CA Curious

Letting Our Children Be Who They Are Meant To Be

October 27, 2022

The other day I was watching a clip* from a neuropsychologist Dr. Russell A. Barkley who was addressing a group of educators in a series called “Essential Ideas for Parents.”  He began with “The problem with parents these days…” and he almost lost me. Heavy sigh. Eye roll.

I usually have no tolerance for whatever negativity comes after such grand, generalized statements—especially one aimed at parenting (which is arguably more complicated now than in any previous generation). While defensive, I continued watching. He jabbed his finger in the air and proclaimed, “Parents do not get to design their children.”I was intrigued. He went on to say:

Nature would never have permitted this to happen. Evolution would not have allowed a generation of a species to be so influenced by the previous generation.  

A quick perusal of any medical office waiting-area parenting magazines would suggest quite the opposite. There, in glossy print, you’ll find recipes for The Perfect Baby.  The D1 Athlete.  The Child-Who-Has-An-Easygoing-Temperament. Who is writing those articles?

Reading one of those magazines gives a false impression that if parents just do the right things, their children will become what they plan for them to be. No pressure, right? Dr. Barkley would rip those magazines to shreds. Based on everything neuroscientists, behavioral psychologists, and many other researchers have studied, our children are born with a “unique genetic mosaic” comprised of hundreds of psychological and physical traits from genes that extend beyond the biological parents and well into your extended families.

The development of these genes in your children is, science tells us, largely out of the control of parents. Regardless of whether the mother ate enough broccoli when she was pregnant or if she frequented Bojangles for fried chicken twice a day (totally random example, don’t look at me), a large part of her child’s gifts and challenges are already pre-programmed. Too often, society likes to suggest that we have control over so much of what is not in our control. Our kid’s success, we have been told, is based on the choices we make as parents.

The truth is:  we don’t have that degree of power.  Nature would never permit that to happen.”

What does this mean, that we’re not in control?  Is it frightening, or is it freeing?  You tell me. Yes, Dr. Barkley says, a stimulating environment is better than a deprived environment.  But ‘more is better’ reaches its point of diminishing returns, and overload in the name of child design has negative consequences. Maybe our pre-covid schedules and our post-ish-covid schedules in our homes tell that same story. Dr. Barkley and his colleagues encourage us to think of ourselves as parents as Shepherds, not Engineers. He goes on to explain:

The idea that you can engineer IQ, personality is just not true. Your child is not a blank slate on which you get to write.  Instead of an ‘engineer’ view of parenting [that makes you responsible for everything that goes right and everything that goes wrong—totally guilt inducing] step back and take the ‘Shepherd’s View’.  

You are a shepherd to a unique individual. You don’t design the sheep. But shepherds are powerful people. They pick the pastures in which the sheep will graze and develop and grow. They determine whether they’re appropriately nourished. They determine whether they’re protected from harm. The environment is important, but it doesn’t design the sheep. The shepherd knows that he will never make the sheep into a dog, no matter how much he wants a dog.

I read that as this:  we can do what we can to make sure our children have opportunity and surround them with great teachers, healthy friends, and intellectual stimulation. And then we get to observe, accept, and encourage. 

The stress we put on ourselves to engineer our children, surely rubs off on the child—how can it not?  We can unpack the damage of all that parental pressure:  it undermines confidence, sense of self, sense of trust in knowing who you are, and ultimately, paralyzing stress narrows your child’s options rather than follows their lead to new horizons. It certainly would decrease the competitiveness the world wants us to feel with other parents. Imagine this gentler, graceful approach snowballing into a new wave of parenting that encourages observation, discovery, and celebration. And, imagine, our children growing into their authentic selves—confident, assured, proud, and supported.

*After I saw the short video, I dove into literature that was footnoted at the end of the talk. Wow, one can really go down a rabbit hole if one chooses!  Stephen Pinker’s book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature boils the nature vs. nurture argument down and highlights many of these points.  He’s a psychology professor at MIT and was featured on a MIT author series.   I’ve talked about this book before but Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree reads like a textbook but is an ambitious exploration of children’s search for identity in families, in the world. 

Written by Josette Huntress Holland, Head of Middle School

Upper School

Student entrepreneurs win Power Pitch Award from the Conrad Challenge

Middle School

CA Bands finish out the year on a high note


Senior Nights: Varsity Softball

CA Curious

Breaking the People Pleasing Cycle

September 22, 2022

What do we do when our children don’t get what they want? When they’re little, we coach them on the value of sharing, waiting their turn, or accepting the situation. If you are a parent of siblings, you’ve probably set multiple invisible timers to negotiate toy time between equally indignant children. You’ve heard ‘it’s-my-time-with-the-Xbox!’ and ‘I WAS HERE FIRST!!!’ I remember the days when one of my children ONLY wanted to practice the piano at the exact time that their sibling was practicing. Have you ever seen piano-bench wrestling? It’s not pretty. 

But how about when they’re older? An adolescent? What happens when your child struggles with self-regulation when they don’t get chosen for a sports team, their arts major preference, or their first choice in an X-day activity? 

They might seem mad or sad—even indignant; fear of rejection can wear many masks (and some, simultaneously). And, wow, can it be tough to parent a child through that, especially when, as parents, we might struggle ourselves with FOMO (a.k.a. Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a real thing, I promise).  

Or maybe it’s not self-regulation they are struggling with, but rather: what if they’re struggling with a side effect of people-pleasing?  It might stem from a fear of disappointing YOU, their parent, if they did not get or do something that was expected of them.  How can you parent them through those choppy waters?

You can ask a parent of a first-year college student who is at their ‘second choice’ school and thriving. Or you can ask the parent of a child who was put into a random X-day activity last year and ended up loving it.  Or Jay Sagrolikar ’21 who was placed in band as his second-choice arts major in the 6th grade and ended up being one of our school’s most prolific and joyful saxophonists, completing multiple independent studies and performing as a key player in a newly formed jazz band.  His band teacher wrote

Jay, Xavier, and Marvin all stopped by at the start of this school year just to jam a little bit together and be in the band space.  Wonderful young men who have definitely found a passion in their gifts of music.  Here is a short video of what they were playing around with that morning.  Warmed my heart for sure!  

There are lessons to learn here that go well beyond placement.  Parents who have experienced such challenges and have experienced any measure of success have reported that they did a few things:

  1. They let their child feel their emotions—whatever those were.
  2. They sought their child’s permission to discuss the disappointment and their feelings about it.
  3. They discussed it without shame or judgment, approaching the issue with curiosity and empathy, including that it’s okay to have “wants”.
  4. When their children felt like a victim of ‘not being selected,’ they kept the focus on things in their child’s control, like attitude and enthusiasm.
  5. If it wasn’t life-threatening, they didn’t jump in to fix it.
  6. Worth repeating: if it wasn’t life-threatening, they didn’t jump in to fix it. (It’s hard, I know.)
  7. They asked their children for their suggestions on how to move forward, opening an empowering space for their kids to flex agency, figure out self-advocacy, and practice problem-solving.

In short, all found success when the parents signaled that their kids could handle their disappointment and when they stopped assigning judgment to their kids’ feelings. It’s totally normal to feel sad and disappointed and bummed—yes, it makes us parents uncomfortable, but there are no such things as ‘bad’ feelings. 

I know it can be hard to watch your child sit in discomfort, to resist the urge to swoop in and manage a situation or “fix” it on their behalf. However, I promise that there is something extremely valuable in finding safe, low-stakes ways for your children to experience disappointment and find acceptance of an outcome different than what they had planned and envisioned. In a recent podcast entitled How to Raise Untamed Kids, Dr. Becky Kennedy talks with Glennon Doyle and her pod squad (We Can Do Hard Things) about these very topics.  

Of course, I’m not talking about ‘settling’ in a marriage or a career or anything like that. Rather, having a mild-to-moderate disappointment is a chance to understand that sometimes, for reasons that may be as random as a lottery, life deals you your second choice–and that you will be just fine, perhaps even better for it. It can also present an important opportunity to practice breaking the bonds of people-pleasing, which plague so many of us adults. 

You might be saying, “But Josette, my child has had her fair share of disappointments.”  And there are undoubtedly heavy sighs when we recognize societal disappointments, like how COVID shaped the last few years of these children’s social lives.  But if we are genuinely looking to celebrate authentic success, let’s start by recognizing the value in building a worldview in which our children are sometimes the main character and, other times, a supporting crew.  After all, it is in those alternate outcomes, second choices, and “disappointments” that resilience and flexibility are forged. And these are skills you want your kids to have in spades when larger challenges and disappointments come their way. By granting a space for your children to experience and process a disappointment, you are arming them with the confidence and knowledge that, when things don’t go their way, they can handle it—that they’ve “got this.”

And that is how disappointments don’t become setbacks, but new opportunities.

Written by Josette Huntress Holland, Head of Middle School

World Language

Virtual German Day 2021 results: sehr gut!

CA Curious

Beyond the numbers

CA Curious

Building Bridges: How One Conference Creates Community at CA and Beyond

MS boys' cross couuntry runners

CA Curious

The power of purpose

September 2, 2021

Coach Pullen is a genius.

We had been watching our 65 middle school cross country students struggle through an early-season workout. A few students dutifully completed the warm-up jog. Still, most had quickly defaulted to walking — all the while grumbling about the heat, sore ankles, and assorted other tribulations associated with physical activity. 

“OK, runners,” Coach shouted as they came in from the first loop of the field. “Those of you who are one of the top 15 to 20 runners on the team — my best runners — you can go out for another loop. The rest of you, go ahead and stop for a water break.” 

I watched in amazement as at least half the team looked at one another, trying to assess the situation, themselves, and their friends… and then headed back out for a second loop. This time, at a full run. 

Coach Pullen’s motivational technique got me rethinking about something I shared with Upper School students at their opening convocation this year. 

There is a growing body of research on the positive impacts of having purpose in life. As Cornell University psychologist Anthony Burrow recently explained on an NPR podcast: “There seems to be accumulating evidence that one of the benefits of feeling a sense of purpose is that it can help us remain even keel in moments of stress or challenge, and sometimes even uplifting experiences.”

The challenge for all of us — but especially young people — is how to “find” that purpose. 

Professor Burrow would be quick to point out that this might be the wrong way to look at it. 

Purpose, he would say, is “cultivated,” not found. This happens by creating an environment where you establish a sense of identity and self-understanding, are exposed to new things, interesting questions, and challenging ideas, and then have some self-determination in where you go in life. 

Fortunately, as I told the students in August, research shows us three potential ways to cultivate purpose. 

  1. Proactive: A gradual, sustained attempt to engage in a topic or opportunity. Think of a hobby that morphs into something more, sometimes without even realizing when the transition happened. 
  2. Reactive: Responding to something that happens in life, which can often be negative, that nonetheless gives somebody a newfound sense of purpose or direction.  
  3. Pro-Social: Cultivating a sense of purpose through interacting and learning from other people and their passions or purposes. Like a hobby, this type of purpose acquisition may grow gradually over time — but it comes from our natural desire to share experiences with others. 

We can see opportunities to cultivate purpose in all three ways here at Cary Academy, but certainly more clearly in ways 1 and 3. As we move further down the path of our strategic plan, we seek to build more opportunities to grow student interests and passions through coursework, extracurricular programs, and new experiential learning pathways embedded in X Days. 

Which brings me back to Coach Pullen and seeing first-hand the power of pro-social motivation. None of our new runners are really experienced enough to know if the sport will be for them or if it will lead to a life-long association with running or fitness. For now, though, the experience of being together and of trying on the identity of “top runner,” is a powerful motivator and a positive experience. 

That’s ultimately how the race is won—one step at a time.

Written by Mike Ehrhardt, Head of School


It’s a wrap!

Alumni News

CA to celebrate Homecoming with fall and winter festivities

World Language

2024 NC German Day Results

Seventh grade bonding day

CA Curious

Emotional Nutrition

August 19, 2021

On April 1 (no joke), David Brooks published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled How Covid Can Change your Personality. From it, I finally got the words to express what our society has been lacking during pandemic isolation: we’ve lost crucial sources of “emotional nutrition.” 

Perfect, isn’t it?  Think of it: the small connections we didn’t get to make, the shoulders we didn’t wrap our arms around, the energy we had to put into keeping six feet of distance. For goodness sakes, we lost the bottom half of everyone’s face for a year (or so), making it more challenging to read their cues, to authentically connect even when face-to-face. Over countless moments, in ways small and large, we’ve been emotionally starved for connection. 

Brooks goes on to explain that an alarming 61% of young adults report ‘serious loneliness.’ Let that sink in (right next to all those other alarming statistics we’ve been inundated with these days).  

“Young adults.” That means Middle and Upper Schoolers; these are our children that are experiencing the real and detrimental effects of emotional isolation. Sure, connecting on social media or playing video games online with friends were lifelines for many last year, but they only go so far.  

About the same time that Brooks was explaining that it “feels like not just a social problem but a moral one,” Cary Academy was busy renewing its commitment to its students, community, and purpose–understanding that it is not only our obligation, but our mission, to do so attentively and mindfully.  

A school does this in three ways: through the allocation of time, space, and talent. Together, we began reorganizing how we ‘do’ school. In all efforts, we’re guided by considerations of holistic student wellness—physical, social, and emotional—whether it is a continued commitment to reduce homework stress or ensuring that students have ample opportunities to pursue what matters, personally, to them. 

In the Middle School, the newly launched C-days—days designed to give some much-needed stress-busting flexibility to the academic calendar—have become “Create!” Days, or “Community!” Days, offering wonderful opportunities for our students to connect, socialize, play together, and learn joyfully. The first C-Day on August 18th was exactly that:  a chance to know each other, to bond as a class, to learn technology, and to recognize each other as members of a system bigger than just ourselves.  The 8th grade skits during E-Llympics, for example, provided so much humor that our students were breathless.  When have we laughed that hard?  We couldn’t remember.  

In the Upper School, we launched and completed (in a whirlwind summer, whew!) a stunning renovation. Students have returned, wide-eyed, to thoughtfully redesigned spaces that maximize student support and collaboration (and let a whole lot of soul-nurturing natural light in, as well). 

In the very near future, we will finally open the new café and student store, which will become a welcome hub of connection and community on-campus. 

Across divisions, faculty are engaging in exciting partnerships to design meaningful and diverse experiences for X-Days (the days formerly known as Flex) that allow students to explore, connect, and bond with each other over mutually shared interests.  

Finally, we’ve hired amazing new faculty and staff who join an already amazing faculty who love children and their subjects, in that order. (Did I mention they were amazing? It’s worth repeating.)   

Like Brooks, we feel an urgent and passionate sense of purpose when it comes to caring for our students–to helping them navigate this challenging world and build strong and nurturing relationships that will sustain them along the way. And, as he says, “… having a feeling of purpose depends on the small acts of hospitality we give and receive each day, sometimes with people we don’t know all that well.”  

As we embark on this new academic year, taking the time to greet our families, to truly get to know our students—to learn not only their names, but their personal interests and strengths–are crucial to countering the emotional malnutrition we’ve experienced this last year, to fostering our student’s resilience, and restoring those sustaining connections. And, as a community, we are continually asking ourselves: what have we learned over the tumultuous last year? What silver-lined lessons can we glean and capitalize on to better support our students?  

We know can’t go back to the frenzy and overscheduling.  Our “learned flexibility” seems to be a superpower now, opening up new potentials for change where we didn’t realize they had existed before. 

When the faculty came together for opening meetings this summer, the buildings shook with their excitement and energy.  They echoed Brooks’ words as he concludes his powerful article: 

 I’m also convinced that the second half of this year is going to be more fantastic than we can imagine right now. We are going to become hyper-appreciators, savoring every small pleasure, living in a thousand delicious moments, getting together with friends and strangers, and seeing them with the joy of new and grateful eyes. 

We love our students. And we appreciate our parents, who send their children to us every day; we recognize and know the sacrifices and leaps of faith they make in doing so. Our faculty’s commitment to creating a safe and nurturing community is stronger than ever. I know that, together, we can begin to create the post-pandemic world that we—and our students–need.  

Sincerely, and “with new and grateful eyes”,   

Written by Josette Huntress Holland, Head of Middle School

CA Curious

Learning by doing

CA Curious

Charting new wellbeing territory via virtual counseling

CA Curious

Welcome to the 25th Anniversary Year at Cary Academy!

Students in Leadership and Volleyball

CA Curious

Taking a Risk: Leadership and Volleyball Camp, 2021

April 22, 2021

Ms. Johnson-Webb and I were eating lunch together last fall, and as often is the case, we were talking about how sports had shaped us into the leaders we are today. As avid collegiate athletes, opportunities  to share the sport with younger players (as captains, as coaches) had proven pivotal for each of us—helping to develop crucial leadership skills, instilling confidence, and helping us to navigate the divide between voice and silence.  It was decided then and there: CA needed an opportunity for our high school volleyball players to have that same chance, and thus the idea for a Volleyball and Leadership Camp for 6th graders was born.     

Immediately, the Varsity and JV volleyball players were “ALL IN”.  Olivia Willard and Katie White volunteered to teach passing, Nikki Tehrani and Hanorah Alapati took setting, Lexie Davila and Julia Johnson were the right ones for hitting, and our serving coaches would be Ingrid Wang and Estella Multari. The other team members joined the crew, and a plan was organized to combine court skills with meaningful discussions inspired by some amazing female athletes.   

Camp day arrived: the ‘big girls’ (as they soon were called) showed incredible skill and patience as they guided the learners on the courts.  The big girls modeled the way: “Volleyball players call out to each other!”  or “Volleyball players glow each other up!” And most importantly, “Volleyball players support each other when they make a mistake.”  

Students in Leadership and Volleyball

Voices of the sixth graders became louder, more confident each day.  As the piece de la resistance, the sixth graders saw Lexie spike the ball; jaws dropped.  They applauded.  It felt magical. What was equally as impressive, however, was the six graders’ ability to engage in deep conversations about risk, vulnerability, voice, and empowerment.   

Ms. Johnson-Webb and I guided them through discussions during the rest/recharge times, watching short clips of Amanda Gorman and stories about Olympic athletes. The girls listened to the messages from Serena Williams and other incredible leaders.  We asked the sixth graders: “How do you take a healthy risk?”  and the girls spoke about family, support, and connections.   

Because we are rooted in feedback and reflection here at CA, the upper school volleyball players offered the following at the camp’s conclusion: 

I absolutely enjoyed every second of it! I could tell the sixth graders were super excited to get some special treatment from us older girls ? I think we had a really good organization down, the stations ensured that everyone got equal amount of lesson and encouragement. When I used to play club, sometimes if we weren’t having a good game or day we’d all sit down and talk about what might’ve been holding us back. I loved the discussion that we had about being vulnerable at the beginning of the clinic,…Thanks for an awesome opportunity!” 

“Having different girls teach each skill also helped out the high schoolers in developing some leadership skills and getting used to talking to a big group (especially for the underclassman). I LOVED how we had multiple different videos across different disciplines (ie: vulnerability, using your voice, etc.).” 

Both on the court and in the classroom, this special group of Upper Schoolers and Middle Schoolers spoke the truth that the world needs to hear:  girls can.   

As our current Strategic Plan states in its goals for authentic engagement: we want our students to develop self-knowledge and community identity through relationships. We know that physical, social, and emotional balance is essential for learning and well-being, and that meaningful engagement is one of the ways to get there.   

And how about the new, increasingly self-assured voices of our sixth graders? At camp, our big girls fully embraced their role as peer mentors, growing as leaders and positive role models. Our sixth graders felt empowered and emboldened as a result (and certainly, having positive role models around our children is on every parent’s wish list). It’s no coincidence that in seeing the big girls use their voices, they too found theirs.  

Working together as a team, older and younger girls learned valuable and enduring lessons that are at the heart of the CA experience, and which are essential to deep and life-long confidence: the importance of taking risks, embracing struggle, and developing resilience. As one parent of a sixth grader remarked: This is truly one of the things that make CA a special community. Thank you so much for helping our daughter become a strong woman and for making that important to her and defining that even at the precipice of that journey.  

Written by Josette Huntress Holland, Assistant Head of Upper School

Faculty Reflections

All Together Now

Middle School

Ubuntu inspires students to think about themselves and their communities

CA Curious

Beyond the numbers

Survey graphic

CA Curious

Healthy Data

February 11, 2021

I don’t remember the exact details now, since it’s been a year and a half, but I do remember embracing the serendipitous moment: the PTAA Health and Wellness Committee was wondering about how we could continue to work on student wellness, and I was thinking about what I had learned in the previous few years about gathering data on that topic.  Specifically, in 2018 I had heard Dr. Suniya Luthar speak about the tool she had developed to help high-achieving schools identify the stressors in students’ lives, and then plan for how to address some of those areas of concern. 

Because it’s always better to have options, the PTAA committee leaders offered to research different tools we could use.  One of the leaders quickly narrowed the options down to the High Achieving School Survey (HASS) and the Making Caring Common survey out of Harvard—both tools came highly recommended, both provided good data. 

“Which one should we use?” I asked the parent leader after she had researched the surveys, spoken to the developers, and parsed the information. 

“Well,” she paused.  “Both.”   

She explained that while each was a powerful tool that could help us gather data about student wellbeing, each focused on something slightly different. Making Caring Common delves into creating positive connections among students. The HAS survey aggregates data about the stressors in student lives, both inside and outside the school, and then points us toward the most important actions to take. 

“Sounds like an excellent plan,” I said.   

So, we organized and talked and worked with the respective companies, laying the foundation for students to take the MCC survey in the spring of 2020 and the HASS survey in the fall of 2020.   

Life chortled at our plans and suggested otherwise. 

Red and tangerine modes do not lend themselves well to surveys about school climate and student well-being, since the data would naturally be skewed by the lack of face-to-face interactions.  But both tools can be used in this orange-mode world.  So, only about a year behind schedule, we are planning to have the students complete the HAS survey during advisory in the last week of February (we will have kids complete the MCC survey next school year). 

In their materials, the developers of the HAS survey offer this information: 

“The survey questions cover areas such as personal values, empathy and kindness, depression and anxiety, substance use, and relationships with family and friends. The goal of the study is to better understand the preoccupations and concerns of children growing up in our community and, accordingly, to learn how best to continue promoting positive development among our students. 

The survey is an extension of Dr. Suniya Luthar’s efforts to study and promote positive youth development. Dr. Luthar is currently the Executive Director of Authentic Connections and a professor at Arizona State University and has previously been a senior professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College and also a research scientist at Yale University. Please find more about her research publications, honors and awards at SuniyaLuthar.org.” 

Because the survey asks about challenging issues, parents have an option to opt out; for more information, look for my email to all parents on February 15th. Still, we hope all our students will participate.  The 100% anonymized data will provide us crucial insights that will directly shape how we ensure student wellness specific to Cary Academy.     

Ultimately, that data will provide us a map of how we can continue to work toward our strategic goal of student wellness.  An important part of our strategic plan prior to March 2020—the need for balance and support in our students’ lives—has only become more important over the past year as we have witnessed the added stress of corona-induced isolation. We have proactively tackled (and are tackling) some of the anticipated issues involving student wellness. The number of class periods per day, the start time for school, the amount of homework—all have been adjusted with an eye toward providing more balance to our students’ lives. 

The survey data will allow us to look forward, to identify specific student body needs, to respond with the relevant, flexible approach that threads through all our endeavors at CA. We want our students to succeed holistically, inside and outside the classroom, embracing their wellness as a necessary part of their success.   

Here’s to a healthier year for all of us—one rich in good data, no viruses, and powerful wellness collaboratives. 

Written by Robin Follet, Head of Upper School


Taking PPE to the Next Level

CA Curious

Art is essential

Upper School

Sophomore writes the book on financial literacy for her generation, literally

Mike Ehrhardt on WRAL


ICYMI: What might social distancing look like in the fall

April 29, 2020

What might social distancing look like next fall? While we don’t yet have all the answers, CA’s leadership has launched a series of task forces to grapple with the many complex dimensions of opening a new school year amidst a global pandemic.

Tonight, Head of School Mike Ehrhardt sat down for a virtual interview with WRAL’s Amanda Lamb to discuss the complex challenges and decisions ahead—from possible health screenings to mask usage to social distancing considerations to dining hall preparations and everything in between.

“When you start to get into it, you realize how much a school has to examine in order to feel like we can open things [back] up and be safe and comfortable for students,” Ehrhardt told Lamb.

Watch the entire interview, here:

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

Magazine of CA

AI at CA

Magazine of CA

Facing Forward

Middle School

MS celebrates Earth Day in a big way

CA Curious

COVID-19, self-discovery, and the college search process

April 9, 2020

Ask most college counselors what they love about their job, and we guarantee they’ll respond with fervor, “The kids!” Here at CA, we’re no different: we delight in the daily rush of energy that comes from being around students in an active learning environment – their excitement, ideas, goals, challenges, and triumphs. Most of all, we love the time we’re privileged to spend developing individual relationships with students as they embark on a culminating experience at CA: the rite of passage that is the college search.

Our entire approach to the college search process is grounded in two basic premises. The first: that a successful process is a journey of self-discovery that leads to finding more than one place that will share a student’s values, stimulate them, and help them achieve their aspirations. The second: that finding these places begins with genuine self-searching to identify the qualities the student values the most. While helping students and families discover colleges is certainly a significant part of our work, by far the more interesting part is helping students discover themselves.

We’ve found ourselves thinking about how COVID-19 affects these processes – the process of self-discovery and the college process. And, although we share the sense of loss COVID has brought, we see some silver linings. 

We all have had to pause, to pivot, to reflect.

Students, as we’ve talked with you, we’ve loved hearing what you’ve been up to, the ways you’re spending your time, the old hobbies you’ve renewed, and the new interests you’ve developed. You’ve been reflective, generous, and inventive: you’ve created collaborative music videos; posed thoughtful questions to your peers, reminding each other of the importance of kindness; devoted yourselves to supporting your families, neighborhoods, and communities – and encouraged all of us to do the same.

What you’re doing right now? There is no better example of owning your learning. We understand that it’s tempting to dwell on what opportunities we’ve missed this spring, but we urge you to look at the unexpected windfall of time as a gift. There is absolutely no better opportunity to consider who you are and what matters to you. 

Still searching? For starters, you can never go wrong reading a book, spending time with your family, getting outside, bestowing a random act of kindness. Looking to learn something new? There are tons of free resources if you’d like to try coding, meditating, cooking, exercising, art-observing, language learning – to name just a few.

Whatever you do, do it with gusto and revel in it… and know that in the eventual college process, you will be valued for who you are and what matters to you. 

To borrow from the encouraging words of Tulane Director of Admission Jeff Schiffman in his March 24 blog post

“We totally get it. There are no sports. There is no spring musical. There is no dance recital. Listen, if you include on your Common Application activities section a list of all the books you read for pleasure during your social distancing, I’ll love it. Get creative. Maybe you love to paint and you go Instagram Live a few times and teach people to paint? You could be the next Bob Ross. Or maybe you’re a soccer player and you do a live video teaching people how to dribble a soccer ball on your own? Teaching guitar lessons? Yes please. We will love seeing anything you did during this whacky time.”

 So will we. Promise. Now, if you’ll excuse us, the outdoors awaits.

Written by Leya Jones, College Counselor


Senior Nights: Varsity Boys’ Lacrosse


Varsity boys’ track and field takes TISAC championship

CA Curious

Learning by doing

mountain top

CA Curious

Charting new wellbeing territory via virtual counseling

March 19, 2020

Welcome to the new trimester! Or, perhaps we should say welcome to a whole new way of life? As we turned on our screens this week to connect with each other virtually, we cannot help but be in awe of how different the world looks at the start of T3 compared to how we ended T2 just a few short weeks ago. As we prepare to greet each other virtually, we wanted to offer a few words of encouragement as well as some resources to possibly help guide us in this unique time in which we find ourselves.

In the midst of a pandemic, it is important to recognize that our mental health is a vital component of our overall health. We need to attend to our emotional needs just as we do to our physical. Handwashing? Check! Covering our cough? Check! Deep breathing? Check! Each one of us is experiencing a myriad of emotions – this is normal. From disbelief, to grief, to anger, to confusion, fear, and loneliness – and yes, perhaps even joy that school has gone virtual – we are charting new territory that may be leaving us feeling adrift. As we work toward a more comprehensive “virtual counseling program”, we wanted to begin by sharing some of our thoughts and reflections on supporting ourselves and each other during the start of our virtual trimester.

Be well!

Written by Kelly Wiebe and Twanna Monds, Counselors


Acclaimed scholar guides students through the lessons of Martin Luther King’s final years

CA Curious

Glimpsing the future

CA Curious

Charger Corner-Turning the Lights Back On