be accepted is much worse.”

All 12th graders are at different points in the process. A small number had no November 1st deadlines and have yet to submit any applications. Most seniors are waiting to hear from colleges; however, some have already been accepted and a few have even committed by now.

Emma Kelly ’22 eagerly places her pin in Illinois on the seniors’ map in the atrium after committing to University of Chicago.

Committing to college comes with many rewards, one of which is placing a pin on the map in the Upper School Atrium. Every year, members of the National Honors Society at PA hang a map so seniors can place a pin where they will be next year. By the end of the year, the map is a beautiful illustration of the Class of 2022’s future plans. 

“It’s such a cool tradition. It feels like you’re taking a step toward your future and cementing your decision for the next four years. Pinning it on the board makes it real,” reflected Emma Kelly ‘22, who placed her pin last Friday.

As of Monday, November 8th, the map already displayed four out of the sixty-nine necessary pins. Minnesota, Illinois, California, and Virginia are the four proclaimed destinations.

Whether they felt stressed, relieved, or overwhelmed by the November 1st deadline, the Class of 2022 endured the college application process together. It was a period of growth as well as an opportunity to help one another. They overcame the obstacle together, which made it much easier to swallow.

“More than any previous class of seniors, I see so many students working together,” Upper School Math teacher Mrs. Karen Ostaffe noted after writing recommendation letters for nineteen Seniors. 

“This will serve them very well in college because they’ll need to collaborate in order to succeed,” Ostaffe continued. “And I believe they are up for the challenge.”