Finals are over, but summer isn’t beginning just yet for high school students at The Ellis School. Why? It’s mini-course time! Following AP and final exams at the end of May, the Ellis Upper School transitions from traditional academic courses to an eclectic and exciting mix of “mini-courses” for the final weeks of the school year. These required, experiential classes are a time for students to have fun, explore new interests, and unwind.
Lila Balistrieri, Class of 2018, has been awarded the Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship at the University of Rochester. A valuable and prestigious honor, the Handler Scholarship provides complete financial support for tuition and fees, room and board, and books for select students in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. At the University of Rochester, Lila plans to study Microbiology and Epidemiology and continue onto medical school after graduation.
Award-winning game designer Jessica Hammer, Ph.D. will be the featured speaker at The Ellis School’s Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, June 7, at 7:00 p.m. in the Ellis Courtyard. The ceremony will celebrate the School’s graduating Class of 2018 and their many contributions, achievements, and accomplishments as Ellis students and young women.
It’s not every day you walk into the fourth grade and see Marie Curie, Maya Angelou, Julia Child, Katherine Johnson, Lucille Ball, and Michelle Obama. But on April 25, that’s exactly what Ellis families walked into as the Class of 2026 transformed themselves and their classroom into a Living History Wax Museum. Students were dressed as historic changemakers, doctors, and humanitarians as they brought history to life through the lens of historic women in their interdisciplinary, end-of-year capstone project.
It’s official—the Class of 2018 is college bound. The Ellis School is thrilled to celebrate the many and wide-ranging achievements of the senior class and to announce this year’s matriculation list. This spirited group of 37 students was accepted to 68 institutions in 24 different states that are as diverse and unique as the girls themselves. The list represents 26 schools that are an outstanding fit for each girl’s individual ambitions and aspirations.
The Ellis School was delighted to host author and illustrator Victoria Jamieson for Author Day on Friday, April 27. A Newbery Honor-winning author of graphic novels Roller Girland All’s Faire in Middle School, Victoria spoke to Lower and Middle School students, signed dog-eared and well-loved copies of her books, and hosted an interactive creative writing and drawing workshop for the sixth grade.
The Ellis Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools participated in coding activities on April 11, to promote, encourage, and inspire Ellis girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). According to the National Science Foundation, women makeup 46 percent of the total workforce but hold only 24 percent of jobs (and women of color hold only 11 percent) in technical fields. To do our part to flip that statistic, The Ellis School is committed to fostering confidence and competence in STEM-fields by introducing all of our students to STEM early and often through collaborative learning, classroom lessons, and interdisciplinary experiences.
Tegan Poerio, Class of 2021, has been ranked one of the top 101 freshmen field hockey players in the country by Max Field Hockey. An explosive player and dynamic teammate, Tegan has played field hockey at Ellis since Middle School and led the Tigers to their fourth consecutive WPIAL title this year with two goals in the championship game.
The Ellis School will celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week from Monday, May 7, to Friday, May 11, in honor of our outstanding teachers. Whether they’re providing guidance on a paper outside of class or cheering students on as they perform on stage, Ellis teachers are personally invested in the success and well-being of every girl, every day. They make a genuine effort to know, support, and challenge their students, and in many cases, it is nearly impossible to capture our gratitude.
The Ellis School inducted six outstanding student scholars into the Cum Laude Society on Wednesday, April 18. Yumika Amemiya, Class of 2019; Oliver Burnett, Class of 2018; Emmy Hsiung, Class of 2019; Emma Schell, Class of 2019; Olivia Simon, Class of 2018; and Yolanda Zheng, Class of 2018 were recognized for their academic excellence at this year’s assembly. This honor of great distinction commends students for their impressive scholastic performance, rigorous course of study, and commitment to the highest ideals of scholarship.
Eighteen Upper School students were inducted into three National Honor Societies for world languages on Tuesday, April 25. All inductees have demonstrated a palpable enthusiasm for learning a language and have maintained an A- average or higher through two years of French, Latin, or Spanish. Their proven dedication to not only learning a language, but to exploring the diverse cultures, people, and perspectives behind it, is what truly makes these students successful as they master their language skills in upper-level courses.
On Sunday, April 15, The Ellis School hosted students, families, and community members at the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival (JRMF) for a day of fun, open-ended mathematical activities. Started in 2007 by Google, Julia Robinson Mathematics Festivals have been popping up all over the country since, with Ellis being the first school in Western Pennsylvania to host a festival. Named after late mathematician Julia Robinson who was best known for her solution to Hilbert’s Tenth Problem, the festivals are non-competitive community events that “inspire K–12 students to explore the richness and beauty of mathematics through collaborative, creative problem-solving.”
The Senior Art Exhibition is on display in the Benjamin R. Fisher Gallery through Friday, April 20. The exhibition features artwork from twenty senior visual arts students, who have worked tirelessly handcrafting their ideas and values into individual artistic expression in the studio. From photography to ceramics, the show amplifies the unique voice of each of the senior artists and celebrates their individuality, diversity, and creativity.
Ellis students in kindergarten through grade 4 partnered with East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM), a local organization that provides educational and prevention programs, food and shelter, and counseling services to those in need, for a Day of Service on April 4. Throughout the year, Lower School students have learned the meaning of service learning through guided lessons, conversations, and interdisciplinary projects.
From seeing the technique and talent of a florist firsthand to hearing what it takes to make it as an NCAA referee, the Class of 2025 has learned about a variety of different professions from Ellis families and friends this year as part of the grade 5 speaker series. Throughout the year, parents and friends of Ellis have been welcomed into the fifth grade classroom to share their own paths and expertise with students as they begin to consider the age-old question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?”
It’s double the global learning and double the fun this year for Ellis juniors Payton Ferris and Lauren Jasper who have been named the 2018 awardees of the Marcie WATERMAN Love ’56 International Travel Grant for the Global Empowerment of Women and Girls. Instead of choosing just one grant winner this year, Marcie chose to offer both Lauren and Payton her name-sake grant after they both exhibited a clear sense of purpose and passion for global learning in their applications and proposals. As recipients of the alumna-funded grant, Payton and Lauren will step outside of their comfort zones and travel to Guatemala and South Africa to pursue independent study abroad projects aimed at empowering women. When they return for their senior year, their experiences will inform their senior project.
Grade 11 students in Global Leadership by Design are partnering with local, global organizations Building New Hope, The Global Switchboard, Never Fear Being Different, Prototype PGH, and Ujamaa Collective for a social-action project. To enhance their global knowledge and cultural awareness, students will work in teams to create proposals, prototypes, and presentations for each client in order solve a contemporary challenge each organization is currently facing.
From Wednesday, March 14, to Friday, April 13, the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools will raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) for the second annual $$ for Change Fundraiser. The three divisions will go head-to-head as they compete to raise money for LLS and vie to be named the top fundraising division. With an average of six people dying in the United States of blood cancer every hour, $$ for Change will aid research into Leukemia and Lymphoma treatment and help patients and their families navigate their diagnosis.
Four Ellis students, Julia Freudenberg, Class of 2024; Grayson Honig, Class of 2023; Samantha Honig, Class of 2021; and Dania Stewart, Class of 2023, competed at the 2018 Pennsylvania Alpine Racing Association (PARA) State Skiing Championships in late February and early March. After receiving enough points in races throughout the ski season, the students qualified for the PARA Championships as part of the Western Pennsylvania Race Club (WRPC), a Seven Springs-based team.
Bryn Luedde, Class of 2019, will advance to the PIAA State Tournament after placing fourth overall in the 50 Freestyle at the WPIAL Championships on March 1. As the eleventh seed, Bryn clocked a personal best time of 24.93 seconds and soared past expectations to finish first in her heat. She will represent Ellis and swim the 50 Freestyle at the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships from March 14–17, 2018 at Bucknell University.
Senior clay students are displaying their work at Carnegie Coffee Company from now through March 17 as part of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference (NCECA). The Ellis student exhibition titled Selected Work: Senior 2018 has been led and organized by Amian Sandhu, Class of 2018, and Yolanda Zheng, Class of 2018, who have selected, curated, and set up the show in its entirety for their senior project.
Middle School students showed their literacy skills and love of reading as they competed in the second annual Battle of the Books competition on February 28. A voluntary team trivia contest centered around four books each student read outside of class, the Battle of the Books quizzed students on details big and small to test their comprehension and retention from each of the four selections.
Two Ellis student-athletes, Violet Shattuck, Class of 2018, and Bryn Luedde, Class of 2019, will compete at the WPIAL Swimming Championships at Trees Hall Pool at the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday, March 1, and Friday, March 2.
The Upper School musical, Chicago, razzle-dazzled audiences on February 9 and 10, with sold-out crowds in attendance on Friday and Saturday night. A satire on corruption, sensationalism, and celebrity, Chicago tells the story of two rival vaudevillian murderesses, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, who won’t let a little thing like an impending murder charge get in the way of their showbiz dreams.
Seventeen Ellis students were recognized at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards this year, winning nineteen different awards in the critical essay, photography, digital art, ceramics & glass, and design categories. Each year, students in grades 7 to 12 are encouraged to submit their work to the awards which is the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious arts and writing recognition program.
Affinity groups at The Ellis School recognize, support, and celebrate diversity by bringing together students who share something important in common, e.g., race, gender, religion, or special interests. An inclusive space for students who share a specific identity, affinity groups build community, promote positive self-awareness, and influence positive change and conversation within the community. In affinity group meetings, students regularly use their voices to identify issues important to them, promote ideas for action, and have honest dialogue about their lived experiences in a safe, non-judgemental environment.
The Ellis Future City team won first place at the 2017 Pittsburgh Regional Future City Competition at Carnegie Music Hall on January 20 with their their future city, Idunn Eirr. Out of 29 teams, the Ellis team took first place overall and won two special awards: Best Essay and Best Power Supply System. Their first place finish also earned the team a spot at the National Competition in Washington, D.C. from February 17–20.
Seven Ellis students have their artwork featured in Art as Survival: Creations of Black Youth, a gallery exhibition at the Chatham University Art Gallery from February 1 to February 17, 2018. Sponsored by Chatham’s Multicultural Affairs Office, the purpose of the exhibition is to highlight black youth artists and the way art can be used to express oneself, respond to political and social justice issues, and amplify one’s voice.
Seventeen Ellis students were awarded either first or second place at the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Regional Competition held on Saturday, February 3, 2018, at Duquesne University. Several students were also awarded perfect scores and additional special awards of merit including the American Society of Civil Engineers Special Award, the Excellence in Scientific Pursuit Special Award, the High School Behavioral Director's Award, and the Duquesne Provost Merit Award.
A group of seniors representing The Ellis School placed in the top 7 percent of global competitors in the twentieth annual High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM). Over a 36-hour period in early November, students selected, researched, and crafted a 31-page solution paper to a complex mathematical modeling problem that placed them in the top 65 of 938 teams worldwide.
Upper School students viewed an open-heart surgery at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) as part of their anatomy class on January 17. The class sat in a viewing area above the operating room and peered through a glass window to watch the AGH team in action as they performed a pulmonary thromboendarterectomy, an operation that removes blood clots from the pulmonary arteries, which supply blood to the lungs.
Grade 4 students will get a glimpse of Wall Street as they try their hand (and their luck) in a stock market simulator game this month. Designed to introduce students to strategic thinking and financial literacy, the game, which students will play over the next three months, has shown to improve academic performance, financial knowledge, and students’ understanding of saving and investing habits.
Grade 7 students envisioned themselves as architects, city planners, and business owners as they partnered with Christian Hughes of Drafting Dreams on an urban redevelopment project centered around his neighborhood of Homewood. Challenged to design a to-scale dwelling that would positively impact the Homewood business corridor, students learned not only the basic principles and elements of architecture and urban design—like reading a scale, rendering floor plans, and showing proportion—but about Homewood, its history, and its revitalization.
What does it mean to be a good digital citizen? Grade 9 students are exploring that question in Integrated Studies: Foundations of Digital Studio, a new course addition in the Upper School this year. Designed to build students’ understanding of digital citizenship, the course teaches students how to use technology responsibly, effectively, and intelligently as they navigate and create their digital footprint on the web.
The Ellis School was delighted to host two Australian exchange students, Lily Sutcliffe and Teya Hardy, from St. Hilda’s School in Queensland as part of the International Exchange Program. Throughout their stay, Lily and Teya were paired with sophomores Annie Trimbur and Kay Fleischner. The visitors lived at their host's homes and shadowed them in classes to understand what it’s really like to go to Ellis and live in Pittsburgh.
Grade 6 students visited Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) in the Strip District for a behind-the-scenes look at the tech giant’s Pittsburgh headquarters. Students toured the Uber offices, met with female engineers and program managers, and learned about Uber’s self-driving cars as a precursor to their robotics unit in the Creative Programming II and Robotics course.
Two Ellis soccer players earned postseason honors in recognition of their excellence on the field this season. Juniors Kat Ference and Becca Rust were awarded spots on the 2017 WPIAL All-Section team in honor of their hard work, commitment, leadership, and athleticism. In celebration of these accolades, Head Varsity Soccer Coach Tim Howard shared his perspective on this year’s All-Section athletes.
Ellis’ Middle School robotics team, the STEAM Powered Girls, competed in the FIRST LEGO League Grand Championship at La Roche College this past weekend where they impressed the judges with their strong coding and communicative skills. The STEAM Powered Girls earned a special recognition in programming and for their project presentation, with the recognition for their project placing them in the top 10 in their division.
Upper School students from the Introduction to Computer Science course recently visited Allegheny Health Network Forbes Hospital in Monroeville to see the da Vinci Surgical System as a precursor to their upcoming robotics unit. Used by surgeons for minimally invasive surgeries, the da Vinci Surgical System enables doctors to perform general laparoscopic surgical procedures with enhanced dexterity and improved accuracy.