About The Cupola
The Cupola is a publication run by Elgin Academy students. The dedicated and creative student staff plan, write, edit and work collaboratively to put together each issue of The Cupola. They are supported by website staff, the communications department, and a faculty advisor.
From The Editor
Dear EA Community,
Welcome to the winter edition of The Cupola. I hope this issue finds you well.
The writers and I are so excited to share with you everything that has been happening on campus over the past few months, ranging from J-term to the welcoming of new faculty.
I would once again like to give thanks to Mr. Raffety, Ms. Goist, and Ms. Moore for all their help.
Thank you for reading The Cupola. I hope you enjoy it!
Anika Jaitley '23
On The Hilltop
For the first time in Elgin Academy history, there is a computer science class made up of all female students. This class of Programming in Java, the highest level computer science course offered at EA, includes Anika Jaitley ‘23, Talia Horn ‘24, and Cassie Cowen ‘24.
It is widely known that computer science is a male-dominated field. In fact, the national average for the proportion of computer science bachelor’s degrees earned by female students is merely 18%. Therefore, it is ironic that Lady Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), widely acknowledged as the first computer programmer, was a woman. Furthermore, Grace Hopper (1906-1992), a female programmer and a US Navy rear admiral, is credited with creating the first compiler program.
As a member of the class, I can attest to how special it is to go to a school where diversity of this magnitude is possible in spite of the national statistics. Mr. Kidston, our computer science teacher, does an excellent job of teaching complex topics in an understandable way, while always encouraging us to be creative problem solvers.
When asked about his thoughts on the all-girls computer science, Mr. Kidston, explained, “At every computer science conference I’ve attended, one of the topics has been how to get more girls to take the courses. My classes have usually had a higher percentage of girls than comparable classes at other schools, but until this year I’ve never had a section that was all female. I’ve always wanted to be able to casually say to teachers bemoaning the lack of girls in their classes, ‘Gosh, that’s not really a problem at EA. Why, right now, I have a class that’s all girls.’ Now that it’s happened, it’s just a matter of waiting for the right moment.”
During the month of January, Upper School students enter J-term, where students study unique fields of interest not covered in standard classes. This year’s J-term course offering were: Are We Alone in the Universe?, Are You Ready For Some Football?, Picture This: Discovering Digital Photography, A Needle Pulling Thread: The World of Fiber Arts, Literature of the American Landscape, Wild Florida, and Student Internships. We are excited to share our personal J-term experiences with you!
Are We Alone in the Universe?
Amity Wittmeyer ‘23
By exploring the question Are we alone in the universe?, this J-term kicked off with a deep dive into the history of astronomy, including famous astronomers who created the foundation of what we now know of space and our solar system, like Kepler and Galileo. I was extremely fascinated learning just how far the earth is from stars and just how small we are compared to the infinite and unexplored nothingness out there. We also learned about various alien conspiracy theories like Oumuamua. Additionally, we watched movies from various time periods to better explore how the time period and the problems faced by the people of the time created different perspectives of what alien life and behavior would look like. We read H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, showing the fear that intelligent life would come to earth to destroy us, and we read more modern adaptations like Arrival, which instead showed the aliens’ motives to be to communicate and share their knowledge with us. Of course, E.T. was a class favorite, showing a lovable, healing alien, who was intelligent enough to even learn a few English phrases. Lastly, the class took a trip to the Windy City and visited the Planetarium where we saw two immersive shows exploring space, its planets and constellations, and various artifacts of space exploration like the Gemini 12 space shuttle.
Are You Ready For Some Football?
Anika Jaitley ‘23
Throughout this J-term, students learned about various aspects of American football. We learned about the history of football, including its origin as a combination of soccer and rugby as well as influential presidents of the sport like Theodore Roosevelt. Furthermore, since the J-term coincided with the BCS championship and playoff season in the NFL, students had the opportunity to make predictions for and analyze these games. Additionally, I enjoyed exploring football through media by reading Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights and watching movies such as The Program. Students learned common offensive and defensive formations, and we even got to make our own playbooks. We also used Madden to simulate an NFL season; students chose teams to represent and even participated in a fantasy draft. This J-term also covered heavier themes, such as the ethics of football, the use of performance enhancing drugs in the NFL, and the risk of developing CTE by suffering repetitive head trauma playing football. Students concluded J-term with a game of flag football, played at EA’s athletic fields.
Priyanka Bhogaraju ‘24
During J-term, I did an online internship at a venture capital firm, Raiven Capital, based in California. I chose this for my internship because it focused on investing and learning about marketing. During my J-term internship, I learned that venture capitalists invest in companies with high growth potential, mainly through investments like stock exchanges or trade buyers. On a day-to-day basis, I researched the fundamentals of search engine optimization, or SEO. I realized that SEO helps small businesses and is an essential tool in the business world because it makes your website more visible and can bring in more customers through organic search results. I presented my research in a PowerPoint to the CEOs of Raiven Capital. They provided me with valuable feedback on what they liked about my presentation and what I could improve upon, which helped me with my knowledge of SEO. Throughout my internship, I also sat in on phone calls or meetings that employees of Raiven would make daily, often with different companies or trading investors.
I enjoyed a lot of things during my internship, but my favorite was on the last day when I had a phone call meeting with the Chief Marketing Officer of Raiven Capital. I asked him various questions from my experience learning about SEO, like What are Google's most important ranking factors?, How long does SEO take to work?, What are some of the most common SEO errors?, and How is artificial intelligence changing marketing?. He was accommodating, and I learned a lot of new things about SEO that I hadn't known before. Overall I enjoyed this internship because I learned a lot of exciting things that I didn't know before. After doing this internship, I realized that it might be possible to pursue this field in college and as a career because it combines marketing, engineering, economics, math, and other things involving the business world.
Eesha Peddhapati ‘24
During the first three weeks of January, I participated in the Student Internship J-term. The option to intern during J-term is offered to juniors and seniors interested in a particular career who want to learn more about it by interning with a professional in that field. This year, I interned with various doctors, including radiologists, dentists, and gynecologists. Throughout my internship, I learned about medical imaging, several surgeries and procedures, how an emergency room functions, how to care for patients, and much more. Overall, my internship was a great experience and has opened my eyes to different healthcare professions.
In the previous edition of the Cupola, I reported on a member of our community who was moving on to new adventures. Here, I seek to do exactly the opposite. During this academic year, Elgin Academy has welcomed two new members to our community of Hilltoppers.
At the beginning of the school year, the high school was introduced to Mr. Allen as a long-term substitute teaching various subjects, from AP Psychology to U.S. and World History. His passion for learning and kind spirit quickly became appreciated throughout Edwards Hall and the Upper School. Before the end of the first semester, the Upper Schoolers learned that Mr. Allen would be staying as a full-time teacher. As an advisee of Mr. Allen, I can testify to his growth mindset that seeks to bring the best out of each student. As a member of his AP Psychology class, I can speak to Mr. Allen’s work ethic. At the beginning of the year, Mr. Allen said in no uncertain terms that psychology, though a lifelong interest of his, had never been a subject he had taught before. This, however, did not hold him back as he worked overtime to ensure that he not only learned, but mastered the content of AP Psychology to the point that he could teach it to his students as they prepare for the AP Exam in May. Mr. Allen came to the Hilltop with teaching experience in Washington state, and the Upper School community has appreciated his quick assimilation into our unique culture. As a testament to that, Mr. Allen will wear a new hat as “Coach Allen” as the assistant coach of the boys' volleyball team that will have its first-ever competition on March 21.
Midway through the year, the Upper School also learned that Ms. Clements, who had previously been an art and videography teacher in the Middle and Upper School, would be pursuing higher-educational opportunities at Northwestern University. This led to the welcoming of Ms. Saavedra to the EA community as she took on the role of leading the regular and advanced videography classes throughout the rest of the year. As a student taking Advanced Videography, I appreciate the flexibility that Ms. Saavedra has demonstrated by being able to assume a class midway through the year and still quickly make an impact on the culture of the class. Ms. Saavedra brings structured leadership and experience in the art of videography from her time studying at Columbia College in Chicago. Each of her students has been struck by her warm demeanor that becomes clear from any amount of time spent with Ms. Saavedra.
The Upper School is lucky to have made these additions during the 2022/23 school year!
Elgin Academy’s athletic department is so excited to announce the addition of a boys’ volleyball team this spring. Our athletic director, Coach Pinson, says, “Credit to the students who have been advocating for a boys’ volleyball team for years. Persistence pays off. Now go get us a Regional!” This is his first year as Upper School Athletic Director, and he has brought extreme enthusiasm to our athletes. His dedication to his student-athletes is truly visible in their performance this year.
These student-athletes are incredibly thrilled to be suiting up in their new uniforms on March 21st. “We’re really excited about the season. Given how quickly boys’ volleyball has grown in the state, I’m excited that Elgin Academy is following suit. The most exciting piece is looking at our schedule and realizing that we’re going to play 4A schools that outnumber our student body tenfold, so I hope competing with them will be really good for the community,” shares Senior Kyle Saurer, the team’s setter. His eagerness to be the best of the best has been rubbing off on the new team, creating a great atmosphere.
Junior Kaden Saurer shares a different perspective on the team by saying, “I’m so excited that I can be a part of the first boys volleyball team but nervous because we have been pushing for this team for a while, and if it does not work out, we will get backlash.” This nervousness will only push these boys to become something great. There are currently four boys on the team that play volleyball competitively outside of school, and they have to become leaders for the ones who have never touched a volleyball in their life. One of the boys, Senior AJ Ireland, expressed that he is “really excited to see how this season goes because this is the first time we’ve had a boys volleyball team here.”
Given the team’s enthusiasm and commitment leading up to the season, it is clear that this team will make a positive impact on the athletic program and show competing schools what Elgin Academy is made of.
Clubs & Activities
Elgin Academy’s Scholastic Bowl teams played several tournaments in the winter. Captained by Club President Gary Wang along with Katherine Sept, the varsity team achieved a 10-9 record during the regular season and finished their first playoff series, the Masonic Sectionals, with a 4-1 record.
At the IHSSBCA Kickoff Tournament in Rockford, for the first time in EA Scholastic Bowl history, both A and B teams qualified for the NAQT Small School National Tournament, which contains the best small school Scholastic Bowl programs in the nation. Sophomore Velan Manivannan and Senior Gary Wang were selected for the all-tournament team. EA played against several top Scholastic Bowl programs, beating Keith Country Day School and almost securing a win against Belvidere High School.
Elgin Academy also traveled to Barrington High School and competed in the Reinstein Varsity Tournament. The varsity team attained a respectable 5-5 record, playing some conference opponents such as Woodlands Academy and Francis W. Parker.
On February 18th, Elgin Academy traveled to Dwight High School for the Masonic Sectionals. After a heartbreaking loss to Tri-Point by ten points, EA won four games against Newark, Indian Creek, Blue Ridge, and the host Dwight High School. Overall, Coach Jorge Sanchez was satisfied with the team’s performance. He explained, “A couple of questions did not go our way. We had the chance to be the first place in our pool, and I think the result of our elimination is reasonable.”
Mr. Sanchez still looks forward to the NAQT State, IHSA Regionals, and NAQT Nationals tournaments. He believes that Elgin Academy can remain competitive and gain a .500 record by the end of the season. He also feels that EA is ready to host the IHSA Sectional tournament for the first time.
Elgin Academy’s Student Council, led by Kyle Saurer, Hisham Shirazi, Kate Kihnke, Cassie Cowen, and Lily Perez, organized a spectacular Winter/Valentine’s Day dance on Friday, February 10. The dance was a great success, as more than half of the upper school students attended. It was held in the Sears Gallery, which left plenty of space for photos and dancing.
The dance, dubbed the Cupid Shuffle, implemented changes that made the event more enjoyable for everyone.
For the first time, a DJ was not hired. Instead, the Student Council made a playlist on Spotify that allowed all Upper School students to participate in the song selection prior to the event; as a result, students were more engaged with the festivities. Due to the incredible popularity of the playlist during the dance, Student Council has set a new precedent for many future Elgin Academy dances.
The dance had its fair share of unplanned occurrences as well. The fire alarm mysteriously went off around nine o’clock, which prompted the fire department to appear on campus. Luckily, no issues were present. All students were able to return to Sears Gallery until the dance ended at ten o’clock.
The Student Council is especially happy with the profits that the dance generated, as it will help with the planning of future Friday Night Lights events and other activities to bolster student engagement. As of right now, the council is making an effort to plan a Quarter Wars competition that will raise money for a humanitarian cause. Ultimately, the money the Council received from the dance will provide an opportunity to make a difference in the larger community while facilitating a better Elgin Academy experience for current and non-current students.
The Cupid Shuffle was, indeed, a unique take on the concept of a winter dance. The themes of Valentine’s Day and winter helped make the gloomy days of February seem a little more festive and exciting. The incredible student turnout and satisfaction with the dance was an incredible sight to see. Our incredible Student Council and the chaperones who made sure everything proceeded as planned deserve a major shout out as well. All in all, the success of this dance will, without a doubt, lead to many other successful events in the future.
Arts & Entertainment
I’m not angry
I’m feeling sad
I hold starlight till it’s bad
I’m happy until it’s gone
That false love, it keeps me warm
Finally, somebody’s ripped me apart
Looking around they see I’m missing a heart
Um I think it’s here um I feel it’s near
They say in my ear, the same thing last year
Unbelievable, can’t fix my soul so they stitch me whole
Surgically feasible, optical creature
I’ll be the medic toy, very agreeable
Stab and bruise, hit with screws
All the nurses do
Diffuse abuse, who you think is the true health muse?
Look at me collectin’ wounds and I’ll think of you
As if you ripped me too
I guess it’s difficult, typical- maybe
Critical Voodoo doll, lies on table, a tool that’s new
If you're not a baby
I’m not angry
I’m feeling sad
I hold starlight till it’s bad
I’m happy until it’s gone
That false love, it keeps me warm
The Cupola Staff
Anika Jaitley '23
Priyanka Bhogaraju '24
Eesha Peddhapati '24
Kyle Saurer '23
Hisham Shirazi '23
Gary Wang '23
Amity Wittmeyer '23
Alyssa Yost '23
Contact The Cupola staff at email@example.com