As future nears, Winter Sports School grads cherish tight bonds | ParkRecord.com

As future nears, Winter Sports School grads cherish tight bonds

If they follow the paths of the students who came before them, several of them will go on to achieve widespread acclaim and recognition for their athletic ability. Some, perhaps, may one day even stand on a podium before a worldwide audience and have medals placed over their necks.

But on Friday, members of the Winter Sports School’s senior class were draped in another kind of garb that signifies great achievement: a cap and gown. The school, which runs during the spring, summer and early fall to accommodate the athletic aspirations of its students, held its commencement ceremony for the 30-student class of 2015 on Friday at the Temple Har Shalom.

There was merriment to the proceedings typical of a high school graduation, and the emotions were standard, too. Dave Kaufman, head of school, said it was a bittersweet day for nearly everyone involved.

"I’ve had teachers come up to me and ask if there’s some pretense under which they can basically just flunk this whole class so they have to come back again next year," he said. "But the funny thing about it is I’ve also had students come up to me and say, ‘I wish I was a junior.’ So the bond here is tight. And I’m so proud of them that it’s always hard to let go. We’re really going to miss them."

Jacob Hunsaker came to the Winter Sports School in 10th grade because it gave him the flexibility to pursue freestyle snowboarding in a way his previous school, Treasure Mountain Junior High, simply couldn’t. He said graduation was a payoff for putting so much work into academics while also being fully committed to snowboarding.

"It does feel like a reward," he said. "It definitely feels good to be here, where I’m able to know I completed school and know that I succeeded. Now I get to focus on moving on to the next chapter."

Recommended Stories For You

Added Isabel Atkin, who harbors dreams of competing in the X Games in freestyle skiing: "It’s like a chapter of your life ending. But I’m really excited for what’s to come."

For Kaufman, it is satisfying to watch each class grow and develop over four years and set itself apart from the ones that came before it. Each class develops its own personality, its own set of traits that define it. But as graduation neared, Kaufman found it difficult to identify what it is, exactly, that makes the class of 2015 special.

"I don’t know — it’s hard to put it into words," he said. "There’s just something about them. They’ve got all the boxes checked, with respect to academic excellence and athletic excellence and things like that, but there’s a real sense of family to these guys. I felt it when I taught them myself in the economics and finance class. And I think all the other teachers have felt it, too. There’s just a real, tight community spirit about them."

Several students also spoke on Friday of the sense of community the class shares. Hunsaker said that’s what made his three years at the school special. The students bond over the shared experience of being teenagers tasked with keeping up academically while also being dedicated to a sport.

"We all share common interests," Hunsaker said. "And from those common interests, we’re all close friends. I would feel comfortable calling any of my classmates if I needed help on something. We’re a tight-knit group because we all went through it together, being winter sports athletes."

Another trait the class possesses — one Kaufman said it shares with every graduating class from the school — is the motivation to excel at both academics and athletics. It’s what makes the school’s students different from many of their peers. And on Friday, Kaufman was eager to see where that dedication will ultimately lead the graduates.

"We love to see them do well internationally on the athletic stage, or when they get into the college or university of their choice and it’s just the right fit for them and they go on and do great things there," he said. "That’s tremendously exciting, and it’s touching that they keep us updated. You know, they come back and they visit. They don’t just disappear, never to be seen again. and large, a lot of them want to come back and say hello."

Info Box:

WSS Class of 2015 Academic Subject Awards

Art: Mac Henderson

Social Studies: Jay Wilder

Foreign Language: Thomas Calcagni

Science: Jared Shumate

Math: Clara Hathorne

English: Taylor Romano and Nicole Greene

Dave Seiger Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Math and Science: Isabel Atkin

Sam Jackenthal Memorial Award for Outstanding WSS Community Spirit: Joseph Lauer

Kay Wright Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Student: Mac Henderson