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Posted Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 

Coach Cook spends summer teaching coaches

Anyone who has ever had Gary Cook as a teacher at Wilbraham & Monson Academy knows how much he loves to teach.

And that goes ditto for the soccer field as well, whether that’s at WMA or elsewhere.

Coach Cook, who begins his 34th season as the coach for Boys’ Varsity Soccer, spent three stints during the summer teaching soccer to other soccer coaches. He served as an instructor for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, teaching the National Diploma level course.

“This is an avenue for me to stay in coaching education with other adults, and at this point in my career, to share my experience,” Coach Cook said. “I enjoy traveling the country to meet young men and women who are often just beginning their coaching careers. This is often their first course and I want to help them in any way to help them have a positive experience, and hopefully they can continue to pursue coaching education. It’s a little bit of a mantra of giving back to the game. I have a summer job on a grass field and in a classroom with people who love soccer, which is a lot of fun.”

Coach Cook taught this summer at academies in New York, Illinois and eastern Massachusetts. Interestingly, he took the same course as a young coach in his early days as a coach at WMA.

“I took that National Diploma course in 1985, and I remember one of my instructors saying ‘coaching is teaching and we’re going to help you become a better teacher of the game,’ and connected to my experience here at the Academy, I’ve always seen the crossover with what I teach in the classroom with what I teach on the field,” he said. “Hopefully I’m making a difference in both areas.”

Coach Cook has been an instructor for the NSCAA for more than 10 years, put onto the path by former WMA Boys’ Soccer Coach Mike Parsons. He said teaching coaches has helped him stay focused on coaching the right way for the Academy.

“Being an instructor and telling coaches that if their teams aren’t doing well, they’re the ones who have to stay the course and be the positive, that’s a reminder to me as well,” he said. "The game is supposed to be fun. We want these coaching candidates to have fun, and, well, I need my kids here at Wilbraham & Monson to enjoy the experience. It helps me not only stay in the moment of what I do, but clearly helps me reflect on how can I do what I do and do it effectively. In that sense, it’s wonderful.”


Posted Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 

Gianna Mitchell '17 makes soccer delivery to Haiti

Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s Gianna Mitchell ’17 is already being recruited by some of the best women’s soccer programs in the country.

Last year, along with being a superstar with her physical ability, she was a superstar with her heart.

For nearly a year, Gianna organized “Two-Six for Kicks,” where she collected used soccer apparel before sending it to an organization in Haiti.

“I thought that I’m so privileged, and there are some people who don’t have any of the privileges I have, so I thought doing this would be a good way to give back,” she said.

And Gianna gave back a lot. Following a connection to Haiti made by former Director of Admission Chris Sparks ’95, and after placing bins throughout the WMA campus and other sites in Greater Springfield, Gianna sent 35 shin guards, 60 pairs of cleats, 80 soccer balls and 202 uniforms to the Life Connection Mission. After the delivery, which was made in the spring, a person at the Life Connection Mission sent photos to Gianna of people wearing what she sent.

“It felt good to see the people wearing the cleats and other items I sent,” Gianna said. Along with WMA, Gianna plays on two teams for the FC Stars, including the club’s elite national team.

Posted Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014 

John Tierney '15 selected to represent USA in international lax game

Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s John Tierney ’15 has earned a rare opportunity for a high school athlete: the chance to represent his country on the playing field.

John was selected to play for Team Stars and Stripes against Team Maple Leafs at the U.S. vs. Canada High School Lacrosse Challenge Cup Sept. 21 at Union College in New York.

John was invited to submit a highlight video, and after the clips were reviewed, he was selected to the Class of 2015 team.

“It was pretty awesome to be picked, and to be able to represent Wilbraham & Monson,” John said. “I’m proud to go and play for the USA. It will be a great experience to play with and against the top players in the Class of 2015. Hopefully we’ll beat Canada. We’ll be the underdog.”

John was contacted in mid-August that he made the team. He’ll receive a new lacrosse helmet, a full uniform, and a USA warm-up jersey.

John is coming off one of the best individual seasons in WMA lax history. He scored 51 goals and matched his school record of 56 assists to help the Titans back to the playoffs.

“I’ve been working hard. It’s been a great journey,” he said. “To see the improvement from the team going 1-13 my freshman year to making the playoffs two years consecutively, that’s a drastic turnaround for the program and it’s special to be on a team like that.”

John had a busy summer of lacrosse. Along with playing on teams on the high school and men’s level, he worked out with faceoff specialist Peter Vlahakis, who holds the Major League Lacrosse record for career faceoff wins.

John has verbally committed to the University of Massachusetts. He can sign with the Minutemen Nov. 12-19 during the early signing period or after April 15.


Posted Monday, Aug 25, 2014 

Mr. Easler ready to lead WMA as next head of school

With the word “leader” used on more than a dozen occasions in an hour-long ceremony, it was obvious Wilbraham & Monson Academy had selected the right person to drive the school to its next destination.

Brian P. Easler was formally announced as WMA’s Head of School at the Academy’s 2014 Convocation Ceremony Aug. 24 before a capacity and engaged crowd on the East Lawn.

“I thought the ceremony went very well,” Mr. Easler said. “It was exciting for me. Although the job started on July 1 and unofficially started long before that with the transition, Sunday was the ceremonial beginning of the new job. It was a great day. It was very festive and there was great energy on campus. It felt great to see students come back, along with former colleagues and trustees and parents, so it was wonderful.”

After the invocation by Rev. Steven Marcus, Don Kelly, WMA’s Dean of Faculty, spoke of three mottos that are connected to Mr. Easler: Monson Academy’s “Ready for my country,” Wilbraham Academy’s “Truth is eternal,” and WMA’s “Expect Excellence.”

“How wise the Head of School Search Committee was to select a candidate to be our next head of school whose life has epitomized these three mottos,” Mr. Kelly said.

K. Ivan Gothner, a member of the Academy’s Board of Trustees, announced Mr. Easler as WMA’s next leader, with the crowd responding with a lengthy standing ovation. Scott B. Jacobs ’75, Chairperson for the Board of Trustees, placed a ceremonial Chain of Office around Mr. Easler’s neck, to which he replied, “It’s a heavy piece of bling.”

With 16 years of service to the Academy, Mr. Easler said he will serve the school as a “faithful leader.”

“In my opinion, the most important part of leading is leading by example. We lead by our daily actions, and specifically our daily actions, people will most often not do as we say and more often do as we do. We have to lead by our own example and not expect something from someone else that we wouldn’t do ourselves.”

The student welcome by Brian Popovich ’15 drew loud applause at its conclusion, with the senior telling the audience that Mr. Easler “has been the greatest influence on my life at WMA,” and relaying to the school’s new leader that students “are here to support you.”

Guest speaker John Cain Carter said Mr. Easler was a “cornerstone of leadership” and a “pillar of my foundation,” with their friendship dating back to their days in the U.S. Army Rangers more than 20 years ago.

“I’ve seen him in his formative years when, no question, he was going to chase greatness because of his character and the way he was,” Mr. Carter said. “He had a special air about him.

“Of all the people I know in my life, Brian is the one who shines above everyone else because of who he is as a man, and the self-criticism and the critiquing. He’s constantly honing the edge. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. He’s truly a great human.”


Posted Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014 

Family tragedy draws Berkan Bolkan '15 to neuroscience career

When Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s Berkan Bolkan ’15 was in middle school, he learned his family had suffered through a tragedy when he was a toddler. When Berkan was one year old, his brother, Boran, was born paralyzed and in a vegetative state. His brother died a year later.

Since being told of his brother’s death, Berkan has known what he wants to do with his life.

“When I found out about my brother dying, when my parents told me, I decided I should dedicate my life toward helping paralyzed people,” Berkan said.

This summer, Berkan took a big step toward his professional career, spending seven weeks taking two Ivy League classes at the Brown University Pre-Baccalaureate Program in Rhode Island.

“I want to make bionic arms that allow paralyzed people to control their artificial limbs, and create a chip that allows them to control a computer with their thoughts,” Berkan said. “This is what I want to get into for my future, and this was the first step.

“I wanted to take something in the neuroscience field before college so I can get a feel for how it’s going to be for me. Taking classes at Brown and meeting students at Brown added a lot. I felt what it’s like to be in college. For seven weeks I forgot I was a high school student and I was focused on what I was learning.”

Berkan received a scholarship to attend the selective camp at Brown. He took two semester classes at Brown: Neuroscience and the Clinical Science of Meditation. Current Brown students and other selected high school students attended the classes. He was in class for five to six hours each day.

Berkan also had the chance to meet with two professors associated Brown’s BrainGate Research Team, which is working on a chip for the brain that would allow a paralyzed person to control movements.

“I felt like a neuroscience student,” said Berkan, a high honors student at WMA. “I was tutored by one of the best teachers in the country. It confirmed my feeling that this is the career path I want to pursue.

“Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field that requires people from different backgrounds to work together, like engineers who specialize in robotic arms, and neuroscientists, and the doctors who attach things. I loved it.”

Berkan decided to apply to Brown’s summer program after meeting Matthew Reeve during a WMA trip to visit Innovation Uncensored in New York City. Reeve is the son of Christopher Reeve, who became paralyzed in 1995 after a horseback riding accident. A graduate of Brown, Matthew Reeve encouraged Berkan to attend the camp so he could gain experience in the field of neuroscience.

Posted Thursday, Aug 14, 2014 

Emma Kindblom '17 on pace to join sports medical profession 

Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s Emma Kindblom ’17 has known for a few years she wants to pursue a career in the medical field − but which one?

That question was answered during the summer after Emma attended the Explo Ortho at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass. For two weeks, Emma and 16 other high school students studied orthopedic and sports medicine.

“It was all really neat,” Emma said. “We got the general layout about what we were going to do. It was all fantastic, engaging and interesting.”

The program covered everything from patient interviews to heart dissection to postoperative recovery strategies. For Emma, it offered the opportunity to zero in on her two fields of interest: physical therapy and athletic training.

“I’m around the athletic training field a lot because of WMA and where I live; and I’ve gone to PT for myself so I’ve seen both fields,” she said. “But when I went to EXPLO I got to experience both fields. I learned how to tape ankles and tape arches for athletic training, and for physical training I learned how to help people with the exercises they would need for recovery. That helped me decide which field I liked better.”

After two weeks of the program, where the students were constantly in hands-on situations, Emma realized she wanted to work toward a career in athletic training.

“I’ve been with (WMA trainer Erika) Whipple a lot and I really like what she does,” Emma said. “With physical therapy, you’re mostly in an office. With the athletic training, I feel there’s more action to it; if there’s an injury on the field you have to go out and take care of them right away.”

Emma spent one day at Mass General Orthopedics at Patriot Place in Foxboro, and another day with Dr. Dinesh Patel, who is regarded as the innovator of modern arthroscopic surgery.

“I got a lot out of it,” the honor roll student said. “It was a great experience. Being away from home and being able to connect with a group of people I’ve never met before . . . I assume that’s what boarders feel like when they come to WMA. Everyone was really nice and accommodating. I got to bat and hit for softball. It was great.”


Posted Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014 

Nick Kubacki '16 completes student trooper academy

For now, Wilbraham & Monson Academy’s Nick Kubacki ’16 is simply referred to by his name.

In the future, though, people may be calling Nick “Officer Kubacki.”

After attending a physically and mentally demanding police program for a week in July, Nick confirmed his feelings of wanting to become a state trooper.

“I’m interested in law enforcement, specifically becoming a state trooper,” said Nick, who has a grandfather who was a police officer, and a cousin who is training to become a police officer.

Nick applied to and was accepted into the 2014 American Legion Student Trooper Program at the Massachusetts State Police Academy in Braintree. For a week, Nick and the other attendees were physically and mentally challenged, to the point where 17 of the 98 campers dropped out by the end of the week.

“It was work from when we woke up at 5:30 in the morning until we got back to the room at 9 at night,” Nick said. “They put a lot of mental stress on you, too. When you get into the field, there’s going to be stress and you’re going to be the one who people are coming to. They try to push that home by yelling at you. If you do something wrong, they let you know so you can fix it the next time.”

Nick was called out on the first day, with one officer telling him to do one thing and another officer later telling him something else.

“At the time, you’re confused. I was told to do one thing, and then I was told to do the opposite. I didn’t know what to do. But looking back they did it to try to get in my head. They kind of mess with you.”

Upon his completion of the program, Nick said he saw an immediate change, with tools he can use academically and athletically at WMA.

“As soon as I got out of the program, it changed how I saw things,” Nick said. “It’s hard to explain. I can definitely apply what I learned to the classroom and sports: listening to teachers and coaches better, and paying attention. I definitely feel it was a big change for me. I feel like I grew up through that camp.”


Posted Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 

Academy is "wunderbar" for Ben Soder '15

In just 25 days, Ben Soder ’15 learned enough German to hold a meaningful conversation. When students return to Wilbraham & Monson Academy in August, he plans to do just that.

Ben, who previously had no experience with the German language, attended the Middlebury College Monterey Language Academy in Vermont June 21-July 16.

“The world is becoming more global so I figured it would be helpful if I learned a language,” Ben said.

“I’m amazed all that I got out of it in three-and-a-half weeks. I’m rated as a German Level 1 student, but I don’t know many people who have taken Level 1 courses who can function in their target country. I could probably get around in a German-speaking environment.”

The Language Academy required all of the students to take a Language Pledge, meaning attendees could speak solely in German for the entire camp, with the exception of two hours on Saturday nights. Anyone who broke the pledge was sent home.

The pledge made for a rough few days, with Ben relying on the German phrase “Was ist das,” meaning “What is that?” In the end, though, the strict language standard paid off, and Ben left knowing more German than he possibly could have imagined.

“I didn’t know what was going on for the first week,” said Ben, a highest honors student. “It was the worst week ever. I carried around a dictionary the whole entire time.

“But by the end of the first week, I was able to understand what was going on and put together small sentences. By the end of the second week I was able to have conversation at the breakfast, lunch and dinner tables. It was awesome to finally be able to talk to the people I had been living with for two weeks.”

And Ben plans to talk to incoming German students when they arrive on the Academy’s campus in late August.

“WMA is a wonderful resource to learn languages,” he said. “There are native German speakers who come to the school. I plan to meet them and practice my German with them.”

Ben plans to major in international relations or political science in college, and also minor in German, with hopes of doing a study abroad in Germany.


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