Wilbraham & Monson Academy's community of students and faculty is rich in diversity, innovation, and original thoughts and ideas. And what better place to share this with the world than our "Titan Blog."
Expect to hear from everyone from our Head of School Brian P. Easler to one of our brightest young Titans, a boarding student from Serbia. Stay tuned to read about what makes our Advisor program so special and why rugby is woven into the values of the Academy. We intend to share some of what makes this place so special in our "Titan Blog."
The possibilities - and topics - are endless.
Gorana Puzovic ’19
From Belgrade, Serbia to WMA
Goal: “A good education, to play sports but also be involved socially at the school”
My Journey to WMA
Three years ago, I was talking with my mom about studying abroad. For me, it was an unknown concept. My mom said that it meant to go abroad to get a better education. At that moment, we were looking for the agencies that sent high school students abroad. After spending a couple of weeks doing research, we finally found an agency in Belgrade that sends high school students to study abroad and on work and travel programs. I called and set up a meeting with the representative of the agency.
Finding the perfect fit …
She asked me to fill out this questionnaire. I had to answer questions such as:
- What is my budget?
- Where exactly in the U.S. would I like to study?
- What are my interests?
The representative gave me the list of the schools that they are working for and I started doing my own research. I started looking at what school had to offer me. I started looking at the academics, athletics and extracurriculars because for me it is important to get a good education, to play sports but also be involved socially at the school. I started looking for the school in Florida, Maine, Massachusetts and New York state.
But then, I decided to only apply to Wilbraham & Monson Academy. What I really liked about this school is all these amazing options that it provides me:
- a lot of different classes
- diversity, etc.
At that moment, I just knew that it would be a perfect fit for me.
Be myself, speak truly …
The admission process was really easy and straightforward. I had to fill my personal information, my parents’ information, I had to say what I am interested in. Nothing too complicated. Then, I had to schedule an interview with the admission officer from the Academy. Before the interview, I prepared with the agency representative who gave me some tips about the interview such as:
- not to be nervous
- to be myself
- to speak truly
- to be dressed properly,
- that I have enough lights in my room,
- that my room isn’t messy, etc.
At the interview, admission officer asked me why did I decide to apply to the Academy, what I am interested in and to speak about myself. This interview was really long.
Be free to talk
If you speak truly and openly, the admission officer is going to love that. They will be interested to hear so many different things about you. My best advice here is to be free to talk.
My teachers became my friends …
When I am thinking about this moment now, I wouldn’t change anything. Coming to WMA was one of the best decisions in my life. The education, the love, the friendliness that you get here is unbelievable. On my first day of school, I met so many people, and everyone on this campus was so friendly and welcoming, and this made my experience at WMA even better. This place is just amazing. This campus is just gorgeous. My teachers became my friends. As a boarding student, my neighbors in the dorm became like my sisters and my dorm parents like my parents. I never have to worry about anything because I know that everyone will help me to solve the problem. This place is all I ever wanted.
Be ready to … accept everything
My advice to the students who are looking to go to a boarding school is that you have to be ready to commit to work hard, be ready to be away from your family and friends, to be ready to accept the family that you are coming to, but mostly, to be ready to accept everything that is coming. If you are able, schedule a tour and come to visit the campus. Our tour guides are amazing students, athletes and friends. For the interview, always be ready to have some questions. Ask yourself, what would I like to know more about this place, what am I really curious to know about this place. Be confident and ready to present your best at the Academy.
As shared by Dean of Students Liz Squindo
Thursday at WMA is the most “WMA” day of the week; full formal dress code with matching school blazers, all-school meeting and sit-down lunches are all a part of our traditions. These traditions all are integral to making our whole school community, and the Advisor Program is a fundamental component to an individual student’s WMA experience. When a student starts at WMA, their faculty advisor becomes their:
- point person
- No. 1 advocate
- guidance counselor
- chief cheerleader
The purpose of the advisory program is to build a relationship that extends beyond the classroom. The relationship is between the student, adult and family, and everyone’s focus is on the student’s academic social, and emotional growth and success.
We Match Students with Advisors
Since the advisor is such an important role in a student and family’s WMA experience, we take great care in matching students with their advisors. Every summer, the Admissions team and the Deans Office meet several times to make the pairings. New students are matched with an advisor who they will see throughout their day - like a teacher, dorm parent or coach, and who shares some common interests. Returning Upper School students can keep their advisor for the whole time at the Academy, and they also have the opportunity to change. Middle School students may keep their advisor for their duration in the Middle School or change as well. This allows the student to have a voice in who is a part of their support team at WMA.
Strength in Numbers
Advisors work with three to six student advisees. We intentionally limit the groups to six students, so students and families can receive individual attention from their advisor. Upper School advisory groups meet every week immediately following our Thursday School Meeting. Middle School advisory groups meet during the class third period on Thursdays. They have lunch together and meet as a group following lunch. The frequency and timing of these meetings allow time for advisors to reflect on school meeting presentations, support students’ goals and initiatives, and monitor students’ progress.
From Start to Finish
The first advisor meeting of the year happens during the Opening of School weekend. Families and students have an opportunity to meet their advisor and start building their relationship before classes even get started. During the college search process, advisors can provide support to their advisee and their college counselor with a listening ear or, if needed, consistent reminders to submit components of the application. As the year progresses, the advisor works with the student’s teachers and the Deans Office to ensure the student is being challenged, supported, and guided. From the first meeting on, advisors work to identify students’ interests to allow them to personalize their WMA learning experience and to maintain communication with families about this learning experience.
We Have Our Own Identity
Advisories reflect the uniqueness of the advisor leading the group and the advisees within the group. So while there is an advisory curriculum focusing on individual goal setting, health, and social-emotional development, there’s also open advisory time for advisors and advisees. Often times, sharing favorite foods becomes an essential part of the advisory. Advisors may drive or walk with their groups to off-campus a local cafe or farm stand or invite them to their on-campus home to share a snack and relax.
Advisory groups are an integral part of our support system at WMA. Advisors know what’s happening on all fronts of an advisee’s life and the advisor tries to make sense of it all. Whether it’s handing out exam-week care packages or a stern reminder to get their homework in, advisors’ role vary depending on a student’s needs. Working alongside the students, the advisors learn the students’ strengths, talents and areas for growth. With a strong relationship, advisors can have honest and productive conversations about their advisee’s successes and challenges at school.
Every student comes to WMA with their own strengths and areas for growth. It’s an advisor's job to support their advisee and the family. The advisor’s role requires a tailored approach for each student. A student with high academic achievement may not need help organizing their backpack or Google Drive; however, they may need guidance on how to create an evening routine, without their phone, to get a good night’s sleep. Another student may need their advisor’s assistance in coordinating a schedule to see teachers for extra help. Whatever the student’s need, our advisors start by listening to the student to find out how they can best serve their advisee.
The Titan Book Review!
As shared by WMA Students and Faculty
As independent schools welcomed back students and faculty from summer vacation, our Titans at Wilbraham & Monson Academy reminisce on summer adventures - whether they involved travel, working, volunteering, spending time with family and friends, honing athletic skills or finding time to pursue a passion or interest.
Research has shown the positive impact summer work and summer reading have on students as they begin a new school year, not to mention reading for college and SAT preparation. With tightly-packed schedules and afternoon commitments, it’s easy to lose sight of reading for fun (or for school!), but summer can be a great time to catch up, so we asked students and faculty about the books that left an impact on them. Here’s what they had to say:
Gorana Puzovic ’19, Serbia
“The Saint, The Surfer, and the CEO” by Robin Sharma
The book talks about the main character, Jack Valentine, who had a car accident. He wakes up in the hospital and he tries to realize what is happening to him. He was unhappy, broke and he broke up with his girlfriend pretty recently. In the hospital, he is going to meet his dad, for which he didn't know that he was alive because his father left him when he was young. His father is going to leave him a letter and three plane tickets with the following stops: Rome, Italy, Hawaii and New York City. In the letter, his father told him that these people are going to answer him on the three questions, which are whether he has lived wisely, served greatly or loved well.
Sean Valentine, Director of Stewardship & Donor Relations
“Young Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean
Maclean does an outstanding job of creating a moving - and terrifying - portrait of smokejumpers, wildfires and the details of the tragedy that occurred when these collided in an isolated Montana gulch in 1949. It is an excellent read, especially in light of the western wildfires that made recent headlines.
Ayslin Dziedzic ’25
“Primates” and “Chasing Redbird” by Sharon Creech
I really enjoyed "Chasing Redbird." I liked how when she had challenges at the end of the book, everyone was there for her and she got through the challenges. I love how relates to me. I know this year, there will be a lot of challenges. But I know that if I have the WMA family, I will get through my challenges!!!
Meaghan Cavanaugh, Middle School Faculty
“White Houses” by Amy Bloom
"White Houses" tells the perhaps true, but fictional story, of a love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. Following Hickok (“Hick’s”) life from childhood to the White House, I was drawn to her raw emotion, complexity of both love and politics, and the devotion and drive celebrated in these real life historical, female figures.
Iason “Jason” Mihalopolous ’22
“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
"Life of Pi" is a very interesting and deep book. After reading it, it leaves you thinking - which is something only the best authors do.
Charles Warden, Ph.D., CEGS Faculty
“Sapiens A Brief History of Mankind” by Yuval Noah Harari
“War on Peace” by Ronan Farrow
“Sapiens A Brief History of Mankind” by Yuval Noah Harari
Gave a new way to look at human evolution. Provides the argument for mankind's special difference and what makes mankind special.
“War on Peace” by Ronan Farrow
Shows the shift of America's seat of diplomacy to the Department of Defense and from the State Department. Disturbing explanation for America's decline in world influence.
Bill Wells, Director of Student Promotion
“The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” by Michael Finkel
This was a true story about a 20-year-old who lived in the woods of Maine for 27 years by himself. He graduated two years ahead of me from the same high school and lived in a neighboring town. We had to have crossed paths at some point. The book includes places and names of people I know, which made the story even more fascinating to me.
Tim Harrington ’73, Chair, English Department
“The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway”
A friend had given me a new copy of "The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway," which - despite the title - contains all but six or seven of the short stories he wrote during his life. I read almost all again, including my favorites:
"The Short Happy Life of Frances Macomber"
"Snows of Kilimanjaro”
"A Clean Well-Lighted Place"
and the Nick Adams stories in which he wrote about the summers he spent in rural Michigan.
“A Month in the Country” by J.L. Carr
I also re-savored one of my all-time favorite novels. This is a small gem of a book about an emotionally shattered veteran of the Great War, who spends a summer in a small village in the rural north of England (Yorkshire to be exact) uncovering and restoring a medieval mural on the wall of the village church. In the process, he uncovers several truths about the village, humanity, love and the people he meets, and he finds and restores himself.
“Ebony Tower” by John Fowles
I found an old hard cover edition in the stacks of Raven Used Bookstore in Northampton. I had loved Fowles' novels "The Magus" and "Daniel Martin" when I was in my 20s.
"Ebony Tower" includes a novella of the same name and a number of short stories in which Fowles explored the narrative form as it relates to the Western literary tradition spawned in the tales of medieval writers like Chretien de Troyes and Marie de France (one of the stories in the book is Fowles' translation of her story Eliduc). This is great literary nerd stuff but the novella itself is a great read about an artist/critic who steps out of his normal life to travel to rural France (Brittany). He interviews one of the last surviving artists who predated modernism and abstract art and who rejects it all, including everything the artist/critic had done in his life and almost everything he believes in. It's a love story too.
Gokul Sivakumar ’19
“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
I really enjoyed “The Glass Castle,” which I read for my AP Language and Composition class. I thought Jeanette Wall's story of her perseverance and motivation to escape her poor life was inspiring because it shows that despite all the hardships someone can face, they can still find a way to face them if they have the proper determination.