Senior Bella Rosa is one of 24 student-athletes recently named to the Florida Dairy Farmers Academic All-State Team. One of the most prestigious recognition programs of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), the team features 12 girls and 12 boys who each receive a $1,700 scholarship. To be eligible, student-athletes must have a minimum 3.5 unweighted grade point average, show a commitment to community service, and earn at least two varsity letters in two different sports during their junior and senior years. By being named to the team, Rosa is now eligible for the FHSAA’s Ronald N. Davis Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. One male and one female student-athlete from among the 24 already honored will be selected and each receive an additional $4,600 in scholarship money. Rosa boasts a 3.86 GPA, is an AP Scholar, a member of the National Hispanic Recognition program, and is a four-year letter winner in golf and lacrosse. She serves as treasurer of the senior class and Spirit Club president, and has accrued more than 200 community service hours.
Senior Elaina Bayard became the seventh Saint Stephen’s student to win the top prize in the 11 years of Theater Odyssey’s Ten-minute Student Playwriting Festival, earning her a $1,000 scholarship. SSES students wrote three of the eight finalist plays that were performed over the weekend in Sarasota at the Asolo’s Cook Theatre. Bayard, who will attend Brown University in the fall, won with her work, “A Matter of Time.” Junior Patrick Van Eyck (Changing Fortunes) and freshman Sawyer Girgis (The Devout Spinster) each won $200 prizes. Students in grades 9-12 were invited to submit original plays and the finalists were eventually chosen from among 40 entries. Jason Cannon – a professional actor, director, playwright, teacher, and publisher – worked with the eight finalist playwrights to help them improve their plays prior to the performances. Saint Stephen’s was the only area school to produce multiple finalists.
Seven senior student-athletes made their college destinations official at a signing ceremony held in front of their peers in the Upper School Commons this morning. Representing five different sports, the Falcons will be attending universities throughout the nation that compete at the NCAA Division I, Division II, and Division III levels. Moving on to play collegiate sports are: Mia Ferdinand (tennis/Belmont Abbey), Ben Long (golf/University of Kansas), Michael Konkol (football/Carnegie Mellon), Matt Vara (lacrosse/University of Tampa), Sophia Creneti (lacrosse/Swarthmore), Riley Schlick-Trask (soccer/Connecticut College), Taylor Vogt (soccer/Florida Atlantic). Saint Stephen’s has sent 32 graduates on to collegiate competition since 2020, an average of eight per graduating class. Signings during the past four years have included a wide cross-section of sports, including football, tennis, golf, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, basketball, sailing, swimming and track. This year’s signees represent nearly 10-percent of the senior class.
The Saint Stephen’s Academic Team is Manatee County champion once again, completing its wire-to-wire season on Tuesday, Dec. 6 by hosting and dominating the finale held in the Upper School Commons. Not only did the school’s “A” team secure the 2022 title, but the Saint Stephen’s “B” team finished in the No. 2 spot for the season, also out-pointing all of the county’s public school teams. The Falcons grabbed the top position in their opener at Braden River High School on Sept. 20 and never relinquished the lead. Seniors Elaina Bayard and Jackson Nealis, as top individual scorers over the course of the season, qualified to represent Manatee County as members of the six-student team that will travel to state competition in the 2023 Commissioner’s Academic Challenge in March. Nealis returns to the team after helping Team Manatee to a second-place finish in the state in 2022.
The Falcons proved it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, as they captured the Sunshine State Athletic Conference 5A Championship with a dominating 47-7 win over Ocoee Legacy Charter in Lakeland on Nov. 12. Following a 1-5 start to the season, Saint Stephen’s ripped off five consecutive victories to win their third SSAC crown in six years.
Senior quarterback Luke Donley saved one of his best performances for last, completing eight of 10 passes for 133 yards and four touchdowns at Lakeland High’s Bryant Stadium. Fellow senior Justin Millican made three of those TD grabs and had six catches in all on the afternoon for 101 yards. The Falcons scored 40 unanswered points after Legacy tied the score early at 7-7.
Running back Evan Brown, who had been the catalyst for the Falcons’ late-season offensive surge, rushed 18 times for 111 yards and one score. The junior finished his season with more than 1,300 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging nearly 120 yards per game on the ground.
The SSES defense allowed Legacy just 137 total yards and intercepted quarterback Liam Lamprect three times, including one returned for a score by senior captain Michael Konkol.
The victory marked the Falcons’ first SSAC title since 2017. The 2016 and 2017 Saint Stephen’s teams earned back-to-back all-division championships before the league broke its football post-season play into upper and lower classifications. The Falcons have now advanced to the SSAC finals five times in the past eight seasons.
International visitors have returned to campus for the first time in nearly three years as we welcome Ms. Adventina Emmanuel from Tanzania, and a group of students and their headmaster from Denmark to SSES this week.
Ms. Emmanuel will spend nearly a month at Saint Stephen’s observing classrooms and other operations to help grow programs for her school and create an even stronger bond between her students and those at SSES. Tina hails from Iringa International School, one of eight current Saint Stephen’s “sister schools.” She serves as the WAHI (We Are the Hope of Iringa) Project Coordinator with Global Outreach Tanzania. The voluntary after-school program is designed to motivate primary and secondary students to become strong and confident leaders as it addresses challenges faced in Tanzania education, including a lack of science, technology, and reading focus.
“Most Tanzanian youth, especially the ones in rural areas, have potential but they lack the opportunity to show their potential,” Ms. Emmanuel said. “Therefore, it’s our responsibility to create a space for them to showcase their abilities.”
Students from another SSES sister school – Esbjerg International School in Esberg, Denmark – arrived on campus on Oct. 26 and will be with us through Nov. 2. The 10 students and their headmaster will experience a full schedule of events and interactions at Saint Stephen’s and will be hosted by SSES families during their stay.
A group of Saint Stephen’s AP Spanish students also had their own opportunity to travel abroad. The students recently returned from a 10-day trip to Spain that included stops in Cordoba, Seville, and at our sister school in Barcarrota. They took in the sights and sampled the local culture, tried a flamenco dance lesson, an art class, learned to prepare paella and gazpacho, visited an olive farm and olive oil processing agri-business, and much more.
While the Saint Stephen’s community was mostly spared from the brunt of Hurricane Ian, our neighbors to the south in Lee and Collier counties weren’t nearly as lucky. The Hurricane left a path of widespread destruction in Southwest Florida that will require long-term recovery efforts. With a desire to do its part to help, the entire SSES community created a series of donation efforts that culminated this week.
The Falcons boys and girls lacrosse programs organized a drive that resulted in a massive amount of donated goods that were sent via truck on Wednesday to a collection center at Riverdale High School in Fort Myers. Thursday was deemed “Superhero Day” on campus and students, faculty, and staff donned their best superhero gear in exchange for a monetary donation. More than $7,500 was collected, which will be given to Episcopal Relief & Development for their support efforts in Southwest Florida, as well as to the recovery drive for our friends at Village School of Naples.
Athletics did its part by adding a home game for the football Falcons on Thursday night against Gateway Charter School of Fort Myers. Gateway has not yet been able to return to campus in the aftermath of the storm, but the game was scheduled to help provide at least a little bit of normalcy for their student-athletes and an opportunity to bring their school community together at an uncertain time. It was a good night all around as the Falcons won a thriller, 31-26, and Saint Stephen’s filled Gateway’s team bus with donated food to take back to Fort Myers with them as they plan to return to school on Oct. 17.
Middle School Latin teacher Tony Haakman has been named the state’s 2022 Latin Teacher of the Year by the Classical Association of Florida. Haakman becomes the third Saint Stephen’s Latin teacher to win this award since the association began naming its honorees in 1981. He follows previous SSES winners Linda Mishkin in 1997 and Geoff Revard in 2006. In addition to his teaching, Haakman – along with Revard – has helped to build Saint Stephen’s into a powerhouse competitor at the annual Florida Junior Classical League (FJCL) state forum. Over the past 17 years, Saint Stephen’s has consistently placed among the Top 10 in the state at the FJCL’s senior level, and the 2019 team brought home the school’s first-ever Florida academic championship. Among the program’s other recent highlights, in 2015, three Saint Stephen’s students qualified to be part of the six-member Team Florida that won the Advanced Certamen National Championship in San Antonio, Texas.
Saint Stephen’s has opened its 52nd school year with record enrollment and unmatched enthusiasm. Students, faculty, and staff representing all grade levels gathered inside Hoagland Arena on Aug. 26 for a rousing opening celebration that included musical performances, the ringing of the opening bell, and plenty of Green & Gold spirit created and led by the varsity cheer squad. It marked the official start of what promises to be an exciting school year that is highlighted by record-breaking enrollment. Nearly 740 students were on campus for opening day, including more than 140 new students who are joining Saint Stephen’s from schools throughout the area, the country, and the world. Despite this rapid growth in the student body, however, Saint Stephen’s has maintained its commitment to small class sizes and the personal interactions that make the school and its culture so special. The student/faculty ratio remains 9:1. The 2022-23 school year also marks the final one for Head of School Dr. Jan Pullen, who will retire after 35 years of service to Saint Stephen’s. Dr. Pullen started at SSES as director of the Lower School in 1988 and was named Head of School in 2003. You can watch some of the highlights from the opening ceremony here
An argument can be made that Saint Stephen’s boys tennis is currently in the midst of the most successful run in the program’s storied history – but so far, without the ultimate payoff. Since the 2019 season, the Falcons are 46-4-1, with their only regular-season loss being a 4-3 defeat at Sarasota Riverview on April 2, 2019. Their other three setbacks have all been in the state championship match to the same foe – Boca Raton St. Andrews. The latest came on April 26, denying the Falcons the title trophy for the third consecutive season (the 2020 campaign was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic).
While the top prize remained elusive, it took none of the luster off another dominating season for Saint Stephen’s. The Falcons swept eight of their 10 regular-season opponents without losing a set and cruised through six playoff matches in district, regional, and state tournament play before squaring off with St. Andrews again.
The SSES girls also won a district title – their fourth in five years – and reached the regional final before falling to Community School of Naples. Both teams remain positioned for continued success with the bulk of their top players returning for the 2023 season.