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blewis - Posted Monday, May 18, 2020 5:32:00 PM

The Oakridge School Class of 2020 learned unexpected life lessons in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the campus to transition to distance learning. The students showed strength, resilience, grace, and poise as they concluded their final semester online and turned their attention to the next leg of their life journey. We could not be more proud and we salute them all.

The graduating senior class consists of 76 young men and women who received offers of admission to 159 colleges and universities, including some institutions of higher education abroad. Valedictorian Hannah Didehbani will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Oakridge has two Salutatorians this year. Eric Johnson will pursue studies at Emory University. Alita Whitaker will attend the University of Pittsburgh. Many thanks to our extraordinary College Advising experts for guiding the seniors and their families through the college search and application process.

The Class of 2020 will appear in this week’s Fort Worth Business Press. The map graphic was created by integrated media student Lilly Deane ’21.

blewis - Posted Thursday, Apr 9, 2020 9:31:45 PM

Kymberly Ayodeji, an Upper School math and computer science teacher at The Oakridge School, has been selected as a member of the second faculty cohort of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Educate Cloud Ambassadors. The distinguished group of educators joins the 2019 cohort and contains 235 members from over 47 countries and more than 180 colleges and universities. A select few members are from K-12 institutions.  

AWS Educate Faculty Cloud Ambassadors are top-tier cloud educators who serve as ambassadors for AWS Educate. As ambassadors, they share their knowledge and experience in teaching cloud computing with other educators at their institution, in their community, and around the world.

“I am both honored and challenged by my selection into this global community of educators and look forward to sharing what I learn with my colleagues and students at Oakridge,”

said Ayodeji, who in recent years has also been recognized by Texas Instruments as a member of its Teacher Learning Cadre program.

“Professional development is very important to me and I have always worked to help others advance in their careers as I have grown and learned new technologies in education in my own,” she added.

AWS Educate Faculty Ambassadors are also recognized through special benefits, such as additional professional development and AWS Promotional Credit. The Ambassadors were selected through a process that included an application and video submission that showcased member accomplishments. Ayodeji said she applied to be a part of the program because she wants to make sure that she is preparing her students not only for their next academic steps, but also for their future career moves.

“I know that AWS is an industry standard for many companies in the tech field who use cloud computing. I wanted to introduce as many industry standard tools as possible, as early in their studies as possible, so they will have an advantage when applying for internships and jobs in the tech field,” she said. “I also want to help other teachers who are interested in doing the same thing. My goal is to soak up as much knowledge as I can, by interacting with industry and academia professionals, so I can share with other K-12 educators and my students.”

Oakridge Head of School Jon Kellam congratulated Ayodeji for bringing excitement to her math and computer science students and colleagues. “Mrs. Ayodeji is innovative, forward-thinking in her use of modern technologies, and constantly demonstrates a passion for students and learning.” Prior to joining Oakridge in 2018, Ayodeji taught math and computer science at Bugil Academy in Cheonan, South Korea. During her four-year tenure at Bugil, she also held positions of Dean of Students, Dean of Faculty and Department Chair. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Spelman College and a Master’s of Science in Computational and Applied Mathematics from Rice University.

Visit this link to see the full list of 2020 AWS Educate Faculty Cloud Ambassadors.

blewis - Posted Wednesday, Feb 12, 2020 7:19:10 PM

Congratulations to Oakridge juniors Nicholas Miller, TJ Arnondin, and Ananya Kumar on being named Optimist Club Mr. Texan and Miss Texanne honorees. The students, seen here with Upper School English Teacher Bennett Mitchell and Head of Upper School Jim Andersen, received recognition in early February. Go Owls!

blewis - Posted Monday, Feb 10, 2020 12:11:04 PM

There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding The Oakridge School's Fine Arts Department. Upper School students are diligently preparing for the 2020 spring musical, "James and the Giant Peach."  They're also eagerly anticipating their visit to the Big Apple, where they will grace the stage at Carnegie Hall, one of the most famous concert halls in the world.

Director of Choirs Andrew Stewart, far left, and Oakridge choir members during their 2016 trip to New York's Times Square.

Fantastical journey

"James and the Giant Peach" is one of Roald Dahl's most heartwarmingly quirky stories. It tells the tale of James, a boy orphaned and living with mean-spirited aunts. He finds himself on a fantastical journey with magically grown insects inside a larger-than-life peach. As they make their way from England to New York's Empire State Building, James and the band of misfit bugs tackle each misfortune and embrace each success, ultimately becoming a family.

The adventurous musical features a wickedly tuneful score from the creative team of "The Greatest Showman" and "Dear Evan Hansen."

Performances are Feb. 20-22 in the Fine Arts Performance Hall and will offer something special this year: a meet and greet with the cast and crew after the final show. When purchasing tickets at www.theoakridgeschool.org/page.cfm?p=11734, patrons should choose "Child Ticket with Meet and Greet" for the Saturday matinee, then stay following the show. There will be snacks and an art activity at no additional cost.

"It's really going to be memorable," said Upper School Drama Teacher Brad DeBorde. "In addition to the Meet and Greet, our student performers are getting an opportunity to learn from Oakridge alumna Lauren Wheat '13. "Lauren graduated from Baylor University in 2017 and works professionally in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a scenic designer and painter. We hired her to be the scenic designer for this production and our students have really enjoyed working with and learning from her." (Wheat was featured on pg. 27 of the summer 2019 Outlook magazine).

Fine Arts students constructing the set of "James and the Giant Peach." Oakridge alumna Lauren Wheat '13 served as the scenic designer. 

 

Incredible opportunity

Just a few short weeks after "James and the Giant Peach" wraps, Upper School choir students will take a magical trip to New York City.  They'll get to do some sightseeing, but one of the most incredible opportunities the Oakridge students will get is the chance to perform at Carnegie Hall.

"I don't think any of the students fully understand the magnitude of the opportunity, until they step onto the stage at Carnegie Hall, and they see this iconic, world-renowned concert space," said Director of Choirs Andrew Stewart. "It just kind of floors you at first."

Oakridge works with a company that arranges visits for many different groups throughout the year.

"They bring in five to six high school choirs and we sing with them all," Stewart added. "So, there's this large collective choir, which is kind of fun to be a part of to start with, then you're getting to be in Carnegie Hall, which is pretty spectacular." Stewart said though there is a lot of time spent rehearsing during the trip, there is time to be a tourist.

"We see some Broadway shows and it's just astounding," he added. "It's five days away with your friends and a big chance for the students to bond and gather their collective identity among each other. They're getting to do something important, together, in a really cool place."

Though Stewart has been leading Oakridge students on a trip to New York for many years, the experience never grows old.

"It's just first class all the way around, and it's historic," Stewart reflected. "They hold the choirs in these green rooms that are about six or seven floors up from where the concert hall stage is. Even as you're walking down the stage, you feel the gravity of the situation-- that you're performing on a stage where the Beatles performed, and Luciano Pavarotti performed, and where all of these incredible icons throughout history have performed. So, it's pretty special.

From a personal standpoint - I love seeing the excitement on the faces of the kids from the first time we step off the bus in Times Square to the first time they see Carnegie Hall – and just knowing that they're having an incredible time singing, something that we all love."

blewis - Posted Thursday, Feb 6, 2020 5:17:00 PM

The inaugural Oakridge Upper School Model United Nations team traveled to south-central Texas in January for the students' first competition, the Model United Nations San Antonio (MUNSA) XXIV. Seventeen outstanding students represented the Oakridge delegation.

Assigned the nations of Belgium and South Sudan, students worked diligently to foster the conference's theme, "Envision," a collaborative approach to address, debate, and resolve, global issues. Students served on the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the African Union, UN Women and many other committees, voicing the opinion and position of their assigned country. To prepare, members of the delegation researched their nation and wrote two position papers addressing global issues within the scope of the committee, such as nuclear proliferation or ocean pollution. Although a new experience, Oakridge excelled at the conference, with students proposing resolutions, getting resolutions passed, and even earning two committee awards. 

Junior Rohma Zaidi, a delegate from Belgium, sponsored a bill where refugees, upon relocation would be provided with healthcare allowing them to deal with both the psychological and physical stress of displacement. Senior Josh Kleinhaus, who earned an award for his work as South Sudan in the African Union, sponsored three bills that were passed by the committee. One of his resolutions included a plan to combat the spread of the Ebola virus through the use of mobile clinics, medical research funding, quarantine zones, and public education. Junior Nicholas Miller, a delegate from Belgium, earned an Honorable Delegate award for his work on the Special Political and Decolonization Committee.

Assistant Head of Upper School, Mrs. Christine Metoyer, led the delegation and provides years of experience as a Model UN sponsor. Students returned excited about the experience and ready to work on their collaboration, diplomacy, and parliamentary procedure skills. The team hopes to travel to Austin or Waco next fall for another conference.

Members of the inaugural Model UN Team at Oakridge include: (seniors) Helena Chen, Josh Kleinhaus, Tracey Le, Zoe Nguyen, Roman Scott, David Wang; (juniors) Lilly Deane, Shivani Haribhai, Ananya Kumar, Nicholas Miller, Hannah Shahbazi, Rohma Zaidi; (sophomore) Yumna Zaidi; (freshmen) Bennett Reddig, Eshan Singhal, Catherine Wang, and Mark Wright. 

Model United Nations simulations are popular exercises for those interested in learning more about the UN. It is estimated that more than 400,000 students worldwide participate every year in MUN at all educational levels – from primary school to university. Many of today's leaders in law, government, business and the arts participated in MUN as students. Learn more at https://outreach.un.org/mun/.  

Jennifer Bonner/Department of History Chair

Contributing Writer

blewis - Posted Thursday, Jan 30, 2020 11:53:32 PM

Oakridge students and their parents heard from admissions leaders with the University of Oklahoma, Spelman College, Trinity College, and Tulane University at the 2020 College Night:Deans' Panel held Jan. 30 in the Fine Arts Performance Hall.

Director of College Advising, Mrs. Kellen Lewis, moderated the evening, which was sponsored by her office and the Oakridge Parents' Club. The discussion ranged from how students can make themselves stand out from other applicants during the admissions process to considerations that should be made when a student and his/her family are seeking to find the right fit. 

"Consider the application as your personal narrative," said Tiffany Nelson of Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. "It is your (the students) story to tell. We look for all the reasons to admit the student, so spend time telling us who you are. If there are concerns that occurred during your academic career, tell us. Tell us why you decided to stop certain activities. It is your application and your story to share."

On finding the right fit, students were urged to do some self-reflection and to visit the campus in-person. 

"I'm a big proponent of a student getting onto the campus that they're applying to," said Jeff Blahnik of the University of Oklahoma. "The students who stand out during the application process have taken extra steps. Ask yourself what are you looking for. Selectivity is great, but there are many colleges that have great value. Find the right fit."

Brad Booke, of Tulane University in New Orleans, echoed Blahnik's sentiments and encouraged families to consider pre-college programs as a way of learning more about the school in which a student is interested. "These often last one-week during the summer and students can experience the campus to see if it's a good fit." 

Adrienne Amador Oddi, of Trinity College in Hartford, CT, reminded students of the importance of making personal connections and develop professional relationships. "Get to know the admissions officer at the school that you want to attend, so that they can advocate for you and connect the dots.

After the panel discussion ended, the college representatives led breakout sessions in the Upper School. The topics included:

  • Current Trends in College Enrollment
  • Making Sense of Standardized Testing
  • Financing a College Education
  • Surviving & Enjoying College Conversations at Home

Many families said the information they received was invaluable and that they appreciated being able to connect one-on-one with college admissions representatives at Oakridge.

blewis - Posted Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020 10:19:37 PM

Congratulations to senior Roman Scott on his selection as a 2019 State Winner of the Young Texan/Young Texanne Scholarship Program. Roman has been named a Commended Student in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program and recently was accepted into Stanford University. He earned honors as a Young Texan of the Month and now will be considered for the Young Texan and Texanne of the Year award. An official celebration is planned for March.

blewis - Posted Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020 9:56:00 PM

Senior Maddie Musser will soon be an “official” Cowgirl! Maddie recently signed with Oklahoma State University’s Cowgirl Equestrian Team, where she is slated to compete in Western events.

Family, friends, and faculty and staff wished Maddie well Tuesday, Jan. 28 during a ceremonial signing at Oakridge. In addition to her many pursuits, she was praised for her tenacity and go-getter spirit.

“I would like to say thank you to my parents because I wouldn’t be going to Oklahoma State without your support,” Maddie said. “I would also like to thank my trainers, who made me the rider that I am today.” Through tears and smiles, she also thanked her friends and Oakridge for helping her achieve her goals.

Of his 2020 signees, OSU head coach Larry Sanchez said he could not be more excited. "They have competed in and won some of the top youth events in the country and will certainly bring that talent to the collegiate arena. I am looking forward to them joining our roster next fall."

Maddie's Accomplishments:

  • Two Time All-American Quarter Horse Congress Champion
  • Reserve All-American Quarter Congress Champion Horsemanship
  • Multiple top 15's, top 10's and top 5's at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress
  • All American Quarter Horse Congress High Point (13 & under)
  • Novice Championships Champion Horsemanship, Hunt Seat Equitation, and Showmanship 2016
  • NSBA World Show- Hunt Seat Equitation Champion (2016), Reserve Champion Hunter Under Saddle (2018)
  • AQHYA World Championship Show- Multiple top 10 finishes
  • Academic Honor Roll: 2017-2018, 2018-2019
  • MVP Varsity Soccer Player (2018-19)
  • Varsity Girls Soccer Letterman (2017-2019)
  • Varsity Girls Field Hockey Letterman (2019)
  • National Snaffle Bit Youth Association Board Member (2016-2017), Treasurer (2017-2018)
  • Texas Quarter Horse Youth Association Board Member (2017-2019)

 

blewis - Posted Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020 9:04:00 PM

Oakridge parent Nathaniel Jones, father of Aaron '24, Sydney '28, and William '29, received a life-saving gift in January, a kidney from Dr. Sarah Schecter, head of Lower School at The Oakridge School. The story, first reported by Teresa Woodard of WFAA-TV/ABC 8 in Dallas (featured below), captured the attention of ABC's World News Tonight with David Muir

Some lessons aren't really taught. They're modeled.

"Be generous, be kind, be brave – all of those things," said Sarah Schecter, Head of Lower School at The Oakridge School in Arlington. "That's a big part of what we do here - talking to our kids about character."

When we first met Sarah, she was about to prove that she is everything she preaches.

"I know it's the right thing to do but, am I still scared? Yes," she said. "I'm usually a very thinking kind of person, but on this – it's just something I'm determined to do."

We sat down in her office six days before a major surgery – a surgery her doctors didn't order.  Her heart did.

"You think of a thousand reasons why you shouldn't do it," she said. "But it just couldn't be avoided."

Sarah donated a kidney to a man she didn't know all that well. But three of her students do.

William Jones is in third grade. His big sister Sydney is in fourth and oldest brother Aaron is in eighth.

Their father Nate developed sudden renal failure in 2018.

"And to think they could lose their dad when they're just kids in school, I just want them to have their dad," she said.

The only sign anything was wrong with Nate was a change in his eyesight that quickly progressed. But he blamed being in his early 40's.

He set up an appointment with an eye doctor who immediately sent him to a retina specialist. That specialist told Nate he needed to see his primary doctor "yesterday."

"They tried to take my blood pressure and it wouldn't register," Nate said.

Nate recalls the doctor reacting like, "You're a walking time bomb. Like – buddy, you are in trouble."

He was frightened enough to go straight to the ER. The diagnosis was frightening: acute renal failure. A transplant was his only option.

"Transplant? How do you go from being healthy with no headaches, no nothing – and now you need a transplant?" he said. 

That's why high blood pressure is called the silent killer

"He just didn't have any symptoms," his wife Amenze said. "No symptoms at all."

Nate spent the next 18 months on dialysis – three days a week, four hours at a time. He woke up at 4 a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Few people knew how dire the situation was because the Jones family kept it private. 

Amenze mentioned the diagnosis to the kids' teachers and casually told Sarah Schecter about it in case any of the three seemed distracted in class.

They never dreamed Sarah would answer their silent prayers.

"Very shortly after she told me – like within days or maybe even hours – I felt a heavy burden. Of course, I didn't want to be the person to give a kidney – who wants to go into surgery and do something crazy like that?" Sarah said.

She felt like every Bible passage or sermon she would hear was about donating a kidney. 

"Of course it wasn't, but that's what it felt like," Sarah said.

She ignored the tug at her heart for several months but finally gave in.

She told Amenze that she wanted to undergo testing to see if she could be a donor.

"No one was surprised that she would do something like this, and that just goes to show you the type of person she is," Amenze said.

Despite differences in their ages, genders and races, Sarah and Nate were a perfect match.  

The transplant took place on Jan. 13 at UT Southwestern Medical Center. It was a success. 

Cameras captured the tearful moment when they saw each other for the first time post-surgery.

Their embrace was tight and long.

"Bless you. Bless you. Bless you," Nate repeated through tears. "I never thought this day would come."

"How do I pay her back?" Nate asked. "I can't. I can't pay her back. It runs through my mind. What can you do to thank her for this? Words aren't enough."

"I mean, do I cut her grass every day? Do I paint her house? What do I do?" he asked.

"There's something bold for you to do. God will give it to you," Sarah told him. "You've got a good kidney now. Just go forward and do what you need to do."

The Jones family never asked anyone to give Nate a kidney. 

But, The Oakridge School teaches that you don't have to be asked to answer.

Watch the WFAA report at https://www.wfaa.com/article/features/originals/school-principal-donates-kidney-to-students-ailing-father/287-394d0e0b-fd93-4aca-a47d-3e6bb9e31258.

 

blewis - Posted Monday, Jan 13, 2020 4:59:23 PM

The Oakridge School's newest alumni returned to campus Jan. 8 to talk about their first semester experiences as college freshmen.

Upper School students in grades 11 and 12 heard from the Class of 2019's Sage Abram, Samford University; Darren Asmussen, Baylor University; Sheridan Davis, University of Oklahoma; Faith Daniels, SMU; Davis Le, Texas Christian University; Olivia McLean, North Carolina A&T State University; Camille Meshack, Howard University; Chandler Nichols, University of Arkansas; Janae Pierson, Harding University; and Tate Woody, Stephen F. Austin State University.

The undergraduates addressed topics that ranged from developing a good working relationship with professors to balancing course loads, taking advantage of resources offered on campus, and more.

Camille Meshack, studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while Olivia McLean, studies at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. Both schools are HBCUs, or historically black colleges and universities, and have predominantly African-American student bodies. McLean and Meshack discussed as meaningful the ways in which they have been able to connect and interact with more peers and educators of color.  

Darren Asmussen, now studying at Baylor, emphasized the importance of time management, while Davis Le, discussed the importance of students seeking out someone to talk to if they are feeling overwhelmed with school and other concerns. Le is enrolled at TCU, which has a mental health center. "It's okay to talk to someone when you are feeling stressed out," Le said.

All of the students agreed on one key piece of advice – that students should go to class! Samford's Sage Abram emphasized that not all professors will notice whether a student is in class, so it is up to the student to be present, to do the readings, and stay involved.

The alumni panel was moderated by Kellen Lewis, the director of the Office of College Advising. The office and Oakridge Parents' Club will sponsor Oakridge's third annual College Night: Deans' Panel at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30. Leaders with Spelman, Trinity College, Tulane University, and the University of Oklahoma will be present.

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