Away from CA – Summer Spotlight Series
June 23, 2020
Kiley Cristman ’21 and Cassie Parmelee ’21
A bump, set, and spike last month solidified the placement of two Cheshire Academy girls in the 2020 AVP Volleyball East Coast Tournament, being held Nov. 27-29 in Clearwater, Florida.
On July 25, Cassie Parmelee ’21 and Kiley Cristman ’21 secured first place in the Wootown 2020 Junior Girls Sand Tournament for the Girls 18 & Under division. They play volleyball together at CA as members of the varsity girls’ volleyball team.
Parmelee has been playing sand volleyball for the last three years. She said it’s more relaxing than its indoor counterpart, and allows her to focus more on her individual performance. Parmelee invited Cristman to be her partner this year, knowing they would help each other to reach new heights athletically.
“Kiley picked up the sport really fast,” Parmelee said. “Kiley and I motivate each other and push each other to get to a higher level of play.”
The two, who are members of the Riptide Beach Volleyball Club (Manchester, Connecticut), did not know what to expect of the other teams. “We weren’t really sure what the competition would be since we didn’t compete against any of the teams before,” explained Parmelee. “Kiley and I walked in confident in our ability to win, and we both really wanted to win. The competition was good and the game we played in the finals was against a really good, scrappy team.”
The final match was taken point by point until the two Cats clinched a 24-22 victory. Leading up to the East Coast competition, they’ll be preparing the best way they know how—by practicing and playing.
“Kiley and I are definitely signing up for tournaments with hard competition and playing in women’s tournaments to prepare for what Florida brings,” Parmelee said.
When the 2020 academic year ended, Elena Parkerson ’21 fully anticipated returning to her summer job as a camp counselor. This year, however, her camp was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, she wanted to make a difference. So, Elena, along with her brother Luke Parkerson ’22, and friends Ruth Berganross ’21 and Julia Shatalov ’21 formed their own take on summer camp, called Camp Raffenstaffengusterberg, at the Parkerson family’s home.
“My younger sister, like so many other kids this year, had her summer camp cancelled. Camp Raffenstaffengusterberg first came about as a way to give her something to do, but more important, to serve the community, giving kids a place to spend time outdoors and socialize with people their own age,” Elena explained.
The group’s camp was opened to children between the ages of 5 and 11. During the first week (June 15), they limited enrollment to 10 children and have since had as many as 12 attend each day. “The whole point of our camp was to fill a community need that sorely needed to be filled during this challenging time,” Julia said.
Camp counselors arrive at 9 a.m. to prepare for the day’s program. Campers arrive one hour later. Because of the coronavirus, campers are required to sign in, have their temperature taken, use hand sanitizer, and separate their personal belongings into individual cubbies. All programming takes place outdoors, or in a very large, well-ventilated barn adjacent to the Parkersons’ property.
Activities include camp songs, improv and camp games, the last of which range from dinner party, to screaming toes, wax museum, and other games. Campers are often broken up into small groups for challenges like science experiments, creating their own skits, or dance battles. One of the campers’ favorite activities is creating their own puppets and putting on puppet shows for the rest of the group, according to Ruth.
After lunch, campers have free time, when they can choose to color, make bracelets, swim, play with chalk, play on the trampoline, and other activities.
“They have the best imaginations,” Ruth said, of the campers. “Even just sitting down with a 9-year-old can be a rollercoaster of a ride. Being a camp counselor is something that is super special to me, and I have cherished every bit of it. It is a learning experience for us all, but it’s been such a fun ride.”
The camp’s been a significant learning experience for the four counselors. They’ve learned about teamwork, new skills and remaining flexible when facing challenges, how to effectively manage a budget, and how to operate and run their own business.
“I found it a lot more fulfilling than I initially thought I would, and have made some great connections with the campers,” Luke said. “Although camp weeks are exhausting, it feels great to see their appreciation for the counselors. I enjoy working with kids more now than I did before we started … it was extremely valuable to even discover that about myself.”
Jenna Purslow ’21
For the last three years, Jenna Purslow ’21 has attended the annual Rizzolo-Larson Venture Grant presentation at Cheshire Academy, hearing about the unique experiences her classmates have had, carrying out innovative, high-merit projects.
This summer marks her turn, after having been awarded her own grant funding, which she’s using to attend an online course through the Summer Research Academy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The track, “A House of Cards – U.S. National Security Dilemmas in the Twenty First Century,” is a four-week course educating Purslow and roughly two dozen other high school students in part about foreign and domestic terrorism, and public safety.
The course description reads, “Taught under the context of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, the course aims to arm students with the tools needed to critically engage with the political discourse unfolding on the campaign stage, ensuring they are able to understand the implications of the policies candidates are proposing.”
Purslow said that she has always participated in summer academic programs. While many cater to the STEM fields, Purslow was excited when she found something specific to her interest in political science.
“We’re investigating into U.S. national security crises,” explained Purslow. “We’re each doing individual research. My group and I are doing research on the topic of gun control, and the influence the NRA has on legislation being passed, and overall legislation that’s being discussed at the federal level about gun control. It’s about both domestic and foreign national security threats.”
The class demands approximately 40 hours of Purslow’s week, with a daily lecture and lab session, followed by independent research and studying with her group of two other students—one from the United Kingdom, and another living in South Carolina. The three have differing opinions and experiences on their topic, which Purslow said results in deep and meaningful conversation.
“It’s definitely a very different perspective in that we don’t necessarily share the same political opinions, which I think makes our group very well-rounded,” Purslow said.
At the end of the track, which concludes on July 24, Purslow and her group will have completed a 15-page research paper and conducted a presentation on their work. Purslow’s goal for the program is to gain exposure to researching at the collegiate level.
“I’ve been looking at a lot of large research universities and colleges to see if this is really something that I want to do … and I’ve really enjoyed the research process so far,” Purslow said. “I’m very grateful that the Venture Grant has given me this opportunity to get more prepared for college, plus, I receive four University of California credits for this course. I can use those credits at any university I would decide to attend.”
Thomas Craley ’21
Some of CA’s students are putting out fires this summer—literally.
Earlier this summer, Thomas Craley ’21 and his father hopped into their 2014 Toyota Tacoma and traveled cross country from Connecticut to Eugene, Oregon, where Craley was hired by Dust Busters Plus LLC as a wildland firefighter.
At CA, Craley is a strong, competitive fencer, and is currently pursuing the IB Diploma Programme. With the IB’s curriculum dedicated to producing inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring individuals, it only made sense that, when asked why he wanted to fight fires this summer, Craley said he wanted to help people in need. “It’s about being part of a bigger effort to help people, protect wildlife, and peoples’ houses, structures, and their businesses.”
Craley concluded a major segment of his training at the end of June. Part of his training included being on the field for three days straight, learning how to cut fire lines, which are used to slow or prevent the spread of a wildfire.
Being out on the field for three days straight put the work of professional wildland firefighters into perspective. “That was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done in my life,” reflected Craley. “The respect I have for those guys on the field who are out for 14 days straight, working 16 hours a day, it’s insane. You get a lot of respect for them.”
Before beginning his contracted job, Craley and his father spent nearly two weeks sightseeing across the United States. He visited the Great Plains and Badlands National Park in South Dakota, and saw bighorn sheep and one of the only herd of buffalo in the state; stopped by wetland areas full of wildlife in Wisconsin; hiked Mount Hood in Oregon and skied in the summer; and camped out near Spokane, Washington, among other excursions.
“It just kind of came to me this year,” Craley said, of his trip. “I never really thought I’d have the time to go out and explore the entire country and drive across it but, because of COVID and all the cancelations to activities and sports, I had the time to get everything set up.”
Craley also saw a little bit of what he would be involved in for the remainder of his summer while near the Crowe Reservation in southeastern Montana—a prescribed fire by the United States Forest Service as a way to reduce ground fuels and the risk of a more destructive fire from occurring, among other efforts. Seeing that “really put things into perspective, knowing that I’m going to be about as close as you can possibly get without actually being in the flames,” Craley said.
Amelia Lanni ’23
While Amelia Lanni ’23 has always been into the arts, it wasn’t until this past spring when she picked up–and enjoyed—playing an instrument.
During the spring 2020 semester, Lanni took Cheshire Academy’s Music Skills and Performance class, led by Nathan Trier. It was there where she began learning how to play the guitar. “It was an amazing experience playing an instrument,” Lanni said.
Now, over the course of this summer, Lanni is taking drum and singing lessons. One of her idols, Harvey Mills, from the English singing duo Max and Harvey, plays the drums, which prompted Lanni to want to learn the instrument. And there’s one song she is planning to learn: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us,” which Harvey performed a drum solo of last year on The X-Factor: Celebrity.
As for her singing lessons, Lanni simply wants to hone her skills. “I have been singing in many musicals since was 4 years old, so I really wanted to embrace and improve my singing voice,” reflected Lanni. “Singing lessons really help me with my abilities to sing at a higher pitch, and how to sing a song at my full potential.”
Lanni started taking dance lessons when she was 2 years old, and began performing in places when she was 4. “I truly believe I am more of a performer,” she said. “For a very long time, I have wanted to be an actress. Even though this year I decided to embrace my instrumentalist side, I love being on stage, with the lights on me, ready to say my lines.”
But for the summer, Lanni is hoping to take in all that she can. “I am so grateful for the experiences I had and will have in the future in my lessons. I am very excited to learn many songs I didn’t know I could sing.”
Julia Shatalov ’21
At Cheshire Academy, Julia Shatalov ’21 demonstrates her academic rigor by boasting a full schedule of International Baccalaureate® Programme courses. Outside of school, she’s a competitive cyclist who, for the first time this summer, is actively fundraising for the Breakaway Benefit in support of the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP).
Shatalov says about the program, “The Breakaway Benefit is important to me because without the CCAP, I would never have become so attached to the sport, and the people I’ve met through it have taught me a lot.”
For the last three years, Shatalov has participated in the benefit, held at Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort (Middlefield, Connecticut). Shatalov raced in the 20-mile ride, while other events included 40-mile and 100-mile rides, as well as options for mountain biking and cyclocross.
This year’s Breakaway Benefit was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, with four days of events that took place from May 27-31. Donations for the benefit are being accepted until July 31.
Due to this year’s virtual event, Breakaway organizers had participants tackling challenges from within their homes using Strava and Zwift. As such, they required an at-home bike and a trainer to keep the bicycle stationary, that can also track power, RPM, and speed.
On the modified benefit races, Shatalov says, “Riding solo definitely presents a lot of challenges mentally. Cycling is more a mental sport than it is physical, on a lot of levels. It takes a lot of grit to get through a long ride alone, and even with high-intensity, high-speed races, it is not as mindless as it may seem.”
Shatalov first became involved in triathlons in sixth grade as a member of the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team (NYTT). Two years later, Shatalov’s passion for cycling as a standalone sport grew, so she became involved with the CCAP. While there are different types of cycling events, including time trials and point-to-point rides, Shatalov’s true interest lies with criterium racing, which is where racers find themselves on a closed circuit completing as many laps as possible within a set time limit.
“Criterium races can be dangerous to a certain extent, because the main field of racers are often flying around the course in close proximity,” explained Shatalov. “Even though individuals are competing against one another throughout the race, we also work together, and if there are teammates, we try to help each other achieve optimal positioning in the pack. It is really all about the mental game, and it takes a lot more strategy than you realize.”
Recent accomplishments include a roundtrip to Massachusetts—about 90 miles total—with two of her NYTT teammates, and a 46-mile point-to-point race called the Tokeneke Classic. During the Classic, Shatalov’s chain dropped a few miles into the race, ultimately resulting in her falling behind the rest of her team. The group ride turned into one of the most challenging solo rides Shatalov has completed.