Category Archives: Upper School

International Games Day Returns to the Hall

By Aiden Wacksman

For the first time in two years, Upper School (US) students will be able to participate in International Games Day (IGD) at Oak Hall. It will take place throughout the day Nov. 19 in the MS/US Learning Commons. 

IGD is defined as “an initiative run by volunteers from around the world to reconnect communities through their libraries” by the American Library Association. At Oak Hall, students can enjoy games ranging from cornhole to Super Smash Bros. Throughout the day, US teachers can bring their classes to the Learning Commons to participate.

The idea to start IGD at Oak Hall came several years ago and was brought up by Media Specialist Evelyn Smith. She read about IGD online and presented the idea to the US division head at the time. 

Smith received permission to host IGD at Oak Hall. Many of the games were donated or loaned by teachers and students in the event’s first year. “We still have games and puzzles that were donated that first year,” Smith said. The first IGD at Oak Hall was a success, and it became a tradition at Oak Hall. It normally takes place on the last school day before Fall break.

“It’s a fitting time of the year to play games together just as people are about to enjoy the week with their families.
Evelyn Smith – Media Specialist

For the first time, however, IGD at Oak Hall did not take place in 2020 due to COVID-19. Due to social distancing protocols, the MS/US Learning Commons was used as a classroom three times per day, which would make hosting IGD virtually impossible. Thus, the event was canceled for the year. 

Smith met with current US Division Head John Perlette and Re-Entry Committee Chair Jeffery Malloy at the end of the 2020-21 school year, and IGD at Oak Hall was approved for the 2021-22 school year.

Students such as seniors Jasmine Ferris and Ryland Kane are looking forward to the return of IGD. “I missed not being able to [beat] my friends in ‘Monopoly’ last year,” Ferris exclaimed. Meanwhile, Kane is excited to play “Mario Kart” at this year’s IGD. “I like that [students] get the chance to have some fun,” he said. 

This year, IGD will feature new games such as cornhole, “Go,” and “Wingspan”. Smith believes that IGD at Oak Hall allows students to have fun and engage in friendly competition. “It’s refreshing for students and teachers to come to [IGD] and just play,” she stated. Her favorite thing about IGD is when alumni tell her that the event was one of their favorites at Oak Hall. 

Students, do you need volunteer hours? Ms. Smith needs volunteers for International Games Day! Email her at or talk to her in the library if you are interested. 

Student Spotlight: Sofia Guico

OHS senior hopes to inspire others through music, athletics and leadership

By Tori Kitchens

Having been inspired by upperclassmen throughout high school, senior Arts Conservatory Program (ACP) member and student-athlete Sofia Guico now has the opportunity to pay it forward to younger members of the Oak Hall community. Being a lifer*, Guico has been part of multiple extracurricular activities including band, golf, Chinese Club, Honor Council, and Environmental Club. “I think the most important thing that a student-athlete should consider and work on is having a healthy balance,” Guico explained. 

The senior has played violin for most of her life but did not join the Oak Hall music program until her eighth-grade year. Abbie Ringdahl (OHS class of 2018) convinced Guico to join the prestigious program. “She told me about all [of] these amazing opportunities I’d be given if I just kind of joined and talked to the music director, so I took a leap of faith,” Guico described. Once again, Guico was inspired by upperclassmen to join ACP going into the Upper School. “I just knew I wanted to be like them, so I tried to follow their path and do everything right,” she said.

Having played golf on and off for three years, Guico joined Oak Hall’s varsity girls golf team in sixth grade. As a senior, Guico is now the co-captain. She has enjoyed watching her teammates grow throughout her seven years in the program. “It’s really nice to see how we just kind of matured over the last couple [of] years,” Guico noted. 

Since freshman year, Guico has been a representative of Oak Hall’s Honor Council (the group elected by their peers that represents the voice of the community when it comes to issues of academic integrity). “I got to see what hearings were like [freshman year] and help enforce and instill the Honor Code throughout the student body,” Guico stated. She was elected the sophomore class representative and Vice Chair in her junior year. As a senior, Guico is now the Honor Council Chair. “I was inspired by past seniors [and] past upperclassmen to run for Chair, so I did because I think there’s a lot of cool things you can do with that,” Guico mentioned. 

She hopes younger students of OHS look up to her as she did to upperclassmen when she was younger and wants to ensure they feel welcomed and part of the OHS community. In addition, she wants them to pursue their passions while finding a healthy balance between activities and schoolwork. “While there are so many things you can pursue here, it’s so difficult to really find that perfect happy medium in everything,” Guico said. 

* A “lifer” is an OHS student that began their educational adventure in kindergarten or prior, and consecutively stay through graduation.

A to Z with Sofia Guico

A – Advice you’d give your freshman self? Do what you love and pursue all the passions that you have. 
B – Your best ACP moment? The one that I did online. I had to do all that basically by myself. 
C – Career goals? I don’t know. 
D – Favorite dessert? Ice cream. 
E – Most entertaining class? Band, obviously. 
F – Favorite high school moment? Today, being with you. 
G – Goals for your senior year? To sleep a lot more than I have in the past. 
H – Hoping to attend what college? It’s a surprise! 
I – Interesting thing you do outside of arts and athletics? I really like to meditate. 
J – Favorite joke? Knock knock. [Who’s there?] Me! Yeah, that’s pretty much it.
K – Keys to maintaining homework? Lock yourself in your room and don’t let your phone distract you. 
L – Least favorite music style to play? Jazz.
M – Music you listen to? Jazz.
N – Netflix or Hulu? Netflix. 
O – What other sport would you like to try? Water Polo. 
P – Preparations for a big match or performance? For a big match, I have to eat Chic-Fil-A. For a big performance, doing my makeup really well. 
Q – Question you’d ask your future self? Did you grow?
R – Most relaxing part of your day? My free period. 
S – What would your senior superlative be? Worst driver! 
T – Favorite TV show? Manifest.
U – Most underrated music genre? Lofi jazz. 
V – Favorite vacation spot? My bed.
W – What does it mean to you to be an Eagle? To be honorable and to love what you’re doing. 
X – Have you ever had an x-ray? No. 
Y – Your impact to younger athletes and musicians? Try to find that really good balance.
Z – What is your zodiac sign? Virgo. 

Student Spotlight: Lavinia Petrella

Italian foreign exchange student fulfills life-long dream of studying in the states

By Lauren Cohen

When writing a letter to one of her closest friends in school, Oak Hall senior Lavinia Petrella from Milan, Italy shared her dreams of attending her fourth year of high school in America. Petrella learned of study abroad programs early in her life from her parents and their colleagues and knew from a young age that she would one day make it her reality.

With much research and consideration, Petrella knew she wanted to pursue her education at Oak Hall. “I thought it was the perfect place to have an experience like this,” she said. The senior was particularly excited about getting involved with the infamous Latin program at the school. This isn’t Petrella’s first time learning in America or even Gainesville. She and her family lived in Gator Nation years prior when she was about four years old. Twelve years later, while driving by museums and swimming pools she went to with her family, she is reminiscent of old memories. Petrella attended pre-kindergarten at Westminster Day School, not too far from where her parents were working at the University of Florida. As a student abroad this year, Petrella is living with fellow Oak Hall senior Reece Olinger. 

As the excitement for her senior year grows, Petrella noticed how different American high school was from what she expected. “In Milan, the academic system is very different; the schedules are not based on the students but [rather] on the teachers,” she shared. Petrella had class with the same 30 students year after year, and the primary changes revolved around the rotation of teachers. At the start of high school, students got to choose a classical, scientific, or more artistic academic route. Once chosen, students focused on the study of those particular disciplines. Petrella shared that she prefers that system but doesn’t necessarily miss it. “I’m experiencing something new that I’m finding out that I like.” She shared that she didn’t fully know what she was getting herself into by starting her last year of high school in a foreign country. “I did not expect it to be like this, but I really like it,” she mentioned. “I’ve been talking about this since I was in seventh grade.”

OHS senior, Italian foreign exchange student, Lavinia Petrella

Petrella will likely be back in Milan next year to finish her final credits for graduation. Many universities in Italy do not accept one year of study abroad despite receiving an American diploma. “I would just go back to Italy, finish my fifth year of high school, graduate, and then have two diplomas,” she shared. Petrella noted a significant difference between the European and American college systems; most European universities do not have undergraduate programs. “I would really like to study medicine but to enter the medicine course in Italy, you have to pass a test which has more or less a three percent acceptance rate so it’s really tough [and] competitive,” she said. Vita-Salute San Raffaele and Humanitas University are just two of the many schools that Petrella is interested in. With an interest in pursuing medicine, Petrella is attracted to universities that work in conjunction with hospitals, as those programs would provide remarkable work experience. When not studying, Petrella enjoys spending time with her friends and family, reading crime books, playing sports, and biking. “I just walk around Milan because it’s always beautiful and you can always find something new that you did not know of,” she added. 

One thing Petrella particularly misses about living in Milan was how accessible everything was by foot. “I live in the center so it takes me like five minutes to go to the park or 12 minutes of walking to go to school, it’s really cool,” she commented. “[In] some aspects, I prefer city life.” While she shared that she is excited to go back and see her family and friends next year, Petrella also hopes this year goes as slowly as possible. “I want to experience everything and I don’t want it to go fast.”

Student Spotlight: Jennifer Berthy

By Tori Kitchens

Oak Hall Arts Conservatory Program (ACP) member and student-athlete, Jennifer Berthy is doing everything she can to enjoy her senior year after joining the Oak Hall community five years ago. She is the president of the Oak Hall Thespian troupe, Dance Marathon President, and the captain of the girl’s swimming, soccer, and lacrosse teams. To Berthy, being a student-athlete means her focus needs to be prioritized on her academics before participating in athletics. In addition, Berthy is a part of the ACP Theater program at Oak Hall, and she has been dedicated to the program for the past five years.

After moving to Clearwater when she was eight, Berthy joined a few athletic clubs which included swimming. When she transferred to Oak Hall, the three-sport athlete found that she was a talented competitor in swimming and became a leader on the team. In her freshman year, Berthy was given the chance to officially become a leader on her team by taking on the role of captain, which she has proudly served as for all four years. Berthy explained that having older girls on the team look up to her was a different, but enjoyable, experience.

For Berthy, joining soccer was not something she expected to do. Wanting to stay active during swimming’s offseason, she chose to spend the winter playing soccer alongside her friends. “I played soccer when I was in fifth through seventh grade. In sixth and seventh grade, I played on both [junior varsity] and varsity because varsity needed more girls in some of their games,” she explained. 

While living in Clearwater, Berthy also joined a club lacrosse team after being introduced to the sport by her middle school best friend. From 2016-2018 joined the varsity squad in her eighth-grade year, after some convincing from then-girls lacrosse coach Deanna Majeski. In contrast to her role on the swim team, “I was the youngest one there, and it was different than swimming because I wasn’t as good as the older girls,” she said. 

Jen Berthy (R) and Peyton Nembhard swing Carson Holley in “Matilda”

After doing theater for the first time in eighth grade, Berthy decided to enter high school theater by auditioning for ACP. Shocked that she had been accepted, Berthy was prepared to work hard. “I like the idea that we were tight, and it was a small community, and we were able to work well together,” she mentioned. In her time at OHS, Berthy has played the roles of a reporter and the dad in James and the Giant Peach and a Big Kid and Rudolpho in Matilda. The actress is most excited about playing the Cowardly Lion in this year’s fall production of The Wizard of Oz

As a senior, Berthy has set many goals for herself including a district championship in lacrosse and acceptance to the University of Florida, where she intends to pursue a degree in the sports industry or forensics. Berthy wants to leave behind a legacy of being a valuable supporter and role model for the younger members of the programs she is involved in. 

A-Z with Jennifer

A – Advice you’d give to your freshman-self? Don’t feel like you have to do everything.
B – Best pre-game or meet meal? Yogurt.
C – Career goals? To do something in sports. 
D – Favorite dessert? Key lime pie. 
E – Most entertaining class? My English class with Campbell last year.
F – Favorite high school moment? Our 9th grade field trip.
G – Goals for your senior year? To win districts for lacrosse. 
H – What college are you hoping to attend? UF.
I – Interesting thing you do outside of the arts and athletics? Read. 
J – Favorite joke? The one about waves waving to waves. 
K – Keys to maintaining homework? Make sure you have a schedule, and do it a couple days beforehand. 
L – Least favorite practice drill? Envelopes.
M – Music you listen to? Country, theater, and 90’s bands.
N – Netflix or Hulu? Netflix.
O – What other sport would you like to try? Cheerleading. 
P – Preparations for a big game, meet, or performance? Sleeping, drinking orange juice, and having some fruit. 
Q – Question you would ask your future self? What do I end up majoring in?
R – Most relaxing part of your day? Sleeping. 
S – What would your senior superlative be? Most rounded, well-rounded student. 
T – Favorite TV show? “Vampire Diaries”. 
U – Most underrated musical? “Mean Girls”. 
V – Favorite vacation spot? The beach. 
W – What does it mean to you to be an Eagle? Always supporting your classmates and teammates.
X – Have you ever had an x-ray? Nope!
Y – What would you like your impact to younger athletes and thespians? For them to think of me as a role model and know that they can always come to me no matter what.
Z – What is your zodiac sign? Libra. 

Faculty Spotlight: Amanda Metzler

By Sydney Jurecko                          

Oak Hall’s Upper School new learning specialist, Amanda Metzler, has dedicated her life to helping students enjoy something she used to struggle with. Metzler is from Jacksonville but attended college at the University of Florida. UF was also where she was teaching before she came to Oak Hall. There, she was a learning specialist, but also a teacher of a class called “Uncommon Reads”, where she selected the “Harry Potter” series and taught two classes on it. 

Her reason for becoming a learning specialist is because when she was younger, she did not like reading. “It was definitely an area that was hard for me, and I just wasn’t engaged in it,” she shared. A really great teacher who spent a lot of time with her completely changed her mind set on reading. The main reason for becoming a learning specialist is because of the amazing teachers that inspired her. Now, she loves the subject she once loathed so much that she taught a whole class solely based on the idea of reading. 

Metzler is a friendly face to students needing assistance

While describing her job as a learning specialist, she stated, “It’s part of my job to meet with students, faculty, staff and help in any way I can with regards to learning for students.” She understands the job varies based on the school environment. At OHS, Her main goal is to be able to help students in any way to strengthen their learning potential. She teaches strategies for note taking, test taking, study habits, and much more. Metzler also helps teachers who ask for her assistance in enhancing their student’s learning abilities. 

She spends most of her free time with her five month old daughter. She also enjoys attending Gator sporting events, playing board games, and running. She has run multiple half marathons, 15k’s, and other long-distance runs. Unfortunately, an injury has side-tracked her for now.

With a few months on the job under her belt, Metzler can already see how OHS is a very special and loving community.