Former CHS Athletes talking about CHS and our Athletic program.
This past Monday, CHS students, faculty, and parents gathered in prayer, in a virtual format, to offer confession, to worship God, and to cry out to Him, sharing our heartache over the recent killing of George Floyd and the underlying racial injustices in our society that we seek to confront as believers. The meeting followed a special video devotional on the subject offered over the weekend by CHS chaplain Mark Persson.
The depth and magnitude of the challenges we face as a nation and as the Body of Christ can seem insurmountable. But acknowledging them together and seeking God is a powerful step, according to Mr. Persson. “In prayer, we get a sense of our helplessness,” he notes, “but also hopefulness in God.”
It’s a step that was deeply appreciated by those who participated. “Thank you for addressing this,” wrote one parent. “My son has been asking about things going on.” Another wrote, “Thank you for choosing to say something about how we experience social injustice differently and the need for racial reconciliation.”
To “say something” – to address directly the issues surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death – is a natural extension of an ongoing conversation at CHS, notes Persson. He has supported the pioneering efforts of CHS faculty member Patricia Liu and her students to foster community-wide understanding and action around racial justice and reconciliation.
The student group she advises, Imago Dei, sponsors an annual Diversity Week comprising myriad activities designed to “replicate the Kingdom of God within our community,” according to Miss Liu. This year, notes Mr. Persson, Diversity Week served as vital preparation for our community to encounter, process, understand, and talk about, recent events. During the week, students wrote essays and poetry now being collected into an anthology; they performed justice-themed songs and spoken word at an online virtual concert; and they arrived at new understandings together – despite all those activities happening at a distance.
“The depth of thought in these essays is truly moving,” Miss Liu says of the students' written submissions. “I think our kids know well the nature of this truly extraordinary time that, for them, is not just a thing of the present, but will also be part a of a very uncertain future as they grow into adulthood.” Far from giving up, though, she says, “time and time again, I am heartened by all the ways our students step up in ways that make their community stronger, kinder, and more unified.”
Dr. Brian Modarelli, head of school, sees all these efforts in light of the Bible’s “vibrant and compelling mandate of love for others, coupled with a comprehensive rejection of hate.” Citing John 13:34-35, Dr. Modarelli reminds us that that work is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. “Jesus left His presence with the Father, to live among us, to know us, and to love us. He asks us to know and love each other and tells us that the presence of this love will be the hallmark of His followers.”
May that love continue to be the hallmark of this community of Christ-followers in ever increasing measure as we seek, together, to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”
CHS senior Katie Stalling has been announced as a winner of the 2020 Trumbull Fine Arts Literary Competition in the category of nonfiction.
Her personal essay, “How My Darkness Led Me to a Greater Purpose,” explores the pain she endured as the subject of cruel, incessant bullying at a previous school – and the redemption she’s found by discovering her voice.
“As I wrote this essay, my intention was simply to take a step towards reaching closure in a situation where I felt silenced,” Katie reflects. “By sharing my story, this was the only way I felt I could be heard.”
CHS English teacher encouraged her to submit her essay to the competition, and Mrs. Baylis provided some editorial advice as well. And, while Katie was surprised and thrilled to win the competition, she’s most hopeful that others will benefit from reading about her story. “I am genuinely so grateful that my truth gets to be shared with everyone,” she says.
An important theme of the essay is God’s ability to redeem incredible pain, using it for good. “This is a testimony to the faithfulness of God,” she explains. “He will open your heart to every scar and use it to change lives if you use your voice!”
In her case, Katie’s experiences have led her on a path to becoming a teacher – one, she says in her essay, who guards the emotional safety for her students, cultivating a culture of kindness and compassion. “I want to dedicate my life to be a voice for the millions of kids who do not have enough courage to speak for themselves,” she writes. “I will not be silenced.”
Having found her voice, she is raising it courageously, determined to “inspire anyone who is struggling to find purpose in their brokenness, and to bring awareness to the dark side of bullying and harassment.”
Katie’s essay was also published in the inaugural issue of CHS’s literary magazine, Paper + Ink.
An essay by CHS junior Rachel Brooks exploring the role of Medieval monasteries in the development of early universities has been selected for publication in the spring issue of The Concord Review, the nation’s most prestigious scholarly journal of history for students.
That good news was slightly preceded by a cascade of momentous honors for her creative writing, including being awarded five medals in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition for her poetry and memoir; winning the Smith College High School Poetry Prize; selection of a poem for publication in the Connecticut Student Writers Magazine; and being shortlisted for The Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.
Most of those notices came in around the time that the first issue of Paper + Ink, CHS’s first literary magazine, of which Rachel is the founder and chief editor, was published.
And earlier this year, Rachel presented her original scientific research at the 57th annual Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) at the UConn Health center, where she won first place, receiving scholarships, cash awards, and a paid trip to the national symposium.
All this begs an obvious question: how can one person engage so skillfully in such a wide array of endeavors?
“Intertwining and Intersecting”
“While my interests my seem disparate, I see them as intertwined and intersecting,” says Rachel. Scientific research must be conveyed through clear, cohesive writing, she notes, and she approaches her studies in biology “just as I dissect the stanzas of a poem.”
And, while bridging biology and literature or history and medicine may seem like a stretch, Rachel relishes opportunities to overlay these approaches. “I naturally seek to intertwine my interests whenever possible,” she says. Her Concord Review essay provided an opportunity to combine her interest in science and the humanities by exploring Medieval monks’ contributions to astronomy and medicine; and essays for English class have afforded the chance to explore human anatomy in literature, like deconstructing the image of the mind, heart, hands, and eyes in Macbeth, and tracing the repetition of the brain and childbirth in Anne Bradstreet’s poetry collection.
To Rachel, such “intertwining” allows her to explore her diverse interests; but, even more, it’s an important approach to finding truth. “Bridging vastly different disciplines provides us with new avenues of thinking and interpreting the world,” she notes.
“An environment for me to grow”
Some of Rachel’s endeavors are completed in the academic context or begin as school assignments and then branch out beyond. Many are her own personal projects, sometimes undertaken with support and guidance from teachers.
Either way, Rachel points to CHS as “a close-knit environment of teachers and peers” where she has been able to grow.
“My teachers have challenged me and served as excellent mentors,” she says, acknowledging science teacher Dr. Cote, English teacher Mr. Chase, History teacher Mr. Mack, and Bible teacher Mrs. Higenyi as important influences, guides, and sources of support through challenges.
Rising Above and Emerging Stronger
Those challenges have included life-threatening health issues that Rachel says “have served as an impetus for me to create: to turn my turmoil into something beautiful.”
The strength to accomplish that comes from beyond herself, she says. “My faith has allowed me to rise above physical health trials and emerge stronger. I credit all of my successes to God. I believe He has orchestrated all of the turmoil in my life for a purpose, and He has a plan above it all. He’s allowed me to pursue all this despite chronic illness, and he’s piecing the shards of my life into something whole.”
As those shards come together, they are beginning to form the image of a life in medicine. Rachel plans to major in biology while conducting biomedical research and continuing her creative writing.
Then, it’s off to medical school and a career as a physician. “Being able to share my findings with the medical community at the JSHS was eye-opening, and it solidified my desire to spread awareness for rare disease,” Rachel says. She aspires to “make strides in biomedical research, improving the quality of life for those with unexplained symptoms or rare disorders.”
For now, she’ll continue to pursue her academic interests – and her personal ones, too. Rachel runs a small craft business, with an Etsy shop and product placement in four local stores.
And she’s turned her health issues into opportunities to build awareness and community nation-wide. She founded a food allergy awareness initiative this January called Securing Safe Food, and now has ten team members working to advocate for accessibility to safe food in restaurants, cafeterias, and food banks. In response to COVID-19, her team is acquiring donations from food allergy-friendly companies and distributing them to local food pantries in Connecticut, California, and New York.
“Contributions of our own”
Reflecting back on the monastic communities she studied as part of her historical research, Rachel notes that, even in seclusion, these monks “cultivated a culture of learning that may have otherwise evaporated.”
Like them, she suggests, “perhaps we should take the time to step away from our hyper-connected modern world, pause to reflect, and strive to make contributions of our own.”
Advice she clearly lives by.
This article is based on a wonderfully written interview with Rachel. To see the entire interview, click here.
CHS middle school student Genesis has been announced as a winner of the 2020 Trumbull Library Literary Competition for Creative Writing.
Genesis’ dramatic and evocative poem, “Two Sides, One Glory,” was inspired by the intense prophetic imagery in Revelation 20:7-10, in which God’s power consumes the forces of evil in a fiery confrontation. “It says in the Bible that God will destroy all evil on the earth,” says Genesis. “My poem is about my vision of that fight.”
In her writing, Genesis wanted to acknowledge that “the real world isn’t always full of just happiness.” But, she says, we have hope even in the midst of the most trying hardships. “God will change all that and make the world full of peace,” she reflects. She felt the Lord’s prompting to submit her poem to the competition.
Entries were judged anonymously by a distinguished group of authors, educators, and editors, based on originality and quality of expression.
In addition to a cash prize, Genesis’ poem will be published in PenWorks, an annual literary magazine.