Since November, a select number of students taking Spanish have been practicing for Conferencia, a state-wide competition where students perform a two minute impromptu speech, 10 students act in a play, and six students recite poetry…all in Spanish. With a maximum of 16 students competing, Oak Hall is hosting this year’s competition in Orlando. The competition, which starts on Thursday, March 8, goes into the weekend.
In addition to the aforementioned categories, schools can compete in auxiliary events. These events aren’t factored into the overall score, but do have first, second, and third place standings. Oak Hall students have prepared two songs, one dance, one poster, one physical scrapbook, one digital scrapbook, and a t-shirt design to show off their school, and Spanish, spirit.
Over the past five years, Oak Hall’s Spanish program has won first place twice (2019 and 2020), and third place (2022). The competition in 2021 was cancelled due to COVID. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to compete at such a high level against schools larger than Oak Hall. For one final practice, the students hosted a performance at the Upper School Learning Commons on Monday, complete with costumes and perfection. Spanish Teacher Krystal Serrano has complete faith in her students and believes they will do well in the competition. “They’ve worked hard and I’m proud of them,” she said.
February 1 marks the first day of Black History Month nationwide. “Negro History Week” was first founded in 1926 by Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, it evolved into Black History Month. This month was officially christened by President Gerald Ford in 1976. By celebrating this month, it has helped bring forth awareness to all the inequalities and discrimination Black people faced and continue to face in life and in history. Black History Month was put in place to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” Ford noted. The presidents have also given every Black History Month a theme. This year’s theme is “Black Resistance” because “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings,” according to the ASALH. These themes help us to make sure we know what we celebrate and why we celebrate it.
How Oak Hall is celebrating Black History Month
Oak Hall is so thankful to have guest speaker Clint Clarke speak to the Upper School students on Feb. 2. about his personal life and his work at Walt Disney World. Clarke is the Senior Audio System Designer, Legacy Award Winner, and does Disney Live Entertainment. He has done so much work for Walt Disney World (Orlando), Disneyland Paris (France), The Disney Cruise Lines, and Shanghai Disney (China). He also has done lots of work for the Florida Gators both when he was a student and now with his company, Triple C Productions. Outside of all his amazing work in the audio world, he is also an all around great guy. He is always doing what he can to help others and is a bright spot in so many people’s lives (mine included). I am so excited for him to share his personal experiences and his insight/information on Black History Month. (Also shout out to Ms. Spencer and the Black Student Union for making this happen).
Club meets Friday mornings from 8 – 8:25 a.m. in US Room 4
By Amelia Chen
A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Soie Haberman, and I started the Women’s Club for Oak Hall’s Upper School as a way to empower women, spread awareness, and build confidence in teenage girls.
This idea blossomed from the Middle School club we, along with Laurel Gurley, had previously created to achieve the same goals. During our time having the club in Middle School, we neither had the time nor the resources to do all the things we wanted to do. The Upper School paved the way for us to achieve this.
First, we knew we had to find a sponsor and we couldn’t think of anyone better than Ms. Palmer who teaches, among other classes, our AP Government and Politics class. She enthusiastically agreed, thrilled at the idea that it would be a heavily student-run club. From there, all we needed was the administration’s approval. We met with Mr. Brown, the Assistant Director of the Upper School, who supportively approved our club, giving us the ability to finally start.
Part of starting the club would include appointing officers and gaining members. Appointing officers wasn’t very difficult given the fact that many freshman girls already desired to be involved. Haberman and I already had decided because we started the club, I would be president and she would be vice president. Isabelle Watson, Mackenzie Rowe, and Kaitlyn Lee immediately asked to participate as officers. Because of their delightful enthusiasm and passion to be a part of this club we immediately agreed to appoint Watson as secretary, Rowe as social media coordinator, and Lee as treasurer. Gaining members was slightly more difficult but by spreading the word by mouth and social media we were able to start our club with 18 members including the officers.
The main purpose of this club would be to spread awareness of the issues of sexism and hopefully decrease the sexism that occurs around us. “I really want to change the atmosphere for Oak Hall, and I feel like this would be a good club for just changing how everybody gets along,” Haberman said.
Not only did we want to create this club to create a good environment for teen girls, but we also wanted to make this club inclusive. This wasn’t just exclusive to girls but also allowed boys to be part of it. We also want to help the women’s community around us by hopefully participating in drives and helping in any way we can.
Overall, we believe by making the effort to have this club, we can make a change not just in the school but in the greater Gainesville community. The best way to make a difference is taking action, not just standing by and doing nothing. We are hoping to do that with this club. We are thrilled to have more members join as the year goes by!
Troupe 6405 earned four “Top Honors” awards, two “Superior” awards, and numerous “Excellent” awards
By Tori Kitchens
On Dec. 4, the Upper School’s theater department traveled to Lake Minneola High School to compete in the District 12 Thespian Festival and returned home with great success. This festival occurred for the first time since 2019, so the Eagles were very excited to return to competition. “It has been so long since I have been around a large group of people all doing what they love to do, and I felt all day that everyone was just as excited as me to be back in person for live theater events,” said Lower School Music Teacher and accompanist Erin Cushing.
After months of preparation, Oak Hall’s Thespians, Troupe 6405, brought 201 events to the festival: five monologues, five solo musical pieces, four duet acting pieces, two duet musical pieces, two ensemble acting pieces, one small group musical piece, one student choreography, and one student directed. “What surprised me the most was that our acts uniquely represented us with our humor and silliness, and I think other troupes were slightly more somber than usual, so it was nice to see that we were just able to sit back and enjoy it,” noted Upper School Theater Co-Director Dr. Dominique Clance.
The Eagles competed from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. After the final event, the troupe learned that it received a Top Honor: the highest score in their event room. Senior Jennifer Berthy and sophomore Katelyn Berthy got “Top Honors for Duet Musical”, “Single Man Drought” from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.
The Berthy sisters, however, weren’t the only “Top Honors” winners from OHS. Senior Peyton Nembhard won “Top Honors for Student Choreography” to a piece from the musical Kinky Boots. This was Oak Hall’s first entry in this category since the troupe’s inception. Seniors Julia Curtis and Kaylee Rowe, and sophomore Annika Quanbeck received “Top Honors Ensemble Acting” for their piece titled, “Barbies.” Finally, the troupe’s small group musical, “Haus of Holbein” from the musical Six, received Top Honors. The actors in this piece were Katelyn Berthy, Quanbeck, Rowe, Nembhard, junior Christina Sarantos, and freshman Lilia AitSahlia. “I am so proud of them! We haven’t had any Top Honors/Critic’s Choice in several years, and their hard work paid off,” said Upper School Theater Director, Brooke Molitor.
Winning “Top Honors” gives the actors an opportunity to perform their pieces at the event’s closing ceremony. Oak Hall won the most top scores out of any troupe. “Not one, not two, not three, but four Top Honors!” Molitor emphasized. “This district has some of the most competitive schools and as another director emailed me, our students “totally dominated” the festival.” This was the best that Oak Hall’s troupe had done at the district level since 2016.
In addition to the four “Top Honors” recipients, there were two more “Superior” scores, which is the highest score level. Sarantos and fellow junior Bailey Thorp received superior on their duet musical, “The Actuary Song” from I Love You Because, and Jennifer Berthy and Rowe received superior for their duet acting title “Stepsisters”. The remaining 14 events received the next best score, “Excellent”.
Troupe 6405 will travel to Tampa in March to compete at the State Thespian Festival. “This is the largest Thespian Festival in the country, and it is a very busy few days filled with shows, masterclasses, workshops, and the competition,” Molitor explained. “Students will start rehearsing again after Winter Break and implementing the constructive feedback from the judges.”
Senior Arts Conservatory Program (ACP) member and student-athlete Asher Dobrin has been part of the Oak Hall community since the beginning of his academic career. As a lifer*, Dobrin has participated in several extra curriculars, including cross country, soccer, track and field, band, and numerous clubs. “For me, the most important thing and the definition of a student-athlete is probably just being able to incorporate those two parts of my life together, and I like to blend it together and relate my academics and my athletics. I think it makes it more enjoyable,” he said.
Dobrin began running cross country going into his sixth-grade year. Many athletes do cross country to stay in shape for another sport, and his parents wanted him to run to prepare for soccer. As he kept practicing, Dobrin became of Oak Hall’s strongest runners, and achieved a personal best time of 16:24 for a 5K. Dobrin has been a part of the state runner-up team for the past three cross country seasons. “While this is more of an on-paper accomplishment, I think it’s representative of what I am really proud of the most, which is just being a part of one of the best groups of people I could ask for,” he noted. Out of 227 runners at the state finals this year, Dobrin placed 26.
Soccer has always been one of those sports Asher could always come back to. He began playing soccer around the age of three or four on a community league team and as he reached middle school, Dobrin joined GSA, a travel soccer team. “I’ve played my whole life and [I] am not very good, but it’s nostalgic and comforting,” Dobrin joked.
Although no one in his immediate family played an instrument, Dobrin was always interested in learning about music and seemed to gravitate toward it. “I thought it was cool and all my friends did it, so now I’m in it,” he pointed out. He began band in sixth grade, but he did not find his instrument, the bass, until eighth grade. Going into his sophomore year, Dobrin made the decision to audition for ACP. “I really wanted to challenge myself, and I put a lot of time into music in 9thgrade,” Dobrin explained. As a senior, Dobrin can play upright bass, electric bass, cello, piano, ukulele, and some guitar, but he has always preferred playing the upright bass. “I also love to dabble around on any instruments I can get my hands on,” Dobrin stated.
Dobrin wants younger student-athletes and ACP students to understand that enjoying what they are doing and not getting too stressed out are the most important things. “Always make sure you’re obviously enjoying it, but you’re putting your full effort into things because if you put more effort into it, you’re going to enjoy it more because you’ll enjoy the outcome more,” Dobrin stated.
Hoping to attend the University of Georgia or the University of Colorado, Dobrin would like to study music composition or environmental studies. In addition, Dobrin would like to either sign with or walk on to a Division I Cross Country and Track team.
* A “lifer” is a student that has consecutively attended Oak Hall from Pre-K, Junior Kindergarten, or Kindergarten through senior year.
A – Z with Asher Dobrin
A – Advice you’d give your freshman-self? Do your homework. B – Best pre-race meal? Apples. C – Coach’s best words of advice? Run fast, turn left. D – Favorite dessert? Ice cream. E – Most entertaining class? Freshman year geometry with Mr. L. F – Favorite high school moment? I don’t know yet. The lounge freshman year with the carpet! G – Goals for your senior year? Get into college and get into musical school. H – Hoping to attend what college? Either University of Georgia or University of Colorado. I – Interesting thing you do outside of arts and athletics? I volunteer with conservationist agencies. J – Favorite joke? What’s — oh I forgot! What’s blue and not very heavy? Light blue. K – Key to maintaining homework? Prioritizing assignments. L – Least favorite music style to play? Jazz. M – Music you listen to? Indie, funk, and rock. N – Netflix or Hulu? Netflix. O – What other sport would you like to try? Volleyball. P – Preparations for a big meet or performance? I try to sleep, I drink a lot of water, and I eat sushi. Q – Question you’d ask your future self? Am I still not sleeping enough? R – Most relaxing part of your day? Going to bed. S – What would your senior superlative be? Best hair. T – Favorite TV show? I don’t watch TV. U – Most underrated music genre? Anarbor funk. V – Favorite vacation spot? Anywhere with mountains. W – What does it mean to you to be an Eagle? A lot. X – Have you ever had an x-ray? Yes, many. Y – What do you want your impact to younger athletes and musicians be? Have fun! Z – What is your zodiac sign? Cancer.