The Great Gatsby Gala of 2022

The gala’s Bruno (bouncer) stands guard at the speakeasy entrance, making sure no “snitches” are allowed in.

“I like large parties. They’re so intimate.” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1925 novel, “The Great Gatsby.” This year’s annual Gala truly was a large party, with a record 370 guests attending the event that embodied the spirit of America’s “Roaring Twenties,” fitting for the 20th Gala.

From the black and gold decorations, champagne flutes, jazz music, and even a Juice Joint, the school’s mezzanine level and great room were decorated to dazzle like all things during the Jazz Age. All in attendance brought out their Glad Rags (party clothes) and came to celebrate with good company and a tasty dinner…sources say there may also have been some Giggle Water thrown into the mix.

This year’s gala planning was organized by the Gala Chair, PAPA representative and PA mom, Nichole Schelitzcke, and Providence’s Director of Development, Mr. Josh Anderson. 

Mr. Chris Wrede, Manager of Annual Giving and Events Faculty and PA dad, was Anderson’s right-hand man throughout the whole planning and execution of the gala. He remarks: “ I worked with silent auctions, donations, sponsorships, minute-by-minute needs of the day. It was a lot of setting up and closing shop afterward.”

All of the hard work and planning paid off, Wrede continued. “I would say this is the most successful gala we’ve had in the history of this school.”

After a night full of silent auctioning and live bidding, two fund-a-need projects: remodeling of the admissions and health office and a new serving station for Chef Morris´ ever-popular grill line, were accomplished.  The PA Headmaster, Dr. Todd Flanders, remarks in his Headmaster’s Blog post on May 2nd that: “Early returns show that the Gala brought in over $630,000 in gross proceeds, substantially more than any other PA Gala.”

Mr. Wrede and Mr. Anderson pose for a quick picture before rushing off to their many duties of the night.

Mr. Wrede remarks on how meaningful these donations are not only to the school but to himself. “The funds that are raised go straight into the operation of the school,” he says. “This is very important to me both as a staff member and as a parent, to know that these funds will end up right back in the school”.

PA mom and Gala attendee, Mrs. Maureen Flynn, described the night as one of the best galas she’s ever attended. She noted: “This year’s gala was beautifully executed and wildly successful in both attendance and generosity. You could tell a great deal of thought went into setting the theme with decorations and music.”

Dr. Elizabeth Schnobrich and Meghan Milovich enjoy some fun conversations in the Juice Joint.

Wrede also noted the generosity of the gala attendees, saying “Walking around, you got a real sense of excitement, love, passion, and commitment to the school, which was reflected in their giving.”

Fitzgerald said that “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something generous about him”. The immense generosity of PA families has made the 2022 Annual Gala a roaring success, with the nifty celebrations going well into the night. 

Superior Sounds

“For heights and depths no words can reach, music is the soul’s own speech,” said Charles Wesley, a famous methodist composer, and writer. On Thursday, March 10th, the Upper School Symphonic Band and Choirs chased after those heights in the annual MSHSL Large Ensemble Contest. And all of their hard work and preparation paid off, as the band, choir, and chamber choir all brought home “superior” ratings and much celebration.

Jack Lindberg ’22, Sam Trombley ’22, Nathan Scinicariello ’24, Nolan Semsch ’25, Luke Waholtz ’23, and Jack Mahoney ’24, all part of the percussion section, await their turn to perform.

US Band Director Mr. Thomas Jones commented on the significance of this event. “Last year, we didn’t have a contest, so this year it’s been more important than some would have thought.”

Jones continued, “It gives the students a sense of where they rank when someone else judges them and they don’t only have my feedback. And it gives them an accomplishment and pride and it helps them catapult to the last concert of the year.”

Ms. Catherine Ratelle, US choir conductor, agreed with Jones. Prior to the concert, Ratelle noted she was “excited just to perform. We’ve worked hard and polished our repertoire, students are enthusiastic; it’s going to be a beautiful performance.” 

Clearly, the adjudicators agreed, as the choir returned to school boasting a double superior rating: one for the entire ensemble and one for the chamber choir.

“This being my first contest was a very nerve-wracking but amazing experience,” recalls Viviana Galarraga ‘24. “There was more pressure because there were judges, but I feel we all put more effort into the contest than a regular concert, and I’m very happy with our results.”

While the band also performed in the contest, their experience looked slightly different. They performed on campus, with Dr. Peter Haberman adjudicating as well as providing both the upper and middle school bands with educational musical clinics. 

“I love working with grades five through 12,” Haberman shared. “Most of the students I work with have already had that light of passion ignited in them, but to see that flame come to life in younger students is always such a joy for me.”

The US Choir listens as Ms. Ratelle explains protocols in preparation for performance.

Just like the choir, the band ended their day with a superior rating, as well as a wealth of musical knowledge reaped from Haberman’s clinics. 

Jones recounted, “This superior rating is important to me because it impacts the band members. They’re my number one. The reason I care about a superior rating is that it leads them to a higher level of playing. Everything should be geared towards students having the best experience with a high-performance caliber.”

The band received more than a rating and musical advice. Before departing, Dr. Haberman gave the students some life advice: “Keep doing what makes you, you. Whether that’s an instrument, a sport, a hobby, do it because you love doing it. And when you go off to college, take that passion with you, and keep doing it, because ultimately these kinds of things shape who you become.”

Teacher Thoughts: Finals

“Pray on it!” is the advice Religion Teacher Angela Jendro gives on preparing for finals. For students, finals season is full of late nights, caffeinated drinks, and lots of stress. This chaos is followed by six 90-minute exams on three different days, all taken in the school’s main gym. However, while many know about the student perspective, few people have questioned what teachers think about finals week.

Since our faculty has various educational backgrounds, not all teachers had finals in their high school years but those who did have some very distinct memories. Math Teacher Erika Greene recalls her own experience, saying, “I was always good at math, so I never studied for it. I just showed up and did it. I didn’t super love history or reading-intensive subjects, so I had to study a lot for those.” 

Ann Heitzmann, the high school’s French teacher, said that she “only had finals in core classes, primarily math and science,” and Dan Hickel, a science teacher, says that his finals were “similar to Providence’s, but less intense.”

During Christmas break, Providence classrooms remain free of students. This is the perfect opportunity for teachers to get a head start on grading.

When it comes to creating final exams, every teacher has had a different experience for writing their first. 

Dr. Jeff Biebighauser, who teaches English and Latin, uses one word to describe writing his first final: “Panic. I did not know finals were happening until two weeks before when my students asked me for a study guide. It was part of the learning curve of adjusting to teaching here. It was a bit of a panic, not that it was hard to write, but that was not the way I had been teaching. I wanted to be fair to my students.” 

The main concerns teachers have in writing finals are their length, level of difficulty, and ability to synthesize an entire semester’s content into one test. Jendro agrees with this sentiment, commenting: “I try to find that balance between challenging and doable. A major goal is a synthesis. You want a way to integrate all of the units, and assess them all equally and fairly.”

Every teacher does, however, teach a different subject and in different ways, influencing the way their finals are structured. 

Ian Skemp, Upper School History Teacher says, “I teach mostly senior history with students who are about to head off to college. I like to focus on the written aspect of the final. With the essay prompt, I want to glean an opinion out of them. A lot more focus on interpretation, not just regurgitation.” 

As finals are meant to cover an entire semester, Jendro says that finals are “an opportunity for critical thinking. During the semester, you’re compartmentalizing. Finals take a step back and look at how all the units relate to each other.”

After supervising the finals for their subjects, teachers have to start the daunting task of grading. Hickel says, “It’s awful. Scantron is my best friend.” 

With all the different formats, teachers also develop a variety of grading habits. Biebighauser says he “grades by class, and one student’s exam at a time.” 

After one semester of material, students amass a significant number of books, some of which can be used on the final.

Other teachers follow a different pattern. “I always grade everyone’s first page, then everyone’s second page so that I’m giving the same amount of partial credit and for consistency. Also, this way, I don’t know whose page I’m grading,” Greene recounts. 

Even with all the various decisions these teachers make with their final exams, there is one commonality: the best way to study. Heitzmann concludes, “Staying organized throughout the semester is essential because the more organized you are with your materials, the better you’ll feel when you sit down to study. I firmly believe in this advice: don’t cram, take your time, use time wisely, and get enough sleep.”

Conquering at Conference

In the main gym of Providence Academy, there are six banners hung along the east wall, each signifying a school in the IMAC Conference. On Thursday, October 14th, the PA Cross Country team took on the five other teams represented by those banners in the annual Conference Race at Battle Creek Park. Though a challenging course, of the 29 Providence runners who competed, 23 turned in their best times of the season and 14 finished in the best times of their career.

Unlike last year, where only a limited number of people were allowed to participate, this race welcomed back every runner. Coach Dan Hickel remarked, “It felt like we were back to normal. There was much excitement to just be together again with the runners who were doing what they love to do.”

Liz Burns ’23 and Brooke Kahrl ’27 smile as they run up one of the hardest hills in any race this year. (PAW Photo Credit: Dan Hickel)

In preparation for the race, Hickel said, “There was a lot more talk about teamwork, and how to get the team members to push each other to become better because it is a race we know, a race we’ve done, and a race that is a ‘finish line’ for the entire season.”

This is a very exciting race for the team, especially since it is near the end of the season. Aidan Flynn ‘24 remarked, “One of the first thoughts that came to me after I crossed the finish line was how crazy it is that the season is almost over. It’s sad that I will no longer be racing with some of these people, who I have been running with for years, ever again in a few weeks.” 

With the seniors leaving and many middle school participants on the team, Flynn is looking forward to stepping into more of a leadership. “I was so used to being one of the younger guys on the team, so now being one of the role models for the younger runners this year is a change for me.,” he reflected.

Flynn continued, “I try to make the younger runners feel the same way as my role models did me when I was their age.” 

One of these role models is team captain and senior, Emma Kelly ‘22. She commented on the race night itself, “This year, the weather was beautiful, I know the course, and being a senior gave me a new perspective.”

Kelly placed second, and per the awards ceremony tradition, she was called up to the stage to receive her winners’ t-shirt. She remembers, “It felt really good to walk up there as a senior, after placing the highest I’ve ever placed in that course, looking back and seeing how far I’ve come.”

The boys team says their team prayer before heading to the start line. (PAW Photo Credit: Dan Hickel)

Overall, both the girls and boys teams placed fifth in the conference, but as Hickel noted, “The main goal was to have all the runners reach their personal goals. [The coaching staff] didn’t care how we placed as a team but wanted the runners to feel like they had grown since the first race. We are happy with their times, their growth as individuals, and as a team.”

How Many XC Runners Does It Take to Set Up a Triathlon?

From left to right: Abigail Koch ’25, Kiera Marshall ’25, Aidan Flynn ’24, Kira Cmiel ’23, and Melia Cmiel ’25 show off their volunteer t-shirts. (PAW photo credit: Terry Lee)

Running, biking, swimming–all things a cross country team does as part of their training.  But for the Providence Academy cross country team, they’re also a way to annually partner with a local non-profit organization to help children of all ages and capabilities.

CycleHealth, an Eden Prairie-based non-profit focused on beginning a new “cycle” of health in America through kids, puts together one of their signature events: the BreakAway Kids Triathlon. And for nearly a decade, PA’s cross country team has put in countless volunteer hours to help put together this amazing event.

In 2012, head cross country coach Mrs. Rachel Fogle was on the lookout for a meaningful team outreach.  She recalls,  “I wanted the team to find the value in helping others. [CycleHealth Director] Tony Schiller called me one day, looking for a few volunteers to come and help by running next to a couple of kids with special needs at the triathlon. It’s just expanded from there.” 

Schiller, CycleHealth co-founder, and national triathlon champion spoke about why this event means so much to him: “This race is to give kids a new outlook, and a feeling of ‘I can do things in life.” 

Schiller continued, “For any young person close to where I was as a kid–if they’re not confident in sports or have not had victory in movement–I want to make sure that when they come to one of our events, they cross the finish line and their thought is ‘I just did this.’

The annual Saturday morning event takes a team effort to set up. The first volunteering shifts start on Thursday afternoon and go all the way into late Saturday. Team captain, Sophie Koch ‘22, was one of the many people who were there for almost all of the volunteer shifts. 

Though the hours were demanding, Koch drew on the general enthusiasm to keep her own energy up. She noted, “Just the whole energy of the event, when you’re there at 6:30 in the morning, it’s what keeps you going throughout the day.” 

Koch continued, “It’s a really good team of people to volunteer with because those who are there really want the kids to have a good time. 

XC captain Sophie Koch ’22 poses with her sister, Abigail Koch ’25, in front of the supply van before unloading for the triathlon. (PAW photo credit: CycleHealth)

Schiller agrees, it does take a team to put together the BreakAway Kids Triathlon, and is thankful for the helping hands of PA cross country. “We wouldn’t have been able to get it done without this team. I’m filled with gratitude for the commitment and the joy they bring to the work.”

All this work doesn’t come without a little bit of fun. After the racers had finished, there was a big party in the bubble machine. When asked what her favorite memory from the 2021 Kids Triathlon was, Fogle agreed that she “loved watching the PA volunteers play in the bubbles. It really showed the spirit of the team. They’d spent hours doing grueling work, but they still found the fun in the day.”

David Bakke ’24, Nolan Semsch ’25, Thomas Slattery ’25, and Aly Marshall ’23 pose together before heading off to their stations.

But the hard work and fun do not end here. CycleHealth puts together 4 different events throughout the year, amazing volunteering opportunities and fun outdoor activities to join with family and friends. While the cross country team will be too busy training for sections during CycleHealth’s next event, there are plenty of chances for families and kids of all ages at this year’s Resilinator, an epic 2.5-mile buddy race filled with obstacles and fun challenges. For more information, visit http://cyclehealth.org/events/.