The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

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Eighth grade families explore upper school through performances, presentations and panelists

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Ashley Mo
Om Tandon (12) smiles as he answers a question during the senior panel at the eighth grade introduction to the upper school. Om was one of the eight seniors selected to participate in the panel.

Eighth grade students and their families assembled in the Rothschild Performing Arts Center for an introduction to the upper school from 6 to 7:15 p.m on Nov. 14 at the Saratoga campus.

The annual upper school information event introduces eighth graders to high school life and academics. 

Middle school division head Evan Barth gave an introductory speech for the event at 6 p.m.

The audience first watched performances by upper school show choir Downbeat and dance team Kinetic Krew. Upper school vocal music teacher Jennifer Sandusky and upper school performing arts director Laura Lang-Ree directed Downbeat, which sang “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the musical “Hairspray.” Kinetic Krew, directed by upper school dance teacher Rachelle Haun, danced to “JUMPIN” by Pitbull and Lil Jon. Keshav Gupta, parent to Avi Gupta (8), shared his thoughts on the performing arts shows.

“The level of community and passion that I see with the kids here is phenomenal,” Gupta said. “[The performing arts shows were] so phenomenal. Our son is also doing performing arts in the dance program at the middle school, and I hope this level of performing arts continues.”

Upper school division head Paul Barsky and assistant upper school division head Kelly Horan followed with a presentation on academics, Living with Intent, Focus and Enthusiasm (LIFE), extracurriculars and time management. Barsky spoke about “toxic pressure” in the academic environment and discouraged competition among peers and sharing grades, which may lead to excess stress and self-doubt. Horan emphasized the importance of prioritizing health over grades. She discussed Harker’s four-year course plan, Advanced Placement classes and the special electives in each subject. 

“Mr. Barsky’s talk [was] a really important thing to highlight, because as kids going into high school, there’s a lot of stress and a lot of that is coming from parents,” senior panel member Ritu Belani said. “When you’re more aware of that from the start, it’s less of a shocker when it comes later.”

Afterwards, a student panel consisting of seniors Ryan Barth, Ritu, Luke Mehta, Isabella Ribeiro, Alena Suleiman, Om Tandon, Sarah Westgate and Ella Yee shared their insights from four years at the upper school. Barsky asked the seniors prepared and audience-volunteered questions, such as their favorite part about Harker and three words to describe their high school experience. When asked to give one piece of advice to the eighth graders, Ryan explained his viewpoint on joining clubs and programs at Harker.

“If you’re on the fence about anything, you should just join,” Ryan said. “The worst thing that can happen is you don’t like it, and you leave it. The best thing that happens is you can join this group or this team you really enjoy, and you meet all these great people.”

The event concluded at 7:15 p.m, with several parents staying behind to ask final questions to Barsky and Horan. 

“Overall, our students like to return year to year, especially with the big transitions from eighth to ninth grade,” middle school division head Evan Barth said. “If they take anything away from these meetings, it’s all the great things they can do in high school so they can be inspired and be ready to enter high school.”

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About the Contributor
Ashley Mo, Reporter
Ashley Mo (10) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is her second year on staff. This year, Ashley hopes to write about stories both within and outside of the Harker community, form friendships on the journalism team and learn more about global news events. In her free time, she enjoys playing golf and listening to music.

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