- Bulletin Features
Follow the busy and fulfilling daily lives of three Taft students on a given day: Mary Collette '17, L.J. Foley '17, and Kaedi Dalley '18.
Photography by Robert Falcetti
All In: Mary Collette '17
Devoted to service and a natural athlete, Mary combines her passions as student head of Taft's Service Through Sports programs.
The best part of Mary Collette's day, she says, is the time she spends with her large circle of friends—on the sofa in
Lauren's room, soaking up the sun on Jig patio, rowdy meals in the Dining Hall. But spend a little time with her, and
you'll find it hard to call any one part of her day better than the next. She is "all in" with everything she does, bringing
heart, soul, and a pure joie de vivre that is nothing short of contagious.
G Block, 8:15–9:15 AM: AP Biology
It is late April and Advanced Placement (AP) exams are just around the corner. A senior who was accepted early decision to Bates, Mary is carrying six courses, three of them APs. Science teacher Laura Monti '89 is thoroughly and methodically working through reams of material to make sure her AP Biology students are ready for the exams. This week: body systems—the immune system, the nervous system, and the endocrine system.
"This is my thing," Mary says excitedly. "This is why I'm going to be a neuroscience major. I love the nervous system. How do we think? How do our muscles move? How do our bodies send signals that cause chemical changes?
It's all amazing to me."
C Block, 12:30–1:15 PM: Lunch
This won't be one of those treasured lunch blocks with her friends, it will be a working lunch for Mary. Another look at the material for an upcoming AP Statistics quiz, an email to the Taft community reminding them to come to Wednesday night drum circle, and then a quick look at her training schedule: Mary is running a half marathon at the end of the month, and has just started to taper her training.
"I've run some 10ks," says Mary, "but never a half marathon. I think it's going to be fun. I like to challenge myself and do new things. I like setting new goals, then working hard to achieve them."
And on race day, like most of her Sundays, Mary is already double-booked: "I just signed up to perform at Taft's Coffee House the night of the half marathon," she says. "I hope I'll have the energy!"
A Block, 1:50—2:35 PM: Jazz Workshop
Tomorrow is Grandparents' Day, a standing gig for Taft's Jazz Ensemble. Mary plays bass guitar with the group, and has traveled with them across the U.S. and around the world. While class typically meets in the Band Room, today they are on stage in Bingham, running the Grandparents' Day set and blocking their positions on stage. Mary is front and center, and in her element.
After a quick sound check, warm up, and a few runs through Santana's "Oye Como Va," the group is on to Count Basie's "Jumpin' at the Woodside," a clear favorite for Mary, and one in which she performs a solo. They practice their bows, and Mary is off.
"I need to run home and get my things for softball practice," she says.
Run...literally: Mary is a day student who grew up on North Street, just on the edge of campus.
"Growing up, I thought of Taft as my backyard. It wasn't until I was older that I realized that the place I played ball with my dad at night was one of the top boarding schools in the nation."
Afternoon Ex: Softball Practice
A natural leader, Mary is one of the captains of the softball team. She and her teammates are still pumped from Saturday's 16–0 win over Canterbury, and hoping to take some of the energy into tomorrow's game against Westminster.
"We definitely have a strong drive to beat Westy this year," notes Mary. "They always seem to be a tough tournament opponent for us. I'm excited to give them our best effort tomorrow."
It's a good practice, with everyone on their game. Mary shares some positive and motivating words with her teammates, but has other business to conduct. She needs to talk with Coach Tom Antonucci about trying to schedule a softball clinic with students from Waterbury's Police Activities League (PAL) program. Mary is the student head of Taft's Service Through Sports program, and hopes to fit in both the clinic and a stuffed animal drive for young patients at area hospitals in the next few weeks.
Team dinner in the Dining Hall is one of the best parts of Mary's day. But after a long day, she is also looking forward to getting home to play a little guitar, do some homework, and spend time catching up with her parents. Like most nights, Mary hopes to be asleep by midnight. She will sleep well after a full but rewarding day.
A Study in Balance: L.J. Foley '17
In many ways, L.J. Foley is the quintessential Taftie. He is bright, articulate, and involved. He is an academic, an artist, and an athlete. He is a leader and a role model. L.J.'s days are long; his commitment to the Taft community is deep and unwavering. For L.J., each day is a study in balance.
9:30—10:25 AM: Admitted Student Events
It is Admitted Student Day at Taft, when the school welcomes newly accepted, prospective students to campus for a full day of events and programming. L.J. has been tapped to greet families and escort parents to class, but first he will perform for them in Lincoln Lobby: L.J. is a member of Oriocos, Taft's nearly century-old, student-led, a cappella singing group. L.J. joined Oriocos as an upper mid, one year after he successfully auditioned for Collegium Musicum, Taft's showcase choir. He will perform with Collegium later today, giving prospective families another look at the depth of the arts program at Taft.
"Collegium has been great because it gives me the opportunity to explore my love of music while allowing me to get to know a lot of kids I might not have met otherwise," says L.J.
The Oriocos performance leaves L.J. with only a few minutes to drop into his Monday morning Mons meeting with Director of Student Activities Sarah Koshi. The School Mons meet with Koshi every Monday morning to plan activities for the coming weekend.
"Next weekend is an open weekend, so we want to do something smaller scale that's relatively easy to plan and execute," says L.J., "since there may be fewer people on campus than usual."
The group votes to show movies in the common rooms, and L.J., heads off to take visiting families to his AP Human Geography class. He will answer questions from prospective parents along the way, sharing details about his time at Taft and of the depth of his Rhino pride.
E Block, 1:00—1:40 PM: AP American Government
It may be "senior spring," but L.J. is still carrying a full course load—three of his six classes are APs. With political science on his radar as a potential college major, AP American Government is one of L.J.'s favorite classes. Teacher Rachael Ryan is preparing students for an upcoming in-class essay exploring civil rights and civil liberties. The preparation includes a student presentation on North Carolina's repeal of portions of the so-called "bathroom bill." L.J. offers details of the economic implications of the bill, noting that both the NBA and the NCAA balked at holding events in that state when the bill that limits LGBTQ protections was enacted. The events, L.J. notes, are big revenue generators for the state; their loss was akin to non-governmental economic sanctions.
"I think repealing portions of the bill should help North Carolina," L.J. adds, "because it shows an effort to resolve some of the issues that originally concerned both organizations."
Afternoon Ex: Lacrosse Practice
L.J. is a talented athlete and a serious competitor. He played soccer, hockey, and lacrosse in each of his four years at Taft.
"I like being competitive, and I like the camaraderie," says L.J. "I consider myself pretty to close to all of the kids on each of my teams. I appreciate that I was able to play all three sports at Taft, and to play them successfully."
Mondays start in the locker room, debriefing Saturday's game. This week's 16–7 win over Canterbury means spirits and energy are high as the players make their way out of the locker room for "Madden Madness," Coach Robert Madden's eponymous, 12-minute plyometric workout, built to increase individual speed, strength, and agility in his players. It is a Monday tradition, and an important part of the team's conditioning routine.
When his practice schedule and workload allow, L.J. heads back to the Athletics Center after dinner.
"If it's soccer season I might play an hour of wall ball to practice lacrosse skills, or during lacrosse season I may just go back and lift," L.J. says. "After dinner is usually a good time to work out."
Today's schedule was exceptionally full, so L.J. skips the gym and heads straight to the library. He has an hour or so to study before reporting for duty in CPT.
"As a Mon, I am on duty every Monday night in my dorm," explains L.J. "I get there by 7:50 or so to check kids in for study hall."
L.J. also sees dorm duty as an opportunity to catch up with his peers and spend time with the teacher on duty. He visits with a few friends and checks in with his dorm mates before finishing his homework. He is soon back on the job, signing juniors in for the night at 10:15, and doing the same for seniors at 10:45.
"As a Mon it's my job to sign kids in for study hall or nightly check-in," says L.J., "but it also my job to just be here, always setting the right example."
Giving Voice to Passion: Kaedi Dalley '18
There is a quiet rhythm to Kaedi Dalley's day. She is not a cog in a wheel, but the wheel itself—a driving force, moving everything around her forward with subtle, yet unwavering intent. She is a passionate voice in the Taft community, with a gift and spirit that inspire and resonate.
F Block, 8:15—9:15 AM: Collegium Musicum
There is a good deal of work to be done today: Collegium will perform twice in the next three days—on campus Friday evening and in New York City on Sunday. There isn't time to run the full set list for the concerts, but Director Bruce Fifer leads the group through at least a part of each song, including Kaedi's solo, "Sound Over All Waters." It is a stunning piece, and one that
Kaedi has performed with Collegium many times, most recently in San Francisco during Spring Break with its creator, Paul Halley, in the audience. And while her peers have heard Kaedi perform the number many times over the last year, they are still visibly moved in class on this day, and applaud her breathtaking performance.
G Block, 9:30—10:15 AM: Upper Mid English
Derek Palmore's class taps into Kaedi's strengths: She is a natural leader and a deep thinker. She is passionate in her convictions, and eager to give voice to that passion.
"English is the course I like the most," says Kaedi. "Mr. Palmore allows everyone to articulate themselves in whatever way they feel is most appropriate; for me, that's speaking more so than writing. His acknowledgment of my eloquence is encouraging—it inspires me to be very active in class discussions and analyses."
And today is no exception. The class has been reading Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Kaedi quickly joins the conversation, and quite naturally slips into the role of leader during the small group breakout sessions. Palmore's easy, open style invites full participation and thoughtful dialogue, and Kaedi responds in kind.
D/DH Block, 12:45—2:00 PM: Lunch
It's Thursday, which means Kaedi is one day away from the next SHOUT: Taft Gender and Sexuality Alliance gathering. Kaedi and Kimberly, SHOUT co-heads, will use this lunch block to make plans for the upcoming session.
"We try to meet every Friday," explains Kaedi, "and that remains pretty consistent. We often have 20 or 30 people come to talk about a pretty wide range of issues. We might talk about current events—we have talked about Trump and his policies and how they might affect the LQBTQ+ community—or we'll have general discussions about topics that feel relevant. We have evolved SHOUT to encompass everything from really chill conversations in a hang-out spot, to educational lectures with research and slideshows."
This year Kaedi also cofounded a new club on campus, Taft Stands in Solidarity.
"We have about 30 active participants," says Kaedi. "Our intent is to be aware and responsive to what is going on in the world. We held a sit-in in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the fall. It was very exciting; I was both a little nervous and a little bit thrilled to conduct and take part in something so important."
Meetings Block, 2:55—3:30 PM: Gospel Choir
"Music is a very, very, very big part of my life," says Kaedi, "one that I take very seriously. I try to do whatever I can, despite my pretty busy schedule, to be engaged with music at Taft."
And she is: Kaedi sings with Hydrox, the all-female a cappella group on campus, performs at Taft coffee houses, helped plan and performed at the MLK Day celebration, quite memorably (and truly) became Motormouth Maybelle in Taft's production of Hairspray, and showed both her vocal and comic chops as Donkey in Shrek, The Musical. She is also the student leader of Taft's Gospel Choir. Before rehearsal begins today, Kaedi needs to get a headcount for Gospelfest 2017, a multi-school event at Hotchkiss in May. It is her job to coordinate travel when the group is on the road, and to communicate rehearsal and performance schedules. It is when she begins to sing, however, that she fully comes into her own.
JV Golf team practice ("It's very calming—just you and the ball..."), dinner, study hall, and, of course, music.
"I practice in the piano rooms in the evenings," says Kaedi. "Going to the camp that I went to last summer made me realize that this is the career I want to pursue. I would like to be a professional singer—a performer in the music industry."
With support from Taft's Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund, Kaedi traveled to Los Angeles last summer to attend the A Cappella Academy. Only 13 percent of the high school-aged students who auditioned for a spot at the academy were accepted. She will return this summer, having been accepted through an even more competitive audition process.
"I am always working to mature my voice and grow as a performer," says Kaedi. "Taft's resources and opportunities have helped me do that—I take advantage of every opportunity here that I can."