By Wendy Lawrence, Inspire Contributor

EACH YEAR WE HIGHLIGHT THE Eastside Prep “Lifers” within the graduating class—those seniors who started in EPS in the fifth grade. This year, twenty-two seniors completed all eight years at EPS.

Rylie Crow fondly remembers the bubble of the fifth-grade commons, hanging out with Ms. Kuffner and Mr. Colello among the couches and comfiness that made the transition to a new school super fun. She loves how close her grade has gotten now that they are twelfth graders. “I’m happy to be with the people that I’m with ,” she writes. A basketball player, Crow writes, “All the girls’ sports at EPS are great. I love being able to be on teams with other girls who care about a game we all love.” Crow has grown a lot in her time here, learning to advocate for herself and build relationships with her teachers, but her favorite memory was when Mr. Uzwack ordered thirty-two pizzas, for thirty-two students (“because he didn’t know how much pizza kids would eat”).

When thinking back on fifth grade, Amelia Crill, like many others, first remembers the death of Mr. Lochi, the science classroom fish. “We primarily suspected Mr. Colello” she says, and “we held a trial after school.” She’s loved bonding with classmates in cross country and track and field, and loves that they push her to do better and work harder. Crill’s future plans are open but inspiring: “I’m hoping I’ll always push myself to take risks and opportunities as they come, explore new interests, and work hard in anything I do to make the most out of what I’ve been given.”

What does Hazel Goetsch remember about fifth grade? “Mostly the little things, like when we accused Mr. Colello of killing our fish, then convicted him in a just and righteous trial. Or when Vinnie dropped his laptop off the skybridge, but it still worked fine. Mr. Colello’s notorious marker flipping. Making a video for Ms. Kuffner during EBC at Camp Orkila because she was in the Galapagos. The general craziness of our grade chanting ‘E!P!S!’ every single time we returned to school from a field trip. Everybody knew everybody.” Goetsch, a three-season athlete who competes in volleyball, basketball, and track, loves the freedom and initiative she gets to practice as a senior and credits the school for perfecting her time-management skills. In the short term, Goetsch hopes to polish her Spanish before her EBC Week; in the medium term she hopes to do well in college. And in the longer term, she hopes for a home large enough to become the local crazy cat lady.

Ian Heuberger loved starting senior year with the overnight trip where he got to see everyone and share stories from their summers. Heuberger has spent his time at EPS with his friends as well as on the golf and e-sports teams and appreciates the way the school has helped him evolve in his understanding of social issues and the different cultures in the world. He fully expects to keep changing and learning. His two life goals are definitely related—professionally, he wants to work in international relations, and personally, he wants to travel and experience the world.

Being sold on Eastside Prep from early on is a great memory for Kaitlyn (KK) Kasel. “When I was first applying to EPS, I told every other school I was applying for that EPS was my top choice during the interviews. I’m super embarrassed that I did that now, but I was just so certain EPS was the school I was supposed to go to.” That certainty was rewarded early on as she noted her other early memories include the love of being in a real classroom environment, “in a space where everyone was so committed to learning.” Spending time with friends she has made at EPS has been the best part of her senior year, although Kasel has been busy with other interest as well—Girls Empowerment Club, chamber choir, and assistant directing the Middle School play last fall. Her goal for the future is very concrete (never using the Common App again!), while what she’s learned at EPS goes much deeper, “I learned that it is worth the effort to invest in my interests and take the time to get better at them. I’ve recently been less intimidated by the things I have always wanted to try.”

“It’s a very interesting feeling having the leadership shift toward me over the years,” says Max Lee. “Being a peer mentor for the second year now is pretty powerful because I feel like I am influencing the community that helped me.” Lee also plays three sports and, when asked to reflect on this issue’s theme, says it’s hard to imagine what hasn’t progressed given how much he’s learned in his time at the school. “I’ve learned the value of respect in all aspects of my life. These beliefs have been a huge asset to me already and I suspect they will continue to help me as I move to college and beyond.” One of his most important future goals is reconnecting with friends he’s drifted
away from.

Anderson Lin’s favorite classes at EPS have been Stagecraft and P.E. In his time at EPS, he’s learned a lot about how to organize himself and communicate with his teachers. While his time at EPS certainly includes funny stories, they are not necessarily magazine-appropriate. As for life goals? “I’m not sure yet, I think I still have a long way to go before I’ll know any of my life goals. For now, I’m just doing stuff.” That sounds like a good place to be!

“I really enjoyed spending time in Mr. Uzwack’s Advisory when I was in fifth grade,” says Ella Luhn. “We often hid in his office and caused chaos in the Middle School commons begging for milkshakes from Burgermaster.” Her mornings as a Senior are more composed. “My favorite part of my day at EPS is breakfast with my friends. I come to school every day around 7:30 so I can study and talk to my friends. It’s a great way to start my morning.” Luhn has spent her high school years focusing on film and journalism. She also has leadership positions on the student council, student athletic council, and as a student ambassador and tour guide. “While at EPS, I have grown into an astute self-advocator and have learned when to ask for help or work independently.” She’s also developed her own sense of fashion and humor. Luhn is planning to pursue a degree in production design in college and hopes to work in film or theater in a role where she can collaborate with others on creative products. She also hopes to compete in more national equestrian finals!

J Martinez loved rafting on the senior fall overnight and placing bets on who could get Dr. Stegeman into the river! Martinez focuses a lot of his time at EPS in theatre. One of the ways EPS helped Martinez progress was ironically by showing him where he struggled. “I didn’t know I had a bunch of math disabilities until halfway through freshman year. Before I was made aware of this, I was doing pretty bad in math classes and failed my first-ever math final in fifth grade. I thought it was because I just wasn’t smart enough. But then I got a tutor and spent a couple years working on accommodating my own learning outside of EPS, studying for a couple more hours every day. Even though I know I’ll always have to work harder to understand things than neurotypical people do, I can still find the fun in solving math problems once I learn in my own way. Now I really like advanced calculus and got my first A in a math class!” Thinking about the future, Martinez wants to have hobbies. Having spent the last four years getting up early and staying up late to do homework, they are ready for more art, music, and theatre in their life! “I want to find a hobby that I can do for my own enjoyment, even if it’s silly.”

“So far,” says Logan McKinley, “playing on the Varsity Soccer team and being a captain has been the best part of my last year at EPS.” In addition to sports, McKinley is also involved in school cultural groups. She leads the Upper and Middle School Multiracial/Biracial Affinity Groups and also acts as a peer mentor and peer study tutor. She credits a lot of her personal progress at EPS to “figuring out what I’m truly passionate about.” For example, Mr. Waltzer and AP Bio sparked an interest in healthcare, which she had never before considered as a career. “I’ve also just grown immensely as a student, athlete, and individual, and that’s all been thanks to the faculty and my friends.”

Jonathan Nister still remembers the gaga ball from his very first EBC trip to Camp Orkila. Since then, he’s loved playing Ultimate as well as taking many unique and fun classes (“shoutout to Comp. Gov!”) The Ultimate team won the State Championship. He also loved playing viola and founding the school’s first e-sports club with his friends. “We won VHEL nationals in League of Legends in just our second year.” Moving into the Upper School, he was nervous at first for the increased workload, but says he took it on without even noticing. “Ultimately, I think the most important thing I’ve learned here, which comes from the EPS mission, is to think critically; that is, I have a much better understanding of how to attack problems with specificity, unpack complex ideas, and ultimately, how to learn new things. In addition to someday visiting every continent, Nister hopes to work in computer science and design a video game.

Keyan Premji has fond, albeit injury-related, memories from his first years at EPS. “One day I was running around on the sport court, as we had just come back from a trip in PE where we went to a soccer field. Alex Feldman and Mr. Colello were tossing a football when I heard Mr. Colello shout ‘FASTBALL!’ and he threw it seemingly as fast as he could at Alex, only he threw it a little bit too far to the left and it hit me square in the head. I ended up getting a concussion, but he was very nice and caring, making sure I was healthy and feeling better.” Premji also seems to have his future pretty concretely worked out, with plans that don’t seem to include concussions. “My goal is to be able to work a job related to computer science, and my hope is the diverse and rigorous curriculum will help me prepare for any intellectual challenges I may face on the way, whether later this year, during college apps, or in college itself.”

Jennifer Pugh says the best part of senior year is looking toward the future, with her community close at hand. “At EPS, I believe I’ve made friendships and connections that will last far beyond college.” That all started in fifth grade when the small community welcomed her in. In the space between classes, Pugh has loved Art Club and hanging out with friends after school. She is excited to step into her fully independent life, continue skiing and painting, and head to some concerts!

Arnav Sharma says the best part of senior year was seeing his Eagles win the Ultimate State Championships. “I felt a huge amount of pride for my friends and the people I grew up with.” Some of the things that stand out from his experience at the school include the Southeast Asian Affinity Group, playing video games with friends outside of school, Dr. Langer’s International Relations class, and Ultimate. One of the best things he’s learned has been how to effectively communicate, asking more questions, being curious, and setting expectations with others. “Ultimate also taught me the meaning of hard work, and the importance of a team beside you to go through the highs and lows.” He hopes his future involves engineering and dogs.

Mina Shenoy loves that senior year allowed her more time with friends and the freedom to take some “super-interesting” classes such as Lit and the Natural Environment. “Choir and theatre are big parts of my life at EPS. It’s been nice to continue my involvement in them, grow into more leadership roles, and get to know the people who will continue these programs after me and my classmates are gone.” Over her time here, Shenoy says she’s learned to be less competitive and hopes to continue to grow in that direction. Speaking of competitiveness, when asked about her life goals, she says, “I want to domesticate raccoons.”

Since fifth grade, when her favorite memory was Mr. U’s Advisory group, Lina Simone has spent a lot of time at EPS playing Ultimate and taking creative writing classes. She’s also been part of the Girl’s Empowerment Club since 9th grade. She loves that the school curriculum and teaching encouraged and nurtured her writing, something she also pursued through independent studies that allowed her to go even farther into that work. She hopes to someday study abroad in Europe.

Jonathan Sun is very excited to be done with college applications. In his years at EPS, he’s progressed a lot academically. “I’ve collected a lot of useful knowledge,” he says, “but also I gained lots of valuable skills that will stay with me for the rest of my life.” In addition to coursework, Sun was active in robotics club every year.

The immediate sense of community is what Jules Twelker remembers most from her first year at EPS. “It was never hard to make friendships or connect with teachers and there were always activities happening outside of academic classes that created an engaging and fun environment.” Those outside activities continue to remain important as Twelker notes the best part of senior year is the fun of showing school spirit at athletic games or just cheering on their grade during EagleCon competitions. Twelker notes that her hopes for her future include continuing to “do what I love, pursue every passion, and stay curious, both in a learning environment and just in life.” EPS seems to have helped on that path as she notes, “EPS has pushed me to make progress in finding what style of learning and studying works best for me. Once I found what worked for me, procrastination and other stressors didn’t get in the way of just enjoying what we were learning.”

“We had a thing called ‘Fun Video Friday’ in Mr. Colello’s English class,” remembers Sonali Vaid when asked about 5th grade. “We would send in funny videos throughout the week, watch them all on Friday, and then guess who sent them. Vaid loved the Senior fall overnight. “There’s nothing quite like getting consumed by a riptide while rafting.” Vaid says EPS has prepared her well for the future by giving her chances to figure out what works best for her. “I now feel a lot more confident working under pressure, knowing when to ask for help, and taking academic risks.” She has no specific future plans, but wants to do something she loves while having a positive social impact.

Clare Whitfield fondly remembers the giant swing from the fifth grade EBC trip. Eight years later, she’s excited to see where all her friends head after EPS. Whitfield has been a part of the Girls Empowerment Club since its founding and is also an EPS athlete. “A lot has changed in my time at EPS. I definitely started EPS with very little idea of who I was as an individual and what I wanted to do with my future, and I have grown to have a very set plan for myself and my future goals, as well as a general idea of who I am and how I fit into the world.” Whitfield is currently thinking about pursuing a law degree, possibly to become a Criminal Prosecutor with a specialty in homicide.

Thinking back to fifth grade, Alan Yuen first remembers his peer mentors. “They left a really big impression on me. Coming from a public school, it was really weird to have some sort of mentor that I constantly saw throughout school, but it felt really nice knowing that I knew at least two people from all these big giant scary people that I didn’t know.” He loves the extra freedom he has now that he’s one of the big scary people himself. Yuen really took advantage of his years at EPS to challenge himself. “I’ve taken a lot of challenging classes like Advanced Topics in Math and CS, Advanced Physics and Chem, Data Science 1 and 2, etc. I’ve also been part of EPS athletics my entire time here.” Yuen has played Ultimate and was playing in the orchestra, but his mom wanted him to sleep more. “I’ve also been part of Magic: The Gathering, math, fusor, debate, e-sports, Hunt the Wumpus, and many other clubs/teams.” But even with all of that, he thinks his most important involvement was getting to know his classmates and supporting friends by attending their games and concerts. He says his social and political awareness has grown a lot at EPS. Fully dedicating himself to the school started early when, on the fifth-grade EBC trip, he had to climb through a window to unlock a cabin they were staying in. Yuen hopes to travel to Japan and Korea, build his own computer, and possibly find a job related to computer science.

A bright and varied future is clearly in store for this set of critical thinkers.