Leela Cañuelas-Puri, Class of 2018

Leela Cañuelas-Puri, Class of 2018, joined the Ellis community as a freshman in high school and has since: danced on stage in the Upper School musical; sang the National Anthem with the Glee Club at PNC Park; and been an active member of Newspaper and the Gender Sexuality Alliance. Outside of Ellis, Leela is a volunteer at the Big Idea Bookstore and the Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill. Post-graduation, Leela will move to Rhode Island to attend Brown University and study engineering.
How has your Ellis education impacted you? What do you think is special about attending a school like Ellis?
The part of my time at Ellis that has shaped me the most has without a doubt been my interactions with older students. My first year at Ellis, a group of three juniors went out of their way to welcome me and their other little sisters to Ellis, and even after graduating, they’ve continued to organize hangouts with us to give us advice. (Cookies and sleepovers have regularly been involved, too.) The seniors who led the clubs I joined as a freshman also went above and beyond to help me with everything from learning how to paragraph to learning how to take a subway to learning how to trust myself. Even now, when I’m facing a tough decision, I’ll ask myself what those seniors would do.

What does ‘Esse Quam Videri’ mean to you?
The environment Ellis creates is so accepting and supportive that I’ve never felt the need to pretend to be something I’m not at school. People here are earnest. We’re allowed to be unironically enthusiastic, and we’re also allowed to not hide it when we’re having a bad day.

What is your favorite Ellis tradition?
Mini-courses. I think it’s cool that instead of ending our year with the stress of finals, we get to take two weeks to study what we love or to try new things without feeling any sort of pressure to “get it” immediately. It’s like a concentrated version of all the best parts of school.

What is your best Ellis memory?
Dancing onstage the opening night of Pippin was an experience I’ll never forget. I’d always thought of myself as someone who “can’t dance,” but thanks to Ms. Hill’s, Ms. Mroziak’s, and Ms. Sturdevant’s extreme patience, I managed to avoid tripping over my own feet enough to be a Player in the chorus. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a performance.

Fill in the blank: “I will always remember…”
Yelling, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” while running through alumnae hall during my freshman welcome. I felt like I got to step into a John Green novel!

How do you spend your free time?
Strength training occupies much of my evenings after I finish my homework. Picking up heavy things, jumping around, and pulling myself up onto bars helps me clear my mind at the end of a long day, and I enjoy the challenge of making my movements a little stronger and a little more efficient each week. Training also helps to give me an appreciation for my body, which is a nice spin-off benefit, perhaps especially for a young woman.

What advice would you offer to future seniors?
The college application process involves a lot of frustrating hoop-jumping, but it can also be a chance to reflect on what you’ve learned over the last few years, what matters to you, and what you want your life to look like. It’s easy as a busy high school student to go months at a time without thinking about those kinds of questions, so it can be nice to be “forced” to take a crack at them in your college essays.

What do you plan to study in college? Why?
The question “How does that work?” has always intrigued me, and the more I learn about physics, the more that question refuses to leave me alone (in the best possible way). I’ll be plugging in my computer to recharge, and I’ll start to wonder how on earth our infrastructure allows us to instantaneously match power production to power consumption, or I’ll be writing in my journal and start to puzzle over how it is that my pen only allows ink to come out when I drag the pen across a surface. Studying engineering seems to be a way for me to indulge my curiosity and get to call it work.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Trying to listen.

How do you think your Ellis education has prepared you for your next chapter?
Ellis hasn’t allowed me to stick to working on problems that I know how to solve. I think one of the most useful skills I’ve learned here is how to get started on a paper, project, or other assignment when I have absolutely no idea where to start.
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