Thanksgiving Traditions and Travels

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? To many of us, this word brings images of turkey, family, and Charlie Brown movies to mind.  But many throughout Providence Academy have their own unique idea of this traditional American holiday. From hosting a family dinner to going on vacation, the Providence community has a variety of Thanksgiving traditions. What do students do during this famous holiday?

The PAW’s Upper School Thanksgiving survey results

To find out in more detail what exactly Thanksgiving means to Providence Academy students, the PAW sent out a survey to the entire Upper school asking about their Thanksgiving plans and whether their family has any special Thanksgiving traditions.

According to survey results, travel is not a widespread custom. Of the 32% who said they did travel for Thanksgiving break, most stated that they only traveled a few miles to visit their family. In fact, most who traveled reported that they visited their cabin or the home of a family member.

Jack Lindberg ’22, one of the few students who did travel far over break, stated, “I went out to Arizona to visit colleges and spend my Thanksgiving with my grandparents”. 

A 68% majority of Upper School students stayed home for the holiday, but this does not mean they were bored.  Many had some very interesting traditions. 

One stand-out custom is Emma Kelly’s ’22 who organized a Turkey Trot (5k run) for her family and friends.

“Every year my family and friends usually run in the Minneapolis Turkey Trot, but this year it was sadly canceled. I love the early morning run on Thanksgiving with my friends and family, so instead of missing one year of this fun tradition, I decided to organize my own Turkey Trot on the Luce Line in Plymouth,” explained Kelly. 

Long-standing family traditions are another great thing about this American holiday. These traditions that are passed down from generation to generation can be a fundamental part of what Thanksgiving means to a family. 

Senior Jack Lindberg ’22 and his brother Cole UTV-ing in Arizona during their Thanksgiving trip

“Every year for Thanksgiving, my family does this competition for whoever can find the wishbone gets a certain amount of money. We have been doing this tradition since before I was born.” Ellie Millerbernd ’22 reflects on her long-standing family tradition. 

Whether hosting, traveling, or anything in between,  each family’s own special traditions and plans make their Thanksgiving unique.  

Diving for Gold: Girls’ Swim and Dive Season Success

The state team celebrating after placing seventh overall. Providence girls Carly Bixby ’24, Ali Herlofsky ’24, and Anna Heaney ’22 participated on this team.

“We have a swim team?!” is a common exclamation when many in the Providence community hear that a handful of Providence girls participate in a cooperative team with The Blake School. Not only do these PA girls participate on the team, but they are vital members for the success achieved. On November 19th and 20th, the girls swam in the MSHSL A State Championship Meet, where they placed seventh, tying with the long-time rivals the Breck Mustangs. 

Olivia Ryan ’25, bottom, swimming breaststroke in the 200 Medley relay at the Section Meet.

Leading up to the state meet, the JV team, which includes Kate Borchardt ‘26 and Rachel Bartles ‘25, swam in the JV Championship Meet over Halloween weekend. Both girls achieved multiple best times this season. The Varsity team, which includes Providence girls Olivia Ryan ‘25, Ali Herlofsky ‘24, Carly Bixby ‘24, Pia Leiseth ‘23, and Anna Heaney ‘22, competed in the Section 2A Championship Meet one week prior to the state meet.  They placed third overall, advancing all three relays and four individuals, including Bixby and Heaney, to the state meet. 

Head coach Luke Johnson commented, “They are instrumental to our success. I don’t know what we would do without the Providence girls.” 

Even though the girls do not attend Blake with the others, it does not hinder relationships. “Some of them [PA swimmers] are my best friends; we get along so well and can do anything together,” Molly Seidel ‘24 explained. This was proven at the state meet, where Blake teammates came to support both the Blake and Providence swimmers. 

At state, the Providence girls showed how fundamental they are to the team. The 200 medley relay, which included Heaney, placed seventh, the 200 freestyle relay, including Bixby placed third, and the 400 freestyle relay, including both Bixby and Heaney, placed fourth and broke a school record.

Carly Bixby ’24 elated yet exhausted after breaking the 200 freestyle school record and swimming an All-American Consideration time.

Two Providence girls also showed their strength in individual events. Heaney placed eighteenth overall in the 500 freestyle. Bixby showed phenomenal success in her individual events. She placed first in 200 freestyle, swimming an All-American Consideration time, personal best, and school record. In the 100 freestyle, she placed second, also swimming an All-American Consideration time and personal best while shattering her previous school record. 

By the end of the meet, the girls had both shed tears and celebrated with hugs. “I could tell that it was a bittersweet moment. This team has accomplished so much, but it was the last time the seniors would be swimming with them,” Johnson observed.

Four seniors, including Heaney are graduating, but this does not mean the team will be any less successful. Most of the girls participating are underclassmen, so they are only getting faster as they push the limits in their training. Bixby exclaimed,  “Next year I’m planning on making new records and hope that more people qualify for state. I definitely think everyone is capable and it is going to happen next year!”

Ready, Set, Robotics!

What has a claw, a motor, and moves on wheels? A monster truck? A portable claw machine? The answer: the robot built by the Middle School Robotics Team. On Saturday, November 20, 2021, Providence’s Robotics Team kicked off the season at Prior Lake High School with their first competition of the year.

Each year, teams across Minnesota are given a new challenge. This year’s challenge is called “Freight Frenzy.” Put simply, student-built robots score points by driving into different corners of an arena, picking up “freight”  — which are items such as rubber ducks, two inch square boxes, and wiffle balls, called “cargo” — and placing these items into specific places. 

While the first competition of a season is often daunting, this one in particular was much more intimidating. For this group, it was not only the first competition of the season, but their first ever, as each middle schooler is new to robotics.

Inexperience was not the only challenge Providence faced. On Friday, November 19, an unplanned lock-down canceled all events at Providence that evening, including the team’s final practice. The four hour session, in which they were supposed to finish wiring and practice test driving, was cut to twenty minutes.

The mark of any good robotics team is problem-solving, and PA is no different. Physics teacher and Robotics Coach Michael Plucinski brought the unfinished project home to complete the last bit of wiring, and the new middle schoolers learned on the job, driving the robot for the very first time at the competition.

Let the games begin! The Providence Robotics Team (right side), set their robot against the robots of schools across Minnesota during their first competition on Saturday, November 20th.

“They really powered through,” Plucinski beamed. “It was really cool to see them embrace the competition.”

Embrace it they did. During their six rounds, the team faced several unexpected problems. Their servo, or motor, broke, the drive train, which makes the wheels spin, ran out of battery, and the controllers disconnected from the robot. But PA still persisted. Between rounds, they made adjustments, driving their creation on the practice field. At the end of the day, they ended up with a functioning robot.

“My favorite part of the competition was when we won our first round,” Mason Gregory ‘27 said proudly, remembering how his hard work paid off.

This hard work and ingenuity caused Providence to secure nineteenth place out of twenty-five, an impressive feat for a group with little experience and time.

“I felt like it was a good competition, even though we didn’t place super high. This was our first year, and it was more about seeing the competition and getting that experience.” Plucinski reflected.

Mr. Plucinski and Maggie Ludlow ’23 mentor seventh graders Logan George ’27, Evan Flynn ’27, and Mason Gregory ’27. The team practiced driving their robot between rounds, aiming to improve as much as possible.

Maggie Ludlow ‘23, a Robotics veteran who helps the middle school team, added, “They did really well. They were focused and eager to fix the robot.”

Now that the team has experience and time to practice, they are confident that they can improve for their next competition on December 11th. Their plans? To practice driving, and to add an autonomous program, which will allow the machine to complete its tasks following a computer program rather than a control pad. 

But the biggest goal is learning.

“My favorite part of robotics is seeing middle schoolers come in with a very blank slate, and watching them grow throughout the season.” Plucinski reflected. 

This team is full of potential and excitement as they look to the future of PA robotics.

B Positive: Donate Blood!

Why should you let a complete stranger stick a needle in your arm and draw one pint of your blood? Is it because afterwards you will be rewarded with sugary treats? Is it an excuse for missing class? Or is it for the benefit of others? Regardless of the motive, students and teachers continually strive to be one of the many people who get to participate in the biannual blood drive, hosted at Providence Academy every fall and spring. Held this year on November 17, the Blood Drive was a smashing success due its popularity amongst the students and faculty. 

Seniors Olivia Eck 22’ and Adriana Azarian 22’ are nothing but smiles after completing a six hour day of pure community service. Seeing their classmates and teachers so willing to donate blood added to their excitement.

The National Honors Society not only organized the whole event, but they provided the delicious snacks, thirst quenching beverages, handmade thank you cards, donors, and informative posters! One of the main coordinators, who personally put in 14 hours of service, was Olivia Eck 22’. She eagerly took on this role because she knew she had the skills needed to accomplish the task. Eck remarked, “Running the whole drive is all organization and being friendly, which is what I love to do!” Despite it being stressful and time consuming, she figured out every detail with a smile on her face. 

With that smile and can-do attitude, she was able to sign up 47 volunteers, 27 of which were able to donate one pint or more of blood. 

Dr. Biebighauser, an Upper School English and Latin teacher at Providence, noted that the extra time and dedication put into this event is something to be commended for. “I’m really proud and grateful for the time students spent to put this together and for those who donated.”

Gage Pietrini 22’ was a volunteer who, despite being nervous over the idea of losing blood, commented, “It’s a small prick, which you can barely feel. Why not do it? It helps save lives!” 

Gage Petrini 22’ is relieved after a successful donation and ecstatic to enjoy the delicious treats and receive a handmade thank you card, provided by his fellow students. 

Maria Counts 22’, one of the five double donors who gave two pints of blood, says she went through this slightly nerve-racking process because, “Someday that could be me or my family members who need a blood transfusion.”

Biebighauser added, “This is the most time-effective way to do charity work.” He highlighted that donors being able to scroll through their phones, take a breather from the draining day, and sip a coffee are just a few of the many perks of giving blood. 

Looking at the bigger picture, 40% of the nation’s blood and blood cell components come from donors. Blood donations are used for patients in need of surgery, cancer treatments, and transfusions for blood loss from traumatic injuries. How amazing is it that the human race invented a way to transfer blood from one healthy person to another who is in dire need? This concept is one that fascinates Biebighauser and many others. He remarked, “It’s an impressive operation how mankind has worked together to figure out how to restore blood and minimize harm to those donating.”

Not only is this event “worth the snacks” as Pietrini says, but it is one of the easiest ways to give back to the community. Eck certifies that it is “100% worth it!” All donors need to do is sit back, relax for a short period of time, then enjoy a doughnut and juice box.

A Concert to Remember

“Yankee Fanfare”, “Songs of Soldiers”, “American Heroes”. “The Star Spangled Banner”, “Lincoln at Gettysburg”, “This is My Country”: These are songs that one thinks of as patriotic, which was fitting for the Providence Academy Veterans’ Day concert Thursday, November 11. This year, Providence was able to hold its heartwarming Veterans’ Day concert for the first time since COVID restrictions. 

The concert began with a short introduction from Headmaster Dr. Flanders, thanking veterans not only for their attendance, but also for their service. Each of the songs played have different special meanings on the field, but a true fan favorite is “American Heroes,” the concluding song of the concert. This medley contains a hymn from each branch of the military. As the song played, veterans in the audience were encouraged to stand when they heard their branch’s song, in order to be recognized for their service.  Then, in the final portion of “American Heroes,” the band began to play “America the Beautiful” and sang along. 

Even though the band rehearsed these songs day after day, it’s hard for students to grasp the effect they have on those who have served our country.

Michael Johnson, Providence dad and former Master Sergeant of the Air Force, said, “The first time I heard the Air Force song outside of serving was at a Providence Academy band concert. The patriotism was part of the reason I chose this school for my family.” 

The way music has different effects on people is truly beautiful. Songs can represent so many different things and even people. Johnson has a friend who was in the Air Force band and played “Taps” whenever a soldier passed away. “Music represented a lot and tied people together even in differences,” said Johnson.

Upper school band director Thomas Jones and the Providence Academy band stand for recognition after the final song, “American Heroes” at the Veterans’ Day Concert November 11.

Even some Providence alumni who served in our military played in past concerts themselves. Susanna Trombley, a Captain currently stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina used to play clarinet for Providence Academy’s band, and her picture hangs on the Wall of Honor located in the Great Room. “I think it’s especially important that students are taught these songs because it’s teaching kids there is a meaning behind this music and it teaches them not to take everything for granted since there was such a big sacrifice for our freedom,” commented Trombley.

The hearts and minds the band touched last Thursday was truly a sight to see, and the concert showed our appreciation, love and respect for veterans.