It Is Just “Humans Talking to Humans” at Making the Choice Night
February 16, 2017
As the lights shined through the dense fog, San Dieguito Academy held an Information Night that brought in roughly 1000 incoming freshmen on Feb. 9. The presentations were initially geared toward recruiting students, but they also became a time to reflect on how this community sees itself, and what values make it so special to its students.
Bjorn Paige, SDA’s principal, gave an overview of what this school is about as parents and students were packed closely together in the gym. He touched on how the community gives every student opportunities that are unique to SDA. Paige emphasized that the students have fun during the span of their high school experience because “it is not about the fireworks. It is about humans talking to humans,” he said.
ASB president, Zachary Kanzler, followed Paige. He expanded on how SDA focuses on the individual. In a tweet following Information Night, Paige said, “The wisest words so often come from the students.”
“Whenever I’m out there talking, there is a separation because I am the guy in the suit and tie,” he said later. “They think that I will say nice things about the school no matter what, even if I truly mean what I say. Students connect on a different level. Their opinions seem more legitimate.”
For many eighth graders, the transition to high school is a positive step forward. As one Digueño Middle Schooler said, “I’m excited to come to SDA because middle school was horrible.”
For others, the transition presents more of dilemma. Eighth grader Alex Holzman lives close to LCC, so it would be “super-efficient and convenient” for him, but he also feels that the 4×4 schedule may work better for him. “I am just not good at paying attention, so I don’t know if I could handle the seven classes at a time over at LCC,” Holzman said.
Similar to the eighth graders trying to find where they fit in and what interests them, the parents were also trying to understand SDA and see if it suits their children. When asked what she likes about The Academy, Barb Miller said her son’s “sister goes to SDA, he lives close, and the 4×4 schedule, all of which are awesome things for an incoming Mustang.”
When asked about the vibe she got from the Info Night, mother of an 8th grader, Liz Hagen, said that the atmosphere came off “very friendly. Kids can be themselves without peer pressure.”
Teachers also discussed their favorite aspects of SDA. In each of their presentations, there was a genuine quality of how the school actually runs.
Caroline Ceseña, who has taught screen printing for decades at The Academy, made it a goal of hers to make her presentation different this year. “I am going to break my class down a little more this year because I don’t believe they–parents especially–understand the full aspects of the graphic communications department,” Ceseña said before meeting with the students and parents.
During Ceseña’s presentation, she made a point of how important her students are to her. Speaking to the eighth graders, she said, “I love you. I adore you.” Rachel McHale, the mother of India who will attend SDA next year, was so impressed that she rose her hand in the middle of Ceseña’s presentation to ask “When can we sign up?”
The child development session was not as packed as some others, but this led to a far more intimate discussion between the teacher, Christine Corrao, and the few that attended. Rather than having a slideshow, she sat at the table with them and talked about the class in terms of a career pathway. The parents seemed to relish the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Corrao.
The art session had students and parents on pottery wheels, as two elementary schoolers were jumping from stool to stool pretending there was lava on the floor. The SDA students representing the art department were doodling on the whiteboard, and encouraged eighth graders to join. Art teacher Jeremy Wright wanted to give kids a feel for SDA, letting them just walk through the rooms to show that “this is what we do.”
Wright has an influential role in the murals that surround students on the campus. A recent addition to SDA’s mural collection was the “living” mural, when students transported Hippocampus, the seahorse sculpture, in the “Egyptian style,” with rollers, from one side of campus to the other.
Another art teacher, Angela Jackson, gave a heartfelt presentation about watching the students blossom in this community. She said, “It’s all about finding your voice… If you walk around the campus all the installation pieces are the students’ voices.”
Jackson summed up the SDA experience when she said, “There is something magical about SDA…there just really is. The students here, the administration and faculty that we have. There really is just something special.”
Earlier, while Kanzler and Paige spoke to the majority of the students in the gymnasium, two eighth graders, tired of presentations, decided to sneak off to go “cruise Poods,” the nickname of a skate park down the street. “My parents made me come. I hate this place. It’s ‘SDGay,’”one of the eighth graders said, as both he and his friend let out a laugh.
However once he ran off to go skate, the other eighth grader said, “I kinda like it here, especially after visiting the school.”
-Alex Boukili, Wyley Sharp, Taylor Gates, Sienna Riley, Harley Bradshaw, Lila Schief, Joe Whitlam, Kate Moore, Daniela Burrows, Nohemia Rosales, Tate Oien, and Bram Downs all made contributions to this story.