Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lions’ Pride: UCHS Boasts Two 2013 National Merit Finalists

Ethan Farber and Anna Soifer
Over the years our school district has produced many National Merit Finalists, and this year is no different. Seniors Anna Soifer and Ethan Farber have both received the designation of National Merit Finalists – an honor reserved for just 15,000 graduating seniors nationwide (less than 1%) out of the nearly 1.5 million who take the PSAT as juniors. The National Merit Scholarship Program honors students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies, and University City High School has a strong record of producing finalists.
In fact, an impressive 49 UCHS students have been named as National Merit Finalists since 1994. In addition to performing well on the PSAT(which both claim to have prepared for simply by getting a good night’s sleep), Ethan and Anna had to complete an application, write an essay, and take the SAT (to prove that their PSAT scores were not a fluke.) If they go on to become full National Merit Scholars (as about half of the finalists do) they will receive scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, and many schools offer generous merit-based financial aid to anyone who reaches finalist status as well. National Merit Scholars are expected to be announced in May.

Having attended University City schools since kindergarten (Anna attended Jackson Park Elementary and Ethan attended Flynn Park Elementary) both students cite the dedicated teachers they’ve had as key to their academic successes. Anna says that,

“Over the years I have had the good fortune to have had a number of extremely dedicated teachers. These wonderful people have encouraged my love for learning and helped me to focus on academics. Not a year has gone by since entering UCHS that I have not had at least one teacher that was willing to challenge me - challenges that have helped keep me interested in school and on a path to academic success.”

Likewise, Ethan remarks that,

“Each of my four years at U. City High I've had instructors who teach subjects they're passionate about. Enthusiasm is often the best assistant teacher. I've always had great friends and wonderful opportunities here in the district--does U.C. to D.C. ring any bells?--and University City has in general been a great place to grow and learn.”

Needless to say, both students take full advantage of the challenging course offerings at UCHS. Ethan is currently enrolled in AP Latin, AP Literature, and AP World History and since he has already completed both AP Calculus A/B and B/C, he takes multivariable/vector calculus as in independent study course. Anna's schedule includes AP Biology (lecture and lab) AP Calculus B/C, AP Literature, AP Latin, and AP World History.

Like most successful students, Anna and Ethan also enjoy a wide range of interests and activities outside of the classroom. Anna is a member of Ballet Eclectica's Apprentice Company (one of COCA's student dance companies) and typically dances 14 hours a week. She’s also the president of the UCHS Latin Club and the secretary of the UCHS chapter of the National Honor Society. In her spare time she plays the flute. Ethan is a runner and a member of the UCHS cross country and track teams, and for the past two years has served on the board of the Missouri Junior Classical League, first as Parliamentarian and now as President. He was one of 360 top students in the state to attend the Missouri Scholars Academy in 2011, and also serves as a teaching assistant at his synagogue on Sundays.

So how do they possibly do it all, you might ask? Interestingly, when asked independently the secrets to their success both students mentioned mastering time management as key. Ethan explains that,

“I'm a busy kid, and I have extracurriculars to worry about on top of homework. A lot of students complain that they don't have enough time to keep up with schoolwork, and it can be a challenge at times, but between 5:00, when I get home, and 10:00, when I get in bed, there are five full hours--every night! Even with dinner and obligatory free time factored in, I've got plenty of time to get my work done, especially if I break it up over multiple days.”

Anna offers the following advice and encouragement to her fellow students:

“Learn good time management skills and to know how to stay focused. Time management is everything. Without it, homework will go uncompleted, therefore concepts will not be reinforce; grades will drop, and there will be a vicious cycle of make-up work from which it will be very hard to extricate yourself. Staying focused is the key to getting all of your work done. If staying focused means doing your homework at the kitchen table out of the way of distractions in your room, or disabling the internet on your computer while typing a paper, do it. Also remember, and this is just as important as the other two, never give up because you have an idea in your head that a certain subject is not your "thing", and especially don't give up because you don't like a class. The minute you tell yourself that you can't do math, or you can't write well, it immediately becomes exponentially harder - and it is purely you tricking yourself into believing you have limitations that don't exist. I can't stress enough how important it is to believe in your own abilities.”
As you might expect, both students have big plans for after high school.  Anna intends to study archaeology (a passion since childhood) and has applied to Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Vanderbilt, William and Mary, Tulane, and Missouri State.  Ethan is undecided with regard to choosing a major, but has applied to Mizzou, Washington University, Stanford, University of Chicago, and Yale.  No matter what life holds in store for these two Lions, we know that they will continue to make the School District of University City and the Class of 2013 very proud.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Ethan on being selected as a 2013 National Merit Scholarship Winner!  Ethan will attend our very own Washington University in the fall.  Anna will be heading to Baltimore to study archaeology at Johns Hopkins University. Best wishes to them both!

By Kim Deitzler, Guest Blogger

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Royal Evening

Most every little girl dreams of being a Princess. The Barbara C. Jordan P.T.O. makes that dream a reality. On Saturday, February 9, the Barbara C. Jordan gymnasium was transformed into a venue fit for royalty to welcome attendees to the Princess and King Ball.
The beautiful princesses arrived at the ball wearing their best party wear and their escorts were equally as handsome. Guests enjoyed food and refreshments supplied by the P.T.O. and danced to popular tunes played by a D.J.
Photo credit: Mar'Tez Reed
UCHS student, Mar'Tez Reed, was the event photographer. In addition to chronicling the ball, each couple was treated to a special portrait to remember the evening.
The now annual tradition began three years ago as the Daughter Daddy Dance and was expanded, welcoming the young princesses to invite any“King” in their life. P.T.O. President, Kimberly Jones and Vice President LaTrice Johnson coordinated the event and work to raise the bar for the event each year. Next year they plan to serve a sit-down dinner.
And before you begin to think, “What about the boys?,” the annual ball for Princes and Queens will be held in March.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dimensions Dance Company

Many people may not be aware of all the amazing things our students do when they aren't in one of our school buildings. There's martial arts, music lessons, swimming, archery and many others. Our kids excel in a plethora of different activities every single day.

I bet you didn't know that three of our own Brittany Woods students, Linsey, Nicole and Samantha, are incredible dancers!

When I say incredible that's exactly what I mean. Not only do they take dance classes at a great dance studio, but they are considered to be a part of the "best of the best" at Dimensions Dance Center. In 1990, Sandy Morgan (a University City Public Schools graduate) founded the Dimensions Dance Company for advanced level dancers. Every year this dance company presents a production of The Nutcracker as well as many smaller productions throughout the year.

If you want to know what is so special about DDC look no further than their website. It's all spelled out...

"Dimensions Dance Center is a unique, non-profit dance organization. Our belief is that the discipline of dance develops self- esteem, coordination, and self confidence and that these benefits can be achieved in a fun, positive, and professional atmosphere.
Our Mission:
To train and educate developing artists in the art and discipline of dance. To provide performance opportunities for these artists and to give back to the community through performances, educational demonstrations, workshops, recitals, and dance classes. To provide scholarships for dancers who demonstrate financial need and show promise as dancers. We work to encourage students of all ages and abilities to develop a love for dance whether they aspire to become professionals or simply enjoy dance as a part of their lives."

On Friday March 1, 2013 (along with the rest of the Dimensions Dance Company) Linsey, Nicole and Samantha will go on the annual school tour. These girls give up an entire day to travel around the metropolitan St Louis area bringing dance to young people who may not have been exposed to a live show before. This year the dance company is dedicating their entire tour to University City by visiting the University City Children's Center, Barbara C Jordan and Flynn Park.

The school tour is meant for one reason and one reason only -- bringing the Dimensions Dance Center experience to the masses. Each year the dance company produces a benefit concert to raise money for the Dennis Buege Memorial Scholarship Program. The program supports many talented young dancers that may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend dance classes and further their dance education.

These dancers work very hard for months and months preparing for the annual benefit concert. The spend most of their Saturdays rehearsing and preparing to give their audience the most enjoyable and exciting show they can. They put their sweat, tears and (sometimes) blood into each and every move. They really are dedicated, hard working young women who truly love what they do.

If you would be interested in supporting these hard working dancers at their annual benefit concert feel free to join us at Clayton High School Friday March 8th at 7:00 or Saturday March 9th at 2:00 in the auditorium. Tickets are $10.00 each and all proceeds benefit the scholarship program.
And don't forget -- if you have a student at the University City Children's Center, Barbara C Jordan or Flynn Park -- talk to them after school on Friday March 1st about the program that was brought to them at school. I'm sure they'll have lots to tell you!

Living History

“My great-grandmother was a slave and I am the second black Supreme Court Justice in Missouri – I am living history”, said Judge George Draper as he addressed the fifth graders at Jackson Park’s Black History program on the evening of Wednesday, February 20.

Judge George Draper addresses the fifth graders.

Judge Draper and Judge Ronnie White, the first African-American to serve on the Missouri Supreme Court, were honored guests at the program. Both addressed the packed gymnasium after the student program and shared their personal reflections on the progress of civil rights. Referencing the student play, Judge White remarked, “I would not be where I am today if it were not for Thurgood Marshall.” Judge White told the students that with hard work they could achieve anything they wanted.

Hon. Ronnie White shares his personal journey with the audience.

Judge Draper went on to say there was still more work to do. There has not yet been a black female Supreme Court justice in Missouri or at the federal level and he suggested one of JP’s young ladies might fill that role.

The student program included a medley of songs by the kindergarten students and a short musical, “Let Me Fly”, by the fifth graders.

There was thunderous applause for the students and a standing ovation for Judge White and Judge Draper. But the students on stage and in the audience erupted in cheers when Principal Elliott Shostak announced that school would be closed on Thursday for a snow day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Thirty-six.  XXXVI. 100100.  Six squared.  At first glance, 36 is a somewhat unassuming number.  Nothing special, hardly remarkable.  Ho-hum, who cares.  But pair it with three equally unassuming letters, A C & T, and 36 becomes, well…


 And rare. According to DESE, more than 1.6 million students nationwide take the ACT college entrance exam each year, and only around 700 of them earn a perfect score.  That’s about .04%.  A total of just 29 Missouri students scored a perfect 36 in 2012, and one of them, Dan Politte, is a senior at University City High School.

A born and bred UCity boy, Dan began his journey to academic greatness as a kindergartner at Jackson Park Elementary.  He attended Brittany Woods Middle School, and will graduate from University City High School this May.  As you might expect, he carries a challenging course load, heavy on AP (Advanced Placement) classes. In fact, he’s taking five this year, which is roughly equivalent to a full college load.  It’s not all nose-to-the-grindstone academics, though. Dan is a founding member of the UCHS FIRST Robotics Competition team, the Robolions, and active in the UCHS Latin Club.  He is also a member of the UCHS Certamen team (think Quiz Bowl for classics students), which finished first in state at last year’s Missouri Junior Classical League convention.   In January, Dan was one of 26 UCHS students who travelled to Washington, DC to attend the presidential inauguration, an experience he describes as “thrilling.”

 It goes without question that Dan is smart.  Really smart.  But is that all it takes to earn a perfect ACT score? In a recent Huffington Post interview, ACT spokesperson Ed Colby explains that:

“The ACT is a curriculum-based test. It's like a course exam in that way. It's not the kind of test that test prep is going to help you get a 36. You have to learn content in challenging courses that you take in school.”  

Dan would concur.  Although he did attend the ACT prep courses offered by the high school as a sophomore (he got a 35 that year) he attributes his success to the fact that he has had “innumerable great teachers at U City High.”   Dan also has parents who are active and involved in our schools. It’s a winning formula: smart kid + hard work + great teachers + supportive parents = success.

 So what’s next for Dan? He’s applied to Mizzou, The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, The University of Minnesota, Washington University Saint Louis, The University of Michigan, and Case Western Reserve University. He has acceptance letters from the first three, and I suspect more are on the way. Dan’s hoping to combine his two passions, robotics and Latin, into engineering and classics double major.  When asked what advice he would give his fellow students, Dan says,

“I've found out that it is possible to hold down the workload that comes with multiple AP classes. The important thing is to keep working, and you can indeed get everything done. Other than that, I don't seek to give advice: I'm just as much a beginner at this whole "life" thing as everyone else.” 

A beginner, perhaps, but such a stellar beginning.  Well done, Dan.  You’ve made us all very proud.

UPDATE:  Dan, who will be attending Washington University this fall, is the recipient of the first Alvin Marvin Ostro Class of 1945 Student Achievement Memorial Scholarship.  This $1,000 scholarship is awarded to a graduating University City High School senior who has displayed exceptional performance in one or more of the following areas: academics, citizenship, sportsmanship and community service. 
by Kim Deitzler, guest blogger

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sometimes you've got to cut loose...

Footloose, that is. Oh yes, the iconic 80s tale of repression and redemption, big hair and small towns, teen angst and parental overbearance is coming to a theater near you. Very near to you, in fact. This year’s University City High School Spring Musical is, you guessed it: Footloose – the Musical! You will not want to put seven degrees of separation between yourself and this performance. The talented kids at the high school always put on a great show, and this year promises more of the same. Come for the singing and dancing, stay for the drama and 80s fashions. If you’re holding out for a hero, your wait is over - this is a show the whole family can enjoy. So let’s hear it for the boy(s) and girls of UCHS!
Performances are Friday, Feb 22 at 7pm and Saturday, Feb 23 at 2pm and 7pm in the UCHS auditorium. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors/students with ID/children, and are sold at the door.

Kim Deitzler, guest blogger

Dr. Jamie Jordan Named Missouri Middle School Principal of the Year

Good news for the school district just keeps rolling in!  Yesterday morning we awoke to the delightful announcement that Brittany Woods principal Dr. Jamie Jordan has been named Missouri Middle School Principal of the Year by The Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP). This follows hot on the heels of her 2012 Middle School Principal of the Year award from the St. Louis Association of Secondary School Principals.  This is a big deal – Dr. Jordan was selected from a pool of more than 400 middle school principals across the state – but not really surprising to those of us with kids at Brittany Woods. 

I spend several hours volunteering in the building each week.  While there, I have the opportunity to observe a lot of teachers and a lot of students, and I can give a firsthand account of the pleasant atmosphere at Brittany Woods - spending time there is something I look forward to.  I give credit to Dr. Jordan for cultivating an environment in which staff clearly care about the students and understand their unique and diverse needs, and strive to meet those needs with compassion and professionalism. The students I encounter are polite and respectful and engaged in the learning process, another feather in Dr. Jordan’s cap.  There is a palpable sense of dedication (to students, to parents, to families, to staff, to learning) among all of the stakeholders at Brittany Woods, and that speaks to strong leadership.
After the news broke I was chatting with BW librarian Kelly Werthmuller about the exciting announcement.  She remarked that the staff was proud, and that Dr. Jordan’s accomplishments “underscore the many good things that are happening at Brittany Woods each and every day. “  She’s right – as much as Dr. Jordan should be recognized for making positive changes at Brittany, we should also recognize that this is an honor shared by the many people who make those good things happen, day in and day out.  Recognition has long seemed to be something we don’t get enough of. Perhaps this honor will change that.

We have much to be proud of - we’ve got robotics and archery and chess club and cool field trips to learn about nanotechnology at Wash U. We have outstanding young musicians in our jazz band and other music programs, a Latin program that is optime, and all kinds of sports opportunities.  We have rigorous academics,  stars of stage and screen, a huge chapter of the National Junior Honor Society, and generous hearts that reach out to the community.  We have all this, and so much more.  And now, we have the Missouri Middle School Principal of the Year.  Good things indeed.
Kim Deitzler, guest blogger