Written by Amelia Woodall.

US Blazer Buzz 20 Oct

This week's highlight: Woodall Participates in Teen Council

This past weekend, I was able to be a part of an experience that changed my life and that will change the future of a local foundation’s Teen Council. A Giving Spirit Foundation (AGSF) is a nonprofit organization that gives money to mothers in the greater Lake Norman area who have been diagnosed with a debilitating disease (i.e. ALS or cancer); the money goes to help pay for their medical and utility bills, as well as rent, so these mothers can focus on their own families. The AGSF Teen Council was formed in November 2013, and since has raised over $12,000 to give as grants to these women. Being a member of the Teen Council has not only further taught me how to be a leader, and how to have successful fundraisers that better someone’s life, but has also offered me amazing opportunities like the one I attended last weekend.

In addition to supporting local women, AGSF also is partnered with Project A.L.S. and the ALSA (ALS Association) and donates money to them to fund for ALS research. ALS is disease that weakens the motor neurons in muscles, which causes the communication from the brain to the muscles to stop over time. Project A.L.S. was started in 1998 when Jenifer Estess was diagnosed with ALS. She and two of her sisters, Valerie and Meredith, sat down and created Project A.L.S., now a multimillion dollar organization which funds stem cell research at its own lab at Columbia University in NYC. The sisters enticed scientists to work together to find a cure and more information rather than doing their own independent studies on the unknown disease. The Estess sisters have been involved with the New York lifestyle, and theatre, their whole lives, and they grew up with and became friends with many celebrities that are well known today, like Ben Stiller and Katie Couric.

This fall, the AGSF Teen Council was invited by Larry Tarica, a board member of Project A.L.S, to attend this year’s gala. Being asked to attend meant the possible involvement of Project A.L.S, Valerie and Meredith Estess, and many other determined philanthropists in what our foundation has to offer. And, that is just what it gave us. I, along with the rest of the Teen Council, was able to meet these amazing people and talk with them about what we have done and are planning on doing with the Teen Council. I learned much information about what is going on with ALS research and saw philanthropy at its finest. I was able to practice speaking to influential and powerful people, and even managed to get Ben Stiller to tweet about AGSF and the Teen Council! After the event, we toured the Columbia University stem cell research lab, learned about what is being done there, and met up with Valerie and Meredith. They told us how they were “getting older, and need the younger generation to learn more about what ALS is” and how they were "placing their hope in us." The Teen Council was given representation by Project A.L.S. to educate and spread awareness throughout the teenage community by collaborating with Project A.L.S., and by helping them come up with event ideas that would interest “the younger generation." This was an unforgettable experience. Meeting these people and learning about what has been discovered has truly altered my perspective on service, and on fundraising, for the better.

US Blazer Buzz 13 Oct

This week's highlight: Varsity Athletics

2014-15 is Woodlawn's inaugural year as part of the Southern Piedmont Athletic Association (SPAA) and North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) as a 1A school, and our varsity programs are already turning heads.

The varsity boys cross country team heads into the SPAA conference championship meet this Thursday as the favorite, after an impressive winning performance in the October 2 conference meet.  Led by sophomore Quinn Schneider '17, the team hopes to take home the SPAA title and then prepare for the NCISAA state championship meet on October 24.

On Tuesday, the varsity volleyball team takes on Carmel Christian in the first round of the SPAA conference tournament.  Having defeated Carmel Christian twice during the regular season, the Lady 'Blazers hope to advance to the semi-finals next Thursday.  A conference title would qualify the 'Blazers for the NCISAA state tournament next week.

And finally, the varsity boys soccer team advanced to the semi-finals of the SPAA conference tournament last Thursday with a 5-2 upset of United Faith Christian Academy.  The Trailblazers went down early to the United Faith Falcons by a score of 2 - 0 at the half. A second half goal from Jack Hager '19 put the 'Blazrs within one, but the Falcons quickly netted a third goal to go up 3-1.  With minutes to go, Hank Grzeszczak '19 struck from just inside the 18 yard box, and just before the whistle blew, Drew Hedrick '16 worked his way across the top of the box and curled one inside the upper right corner of the goal.  Headed into overtime with a great swing in momentum, the 'Blazers kept steady pressure, but neither team scored in two 10-minute extra periods.  The game went to penalty kicks.  Standing shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm at midfield, the team looked on as Nick Trovato '19 saved 3 out of the 4 penalty shots he faced and Wesley Neal '19, Hank Grzeszczak '19, and Jack Hager '19 put away their shots to propel Woodlawn into the SPAA conference tournament semifinals!

US Blazer Buzz 29 Sept

This week's highlight: Twelfth Night

Dig it: The first upper school field trip of the 2014-2015 was far out, man. 

This is not to say that we went a long distance. In fact, we went just down the road to see Davidson Community Players' Connie Company perform Twelfth Night Unplugged, at the Armour Street Theatre. In this adaptation by director Wrenn Goodrum, the popular Shakespeare comedy was set in 1969, where the Bard's resilient tale of long lost siblings and mistaken identity was set against the backdrop of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The groovy synthesis of lovestruck suitors and exuberant hippies made for a unique take and some clever staging, with the audience treated to highlights from the festival’s soundtrack in between moments of Elizabethan mirth. 

Two Trailblazers were key players in the production: Senior Emily Dyckman portrayed the long lost Olivia, separated from her family and swallowed by the sea of revelers attending the three days of peace and music. The only male actor in the production, junior Spencer Gazzaway, took on the role of the ambitious steward Malvolio. We'll never see a pair of yellow tights again without thinking of Spencer.

It's always great to see our students both on stage and packing the house, and this was a welcome reason to get off campus as a group for an afternoon.

US Blazer Buzz 22 Sept

This week's highlight: Teaching Exchange on the Patio

Upper school students enrolled in Environmental Studies recently teamed up with seventh graders for a teaching exchange.  The seventh graders, who have been learning about thermal energy, prepared mini-labs for their upper school partners to demonstrate thermal energy in action.  Students compared the behavior of inflated and water-filled balloons heated over flames and discovered what happens to metal when placed in direct heat using a ball and ring apparatus.  Next, upper school students shared their knowledge about ocean acidification: increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are impacting pH levels in oceans around the globe.  To illustrate the acidic impact of CO2, upper school students had their middle school buddies exhale into beakers of water and watched the pH indicator change colors!  After the exchange of ideas, students took mini-quizzes and discussed parallels in the thermal energy and ocean acidification processes.  All in all, it was a fun afternoon where everyone learned something new!

US Blazer Buzz 15 Sept

This week's highlight: Code of Honor

The thirteenth commemoration of September 11th offered Woodlawn's upper school students the opportunity to commit themselves to Woodlawn's Code of Honor and Integrity against a backdrop of poignant remembrance and meaningful reflection. In an hour-long ceremony that was somber, stirring, and purposeful, students watched The Man in the Red Bandanna, a short film profiling Welles Crowther, a young man who led many others to safety from the 78th floor of the South Tower. Welles's courage, clarity, and selflessness during the morning of September 11, 2001 became the basis for dialogue and discussion about personal integrity. Honor Council adviser Jeff Donnelly then led students through an exercise intended to illuminate each's core values. Students in grades 9-12 then signed the Code of Honor and Integrity for the 2014-15 school year. As a community, we were grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the legacy of Welles Crowther - and to ponder our own.