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CA Curious

Meet the New Faces of CA

November 10, 2022

This fall, CA welcomed many new faces to campus! New faculty and staff have joined us in nearly every corner of campus, and we are so pleased to introduce them to you. Below you will find some fun facts about each unique individual, and we hope you get the chance to say hello if you run into them in your daily lives.

Maria Arias
Operations Technician

If your life was a book, what would the title be?
The Happiest Woman Alive

What is your secret superpower?
I am hard working!

Gavin Barrentine
Education & Technology Support Specialist

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I grew up in Delaware and have only been in North Carolina for about 5 months.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
My favorite hobby is watching movies. I spend most weekends watching at least a movie or two.

Nancy Barrientos
US Admin Assistant

What’s something that most people don’t know about you? 
Most people don’t know how much I actually love the fall because with all its beauty. It also means the return of Football! Sundays are a full-family event of fantasy football, snacking, and cheering for my SF 49ers!

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud? 
I have held many titles in my roles in education, but by far my favorite was having the ability to give back to my community by going into the classroom during the pandemic – when we experienced one of the biggest teacher shortages to date. The privilege to support the special services department, co-teach grades 6-8, but most importantly serve as an advocate for my students and their families is an experience that I will always hold dear to my heart. Saying goodbye to my team and students was probably one of the hardest things to do when leaving NJ. 

Margaret Chidwick
US English Teacher

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
My favorite hobby is cooking. I especially like any recipe that requires chopping vegetables, as I find the whole process quite meditative. I lean toward simple recipes to let the food speak for itself. My favorite vegetable recipe is sauteed broccoli rabe, which requires just several ingredients. Some people say bacon makes everything better; and while I agree with them, I also believe that broccoli rabe compliments many food favorites of mine and even put it on fried eggs. Vegetables aside, I love making a good cheesecake and strawberry pie too.

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why?
The title would be Dig In because I am never more content than when I am actively committed and focused upon whatever is happening in the present moment.

Caroline Damitog
Athletic Trainer

If your life was a book, what would the title be?
Murphy’s Law

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
I have climbed two 14ers in Colorado (Mt. Antero and Pikes Peak). One of them I sprained my ankle at the very top then had to hike down 7 miles on it to my car.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I like to crochet. But my favorite hobby is starting a new hobby/project and then never finishing it.

April Ellerbe
Special Events and Engagement Coordinator

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I am an introvert and extrovert.

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why?
I Don’t Look Like What I Am Going Through 

Treston Ellerbe
Logistics Coordinator

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I used to want to be a puppeteer.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I love to produce and make music.

Lou Farone
Operations Technician

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
I’ve helped elderly people in my neighborhood.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
My favorite is working around the house and yard creating different things.

Rickie Hashagen Operations Technician

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I’m originally from Charlotte, NC.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I like playing pool and watching TV, especially kickboxing and professional wrestling.

Becca Haque
Admin Assistant, College Counseling

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
Running a 5K and also the Tarheel 4 miler!

What is your secret superpower?
I can recognize really obscure/random actors. And I’m a pantry-organizing queen!

Kevin Hogue
Lead Operations Technician

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
Donated blood to help others.

What is your secret superpower?
Communication!

Ahnie Ingram:
US ScienceTeacher

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I’m from Louisiana. I lived there all my life and all my extended family still lives there. My husband and our kids relocated to North Carolina in 2015.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
My favorite hobby is cooking! I love to cook comfort foods for my family, especially Cajun dishes like red beans and rice and jambalaya on Saturdays in the fall when my LSU Tigers are playing!

Soo Mee Kaas
MS Math Teacher

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why? 
Corny Jokes…WHY?!!  My family loves to tell these tremendously corny jokes that they find hilarious.  I am the only sane one.

Tell us about your favorite hobby. 
I love to read and play volleyball.  I could spend all day playing grass doubles volleyball while hanging out with friends and family.

David Kaufmann
MS Math Teacher

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I love to run! I have been running ever since middle school and have run one marathon and numerous half-marathons. Running is a great way to explore new places and enjoy some fresh air – especially in this amazing fall weather!

Nazim Pasha
Lead Operations Tech

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why?
Lead By Example! At the end of life we either fail or succeed because of leadership.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
Reading and writing anything thought-provoking and universal in its application.

Kristen Thompson
Technical Assistant

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
At home, I have a cream-colored tabby named Remus – a reference to my favorite character from the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately, I realized much too late how ironic it was to name a cat after a character who *spoiler alert* turns into a glorified dog.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
Although I was unable to partake in this activity throughout the pandemic, I’ve been regularly attending concerts since I was in the 6th grade. I constantly listen to music – to the point that I feel uncomfortable in its absence.

Fernando Valera
Operations Supervisor

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
I am about to get my associate’s degree in applied science with a specialty in H.V.A.C.

What is your secret superpower?
I don’t shy away from hard work.

Alexa Velez
MS Dance Teacher

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I enjoy playing the piano and composing my own music. 

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
This year, I was a recipient of the Frankenthaler Climate Art Award for my video work addressing climate change.

Willie Warren
Speech & Debate Teacher

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I played the piano, cello, trumpet, trombone, snare and bass drum

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why?
Woah!!! What was that?: A diary of a man who believes too much in hyperbole and onomatopoeia

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
During the holidays, I work on Lego architecture sets to keep.

Written by Ellie Sammons

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Daring to say ‘yes’

March 14, 2019

Jimmy was ready for his first day as a new intern. He had on his best suit, ready to impress on his exploration of a potential career path.

“Great to meet you,” his new boss said warmly. “Now, what I need you to do first is head down and clean the shower on the first floor.”

So went a story told by Jimmy Joyner, Cary Academy Class of 2011, at the recent Career Connections Upper School assembly. The Key Club panel presentation featured five recent CA alumni (Brittany Kielhurn, ‘03; Saurabh Aneja, ‘05; Lex-Jordan Ibegbu, ‘08; Cailey Follet, ‘11), who answered a host of general questions from students about their transitions to college and career. Following that assembly, students went to separate breakout sessions to hear from professionals about more specific career paths.

The Career Connections panel on February 22, 2019

As Jimmy considered how to respond to his new boss many things ran through his mind —  starting with: “This is not what I signed up for!” What he decided to say instead was: “Sure thing!”

His boss then gave him a big smile. “I’m kidding,” she said. “Let me show you your work area.”

This story was part of a larger thread on the theme of discovery. By high school, many students are feeling the coming weight of the college admissions process, and they worry about not doing everything perfectly.

Our alumni offered some solid reassurances, each sharing that they had been well-prepared for college. If they could have a do-over, most spoke about taking more electives, about trying new things. When they reflected on their path from college to career, most spoke about a spark that ignited a passion and sent them in a direction they never saw coming.

The meta-message: say yes to new opportunities. Take courses out of your major. Participate in clubs and activities — at Cary Academy and in college. Only one of our five panelists were in a career they envisioned in high school.

For Jimmy, saying ‘yes’ to cleaning the shower eventually paid off. After graduation, he was hired by the same firm that gave him that internship. His then and future boss told him that one key factor in earning an offer over the other interns was his willingness to throw himself into whatever needed to be done, even if that meant doing a job that was outside of his normal scope of responsibilities. His boss said she never forgot Jimmy’s first enthusiastic “yes.”

It was a remarkable panel discussion, full of tips and well-considered advice — made even more powerful because it was coming peer-to-peer.

At the upcoming PTAA State of the School (March 24 at 2pm, in the Center for Math and Science lobby), I will share some additional stories from alumni currently in college. In addition to these anecdotes, we will have a look at data from our newest alumni survey, including feedback about college readiness and post-college career and life satisfaction.

While we cannot live outside the pressures brought by the college to career transition (for both students and parents), we can find comfort in the fellowship and wisdom within our collective community. I hope to see you on the 24th.

Written by Mike Ehrhardt, Head of School

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